While America watches the bailout hearings on Capitol (er, capital?) Hill today, it might be worth keeping in mind a previous urgent request made of Congress. Back in 2002, the Bush Administration wouldn’t allow conditions to be attached to its critical request for war powers against Iraq. The White House pointed to dire consequences to accrue if legislators modified or watered down unfettered authority to wage war against Iraq and stipulated that Bush’s authority would be used only with the most careful consideration.
Ron Suskind reports in his important book, The Way of the World, that even a month before the invasion of Iraq, British intelligence proved to the Americans that there were no WMD and no chemical weapons capabilities remaining in Saddam Hussein’s stockpile. Lord Dearlove himself, as well as an aide, confirmed to Suskind that a meeting between a British intelligence operative and the head of Iraqi Intelligence (IIS) took place in Iraq in February 2003. The Iraqi intel chief confirmed that they had no nuclear program and explained that Saddam was playing a cat and mouse game with his Iranian opponents in order to discourage a feared invasion from the east—by pretending to have a deterrent.
Did this influence the American administration, even at that late date? Lord Dearlove would only say, “I don’t think it was too late for Bush.”
The parallels aren’t one-to-one, but the rush to approve Executive power without oversight is reminiscent of past giveaways. Congress needs to be wary of unconditional power grabs, particularly while that ceded authority would rest with this Administration.