"It is war, and only the Congress can declare war..."greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Is Congress ready to come home from vacation and deal with the Kosovo war?
By DAVID ESPO Associated Press Writer
The Republican-controlled Congress, on break since the early days of airstrikes in Yugoslavia, will return to work this week, headed toward a debate about President Clinton's policy and the possible use of American ground troops.
"It is war, and only the Congress can declare war," Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., wrote House Speaker Dennis Hastert recently, pledging to force the issue onto the floor if the leadership will not schedule it.
Campbell is working on two diametrically opposed bills to trigger the debate. One is a formal declaration of war against Yugoslavia, while the other would ban the use of American military resources in the fighting.
In the Senate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who consistently has urged Clinton to leave open the possibility of ground troops, says, "It ought to be debated and voted on."
Unlike Campbell, McCain, who is seeking the GOP nomination for president, has no immediate plans to introduce legislation, according to an aide.
While Campbell opposes American military participation and McCain says his "goal is victory," the two men underscore a widespread belief that lawmakers should have a voice in a fight that has changed dramatically since they left town.
Senators returning to Washington "will want to address this on the floor," said John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
McCain and several other lawmakers from both parties wrote Clinton on Friday that it would be "prudent for the U.S. to urge NATO to plan for additional military missions, including the use of ground forces ..."
The lawmakers, who traveled recently to Europe with Defense Secretary William Cohen, said the American public "needs to be better prepared for the likelihood of Alliance casualties."
Lott generally has refrained from speaking out about the war thus far, and the Mississippi Republican has not made plans to bring legislation to the Senate floor, Czwartacki said.
Hastert, R-Ill., sent an aide to talk with Campbell last week, but he, too, has no immediate plans to allow legislation onto the House floor. Hastert also has said little publicly on the topic.
One Republican source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that on Hastert's recent trip to Europe, the speaker indicated a "willingness to work with the president if the president wants to consider using ground troops."
Clinton has ruled out ground troops, and the issue had scarcely surfaced two weeks ago when Congress still was in town. Since lawmakers left, there has been an enormous flow of refugees from Kosovo, three American servicemen have been captured by Yugoslav forces, and NATO has widened its bombing campaign into Belgrade.
Among top Democrats, the party's leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, was out of the country last week and made no comment. The House Democratic leader, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, expressed support for Clinton's policy, and said talk of ground troops was premature.
Before leaving Washington, the Senate voted 58-41 to support the bombing campaign, while the House only narrowly approved a measure endorsing Clinton's plans to send 4,000 troops if there were a peace agreement in Kosovo.
Republicans say there are numerous reasons for their reticence.
With lawmakers scattered, it is difficult to reach consensus on how to respond, according to several aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. There was strong resistance among Republicans, for example, to the proposal for dispatching peacekeepers.
Secondly, public opinion has been shifting rapidly. Recent polling suggests growing support for the use of ground troops, a prospect that seemed extremely remote when the air campaign began.
In addition, some Republicans cite political reasons for shying away from what could turn out to be an unpopular enterprise.
"Obviously, we want ownership of this at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House) and not this end," said an aide to one GOP leader.
For whatever reason, Lott and other top Republicans have been unusually quiet: Lott issued a statement when the air campaign began, expressing support for the troops "whatever our reservations about the president's actions." Hastert said at the time that he had his own "questions about the long-term strategy of this campaign."
Lott's only other widely disseminated statement, issued when the three servicemen were captured, echoed Clinton's warning to Yugoslavia for the safe return of the three.
-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), April 12, 1999
Oh sure, the USA is still a Constitutional Republic. Government follows the Constitution. Sure. Right. OK.
-- Anonymous99 (Anonymous99@Anonymous99.xxx), April 12, 1999.
Abuse of War Powers Act
Congress, Not the President, Has Authority to Declare War; Congressmen Need to Follow the Constitution. On March 17, a week before NATO started bombing in Kosovo, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) reminded his colleagues of their role in declaring war. Too few heeded his advise. An edited version of his speech follows.
By Ron Paul
Those of us who argued for congressional responsibility with regards to declaring war and deploying troops cannot be satisfied that the trend of the last 50 years has been reversed. Since World War II, the war power has fallen into the hands of our presidents, with Congress doing little to insist on its own constitutional responsibility. From Korea and Vietnam, to Bosnia and Kosovo, we have permitted our predents to "wag the Congress," generating a perception that the United States can and should police the world. Instead of authority to move troops and fight wars coming from the people through a vote of their congressional representatives, we now permit our presidents to cite NATO declarations and UN resolutions.
This is even more exasperating knowing that upon joining both NATO and the United Nations it was made explicitly clear that no loss of sovereignty would occur and all legislative bodies of member states would retain their legal authority to give or deny support for any proposed military action.
