THE BLOG
02/05/2006 05:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

President Bush Is Endangering Our Lives - 14: Losing The War On Terror By Misusing Executive Power

PRESIDENT BUSH IS ENDANGERING OUR LIVES: 14. LOSING THE WAR ON TERROR BY MISUSING EXECUTIVE POWER

"We are losing."
-- The Next Attack, by former NSC officials Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon

"Over the years there had been an erosion of presidential power and authority. I believe that (the War Powers Act) was an infringement upon the authority of the President. The President needs to be effective, especially in a national security area." (Emphasis added)
-- Vice-President Richard Cheney, "Remarks to the Traveling Press", 12/20/05

"The vice president may be the only person I know of that believes the executive has somehow lost power over the last 30 years."
-- Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.), "Clash Is Latest Chapter in Bush Effort to Widen Executive Power," WP, 12/21/05

"President Bush has (said) `Democrats, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.' The president's attacks are outrageous. Most (believed) that the president and his administration were true in their statements that Saddam Hussein was a gathering menace. The president has undermined trust. No longer will the members of Congress be entitled to accept his veracity. (Emphasis added)
-- Former Senator Bob Graham, Chair, Senate Intelligence Committee, "What I Knew Before the Invasion", WP, 11/20/05

THE KEY ISSUE: HOW EFFECTIVELY MR. BUSH IS USING HIS EXECUTIVE POWERS TO PROTECT US

The issue of "Executive Power" is not a mere theoretical question to be debated by constitutional lawyers. One man alone made the decision to have our nation occupy an oil-rich Muslim land for the first time in history, vastly accelerating an unsettling chain of events which have only begun to threaten the lives of Americans and security of the world. Had Mr. Bush not wished to invade, it would not have occurred. Because he wished to, it did. One man today thus arguably already possesses more "executive power" than any person in history. It is a very real, not theoretical, issue.

Mr. Bush justifies his present "Executive Power" - and attempts to expand it - by saying he needs it to protect us. He asserts the right, solely on his own discretion, to: (1) exercise his War Powers to invade and occupy foreign lands; (2) wage war; (3) manage international relations; (4) imprison, torture and/or kill without evidence, legal representation or informing the victims' families; and (5) wield unilateral power at home, including the right to imprison and spy on his own citizens.

If the leader of any other country seized such unilateral power, Americans - led by conservatives - would support deposing him. In year 2006 America, however, the President enjoys such power because of (1) the public's fear of death - triggered to unprecedented levels by the first domestic attack on American civilians - and its largely unconscious desire to be protected by the President; (2) Republican control of Congress, leading conservatives to abandon their own principles of limiting government power so that they can exercise it.

Whether Mr. Bush is able to keep or expand his Executive power will likely be decided by the issue Mr. Cheney identified: "The President needs to be effective, especially in a national security area."

If the American people believe the President is "effective" in protecting them, they may continue to accept his unilateral powers. If they understand he is not protecting them, they will likely limit his power. Americans recently opposed by 50-46 Mr. Bush's eavesdropping without court approval, for example, but supported it by 53-46 when the question added "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism." ("New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps," NYT, 1/27/06).

Much is thus riding for America - and the world - on the question of how effectively Mr. Bush is using his existing Executive Power to protect us, including the survival of democracy and the lives of countless Americans and foreigners. Let us examine how competently he is wielding his enormous Executive power.

I. THE EXECUTIVE POWER TO DECLARE WAR, INVADE AND OCCUPY

The President of the United State has used his War Powers to:

(1) Mislead The Nation Into War: The source of the President's power is his control of intelligence agencies which, in an Information Age, allows him to mislead his nation into war. U.S. soldiers are today dying on the basis of Mr. Bush's untrue statements in the "Authorization to Use Military Force" Resolution passed by Congress on October 11, 2002, including: "Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat ... by ... continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;" "Whereas members of al Qaida ... are known to be in Iraq ..."; and "Whereas the President and Congress are determined to take all appropriate actions against organizations who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

(2) Dramatically Strengthen The Iraqi Insurgency: Mr. Bush's occupation of Iraq has seen insurgents there grow from 0 to 15-20,000, and attacks grow by 29% from 2004 to 2005, from 26,496 or 72 a day to 34,131 or 93 a day. As in Vietnam the issue is not how many opponents we have killed, but how many remain - and their numbers are growing exponentially. Insurgents fighting the U.S. in Iraq have grown from zero in March 2003 to 5,000 in November 2003 to 15-20,000 today (Brookings Institution, "Iraqi Index Archive".)

