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Congress abdicates war powers. (Insider Report).

The October 11th AP report on Congress' approval of a "use of force" resolution against Iraq appeared pretty definitive: "Congress approved the use of America's military might against Iraq, reinforcing President Bush's insistence that Saddam Hussein's government had no other option but to disarm.... After days of solemn debate, both the House and Senate passed and sent to the White House a resolution authorizing the president to use military force, if necessary, to compel Iraq to get rid of its biological and chemical weapons and disband its nuclear weapons program."

Omitted from this description was recognition of a key fact: By passing that resolution, Congress abdicated its solemn responsibility to decide whether our nation will go to war. The power to make that decision was surrendered to President Bush--an act that violates the constitutional assignment of powers.

As Alexander Hamilton observed in 1793, "It is the province and duty of the Executive to preserve to the Nation the blessings of peace. The Legislature alone can interrupt those blessings, by placing the Nation in a state of War." A year later, Hamilton observed, "war is a question, under our constitution, not of Executive, but of Legislative cognizance. It belongs to Congress to say whether the Nation shall of choice dismiss the olive branch and unfurl the banners of War." In 1848, Abraham Lincoln noted: "Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars.... This, our [Constitutional] Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."

The president's defenders might insist that the "use of force" resolution is, for all intents and purposes, a declaration of war. But Congress declined an opportunity to declare war against Iraq. During a hearing in the House International Relations committee, recalled Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), "I attempted to force the committee to follow the Constitution and vote to declare war with Iraq." Not a single member of the committee voted in favor of the proposed resolution--including Paul, who proposed it as a way of calling his colleagues' bluff.

"Congress would rather give up its most important authorized power to the President and the UN than risk losing an election if the war goes badly," observed Paul. "So members take half steps, supporting confusingly worded 'authorizations' that they can back away from easily if necessary." Of the "use of force" resolution written with White House approval, Paul comments: "It's astonishing that the authorization passed by the committee mentions the United Nations dozens of times, yet does not mention the Constitution once.... By transferring its authority to declare war to the President and ultimately the UN, Congress not only violates the Constitution, but also disenfranchises the American electorate." It also offers an equivocal message to the servicemen we would send into harm's way.

To see how your representative and senators voted on the "use of force" resolution, see House Vote #80 and Senate Vote #80 in the "Conservative Index" (pages 22-33).
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Publication:The New American
Date:Nov 4, 2002
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