War of self-defense or act of aggression?

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2002

In the next few weeks, Congress will make a decision which in terms of possible consequences may be one of the most important of this century: whether to go to war with Iraq. I get very alarmed when I read that President Bush's lawyers are advising him that he does not need to seek the approval of Congress to wage war on Iraq. But then lawyers always tell their clients what they want to hear. Bush recently has decided to "consult" with Congress before taking any action. I would suggest that mere consultation or even a resolution from Congress is not enough - nothing short of a formal declaration of war will suffice. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that only Congress can declare war. Arguments that the president is commander in chief and has the right to declare war wilt before the very clarity of Articles I, sections 8 and 11 as do arguments that former presidents have set a precedent by ignoring the Constitution. Violating the law of the land in the past, does not justify breaking it in the future.

Because of the extreme gravity of this situation, I would like to see Alaskans and our congressional delegation push for nothing short of an official declaration. It is extremely difficult to distinguish a "preemptive war of self defense" from an outright act of aggression unless it can be proven that there exists a "clear and present" danger of an eminent military attack on the U.S. To engage in unprovoked aggression would be to negate everything that America stands for. The administration's constant reiterations of hypotheticals concerning Iraq's probable intentions, presumed capabilities and possible future actions are to this point totally unconvincing.

I think that most Americans are willing to be convinced by solid proof and arguments offered before the U.S. Congress. It is the obligation of our Alaska congressional delegation to listen and weigh the evidence carefully before making a decision on behalf of all Americans. I am astounded that both of my senators have already announced publicly that they support the war before even having seen the evidence or participated in the debate. Such premature statements of prejudice undermine the very foundations of democratic and representative government.

Both President Bush and our congressional delegation swore on taking office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Let's hold them to it.

Jim Lethcoe


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