Bush Vows to Ignore Congressional Prohibition on Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq

Washington, D.C. – Council for a Livable World today strongly condemned President Bush for issuing a signing statement with the Defense Authorization bill that announced his intention to ignore the bill's prohibition on funding the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

President Bush said yesterday that several sections of the Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 4986), including Section 1222 prohibiting permanent bases, "purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

John Isaacs, Executive Director of Council for a Livable World, responded to President Bush's statement by saying: "This signing statement raises further suspicions that President Bush seeks to establish a permanent presence in Iraq. If Bush is allowed to negotiate a treaty with Iraq that binds the United States under international law, the next president will be handcuffed."

On November 26, 2007, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki released a "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship." This Declaration laid the groundwork for the two governments to forge a long-term bilateral pact, a draft of which is expected by July 31, 2008. The proposed agreement could include a package of multiple agreements, ranging from a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to economic development packages to basing agreements to a formal defense treaty.

Isaacs continued: "There are great risks in entering a long-term, binding security relationship with Iraq. The Bush-Maliki Declaration language suggests that the United States might be required by treaty to combat any internal or external faction the Iraqi government deemed a threat. This means U.S. forces might be compelled to advance Iraqi sectarian agendas through force."

For detailed information on the risks of a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq, read the new Council for a Livable World fact sheet: "A Permanent Presence? Dangers of a Long-Term U.S. Security Commitment in Iraq."

SOFAs generally constitute agreements rather than treaties. There is a point, however, that an agreement can go so far in obligating the United States to defend another country that the Senate should provide its advice and consent. That line is when the obligation to defend another country becomes legally binding under international law.

"President Bush is ignoring the 1969 National Commitments Resolution, which said that assisting a foreign country through 'the use of Armed Forces' would be a 'national commitment' that required a treaty, statute or concurrent resolution," Isaacs concluded. "A binding commitment for the United States to use armed force on behalf of Iraq certainly qualifies for such action by the Senate."

Bush's signing statement accompnmaying H.R. 4986 is available online.