How to Establish an Empire without Congressional Approval

Charlie Savage has a great article summarizing Bush’s threats to establish a security relationship with Iraq without consulting Congress.

President Bush’s plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq’s security would be the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval, according to legal specialists.

After World War II, for example – when the United States gave security commitments to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and NATO members – Presidents Truman and Eisenhower designated the agreements as treaties requiring Senate ratification. In 1985, when President Ronald Reagan guaranteed that the US military would defend the Marshall Islands and Micronesia if they were attacked, the compacts were put to a vote by both chambers of Congress.

By contrast, Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki have already agreed that a coming compact will include the United States providing "security assurances and commitments" to Iraq to deter any foreign invasion or internal terrorism by "outlaw groups." But a top White House official has also said that Bush does not intend to submit the deal to Congress.

Savage shifts the focus from whether Bush is trying to force the hand of his successor to the Constitutional questions behind such an act. And he finds that even wingnut Republicans oppose Bush’s threats to bypass Congress.

At a House hearing on the pact on Wednesday, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California and a former Reagan administration official, accused the Bush administration of "arrogance" for not consulting with Congress about the pact. If it includes any guarantees to Iraq, he said, Congress must sign off.

"We are here to fulfill the constitutional role established by the founding fathers," Rohrabacher said, adding, "It is not all in the hands of the president and his appointees. We play a major role."

Yet even Rohrabacher’s constitutional arguments appear to be meeting the same response as Democrats’ worries: silence.

"I haven’t been involved in any discussions of what kind of form the agreement would take or anything else," Gates said at press conference yesterday. "I do know there’s a strong commitment inside the administration to consult very closely with the Congress on this."

But Represent Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, who chaired the hearing on Wednesday, asked four top administration officials – Lute, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, and the State Department’s top legal and Iraq advisers, John Bellinger and David Satterfield – to appear and explain the administration’s intentions. All four declined.

I guess Gates believes you can consult with Congress via telepathy.

15 replies
  1. phred says:

    For a lame duck President, he still appears to hold sway over Congress. I am genuinely mystified by why Congressional Republicans fail to grasp the serious threat posed by this administration to their authority. Addington’s m.o. to “push and push and push, until some larger force makes us stop” appears to remain in effect. Whether it’s McConnell’s f.u. to Reid yesterday or the reappointments of Wolfowitz and Bradbury or sprinkling pixie dust on the very principal of Congressional approval of treaties. Can someone explain to me what exactly Pelosi and Reid don’t get about this stuff? It is blindingly obvious, yet they remain Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of Capitulation Central (formerly known as Congress).

    • wcsally says:


      it appears that you don’t understand the dynamics of politics and how even your cherished Democrats are liars along with the Republicans.

      If you want to rid government of this disregard for the voters, you need to get rid of lobbyists’ control of the politicians by means of controlling the purse strings that Congress and the President use to be elected and to gold in pleasant climes.

      Vote Obama!

      I guess you and I will never go sculling.

      : )

    • phred says:

      Given the precedent set by BushCo, it is not clear to me that even if a treaty IS ratified by Congress, that the next President can’t disregard it (either piecemeal or wholesale) at will.

  2. dalloway says:

    Bush knows he has two conciliators running Congress. Bush knows he’s broken countless laws that Congressional committees are investigating. He’s doing what a losing team does in the final seconds of a basketball game — fouling opponents in order to get the ball back. That way he has a chance to score, but more important, he keeps the ball away from the team that’s got the momentum. As long as Bush is dictating policy, he can tie up Congress fighting over outrageous suggestions like the Iraq Permanent Occupation Agreement — and impede all the pesky investigations into his criminal behavior until he leaves office.

  3. merkwurdiglieber says:

    If he wanted congressional approval it would not be that hard to get,
    given the slim majorities and total lack of insight into the scope of
    the neocon dream the congressional/provincial types have. Time is so
    short now, better to document this freak show for another generation
    in the attempt to rebuild what will be left of the USA post Junya.
    What was it Fitz said, “madness, madness”, he should know and cannot
    tell the rest of that story. Peter Dale Scott’s Road To 9-11 lays out
    the template we are in the throes of with excruciating detail and
    documentation. There just are not enough informed congressional types
    to fight this fight… yet.

  4. tekel says:

    Prof Foland and phred: You don’t need to rely on Bush precedent. You can go all the way back to Washington’s neutrality proclamation. The modern (read: John Yoo’s ) interpretation of Washington’s act is that a President doesn’t need to even pretend to be bound by treaties- Article II grants the President the power to unilaterally interpret and withdraw from international agreements, even the ones he brokered himself. Remember, that’s why the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to the US military any longer.

    So whatever W does in the next 300-odd days, Obama or Hillary or Edwards (yeah, right) can tell the Iraqis to go Cheney themselves and withdraw all US support on January 22, and that action would be perfectly consistent with 230 years of American constitutional history.

    Note, what happens afterwards has nothing to do with whether or not W has the authority to unilaterally encumber the US. It’s clear that he does not. But I don’t think that will stop him from trying- so who is going to step up and tell him he can’t?

    • DieselDave09 says:

      ’so who is going to step up and tell him he can’t?’

      No one. Evidently, the Dems have bought into the Unitary Executive concept and are willing to let this president screw the entire planet just so they can do the same once Billary is appointed, er, elected. They have seen the gravey train pass them by once too ofter and now they want some of the spoils. I just can’t wait until it finally dawns on Democrats that they have been screwed by the Clintons the same way they were screwed by Bush.

  5. radiofreewill says:

    Bush looks to be all alone on this one…

    He’s still acting out his ‘mission’ and role in Iraq as the UE.

    Like they say, “He’s a legend in his own mind.”

  6. tekel says:

    as an aside, the time has long been ripe for congress to begin openly mokcing this pretender to the Oval Office. Harry Reid should take every opportunity to say, in front of the tv cameras, something to the effect of:

    “The President said WHAT? Ah HA HA HA HAAAAA HA HA HA. HA HA AH AH HA HA HA. *sniff* HA HA HA HA, HA. I’m sorry. Excuse me (wipes eyes). Ha ha ha! Can you belive what a total jerk this guy is? Nobody with half a brain believes that. Since we’ve already had the comedy relief, what we’re really going to talk about today is…”

    “The president told you that? And you believed him? HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAW HA HA HA. HA HA HA! wow, don’t you feel stupid now? Nobody should believe a word that comes out of George Bush’s mouth, he’s an alcoholic and habitual liar! I thought everyone knew that. Now, here is the truth about …. ”

    really. Reid is a ex-boxer right? This strategy should come as second-nature to him: when your opponent has a cut, you hit the cut over and over and over and over again, until he’s bleeding all over the mat. And then you impeach him and put him on trial for war crimes.

    • bmaz says:

      tekel – Long time, no see. Hope things going well for you up there. Was just thinking of you and wondering where you have been a couple of days ago. Don’t be a stranger. As to Reid, judging from a lot of what I have seen, he probably got pounded pretty hard as a boxer and is a little punch drunk.

    • phred says:

      LOL : ) Thanks tekel (and like bmaz said, nice to see you again). Wouldn’t that be refreshing??? Boy would I love to see that!

      I didn’t realize that Reid was a boxer, you would never guess it…

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