Near the end of a long story about whether there is justification for a U.S. military strike on Syria, CNN said, “Finally, there is the U.S. Constitution, which holds that only Congress can declare war and only Congress can appropriate the funds to wage war. The last time such niceties were observed was for America’s entrance into World War II.”
The constitutional provisions have become “niceties.” In fact, however, President Bush went to war against Iraq after Congress passed a resolution of support. It was not a formal declaration of war, but it served the same purpose. At least Bush went to Congress for a vote.
CNN added, “The 1973 War Powers Act requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of launching military action and bars U.S. armed forces from fighting for more than 60 days without congressional approval.”
As we pointed put in a column on Obama’s war against Libya, the law says more than that. The War Powers Act says the president can go to war on his own only if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. It authorizes the use of force only in situations “where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.”
Where is the imminent threat to the U.S. from Syria?
Though out of session, members of Congress, led by Scott Rigell (R-VA), are moving to assert the primacy of the Constitution in the current Syria crisis. His letter to Obama says, “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”
In 2007, then-Senator Obama loudly declared that “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” This is a correct understanding of the law.
At the time of the Libya operation, we noted that Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who had turned into an advocate for Al Jazeera, became an enthusiastic supporter of the war, conducted with the approval of the Arab League and the United Nations, but not Congress.
Al-Jazeera, committed to the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, openly backed the “pro-democracy fighters” in Libya, playing down their links to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Qatar, the sponsor and funder of Al Jazeera, was the only Arab state to join in NATO operations against Libya.
As Yogi Berra might say, Syria is déjà vu all over again. Once again, McCain, Qatar, and Al Jazeera are leading the cry for U.S. military intervention.
On Tuesday, McCain was on the Neil Cavuto show on Fox News, followed by an appearance on CNN about an hour later. McCain certainly knows how to use the media, and they play right into his hands. He was never asked during these interviews about the legality or constitutionality of intervening in Syria.
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