Saturday, June 18, 2011

Left, right coalesce against unilateral war power

Debate on War Powers Act points up basic semantic differences
Bipartisan Congressional coalition's lawsuit seeks 5 forms of relief

Washington - What does and does not constitute warfare?

The talking heads appear in the center of the screens, yakking away about that which is so totally obvious and simple to one side and a matter of great complexity to the other.

Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio stares out at video land, his expression stoic and implacable.

He steadily maintains that more than 4,600 bombing sorties over Libya makes the matter crystal clear – as crystal clear as the invasion of Cambodia during the Nixon Administration when Congress had granted authority to make war in South Vietnam only following an attack on U.S. Warships in the Gulf of Tonkin through a limited resolution.

He has challenged Presidential authority to make war without seeking the counsel of Congress in federal court more than once since the Clinton Administration's use of the War Powers Act to participate in the NATO invasion of Kosovo.

Mr. Kucinich and 9 other congressmen – half of whom are Republicans and include conservative Texas Congressman Ron Paul - have filed suit against the President and the Secretary of Defense for violation of the War Powers Act of 1973; the U.S. Constitution's Article One, Section 8 enumerated powers of Congress to declare war; and spending taxpayer dollars without proper authority. The text of the lawsuit appears here.

President Barack Obama committed planes and rockets to the attack on Libya carried out by NATO forces now for more than 90 days – at a cost of about $10 million per day. By summer's end, government accountants estimate the effort will have cost taxpayers $1.2 billion in funds diverted from other defense projects.

Mr. Obama has not yet communicated with Congress regarding the issue, something which is required by the War Powers Act of 1973 within 60 days.

Mr. Kucinich's interlocutor, Robert Turner of the University of Virginia and the Reagan Administration's top lawyer on the subject of presidential war powers, argues that since there are no ground troops committed to the battle in Libya, there is no such thing as a war in progress in that embattled nation. A half dozen other justifications for not regarding that which is so plainly warfare, including economic sanctions, roll off his tongue in the blink of an eye. Like Mr. Kucinich, it's nothing new to him. He has covered the same ground many times in the past.

He tells “Democracy Now” television hostess Amy Goodman that the lawsuit is all just “theater” in the political arena, that the language of clause 11 of Article One, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is an “anachronism” in today's world.

Mr. Kucinich rebuts the point with steely resolve. He reminds Ms. Goodman that the nation's founding fathers were not engaged in theater, that their lives, property and sacred honor were on the line as they waged the revolution and drafted the Constitution, working for its ratification by the states.

His strongest point is that Libya has done nothing hostile to America and Americans – at least, nothing approaching the magnitude of the hostilities of war.

If he and his colleagues gain standing to sue the President and the Secretary of Defense, he declares, they will surely win the 5 forms of injunctive and declaratory relief sought from a U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, he says.

Their lawsuit seeks:

1. Protection from the president in his unilateral war against Libya;
2. protection from violation of the War Powers Act of 1973;
3. to enjoin the president from committing American resources to war against Libya;
4. to enjoin the president from committing the nation to making war under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty, which formed NATO;
5. to prevent the president from using tax dollars to wage war against Libya.

The lawsuit furthermore alleges that the Court has the authority to grant the relief sought under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Code.

As to the North Atlantic Treaty and the efficacy of America's obligations to NATO, the lawsuit cites the words of then Secretary of State Dean Acheson when he testified before a U.S. Senate Committee in 1949 that Congress would retain its constitutional power to declare war, that the nation would lose none of its sovereignty as a result of joining NATO.

Mr. Turner, the conservative war attorney, who once served as an Assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration and point man on the controversy of what is and what is not warfare, scoffs at the points under discussion.

There has been no declared war since the ratification of the United Nations Charter and the NATO treaty, he explains.

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