President Bush’s “Constitutional Obligations”


I have got good news and I got bad news.

The good news is that despite how bad things have gotten – 81% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track – President Bush at least acknowledges he has "constitutional obligations."

The bad news is that he thinks controlling Iraq’s oil and establishing permanent military bases in occupied-Iraq is his "constitutional obligation."

When President Bush signed the newest "defense" budget, H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, he threw in one more of his infamous "signing statements" because "sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations." One section in particular that is revealing is SEC. 1222:

SEC. 1222. LIMITATION ON AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS FOR CERTAIN PURPOSES RELATING TO IRAQ.

No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:

(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.

One might wonder how establishing permanent military bases and controlling Iraq’s oil is a "constitutional obligation."

President Bush is right when he said the section could inhibit his abilities. It is clear that that was the intentions of Congress, and rightly so. He is just wrong, however, to assert that American imperialism is a constitutional obligation.

Per the constitution Congress controls the purse strings. They pass the legislation. They allocate funds. They define the limitations and scopes of the Executive branches constitutional obligations. If Congress says, "here you can use this money for the war in Iraq but you cannot use it for this-and-this" then they are well within their rights. If less than two thirds of Congress would have passed the legislation then President Bush could have vetoed it or taken it to the Supreme Court. But he didn’t. He signed it. So these sections do not inhibit his ability to carry out his constitutional obligations, they define them.

Of course none of this delves into whether we should be in Iraq or not to begin with. And since we are talking about constitutional obligations we ought to pay close attention to Article 6 of the constitution: "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land."

The Iraq War was a clear violation of the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles (i.e. "the supreme law of the land"): acts of aggression, war crimes. If President Bush feels he is hard pressed to carry out his constitutional obligations – and I certainly hope he does feel that way – then he should not have attacked, invaded and occupied Iraq to start with.

So what to do then? Some say a precipitous exit would be disastrous for Iraq. But Iraqis see things differently. The most recent opinion polls available show that more than half of the Iraqi population: want us out immediately, approves of attacking our troops and more than half also feel our presence is the reason for the violence and that things will get better as soon as we leave. In the areas where our presence is more significant the opposition to our occupation is more significant as well. Also, as time has gone by the percentage has steadily increased.

Besides, even if it was the case that things would go from worse to unimaginably worse it is not like there is no other alternative than an illegal American occupation where the President thinks it is his "constitutional obligation" to establish permanent military bases and control their oil. This is an area that has not even been explored.

But one thing is certain, we should own up to our constitutional obligation and leave Iraq. We should not be allowed to "finish the job" anymore than Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to finish his "job" in Kuwait. We should also pay reparations and allow our leaders to be held responsible for their crimes, much like we expected of Saddam to be held accountable and brought to justice for his crimes against Kuwait and those against his own people.

American servicemen and women did not take an oath to defend the President or Congress. They did not take an oath to blindly carry out unlawful orders to impose our rule onto others. They took an oath to protect the constitution from enemies domestic and foreign, and they should certainly do so. They can start by resisting unlawful orders like those that send them to Iraq. There is such a group designed for this: Courage to Resist.

As for us citizens, we should be speaking out and demanding that the presidential hopefuls - McCain, Obama, Clinton and Nader - clearly state they will end this war. That is, if they ever want to see our votes in November.

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