Dictatorial Power on War and Treaties

By Jacob G. Hornberger | If anyone still has any doubts about whether President Bush is exercising powers that any self-respecting dictator would relish, all he has to do is consider the military pact that Bush is entering into with Iraq. The pact involves the continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq as well as a date on which U.S. military forces will be expected to exit the country.

Let’s first place things in the context of the U.S. Constitution, the higher law that the American people have enacted that controls the conduct of federal officials, including the president.

One provision of the Constitution requires the president to secure a declaration of war from Congress prior to waging war against another nation. With respect to Iraq, everyone knows that Bush refused to do that. After unsuccessfully exploring the possibility of securing UN approval for his war (which is not in the Constitution), Bush unilaterally decided to wage war on Iraq without first securing the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

The Constitution also provides that the president shall have the “Power and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

So, is President Bush complying with that provision of the Constitution with respect to his military pact with Iraq?

Why should he? If the Congress and the American people don’t care that he violates one important provision of the Constitution, why should the president care whether he violates other important provisions?

The president’s spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, set forth the president’s position at a recent press conference: “So it’s not a treaty, so it would not require Senate ratification or anything like that. It’s a bilateral agreement that would provide the authorities for our troops to operate in Iraq.”

So, there you have it. We now live in a country in which the ruler has the power to send the entire nation into war on his own initiative and then unilaterally bind the entire nation with a long-term military agreement with the conquered nation without any legislative approval.

If that’s not dictatorial power, what is?

Oh, by the way the Iraqi president is submitting the proposed military agreement with Bush to the Iraqi Parliament, as required by Iraqi law.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.