MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

Bush Authority to Declare War Challenged
From "Patriots of the Constitution"
written by Sook Holdridge
sent 3-12-03

In spite of the powerful message delivered by the millions who marched February 15th, President Bush stands ready to declare war on Iraq. When you think about it, isn't it incredulous that one man should have the power to declare war on any nation? Or is this just a misperception of Bush's true authority?

The framers of the Constitution knew only too well the frailty of human nature and the inherent danger of concentrating too much power in one individual. After all, many of them fled to this country to escape the tyranny of European monarchs. That is why they bestowed on Congress, not the President, the power to declare war. And that has not changed though Congress has appeared to transfer that power to Bush.

It all started when, after 9-11, Bush asked Congress to pass a resolution giving him "authorization to use military force against those responsible for the 9-11 attacks". Generally, the public seemed supportive and dissenters unpatriotic. "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists, " said Bush. With the elections just ahead, Congress felt the pressure and predictably passed the resolution almost unanimously.

Then, in October 2002, Bush asked Congress for a second resolution that would expand his authority to go after Iraq specifically, as well as any other nation Bush determines "planned, authorized, committed or aided terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001", including nations who even harbor terrorists.

Again, fearing repercussions, only a few members of Congress spoke out against the resolution. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Va) railed that it was unconstitutional. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution makes it clear, "Congress shall have Power ... To declare War....". No Congressional resolution can change the Constitution; only a Constitutional amendment can do that. And, no such amendment exists. And Byrd added, "Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that the President has the authority to call forth the militia to preempt a perceived threat". Resolution 114 quickly passed both houses anyway.

Since Resolution 114, Bush has targeted Iraq with vengeance, even though no connection between Iraq and 9-11 has been shown. Congress has watched mostly from the bleachers, mute.
Finally, on February 13, 2003, a few courageous souls decided to challenge Bush's presumption of power. Six members of Congress plus a coalition of U.S. soldiers, and parents of soldiers, filed a lawsuit in the Boston federal court naming George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as defendants.

U.S. Reps. John Conyers, D-Michigan and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio leading the plaintiffs, claim Resolution 114 on Iraq last October "did not specifically declare war and unlawfully ceded to the President the decision of whether or not to send this nation into war".
"The President is not a king," said one of the plaintiffs. The plaintiff's attorney, John Bonifaz, argued "A war against Iraq without a congressional declaration of war will be illegal and unconstitutional".

Nancy Lessin, another plaintiff, called for "a full and complete congressional discussion of the issues and all options must precede any move towards war, because of the irreparable harm that would result."

The stakes are huge. Not only are many thousands of lives at risk, the egregious ambitions of the Executive Branch continue to lock in an expanding war system. After Iraq, Bush will name the next enemy. Who will it be? Iran? North Korea? Sudan? Rumsfeld has said we're in never ending war against terrorism. That should frighten all of us because history tells us when great countries concentrate their resources to sustain military might, it marks the beginning of their internal decay and collapse. Is the Bush doctrine leading us blindly down that perilous road? And if so, will we open our eyes in time to stop him?

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