Thursday, March 1, 2007
THE U.S. House of Representatives, having passed one nonbinding resolution against President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, appears poised to deliver another largely symbolic gesture of dissent.
Under the latest plan being floated by House Democrats, the president would be required to sign a waiver if he chose to send troops to Iraq without being sufficiently trained, equipped or rested according to certain standards. The measure would be attached to a nearly $100 billion war funding bill requested by the administration.
The problem with this measure is that there is little reason to believe that it would stop the administration from escalating this war. Yes, it does pose the potential for embarrassment by highlighting the well-documented deficiencies in the preparation of our troops for battle. A recent Chronicle story, for example, detailed how one brigade from Georgia had to squeeze one year of training into four months and was practicing on old military trucks instead of the armored vehicles they would be using in battle.
But the fundamental question is whether shame or public outrage even matters with this White House, when it comes to the war in Iraq. Its stubbornness has not been diminished by the November elections or the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Another concern is this administration's open defiance of laws it finds inconvenient to its mission in its broadly defined -- and, in the case of Iraq, misdirected -- war on terrorism. Whether the issue is torture, domestic surveillance or attaching "signing statements" to bills passed by Congress, this administration seems intent on stretching its definitions of executive power. We wouldn't be surprised if President Bush were to attach a "signing statement" to the waiver requirement, stating that he reserves the right to ignore it as needed to fulfill his duties as commander in chief.
A more meaningful challenge to Bush's war escalation appears to be evolving in the U.S. Senate, where several senior Democrats are talking about repealing the 2002 resolution that authorized the use of military force in Iraq. Many of the underpinnings of that resolution have now been exposed as false: There were no weapons of mass destruction and no firm links between Iraq and al Qaeda. Also, the administration has been interpreting its authority under this resolution so broadly that it's not inconceivable that it might try to use it to attack Iran.
Senate Democrats are contemplating replacing the 2002 resolution with a new one that narrows the definition of the mission in Iraq and includes a commitment to begin withdrawing forces this summer.
Congress should not be timid about asserting its constitutional authority on matters of war.
This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle