War and Iraq: Has the US Congress Abdicated its Responsibilities?

❄ War and Iraq: Has the US Congress Abdicated Its Responsibilities?

Did the US Congress, in October 2002, give George W. Bush an unqualified blank check to war against Iraq?

Consider the Act “To Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq” which became law on 16 October 2002: full text of the Act in html, or as a pdf document. [Note 1] The most relevant sections state:


SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) Authorization.–The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

There are some reporting requirements, which may have been sugar pills for frightened Legislators but do not effectively diminish the abdication of Congressional responsibility:

(b) Presidential Determination.–In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that–

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Two texts control US choice for war: the Constitution (Article I Section 8) which states “The Congress shall have the power . . . To declare war . . .” and the 1973 War Powers Act (Public Law 93-148, enacted November 7, 1973) which places a 60-day limit on Presidential war “unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces . . .” or other stipulated circumstances are met. The 16 October 2002 Authorization Act provides:

(c) War Powers Resolution Requirements.– (1) Specific statutory authorization.–Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements.–Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

The US Constitution does not authorize Congress to delegate power to declare war. Less on legal grounds than political, it is not possible to justify Congress’ failure to consider and evaluate issues, being discussed globally, centered on UN Security Council action and the process of UNSC-ordered UNMOVIC inspections in Iraq. The term which best captures the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, is abdication.


NOTES

[Note 1] The Act “To Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq” which became law on 16 October 2002. Full text [html] at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ243.107 or as [pdf]: or http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ246.107.pdf [Editorial note: both versions were still accessible at these URLs on 14 October 2012.]

[Bruce’s Blog: 2003.03.13. Post: Bxx Short Link: http://www.learnworld.com/BRUCE/?p=70. Front Door Index: http://blog.learnworld.com/. Permalink: http://www.learnworld.com/BRUCE/uncategorized/war-and-iraq-has-the-us-congress-abdicated-its-responsibilities/]


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