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The Congressional Voice

The Congressional VoiceWhile President Bush considers the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Michael Glennon, a professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, wrote in a recent op-ed that Bush's military options in Iraq are limited by Congress.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.11.06] The bipartisan Iraq Study Group released its report on the war in Iraq on Dec. 6, giving U.S. President George W. Bush plenty of food for thought on the future of military action in Iraq. While Bush assesses the independent group’s recommendations, one Tufts international law expert says he should be plotting his next steps in Iraq along with members of Congress.

“Although it's widely assumed that the president alone is empowered to decide what military option the United States should pursue in Iraq, that is not the case,” Glennon, a professor at The Fletcher School at Tufts, wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

Glennon explained that Congress plays a powerful role, as well. “Absent congressional approval, the president cannot use force in Iraq to pursue new objectives, beyond the protection of forces being withdrawn,” he wrote.

According to Glennon, in 2002, Congress authorized “imperfect war,” or “a war fought for limited purposes.” He added that Congress defined two clear goals for the use of force in Iraq: “to ‘defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq”… and to ‘enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.’"

“When President Bush signed the 2002 authorization, he said that ‘Iraq will either comply with all U.N. resolutions, rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, and end its support for terrorists, or it will be compelled to do so,’” Glennon wrote.

He pointed out that, in the past four years, Iraq has met most of Bush’s demands.

“Saddam Hussein's regime is history, and the threat posed by it is gone… A new constitution has been adopted by the Iraqi people,” Glennon wrote. “A different government is in place. That government is in compliance with all relevant Security Council resolutions. It does not possess or seek weapons of mass destruction. It does not support or harbor terrorists.”

Because the situation — and the government — in Iraq have changed since Congress initially authorized the president’s use of force there, Glennon said that Congress should be consulted on decisions pertaining to future military action.

“The options to ‘go big’ or to ‘go long — to increase the magnitude or duration of the U.S. effort by systematically taking on assorted Shiite militias, opportunistic criminals, foreign jihadists and others who were not part of Saddam's regime — would not fit within Congress's existing authority,” Glennon wrote. “Congress in 2002 authorized the president to use force in a war against the sitting Iraqi government, not for an Iraqi government or against an opposition that did not then exist.”

With new recommendations regarding the future of the war in Iraq currently being considered by the White House, Glennon wrote that President Bush should include his neighbors on Capitol Hill in the decision-making process.

“As a matter of sound policy, as well as constitutional principle, Congress should participate in weighing recommendations on future military action,” he wrote. “Whatever military option is selected, its success will depend upon broad support from the American people. Congressional involvement will not guarantee that support, but congressional exclusion will almost surely preclude it.”

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