Dover Bitch

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We did not elect Tony Blair

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Back in January, Senator Biden (D-DE) told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in no uncertain terms, that he felt the president did not have the Constitutional authority to go to war with Iran.

Secondly, I also want to make it clear, as chairman of the committee, that I feel very strongly that the authorization of the use of force in the provision that the Senator [Webb] read from it explicitly denies you the authority to go into Iran. Let me say that again: explicitly denies you the authority to go into Iran. We will fight that out if the President moves but I just want the record to show, and I would like to have a legal response from the State Department that if they think they have authority to pursue networks or anything else across the boarder into Iran and Iraq [Syria] that will generate a Constitutional confrontation here in the Senate, I predict to you. At least I will attempt to make it a confrontation.

On several occasions, Rice has been asked whether the president would come back to Congress for authorization, and each time she has refused to answer the question, other than to declare that she will not "circumscribe" or "constrain" the President's authority as Commander in Chief. Glenn Greenwald has documented some of those interactions here (on his old blog).

DB's contribution to this discussion was to remind people that the President already asked for the authority to attack Iran and Syria and was absolutely denied. Senator Hagel (R-NE) recently confirmed this to be true.

So that left us with a scary hypothetical. What if the Bush administration decides, for whatever reason, that they want to initiate a war with Iran? Will they go to Congress to ask for the authority? Will the president brazenly declare that he doesn't need the authorization? Or will there be some incident involving American troops or civilians, requiring an immediate military response, pulling us into a war, but saving the administration from having to deal with pesky old Congress?

While DB was on vacation in London, Iran captured 15 British sailors. Happily, the British have cooler heads than the people responsible for American foreign policy, and the situation was resolved without an unnecessary armed conflict escalating into God only knows what kind of war. I thought, as did many I'm sure, that it was a very good thing that those weren't American sailors. I had little doubt that our hypothetical would have been answered -- we would have had the incident the administration required to expand the war to yet another country, possibly with nuclear ramifications. Instead, it seemed, we will still have to wait for an answer and hope that nothing horrible happens.

As it turns out, we may already have an answer. If this story in last Saturday's Guardian is to be believed, the Bush administration was already prepared to go to war with Iran without asking Congress and without even using a threat to American troops or citizens to justify expanding the war.

The US offered to take military action on behalf of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, including buzzing Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions with warplanes, the Guardian has learned.

In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

The Pentagon was offering military options. Was Congress notified? Did Senators Biden or Hagel know this? Was anybody outside of the Cheney cabal told that it was up to Tony Blair to decide whether or not America would be involved in a new war?

If you live in Delaware or Nebraska, you should call Biden or Hagel and find out if they knew this was happening and, if not, if they plan on asking President Bush to explain why the Prime Minister of England has more say in the lives of their constituents and U.S. troops than they do. If there was ever a reason for Congress to ask questions, this is it.

UPDATE: Greenwald reminds us, via TPM, that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) had been unsuccessful at getting "a clear response" from Condi. Does he have his answer now?

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