Sunday, December 21, 2003


 This article by Julian Borger and James Meek of the Guardian implies that this whole "Operation Iraqi Freedom" thing is just a cover to allow George W. Bush to authorize those early "decapitation" strikes to get back the guy who tried to kill his dad. Actually, I'm being too generous, as the article does not even mention that Saddam attempted to assasinate his dad, but I digress. Here's the zinger:

    By declaring war, Mr Bush legitimised the apparent assassination attempt against President Saddam. In a state of war, the congressional prohibition on the assassination of leaders is lifted.

This statement is extremely silly, on two levels. First of all, U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 8 cl. 11 makes it pretty clear who can, and cannot, declare war on behalf of the United States. Here's one hint: it isn't George Bush. Here's another: it isn't Al Gore, Ralph Nader, or Pat Buchanan, either. If last year's congressional "authorization of the use of force" constituted a valid declaration of war, then we've been technically at war with Iraq since at least October, 2002, if not much longer than that - the only thing that changed is that Bush is now acting on it. If the "authorization of force" was not a declaration of war (i.e., if crackpots like Gore Vidal are right to argue that Congress can't declare a war without using those magic words "we declare war"), then we're not technically at "war," now, either, and there's nothing GWB alone can do to change that. Either way, the notion that GWB can "legitimise" anything by purporting to "declare war" is just plain silly. I don't expect the average Brit to know this, but I do expect the average journalist of any nationality to figure this out before reporting on it.

The other problem lies in the Guardian's statement that there is a "congressional" prohibition on the assassination of leaders during peacetime. Congress has never prohibited the President, or anyone in his chain of command, from assassinating anyone. Nor, I might add, could it do so even if it wanted to, as this would almost certainly violate the separation of powers. The only thing that generally makes it "illegal" for government officials to go around bumping off foreign heads of state is a series of executive orders, dating back to the Ford Administration, that prohibit them from doing so. To argue that the executive himself must abide by these executive orders is one part odd and one part Kafkaesque. If President Bush refuses to follow his own orders, do we try him for insubordination toward himself?

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