Apparently Bush has decided, along with his “War Czar” General Douglas Lute, that permanent bases in Iraq don’t require the approval of either house of Congress. Lute said the White House intends to conclude negotiations on an enduring security guarantee with the Maliki government in July. Permanent military bases and residual troop levels will be specified in the final accord.
The following is Lute’s high-minded view of permanency in Iraq:
Q General, will the White House seek any congressional input on this?
GENERAL LUTE: In the course of negotiations like this, it’s not — it is typical that there will be a dialogue between congressional leaders at the negotiating table, which will be run out of the Department of State. We don’t anticipate now that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would then bring us to formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress.
Q Is the purpose of avoiding the treaty avoiding congressional input?
GENERAL LUTE: No, as I said, we have about a hundred agreements similar to the one envisioned for the U.S. and Iraq already in place, and the vast majority of those are below the level of a treaty.
Below the level of a treaty? I doubt that the Founding Fathers even had something “below the level of a treaty” in mind when they wrote the Constitution. After all, we were a fledging nation with no real Army or Navy and with little military might. There would have been no reason to even think of agreements with other nations as anything other than treaties.
But never one to be deterred by the Constitution, Bush has again decided to ignore the checks and balances carefully crafted by the Founding Fathers by using semantics. The Bush administration announced the Declaration of Principles for a Long-term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship with Iraq, an agreement to start formal negotiations with Iraq about a long-term security pact between the United States and Iraq.
The Declaration sets a goal of concluding this final agreement by July 31, 2008. The “agreement” will not be called a treaty – as he so imperiously reminds critics that many other agreements do not bear the label “treaty.” His logic is, of course, that if it isn’t called a treaty then there is no need for Congressional input as required by the Constitution. Here’s what the Constitution and the Founding Fathers said about treaties:
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.
He shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur….
In order to enter into formal agreements called treaties, the president must get advice and consent from the Senate. If something is not termed a treaty, then the Senate can be bypassed and thus prevented from providing input as the Founding Fathers mandated.
The issue was raised long ago by the New York Times. On April 20, 2003, The New York Times ran a story citing unnamed sources indicating the U.S. military was planning as many as four permanent military bases in Iraq. The next day, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed the story as “inaccurate and unfortunate.”
The national media, mesmerized and enamored by the “shock and awe” tactics of the recently initiated occupation and not willing to criticize a war only a month old, dropped the story after Rumsfeld’s disclaimer. Later that same year, the November 19, 2003, edition of the Jordanian daily al-Arab al-Yawm reported that the U.S. government had plans for six bases. The sources revealed the names of these bases and the planned positions for permanent deployment. They were:
- Al-Habbaniyah Airbase [already an RAF airbase for much of the last century] near the city of al-Fallujah, 65km west of Baghdad;
- Ash-Sha’biyah Airbase in Basra, 600km south of Baghdad;
- ‘Ali ibn Abi Taleb Airbase on the outskirts of the city of an-Nasiriyah, 400km south of Baghdad;
- al-Walid Airbase about 330km north west of Baghdad;
- al-Ghazlani Camp in the city of Mosul, 400km north of Baghdad;
- A permanent deployment of forces in the east of Iraq in what is known as the Hamrin mountain range that extends from Diyala Provice, 60km east of Baghdad, and borders on Iran and extends to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, 260km north of Baghdad.
Five years later, it looks like the story was accurate. Bush and his neocon supporters had a plan all along to go into Iraq and stay. The American public, so hungry for revenge after 9/11, gave the “King” a blank check. His plans are made, and he has utter disdain for our Constitution and its checks and balances. By calling this an informal agreement and not a treaty, he hopes to circumvent Constitutional protections that were structured to guard against just such a dictatorial frame of mind.
However, in an attempt to thwart King George’s most recent power grab, Rep. Barbara Lee recently introduced a bill to prevent Bush from signing any agreement emerging from the Declaration of Principles without consulting Congress. A parallel bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Since November 2007, attacks on the Bush-Maliki agreement’s constitutionality have mounted. Bill Delahunt, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, has held a series of hearings on the legality of the Declaration of Principles. During the most recent Delahunt hearing, experts almost universally concluded that the agreement violates the Constitution, since Congress was not consulted in the process of its approval.
Throughout his seven years in office, Bush has undertaken an onslaught against liberties and rights as well as undermined the Constitution. No matter how much power a president usurps, his reign always comes to an end. King George’s term is about at an end. With its end, perhaps we can get back to a government based on our Constitution and its checks and balances – a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.