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Anti-US Mass Demonstration in Damascus
News and Opinion

No Respect

Syria raid violates Constitution

-- Bruce Ticker

With less than three months to go, President Bush could not help himself: Once again, he violated the Constitution, in as conspicuous a manner as possible.

When American troops swooped into a Syrian village on Oct. 26, the episode invited a series of perspectives: Now the Syrians know how the rest of us feel about their kind of aggression; civilians were possibly killed in the crossfire; the raid was necessary to prevent Iraqi and American deaths; and this international incident could provoke retaliation.

All true, but what should outrage any American most was Bush's brusque disregard for the Constitution. The Constitution requires that Congress can declare war, not the president. Our Congress never declared war against Syria.

Congress's vote in October 2002 authorizes military action in Iraq. It says nothing about Syria. Exactly what Congress did six years ago is confusing. Did they actually transfer their constitutional authority to the president in this particular instance? What the vote did not do was authorize military action in Syria or declare war against Syria. Bush was never granted authority - clear or vague - to attack Syria. Look it up, as I did.

This is hardly the first time that Bush violated the Constitution, but in my memory I cannot think of any act on Bush's part that was so blatant a violation.

The reality is that Congress decides when a president violates the Constitution. For a Republican-dominated Congress, a Democratic president who lied in court about his sex life violated the Constitution, and he technically he may well have done so. Yet it did not affect public policy.

Congress never assessed any of Bush's monumental blunders as unconstitutional. During Bush's first six years, Republicans refused to provide oversight and for the remainder of his tenure Democrats feared that any move to impeach would make them appear to be partisan obstructionists. However, Bush's violations of the Constitution did affect public policy, not to mention our treasury and thousands of lives.

From a military perspective, American officials said that troops killed or injured BadranTurki Hishan al-Mazidih after they were flown by helicopters into an isolated area four miles inside Syria, which means that apparently they put a very dangerous man out of business, as The Washington Post reported.

Officials and analysts told the Post that Mazidih ran a network which has smuggled hundreds of foreign fighters into Iraq, numbering among them many who became suicide bombers. One official said "eventually you can't wait for guys like that to come back across the border and kill scores of Iraquis or, worse, your own forces."

I could not agree more…from a military perspective. The constitutional glitch here is that members of Congress did not take into account the possibility that the military would not bother to secure the borders and prevent more terrorists from sneaking into Iraq.

Had they thought of this, they might have authorized Bush to attack any border country where aggression might originate. Congress did not think of this, and therefore Bush violated the Constitution when his toy - a.k.a. the American military - committed an act of war against Syria.

One can argue that Israel raided Syria when it was suspected of building facilities for a nuclear device. Practically speaking, Israel has been in a state of war with Syria for the last 60 years, a war that Syria started, and Syria has yet to follow the lead of Egypt and Jordan in signing a peace treaty with Israel.

In addition, I am an American citizen and any violation of Israeli policies is more a concern of Israeli citizens. Besides, Israel has no constitution. We have a constitution, and I want my president to adhere to it - just as the rest of us Americans are expected to obey the law.

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