The Imperial Presidency
By Ralph Nader
Mired in the disastrous Iraq quagmire, opposed by a majority of Americans, George W. Bush has reached new depths of reckless, belligerent bellowing. At a recent news conference, he volunteered that he told our allies that if they’re “interested in avoiding World War III,” Iran must be prevented from both developing a nuclear weapon or having “the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
To what level of political insanity has this Washington Caesar descended? Only two countries can start World War III-Russia and the United States. Is Bush saying that if Russia, presently opposed to military action against Iran, persists with its position, Bush may risk World War III? If not, why is this law-breaking warmonger, looking for another war for American GIs to fight, while his military-age daughters bask in the celebrity lime light?
Why is he using such catastrophic language?
Surely he does not think Iran could start World War III. His own intelligence agencies say that, even assuming that the international inspectors are wrong and Iran is moving toward developing the “knowledge” of such weapons, it can’t build its first such weapon before 3 to 5 years at the earliest.
Why would a regime ruling an impoverished country risk suicide, surrounded as it is by countries armed to the nuclear teeth, such as Israel and the United States? This nation of nearly 80 million people hardly needs to be reminded that the U.S. overthrew its popular premier in 1953, installing for the next 27 years the brutal regime of the Shah.
They recall that President Reagan and his Vice President, George Herbert Walker Bush urged, funded and equipped Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran-a nation that has not invaded any country in over 250 years-which took around 700,000 Iranian lives.
Moreover, the undeniable historical record shows that U.S. companies received licenses from the Department of Commerce, under Reagan, to ship Saddam the raw materials necessary to make chemical and biological weapons. Saddam used such lethal chemical weapons, with the tolerance of Reagan and Rumsfeld, on Iranians to devastating effect in terms of lives lost.
Then George W. Bush labels Iran a member of the “axis of evil” along with Iraq, ignoring a serious proposal by Iran in 2003 for negotiations, and shows what his language means by invading Iraq.
The authoritarian Iranian government is frightened enough to hurl some defiant rhetoric back at Washington and widen its perimeter defense. Seymour Hersh, the topflight investigative reporter for the New Yorker magazine has written numerous articles on how the crowding of Iran, including infiltrating its interior, has become an obsession of the messianic militarist in the White House.
The Pentagon is more cautious, worrying about our already drained Army and the absence of any military strategy and readiness for many consequences that would follow Bush’s “bombs away” mentality.
Then there is the matter of the Democrats in Congress. After their costly fumble on Iraq, the opposition Party should make it very constitutionally clear, as recommended by former New York Governor, Mario Cuomo in a recent op-ed, that there can be no funded attacks on any country without a Congressional declaration of war, as explicitly required by the framers of our Constitution.
But the Democrats are too busy surrendering to other Bush demands, whether unconstitutional, above the law or just plain marinated in corporate greed. Some of this obeisance was all too clear in the Democrats questioning of Bush’s nominee for Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey.
After the two days of hearings, no Democrat has yet announced a vote against Mukasey, even after he evaded questions on torture and argued for the inherent power of the President to act contrary to the laws of the land if he unilaterally believes he has the inherent constitutional authority to do so.
This position aligns Mukasey with the imperial views of Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Gonzales on the “unitary Executive.” In short, reminiscent of the divine right of Kings, the forthcoming Attorney General believes Bush can say that ‘he is the law’ regardless of Congress and the judiciary.
After two recent lead editorials demonstrating its specific exasperation over the Democrats’ kowtowing to the White House, the New York Times added a third on October 20, 2007 titled “With Democrats Like These…” The editorial recounted the ways Democrats, especially in the Senate, have caved on critical constitutional and statutory safeguards regarding the Bush-Cheney policies and practices of spying on Americans without judicial approval and accountability.
Accusing the Democrats of “the politics of fear,” the Times concluded: “It was bad enough having a one-party government when the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.”
There is more grist coming for the Times’ editorial mill. Last week, the first African-American chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel (D-NY), declared that Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, Jr., fresh from Wall Street, had persuaded him, during a decade of increasing record profits, to lower the porous corporate income tax rate from 35% to 25%.
“We can live with that,” Chairman Rangel declared.
Would the working families in his District, who would be paying a higher tax rate on their modest income, agree?
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