(3) Increase the Likelihood Of Attacks That Will Kill Countless Americans: As occurred after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Mr. Bush's invasion has resulted in the training and arming a new generation of anti-American terrorists who, whatever happens in Iraq, will likely return to their home countries to attack American targets. His invasion is also inspiring countless other Muslims living in Europe and elsewhere to kill Americans. The Next Attack, a book authored by two former National Security Council anti-terrorism experts and endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, states categorically that "we are losing. America is heading for a repeat of (9/11) or perhaps something worse. More Muslims are sympathizing with radical Islamicists and joining their movement. The United States leadership appears not to have comprehended the dynamic, ideologically driven insurgency. We are stoking the fire. The terrorists have found in Iraq a better sanctuary, training ground, and laboratory than they ever had in Afghanistan."

(4) Leave Us Perilously Undefended At Home: While geometrically increasing the strength of, and danger from, those wishing to kill us, he has left us perilously undefended at home. Experts warn he has neither protected our chemical plants nor transportation systems - including containers carried on ships, ports, railroads, subways, bridges, and airlines. As with Katrina, he has also failed to provide for a first response to an attack. Most seriously, he has failed to defend our cities against nuclear attack. Two ex-Republican Governors serving on his own 9/11 Commission have stated that "it seems that the safety of the American people is not very high on Washington's priority list," (ex-Gov. Thomas Kean, Chair), and that "every reasonable expert believes the terrorists will strike again. Many believe their goal is to outdo the carnage and death of Sept. 11." (ex-Gov. James Thompson).

(5) Weaken Our Military: He has over-extended our forces, with both the regular army and National Guard reported at the breaking point. His inability to defeat 15-20,000 insurgents in Iraq has reduced the deterrent power of the military and, according a 2005 classified report from the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has meant that future U.S. war-making "would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan."

II. THE EXECUTIVE POWER TO WAGE WAR

The President of the United States has used his power to wage war in Iraq to:

(1) Mismanage the U.S. and Iraqi Military: He occupied Iraq without sufficient troops to maintain order; he foolishly disbanded the Iraqi army; he failed to prepare U.S. forces for counter-insurgency, which has not only strengthened our opponents but meant we cannot today train the new Iraqi Army to combat the insurgency; he has failed to provide Iraqi and U.S. troops with available vehicle and body protection leading to the needless death of our forces - 84% of Marines according to one study; he failed to secure vast ammunition dumps, giving insurgents a virtually unlimited supply of ordinance to kill Americans and Iraqis.

(2) Arm U.S. Enemies Who Have Infiltrated The National Police: He has armed Shiite militias who have infiltrated the national police, are sworn enemies of the United States, supporters of Iran, and are torturing and killing Sunnis, who are in turn slaughtering them; he has thus created a national police force which will likely foment rather than prevent civil war, or help create the "model for freedom" he promised; he failed to stop the looting and provide order, leading to the rise of criminal gangs which today plague Iraq's major cities.

(3) Oversee a Slide to Civil War: the new Constitution gives Shiites and Kurds control of Iraq's oil, which Iraqi political scientist Kanan Makiya warns will lead to civil war killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; Shiites who have won most of the power have shown little desire to compromise with the Sunnis who oppressed them for 40 years; Sunnis are becoming increasingly bitter; although a national government is being formed at the top, signs on the ground point to increasing fratricide and possible civil war. ABC News reports that "nearly six in 10 (Iraqis) disapprove of how the United States has operated in Iraq since the war."

(4) Break His Promise to Reconstruct The Iraqi Economy: Five days after Mr. Bush promised that "we will continue reconstruction efforts", (1/10/06), his Embassy in Baghdad announced no further reconstruction aid would be forthcoming. Oil production and electricity are below the levels when Saddam ruled with sanctions. Many Iraqis still have but a few hours of electricity during sweltering summers or freezing winters, and are forced to pay 5 times as much for gasoline. Unemployment is estimated at 27-40%. Corruption, aiding not only the richest Iraqis who live abroad but insurgents killing Americans, is endemic. He sent in inexperienced Republican operatives who lacked either the experience or ability to help create a functioning government.

III. THE EXECUTIVE POWER TO MANAGE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The President of the United States has used his Executive power to manage International Relations to:

(1) Strengthen Anti-U.S. Forces in Iran: Though declaring Iran one of three members of an "Axis of Evil", Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq has given them increased leverage over him. Iran can foment civil war in Iraq by supporting their Shiite allies or kill nearby Americans. His Iraqi invasion helped elect an extremist and dangerous President. Most significantly, his failures have emboldened Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as the LAT has reported: "Iranians know that American forces, now stretched thin, are unlikely to invade Iran. And if the United States or Europe were to try a small-scale, targeted attack, the proximity of American forces makes them potential targets for retaliation. Iranians also know the fighting in Iraq has helped raise oil prices, and any attempt to impose sanctions could push prices higher. In addition, the Iranians have longstanding ties to influential Shiite religious leaders in Iraq. All of those calculations have reduced Iranian fears of going ahead with their nuclear program." (1/29/06)

(2) Turn The Formerly Pro-U.S. Muslim World Against Us: The first U.S. occupation of a major Muslim country in history has made us hated throughout the Muslim world. Although the U.S. supported Israel prior to the invasion of Iraq, Muslims approved of the U.S. by 3 to 1 margins. They now disapprove of us by 3 to 1, providing terrorist groups with a far more fertile ground for recruitment.

