After claiming several weeks ago that he doesn’t need congressional authorization to start his own private war in the Middle East, President Bush last week sent up to Congress a resolution authorizing him to start—and continue indefinitely—just such a war.
The president’s decision to seek congressional support indicates less that he has learned one of the most elementary facts about the U.S. Constitution than that he realizes the war he wants to start will be so big, so costly, so dangerous and eventually so unpopular that he will need to invoke congressional authority for starting it at all.
But whatever his reasons, it will be a big, big mistake for Congress to give him the war powers he wants.
The first part of the resolution [text] rehearses what the administration submits is the case for war against Iraq. At no place in it is any recent act of aggression against this country cited or substantiated. The only act of aggression against the United States ever even alleged in the resolution is the supposed attempt by Iraq in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush while he visiting Kuwait.
The United States launched a punitive bombing raid against Iraq at that time in retaliation (though no very compelling evidence for the attempted assassination was ever made public), and presumably that book has long been closed. In any case, ex-President Bush at the time was a former, not a current, government official, and whether killing him would really have been an act of aggression against the country rather than a mere murder is another question.
The resolution also mentions Iraqi firing on U.S. planes and military targets while they were enforcing U.N. sanctions. Again, the time to retaliate for such “attacks” (the sanctions themselves from Iraq’s point of view are acts of aggression and violations of its sovereignty) was then, not now.
At no point in the resolution does the administration claim that Iraq had anything to do with the Sept. 11 massacres. All it claims is that those attacks “underscored the gravity of the threat that Iraq will transfer weapons of mass destruction to international terrorist organizations.”
They do no such thing; Iraq in the past has supported terrorist groups, but it has never given them such weaponry and (like any government) would be nuts to do so. There is no guarantee that terrorist fanatics would not use such weapons against Iraq itself someday.
The resolution alleges that members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists are now “known to be in Iraq.” They are known to be in the Kurdish-controlled territory of Iraq, which Saddam Hussein’s government does not control. Last summer the Washington Times cited “U.S. intelligence officials” as claiming that there are “up to 5,000 people in the United States connected to al Qaeda.” By the logic of the president’s resolution, we should therefore launch a war against our own country.
Nowhere does the resolution point to any evidence that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, that it is capable of delivering such weaponry against the United States or that the Baghdad government desires to use such weapons against the United States.
The entire Iraqi “threat” rests entirely upon the administration’s unsupported assertions.
But aside from these flaws, the major problem with the resolution is its last, authorizing sentence—that the president is authorized to use all means “that he determines to be appropriate, including force,” against the “threat posed by Iraq, and [to] restore peace and security in the region.”
Not, understand, “peace and security in Iraq,” but in “the region.” The war being contemplated, you see, is not simply against Iraq but against the entire Arabic-Muslim Middle East—what neoconservative Zionist Norman Podhoretz in the current issue of Commentary magazine calls frankly “World War IV.”
Coupled with the administration’s new doctrine of the legitimacy of “pre-emptive strikes” and preserving unchallenged U.S. global military supremacy, submitted to Congress on the same day as the war resolution, what the resolution really authorizes is nothing less than the U.S. conquest of the Middle East, if not the whole planet, and nothing but perpetual war until that goal is achieved.
Congressional Democrats are muttering that perhaps the president seeks too much power, perhaps authority from the United Nations should be sought, perhaps there should be some bartering and bickering before the resolution is approved. But no one doubts it will be approved, in one form or another, and that the war Mr. Bush wants will come.
When it does, and when it results in a generation of chaos, terrorist reprisals against this country and its people, and the perpetual hatred of the United States by an entire civilization, congressmen and their constituents should remember who authorized the president to start it.