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Harry Reid Lays Down The Law: No More War Without Congressional Approval

By       Message Brent Budowsky     Permalink
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The Constitution in Crisis


In the single most important war and peace moment since George Bush assumed the Presidency, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the National Press Club that the President must, have prior Congressional approval before taking our country to war again.

This is not negotiable. This is the law of the land.

Finally but firmly, the United States Congress will assert its legal and constitutional powers under war powers law. The Senate Majority Leader has drawn a line in the sand, based on the rule of law, that the President's powers of war are limited by a government that has three branches, not one.

In my view there is at least a 30% probability that President Bush intends to initiate a war with Iran. Such a disastrous decision would set loose a chain reaction that could engulf the entire Middle East into chaos and carnage, with escalation and counter-escalation, with indescribable dangers reminiscent of the blundering that led the world into the First World War.

It is shameful that the President showed his contempt for commanders in escalating the war in Iraq. It is shameful that the President showed his contempt for the bipartisan Baker Hamilton Group that urged negotiations with Iraq's neighbors and all parties in the region. It is ignorant and unprecedented that a American President demonstrates such contempt for the very idea of political and diplomatic solutions, and seems so hell bent on waging war after war.

Stories are now circulating with the BBC and others that Vice President Cheney might have sabotaged a potential diplomatic breakthrough with Iran in 2003 that could have limited Iran's nuclear program, ended their assistance to insurgents in Iraq, and ended their support for groups committing terrorism against Israel.

We do not know the details of this situation; Congress should investigate fully whether such a breakthrough was indeed possible and whether the Vice President or his staff sabotaged it.

We cannot know whether a diplomatic initiative would have borne fruit with Iran, but it should have been fully tested, and not rejected by those who banged the drums of war so ignorantly with Iraq then, and Iran now. This, too, should be fully investigated by Congress.

We do not know whether John Negroponte left as National Intelligence Director voluntarily though there are credible reports he was fired under direction of the President, and given the choice of State Department or nothing. This too should be investigated to make certain that there is no instant replay of the deceptions and misrepresentations about WMD in Iraq.

There should be full and aggressive oversight by the Congressional intelligence committees and the Congressional Leadership of all intelligence information regarding Iran NOW, and permanently. Intelligence leaders and officers must be fully protected from political pressure and Congress must be FULLY informed any intelligence or plans for war.

Congress has the legal right, authority and power under the war powers laws and the Constitution to approve in advance any act of war. Failure to respect and enforce that legal authority would be clear violation of American law.

Senate Majority Harry Reid has laid down the law. He is right about the law, right about the Constitution, right about the policy, and right about the authority of the Congress.

It is high time and long overdue. The line in the sand has been drawn. The President will faithfully execute the laws of the land, the Congress will uphold its authority under the Constitution, and America will again conduct itself as a democracy with three branches of government.

This battle will wage on multiple fronts.

The battle has only begun to uphold on every level the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the law of the land. Our history teaches this, our law requires this, the American people demand this, our leaders in Congress will fight for this, and the rule of law will ultimately prevail.

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Brent Budowsky is a regular columnist on thehill.com. He served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served (more...)
 

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