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Congress Under Assault

by Dave Lindorff Thursday, Mar. 30, 2006 at 9:08 AM

Bush is stealing power from Congress and the Courts using two bogus arguments.

Constitution Under Assault

As the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up Sen. Russ Feingold's censure motion, we need to point out how this president has, to an unprecedented degree, usurped power for the presidency, based upon the bogus claim that the Constitution doesn't count in wartime. According to Bush, in wartime he is no longer simply a president, he is a commander in chief.

Bush has used this argument to declare that international agreements, such as the Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners of War and on the treatment of civilian noncombatants, to which the U.S. is a signatory, do not apply. He has used this argument to claim that he has the right to revoke the rights of citizenship from an American citizen whom he alone has determined to be an "enemy combatant"(a term he made up and defined himself). He has used this argument to claim that he does not need to obey or enforce laws duly passed by the Congress, such as the law banning torture, the law requiring regular reports on the use of provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act, or the 1978 Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act.

Bush is wrong on two grounds.

First of all, the country is decidedly not at war. The Afghanistan War, which began on October 7, 2001, ended long ago--actually in the hills of Tora Bora, when the last of remnants of the Taliban government were captured, killed or dispersed, and legally in October 2002, with the formation of a new Afghan government in Kabul. At this point, the U.S. is simply part of a U.N. operation that is supporting the regime at its request (okay, we know that's a fiction and Karzai is a U.S. puppet , but it's the legal situation). That is not a war.

The Iraq War ended either back on April 30, 2003, with the fall of the Iraqi government and what Bush himself called "the end of major combat," or, if one prefers, it ended on June 28, 2004 with the creation of a new Iraqi government, and the famous "handover of sovereignty" to an Iraqi regime. What had been an occupation already--not a war--at that point became another U.S. support effort on behalf of a host regime.

In fact, when Bush says America is at war, he is referring to the so-called "War on Terror." But that is no war any more than the "War on Drugs" was a war. To claim that the nation is on an emergency war footing, as it was in the War of 1812 or the Civil War, or World Wars I or II or even the Korean or Vietnam Wars, is ludicrous. The nation's existence is not threatened by terrorists, the number of military personnel dedicated to fighting terror is miniscule, and certainly the country is not being unduly impacted. Worse still, this "war" has no real beginning or end, or even any real way to measure its progress.

To claim that this "war" is grounds for ignoring the Constitution is simply the kind of stuff that real cowboys try to step around on the Texas prairie.

But Bush is wrong on a second ground, too. Even if we were to concede that his bogus "war" was real, he's wrong that this means the Constitution goes on hold for the duration. The Founding Fathers did not write the nation's founding document as an instruction manual for the good times. They wrote it to help the nation get through the bad times without falling into tyranny. There is no "opt out" clause in the document, as Bush and his "mob attorney" Alberto Gonzales are claiming.

The president has thrown down the gauntlet to the Congress, the Courts and the American people. If he is allowed to have his way, thumbing his nose at international treaties, acts of Congress, court orders and the Constitution itself, for another two years, the government he hands over to the next president in 2008, whether Democrat or Republican, will be one that the Founders would not recognize.

That cannot be allowed to happen.

If Congress and the courts will not reassert their co-equal power and defend the Constitution from this massive assault, We the People must rise up on Election Day this November and vote in a Congress that will.

To find out more about the new book, The Case for Impeachment, click here.

For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .

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