(3) Reduce His Leverage Over U.S.-Supported Dictatorships: His invasion of Iraq has reduced his ability to encourage the pro-U.S. dictators running Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt to promote democracy or help the U.S.. He has been unable to stop the Saudis, for example, from supporting funding terror groups dedicated to killing Americans. As pro-American dictators lose public support, nightmare scenarios such as extremists taking over Pakistan with its nuclear weapons, or Saudi Arabia with its oil, have become far more likely.

(4) Strengthen Violent Extremists Who Hate America: Anti-American extremism - Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the forces behind a new President of Iran calling for the elimination of Israel - is on the rise.

(5) Reduce International Support Around The World: Mr. Bush is today not only hated in the Muslim world but despised throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world. U.S. influence is at an all-time low. The Pew Research Study Center has reported that "the United States remains broadly disliked in most countries surveyed. There is considerable support across every country surveyed for some other country or group of countries to rival the United States militarily. Roughly three-quarters of the publics in Germany, Canada and France say Bush's re-election has made them feel less favorable to the U.S." (5/23/05)

IV. THE EXECUTIVE POWER TO IMPRISON AND TORTURE

The President of the United States has used his Executive power to imprison and torture people to:

(1) Harm not Help Our Military Effort: He has not only conducted widespread torture but is the first leader in modern history to demand the legal right to do so. He has tortured the innocent, as The New Republic has reported: "Pentagon reports have acknowledged that up to 90 percent of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, many of whom were abused and tortured, were not guilty of anything." He has rounded up and imprisoned countless people with no evidence of wrongdoing, denying them the right to legal representation or even to contact their families. As Senator John McCain has said, "the abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, our war effort ... he mistreatment of prisoners harms us more than our enemies." It motivates our enemies to ever-greater violence against us, and the population to support them. It alienates those Iraqi soldiers and national police upon whom the President wishes to make our allies.

(2) Destroy American Credibility Within the Muslim World and Around the Globe: With the exception of occupying Iraq in the first place, nothing has done more to make a mockery of Mr. Bush's claim that he is creating a "model of freedom" in Iraq than his widespread torture and imprisonment of countless Muslims. Far from being seen as a democrat, he is seen as a violent torturer,throughout the Muslim - and much of the rest of the - world. As NYT columnist Tom Friedman has put it, "But while I am certain bin Laden is losing, I still don't feel that we are `winning' ... America, and particularly President Bush, are still radioactive - widely disliked." (1/25/06)

V. the EXECUTIVE POWER TO LEAD AT HOME

The President of the United States has used his domestic Executive power to:

(1) Lose His Own Credibility: By 54 to 46, Americans no longer trust or believe Mr. Bush, and 60% say he has failed to restore honor and integrity to government. A President who is not trusted cannot effectively lead the war on terror. His has destroyed his own credibility, his most important asset as a wartime leader.

(2) Destroy Bipartisanship, and Denigrate and Defy Congress: He has refused even to fully inform the Senate Intelligence Committee, leading to a total breakdown of the bipartisanship badly needed to wage the long-term war on terror upon which the U.S. has embarked. More recently, he has denigrated and defied Congress by introducing a "signing statement", declaring his right to ignore Senator McCain's prohibition against U.S. torture that passed Congress by a huge margin.

(3) Actively Divide Rather than Unify: He has sought to actively divide rather than unite the nation, implying that his critics are disloyal "defeatists", and having his political counselor urge Republicans this election year to attack their opponents as "cut and run" Democrats. He has appealed to fear rather than reason. He has pursued short-term political advantage at the cost of long-term national security.

(4) Provoke a Needless Constitutional Crisis: He has violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requiring him to obtain warrants before spying on Americans. This has provoked a needless constitutional crisis at home which distracts national attention from what should be our main goal: uniting to intelligently protect ourselves from terrorism. It is needless because no judge has ever refused an appropriate request from the President of the United States to engage in surveillance to protect this nation.

CONCLUSION

No President in American history has so misused his Executive Power to so weaken national security and so endanger his people.

Those who wish to defend America against those who threaten us have no higher priority than to reduce Mr. Bush's present Executive power as much and as quickly as possible.