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My Turn: Going to war is a congressional decision

Posted: Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I have publicly observed that people will see what anti-American activity really is when elements of the federal government show by their actions that they don't believe in the principles and technologies of our democratic republic. I might add that the ultimate social perversion is manipulating the principles and infrastructure of civilized society to justify practicing techniques of violence and barbarism, in preference to techniques of peace and civilization. Current events illustrate what I mean.

A characteristic attitude emerges from Bush administration press statements and presidential interviews, such as the Washington Post's "Bush at War." Our president apparently believes his office confers a freedom from explaining his thinking and statements, and justifying his conduct, as commander-in-chief. But he is also our national chief executive - who now has been granted the discretion to use military force, (that is, make war).

To gauge how such discretion will be used, just consider the Bush administration's National Security Strategy (www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html).

With manipulative rhetoric and insincere hyperbole, this describes an overt strategy of "my way or the highway." It blatantly says that the United States shall support the development and use of democratic institutions - except when any such votes or acts against our interests (that is, the U.N. and the International Criminal Court). It establishes the preference to use preemptive military strikes to crush those who might try using force to disagree with the U.S. vision of peace.

However, our Constitution establishes the United States as a democratic republic. Republic is dictionary defined as "a political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them." The president is our nation's executive officer. Per Article II. Executive is defined as "the person or group of people having the duty and power of administering the legislated laws and affairs of the nation." Article II also directs that the president "shall recommend to their (Congress') Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Article I describes how Congress shall have the power to "declare war" and to "define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations."

Accordingly, some congressmen did raise constitutional challenges to the Iraq Resolution. For example, Rep. Ron Paul (a Texas Republican) during the Oct. 2 International Relations Committee hearing on it, even proposed scrapping the resolution's entire language in favor of an outright Declaration of War. With the intention of exposing the fact that going to war is legally a congressional decision, he reminded the committee of the words of James Madison, who in 1798 said: "The Constitution supposes what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war in legislature." Incredibly Rep. Henry Hyde (an Illinois Republican) stated that declaring war was anachronistic and not done any more and that the pertinent language of the Constitution has been overtaken by time and is no longer relevant to modern society! And so the Iraq Resolution passed.

The excuse for effectively ceding to the president the power to decide to make war is contained in the War Powers Act. It hinges on how the time needed to consult Congress impedes sufficiently rapid military response to external threats. However, the dangers from the burden of slow communication and slow transport on government at our country's birth were many times worse than now.

Yet our Founding Fathers still reserved to Congress the power to declare war! Moreover, quit wondering why our military veterans (that is, Vietnam!) aren't properly honored for risking all for their country. They were sent to war without the representative vote of their fellow countrymen!

Citizens of Alaska could insist that our Legislature condemn this constitutional faithlessness - if enough of us found the courage. Otherwise I suggest we appeal to God. Let's pray for the souls of the president, his advisors and his political allies who are either succumbing to the delusion that infallibility of power makes up for compromising honor, or suffering from the disease of nations' infectious war profiteering.

Stuart Thompson of Juneau describes himself as an Alaska citizen concerned with our government of the people, by the people, and for the people surviving into posterity.



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