Who declared War?

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Related to the previous post. If we are fighting a War on Terror, a War in Afganastan, and maybe a War on Iraq why hasn't congress declared war? You know like the War on Terror or the War on Drugs. Wasn't the way it is soposed to play out acording to the constiution that the congress declares war and the president leads the fight? Or maybe I just missed something in school.
Section 8:Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
That is under Congressional Powers.

5 Comments

As the resident Pol. Sci. major, and one who has raised this questions many times since the Gulf "War" I feel obligated to chime in.

The problem is the mis-implementation of the War Powers Act of 1973. This is where Congress gave the President authority to engage in military action on a limited scale without having a Congressional declaration of war. Of course, the president had been doing so for a number of years (Congress hasn't declared war since WWII - hence the Korean and Vietnam 'conflicts').

But, as one would imagine, this has been severely abused. Under the Act, the president is required to submit a report to Congress detailing the status, scope and duration of hostilities. This HAS to happen at least once every six months. And here's the kicker...after the submission of the report, the president has 60 days to end the hostility unless Congress has declared war, extended its authorization to continue, or is physically unable to convene.

In other words, the president has legal authority to engage in and sustain military action for a period of up to 8 months without ANY consent from Congress. Personally, I think this is just a means of shifting the blame. Congress didn't want to have to face electoral retribution for declaring war in a very unpopular arena (such as Vietnam) so they gave the president the leeway he needed to conduct such an activity without their consent. This absolves them of responsibility, and puts any negative repercussions of military action squarely on the president's shoulders.

That stated, the current president has certainly overstepped the boundaries of the War Powers Act, but that in itself is also nothing new. Congress has continued to absolve itself of any responsibility in the arena by refusing to apply its powers under the Act. This continues to give the president unchecked authority to conduct military action, and is counter to the intention of the Constitution.

My biggest beef is in the propaganda surrounding this whole affair. Unless Congress declares war, STOP CALLING IT WAR! To do so is nothing more than rhetoric intended to have an emotional impact. And it CAN be used to provide the foundation for a police state that has not satisfied any constitutional check or ballance.

For example, recently Chief Justice William Renquist recently said, �One is reminded of the latin maxim, inter arma silent leges. In times of war, the laws are silent.� While I must admit at least some agreement with this statement, it becomes very, VERY frightening given that no formal declaration has been made. And even the circumvention of the peoples' check on war power has been itself circumvented.

Sorry for the long tirade.

Thanks for the "long triade" mithrandir. Your words were exactly what I was looking for both in the fact and sentiment.

There's an interesting article in the Washington Post about this whole thing with more historical perspective than I was able to offer.

Sing it, brothers! Dang it, if they want a war then declare war. Else, business as usual, nothing to see here.

I want to know what's up with the war? It seems like you do not hear anything about it anymore.

Please let me know what's up!

Thanks,

Rick

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This page contains a single entry by fozbaca published on August 25, 2002 10:52 PM.

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