Although administration officials are arguing internally that the president should seek approval from lawmakers anyway.
Citing senior administration officials, The Washington Post reported Monday the advice was based in part on the 1991 resolution that gave President Bush’s father the authority to launch the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The 1991 Persian Gulf resolution authorized the use of military force against Iraq in order to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions, particularly the international demand that Iraq eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and allow access to UN weapons inspectors.
“No one thinks Iraq has fulfilled them,” The Post quoted an administration official as saying.
According to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, written to ensure that Congress and the president share in decisions involving significant U.S. military action, the president may unilaterally act to authorize military force for up to 90 days. Congressional approval is necessary for any military action lasting beyond 90 days.
President Bush has said that he will consult lawmakers before making a final decision on military action against Iraq although he has not detailed how he will ask their approval. The possibility of consulting lawmakers solely for their opinions and not their consent could spark outcry from Capitol Hill when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.
“We don’t want to be in the legal position of asking Congress to authorize the use of force when the president already has that full authority,” a senior administration official said in The Post story. “We don’t want, in getting a resolution, to have conceded that one was constitutionally necessary.”
The Post article comes on the heels of a Sunday New York Times commentary written by James A. Baker III, secretary of state under President Bush’s father, saying the U.S. should first approach the UN for a resolution authorizing all means necessary to allow weapons inspectors full access to Iraq.
“Although the United States could certainly succeed, we should try our best not to have to go it alone, and the president should reject the advice of those who counsel doing so,” Baker wrote in The Times. “The costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with only one or two other countries.”
Meanwhile, the Bush administration, concerned about the lack of international support for military action, is bringing 17 Iraqi dissidents to the State Department this week to teach them new techniques for communicating their complaints against Saddam Hussein to the media.
“Americans talking about the horrors of Saddam Hussein is one thing. Iraqis who can speak with authority about it, well, you can’t put a value on it,” a State Department official told The Post.