An Impeachable Offense
It seems that the American president is revising history in more ways than one these days. While attacking his opponents for “revisionist” history, Mr. Bush has been forced to admit what many Americans have believed all along: that the war in Iraq was more about freeing the Iraqi people than about protecting Americans from lethal weapons. Former National Security Council official Joseph Wilson has gone so far as to suggest that Vice President Cheney and his aides knew that the “case” against Iraq was based on fabricated data. But the administration’s response, in essence, has been, “In the end it doesn’t really matter because the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein.”
According to numerous analysts, the politicization of intelligence appears to be grounds for impeachment, but the problem with the current administration goes deeper than the use of discredited information. Certainly manipulating evidence in an attempt to strengthen the case for war is cause for grave concern, but the greater problem, in my view, remains the president’s personal doctrine of preemption. What happened to Iraq’s WMDs is an important question—and that this question is being raised on Capitol Hill is salutary indeed—but even more troubling is the administration’s arbitrary exercise of war powers that, under the Constitution, are granted to Congress alone. In the words of the Liberty Committee:
Constitution of the United States is not a statement of principles or a
mere expression of lofty ideals or political philosophy. It is
black-letter law. Its provisions are fully operative, like any federal
statute. Every action of the federal government must legally conform to
constitutional rules. Every member of Congress swears to uphold the
Constitution; meaning he or she swears to uphold the law.
If, therefore, a president wishes to take America into war, there must first be a submission by all to the law of the land, which means that there must be a congressional declaration of war (see Article 1, Section 8). President Bush is not above this law—nor is the Congress of the United States. Our Founding Fathers insisted that the decision to go to war was to be made by the legislative branch of government, not the executive. Their reasoning was simple: it is far too dangerous to place the power to wage war in the hands of a single individual.
The October 2002 resolution passed by Congress is often cited as proof that President Bush had congressional authority to attack Iraq, but nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution declared war against no nation but simply stated that the president “has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States….” The resolution by Congress could not, in fact, grant the president authority to declare war because the Congress cannot alter the express language of the Constitution. Indeed, only a constitutional amendment can overrule Article 1, Section 8.
The resolution by Congress to give the president the facade of legitimacy in pursuing a unilateral aggressive war will surely be remembered as one of the worst abdications of congressional responsibility in our history. Bush’s attack on Iraq, absent a congressional declaration, raises in my mind serious questions about his ability to lead the American people. With Americans pinned down in Iraq, we may do well to ask ourselves a fundamental question: What kind of a nation is America supposed to be? Our forefathers gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to protect our God-given freedoms from tyranny. By “tyranny” they did not mean tyranny from a foreign despot but from a government that oversteps and abuses its authority.
Tragically, our freedoms are being taken away at a rate never before experienced in the history of our nation. And not only by liberal politicians, but by “conservatives” who pay little or no attention to the U.S. Constitution or to the freedoms it enshrines, thereby making sacrilege of their sacred oaths. If that is not an impeachable offence, I’m not sure what is.
July 14, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.