Beltway Right Wrong – Only Congress Can Declare War
Very graciously for the Emperor of
New World Order, President Bush has stated that he
will consult Congress before going to war against Iraq
and even promises to listen to people who don`t want to
go to war at all.
"I`ll be making up my mind
based upon the latest intelligence and how best to
protect our own country plus our friends and allies."
In other words, Mr. Bush thinks he
has the right to initiate a full-scale war against a
He`s not the only one. Bruce Fein,
a legal columnist for the Washington Times and a
charter member of the neo-conservative Zionist war party
yelling for us and them to fight, agrees.
Some people, writes Mr. Fein in a
recent column, actually imagine that just because the
U.S. Constitution gives Congress the right to declare
war, that means only the Congress can declare war. How
silly of some people. "The constitutional criticism," he
snorts, "is unconvincing." [Washington Times,
Warring under the Constitution, Bruce Fein, August
But Mr. Fein`s case (and in general
the case for presidential war powers that
neo-conservatives make) rests on some very dubious
reasoning and even more dubious facts. "The Founding
Fathers," he assures us, "held no pronounced prejudice
against executive declarations of war."
Really? This is what James Madison,
"Father of the Constitution," had to say about it in his
"Political Observations" of 1795:
all the enemies to liberty war is, perhaps, the most to
be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ
of every other. … In war, too, the discretionary power
of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing
out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and
all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those
of subduing the force, of the people. The Constitution
expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the
power of declaring a state of war [and] the power of
raising armies…. A delegation of such powers [to the
president] would have struck, not only at the fabric of
our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well
organized and well checked governments."
In Madison`s Notes of the
Constitutional Convention he quotes Elbridge Gerry as
remarking "Mr. Gerry never expected to hear in a
republic a motion to empower the Executive alone to
declare war," while
George Mason of Virginia "was agst. giving the power
of war to the Executive, because not safely to be
trusted with it."
Mr. Fein also claims the Framers
"were skeptical of handcuffing national security powers
with legally enforceable constitutional constraints,"
and to support that claim he quotes Alexander Hamilton
Federalist 23 that "[War] powers ought to exist
without limitation, etc."
This passage is grotesquely torn
from context. Hamilton was not talking about the power
to initiate war but merely the authority
raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe
rules for the government of both; to direct their
operations; to provide for their support. These powers
ought to exist without limitation, etc."
Mr. Fein also quotes the
John Locke on the powers of the executive (which has
nothing to do with constitutional powers) and cites
Lincoln`s justifications of his "extra-constitutional"
illegal) actions in the Civil War.
Whatever the merits of Lincoln`s
policies, their rationale was the "emergency" the
republic faced if laws were not violated to preserve it.
That excuse doesn`t apply to the current war. No one
claims that Iraq is contemplating a war against us or
that we face any "emergency" that justifies suspension
of the laws and Constitution.
Finally, Mr. Fein points to a long
series of executive-authorized military actions without
congressional authorization as precedents.
Again, the argument is without
merit. Citing the unconstitutional actions of previous
presidents does nothing to justify unconstitutional
action today. You might as well cite
Bill Clinton`s perjury to justify lying by President
Bush. Secondly, none of the executive actions Mr. Fein
cites was a full-scale war;
almost all were rescue operations intended to meet
emergencies (e.g., McKinley`s dispatch of troops to
rescue the besieged Americans in Peking during the
Boxer Rebellion; President Ford`s
rescue of the S.S. Mayaguez in Cambodia in 1975).
Military rescue operations are one
thing; war — especially against a nation that has done
nothing to attack us — is quite another.
In the end, it`s Mr. Fein who`s
"unconvincing" in his case for virtually unrestricted
executive war powers, and his phony arguments and fake
facts are typical of the arguments the neo-conservative
war lobby is mounting.
So far neither the president nor
his "intellectual allies" in the Beltway Right have
shown us any compelling reason to go to war at all – let
alone that the president has the constitutional power to
August 22, 2002