Senator Kennedy announced legislation today mandating that unless the president's Iraq plans are approved by Congress, lawmakers can cut off spending for the war and halt any new troop deployments to Iraq. Of course this is perfect from the sense that it gives congressional Democrats a safety buffer for de-funding the entire occupation and, in the short term, gives Congress further ammunition for stopping the president's unpopular escalation idea -- oops. Sorry. I meant, the president's unpopular "surge." Surgulation. Ah, crap on that. It's an escalation for shits and giggles... and oil. Moving on.
Freezing the president's supplemental Iraq spending is an obvious administration trap set for the Democrats. But how else, under the Constitution, can Congress accomplish the goal of fulfilling its midterm mandate? Making further troop deployments impossible and illegal seems to be the only way, followed by, in turn, a total forced withdrawal due to spending cuts.
Enter Senator Kennedy's bill which accomplishes both, while placing the onus of funding the occupation on the sweat-stained shoulders of the president -- legally binding him to supply a real plan for ending our presence in Iraq. If the plan isn't good enough, then the law says no more brigades and no more money. In other words, if the commander-in-chief can't manage to squeeze a viable plan from his tiny noggin (he can't) and instead offers up the same vague crap on a stick (he will), then he's screwed himself, and the Democrats can force him to end the war without directly freezing expenditures.
Most excellent. But there appears to be at least two catches.
One catch is obvious: whipping up enough the votes required to override the president's absolutely definite veto of the Kennedy law. This is the Bush White House after all. The Big Executive. The Big Dick. I don't need to remind you that the White House, however unpopular, is run by a regime who at every turn has sucked dry both its constitutional and wholly-fabricated-out-of-thin-fucking-air executive powers. And it doesn't help that Congress (minus Kennedy and others) approved the president's Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq bill back in 2002.
Which leads me to another of Senator Kennedy's points in his introduction of his legislation today. The president's congressional authorization has essentially expired. In fact, if you read the bill, it's been expired for some time now. Here's the meat:
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES. (a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.
The "continuing threat" by the Saddam Hussein government, even though it never existed, is gone. And along the same lines, the enforcement of the various UN resolutions have been rendered inoperative since there was nothing to disarm and, now, there's nothing to inspect. So Congress is well within its rights to stop this shit by passing a new law, this time ending the war.
But, again, they leave the burden of defining a feasible strategy in the hands of the president. After all, and to repeat, the president is the commander-in-chief of the military and war plans are his responsibility -- not the responsibility of Congress. Congress can only provide oversight, declare war, finance war and, also according to Article 1, Section 8, they can stop piracy. This last part will come in handy when Congress gets into investigating how the Bush administration is coaxing the Iraqi government to allow Shell, Exxon-Mobile and BP to grab up Iraq's oil and keep 75-percent of the profits. More on that below.
I mentioned two catches, and here's the other one. Let's say Senator Kennedy's law passes. And let's say Senators McCain and Lieberman manage to convince the president that it's a better idea to deploy a larger number of soldiers for a longer period of time. And let's say McCain and Lieberman rally enough votes to approve that plan. Then we could be in there for a really, really long time, and at the cost of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The president would easily go this direction over withdrawal because at this point, it's all about securing access to the Iraqi oil for western profiteers, isn't it? And what about that?
Right around the time when new brigades will be hitting the ground (should the president get his way) this March, the new and underreported Iraqi "hydrocarbon law" will likely be passed. According to The Independent, the law, written in conjunction with the Bush administration and brokered by a firm in McLean, Virginia, allows Western oil companies specifically including Shell, Exxon-Mobile and BP to hork Iraqi oil and pocket 75-percent of the profits. That's 75-percent of the profits from the source of 95-percent of the Iraqi economy. The Independent:
"[The law] would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972."
You remember Shell, Exxon-Mobile and BP: three of the principles in Vice President Cheney's energy task force. And now, with security a major issue, they could be granted by the president an American military "surge" to protect their trafficking lanes and dampen any resistance from the Iraqi people who surely won't dig the idea of their only commodity ripped out from under their feet.
All told, there can't be any deals outside the bounds of actual legislation because the Bush administration has shown an aptitude for playing with a loaded deck when it comes to rhetoric and assurances. (For example, how much of that money he promised New Orleans has actually arrived?) Without a legally binding stoppage, the war will continue on and on and the cost in lives and taxpayer money will continue ad infinitum. Additionally, Senator Biden's note that the Constitution doesn't allow Congress to deploy or withdraw soldiers is quite true. But Senator Kennedy's proposal might be the solution.
The president is less popular now than ever, and public support for his surgulation is only 36-percent according to Gallup. 54-percent of us want an end to this fiasco within the year. The Democrats want to do it in a way that's bold and swift. And Wednesday night, selling the surge to the American people is entirely up to the president's wickedly awesome public speaking skills. Slam dunk, Senator Kennedy.
Speaking of the administration's oil interests, here's something appropriate from my old VH1 animated sketch show: