week, during a hearing in the House International Relations committee,
I attempted to force the committee to follow the Constitution and vote
to declare war with Iraq. The language of Article I, section 8, is quite
clear: only Congress has the authority to declare war. Yet Congress
in general, and the committee in particular, have done everything possible
to avoid making such a declaration. Why? Because members lack the political
courage to call an invasion of Iraq what it really is a war and vote
yes or no on the wisdom of such a war. Congress would rather give up
its most important authorized power to the President and the UN than
risk losing an election later if the war goes badly. There is always
congressional "support" for a popular war, but the politicians
want room to maneuver if the public later changes its mind. So members
take half steps, supporting confusingly worded "authorizations"
that they can back away from easily if necessary.
astonishing that the authorization passed by the committee mentions
the United Nations dozens of times, yet does not mention the Constitution
once. Congress has allowed itself to be bypassed completely, even though
much is made of the Presidents generosity in "consulting"
legislators about the war. The real negotiations took place between
the Bush administration and the UN, replacing debate in the peoples
house. 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.
believe in resolutions that cite the UN as authority for our military
actions. America has a sovereign right to defend itself, and we dont
need UN permission or approval to act in the interests of American national
security. The decision to go to war should be made by the U.S. Congress
alone. If Congress believes war is justified, it should give the President
full warmaking authority, rather than binding him with resolutions designed
to please our UN detractors.
the leadership of both parties on the International Relations committee
fails to understand the Constitution. One Republican member stated that
the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war is an anachronism
and should no longer be followed, while a Democratic member said that
a declaration of war would be "frivolous." I dont think
most Americans believe our Constitution is outdated or frivolous, and
they expect Congress to follow it.
When Congress issued clear declarations of war against Japan and Germany
during World War II, the nation was committed and victory was achieved.
When Congress shirks its duty and avoids declaring war, as with Korea,
and Vietnam, the nation is less committed and the goals are less clear.
No lives should be lost in Iraq unless Congress expresses the clear
will of the American people and votes yes or no on a declaration of