By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 27 December 2004
Rumor has it that George W. Bush's tailor is busily stitching a royal blue cloak to go with the gold crown that will adorn the president as he takes the oath of office on January 20. Now that Bush has secured a second term, it is no longer necessary to hide behind the subtle flight suit that bedecked him on the deck of the aircraft carrier declaring "Mission Accomplished" in May 2003. He can now come out of the closet as full-fledged Emperor of the World.
Notwithstanding the United States Constitution and the United Nations Charter, Bush nicely qualifies as "the male sovereign or supreme ruler of an empire," as required by Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.
Bush wasn't always riding high. Shortly before 9/11, his ratings were falling. It was a mere two weeks after the September 11 attacks that a secret memo prepared for Alberto Gonzales's office concluded Bush had the power to use military force "preemptively" against any terrorist organizations or countries that supported them. Any link to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon was unnecessary, said the memo, even though Congress had so limited its license for the president to use force.
Treaties ratified by the United States, such as the Charter of the United Nations, are the Supreme law of the land under our Constitution. The U.N. Charter forbids the use of armed force against another State unless undertaken in self-defense or authorized by the Security Council. The necessity for self-defense must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," according to the leading Caroline Case of 1841.
The Charter's prohibition on the use of force has not prevented prior presidents from acting unilaterally. Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, George H.W. Bush invaded Panama, and Bill Clinton bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, the year after he bombed Afghanistan and the Sudan. Before invading Iraq, George W. Bush made war on Afghanistan to retaliate against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden. None of these interventions was an exercise of self-defense; none was approved by the Council. All were illegal.
George W. Bush, however, has taken chutzpah to a higher level with his new doctrine of "preemptive war."...