Magazine article The American Prospect

Eternal War Declared. (Devil in the Details)

Magazine article The American Prospect

Eternal War Declared. (Devil in the Details)

Article excerpt

DESPITE THE RISING TIDE of Republican opposition to the administration's obsessive desire for a Lone Ranger war on Iraq, the Bush White House doesn't seem all that concerned. George W. and his hawks have convinced themselves that they already have all the legal authority they need to bulldoze Baghdad. In the opinion of the White House counsel's office, the 1991 congressional resolution granting Poppy Bush the authority to wage the Persian Gulf War is still good for a second Bush war against Saddam Hussein today.

Actually, according to The Washington Post, the counsel's office argues that this is just one of three legal bases that permit the president to send in the tanks and bombers. The first is his power as commander in chief. The second is the resolution that both houses of Congress passed on Sept. 14 of last year, endorsing a military response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And the third is that 1991 resolution, still alive and kicking.

Each of these justifications has its problems, of course. The president's power as commander in chief is more than offset by the Constitution's explicit delegation to Congress of the power to declare war. Last year's resolution applies to Iraq only if Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks, a case that the administration, despite all its intelligence and propaganda resources, has not even come close to making.

But the doozy is the 1991 resolution that apparently authorized all presidents named Bush to wage war on Iraq in perpetuity. As such, it enables our current Bush to blow off the current Congress, or to seek its counsel in a purely advisory capacity. "We don't want to be in the legal position of asking Congress to authorize the use of force when the president already has that full authority," one "senior administration official involved in setting the strategy" told the Post. …

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