Today it is erroneously taken for granted that the president has authority to move troops and fight wars without congressional approval. It would be nice to believe that this vote on Kosovo was a serious step in the direction of Congress [see SPOTLIGHT March 29] once again reasserting its responsibility for committing U.S. troops abroad. But the president has already notified Congress that, regardless of our sense of Congress resolution, he intends to do what he thinks is right, not what is legal and constitutional, only what he decides for himself.
Even with this watered-down endorsement of troop deployment with various conditions listed, the day after the headlines blared "the Congress approves troop deployments to Kosovo." If Congress is serious about this issue, it must do more. First, Congress cannot in this instance exert its responsibility through a House concurrent resolution. The president can and will ignore this token effort. If Congress decides that we should not become engaged in the civil war in Serbia, we must deny the funds for that purpose. That we can do. Our presidents have assumed the war power, but as of yet Congress still controls the purse.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
Any effort on our part to enter a civil war in a country 5,000 miles away for the purpose of guaranteeing autonomy and/or a separate state against the avowed objections of the leaders of that country involved, that is Yugoslavia, can and will lead to a long-term serious problem for us. Our policy, whether it is with Iraq or Serbia, of demanding that, if certain actions are not forthcoming, we will unleash massive bombing attacks on them, I find reprehensible, immoral, illegal and unconstitutional. We are seen as a world bully, and a growing anti-American hatred is the result. This policy cannot contribute to long-term peace. Political instability will result and innocent people will suffer. The billions we have spent bombing Iraq, along with sanctions,have solidified Saddam Hussein's power, while causing the suffering and deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children. Our policy in Kosovo will be no more fruitful.
The recent flare-up of violence in Serbia has been blamed on United States' plan to send troops to the region. The Serbs have expressed rage at the possibility that NATO would invade their country with the plan to reward the questionable Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). If ever a case could be made for the wisdom of non-intervention, it is here. Who wants to defend all that the KLA had done and at the same time justify a NATO invasion of a sovereign nation for the purpose of supporting secession? "This violence is all America's fault," one Yugoslavian was quoted as saying. And who wants to defend Milosevic?
Every argument given for our bombing Serbia could be used to support the establishment of Kurdistan. Actually a stronger case can be made to support an independent Kurdistan since their country was taken from them by outsiders. But how would Turkey feel about that? Yet the case could be made that the mistreatment of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein and others compel us to do something to help, since we are pretending that our role is an act as the world's humanitarian policeman. Humanitarianism, delivered by a powerful government through threats of massive bombing attacks will never be a responsible way to enhance peace. It will surely have the opposite effect.
It was hoped that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 would reign in our president's authority to wage war without congressional approval. It has not happened because all subsequent presidents have essentially ignored its mandates. And unfortunately the interpretation since 1973 has been to give the president greater power to wage war with congressional approval for at least 60 to 90 days as long as he reports to the Congress. These reports are rarely made and the assumption has been since 1973 that Congress need not participate in any serious manner in the decision to send troops.
It could be argued that this resulted from a confused understanding of the War Powers Resolution, but more likely it's the result of the growing imperial presidency that has developed with our presidents assuming power, not legally theirs, and Congress doing nothing about it. Power has been gravitating into the hands of our presidents throughout this century, both in domestic and foreign affairs. Congress has created a maze of federal agencies, placed under the president, that have been granted legislative, police and judicial powers, thus creating an entire administrative judicial system outside our legal court system where constitutional rights are ignored. Congress is responsible for this trend and it's Congress' responsibility to restore constitutional government.
As more and more power has been granted in international affairs, presidents have readily adapted to using Executive Orders, promises and quasi-treaties to expand the scope and size of the presidency far above anything even the Federalist ever dreamed of. We are at a crossroads and if the people and the Congress do not soon insist on the reigning in of presidential power, both foreign and domestic, individual liberty cannot be preserved.
Presently, unless the people exert a lot more pressure on the Congress to do so, not much will be done. Specifically, Congress needs a strong message from the people insisting that the Congress continues the debate over Kosovo before an irreversible quagmire develops. The president today believes he is free to pursue any policy he wants in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf without congressional approval. It shouldn't be that way. It's dangerous politically, military, morally, and above all else undermines our entire system of the rule of law.
Ron Paul represents Texas' 14th District. He is serving his sixth term in Congress.
Wowee! A learned, sensible, humane congressman. Wonders never cease. [
-- humptydumpty (email@example.com), April 12, 1999.
Unfortunately, Congress is so cowed by the Executive branch (or co-oped?), that the die is cast at this stage. If (it's still not a done deal despite Kosovo) Clinton's China "policy" goes unpunished and, more important, is not INSTITUTIONALLY overturned by a new relationship between Congress and Executive, it's over.
The Founders envisioned this relationship:
.. Strong Congress
.. Reasonably strong Supreme Court (strictly interpreting Constitution)
.. Modest Executive (they did't want a king)
What we've got is:
.. Tyrannical Court that overturns legislation
.. Arrogant Executive that legislates by order
.. Weak Congress that is paid off by lobbyists whose sponsors like things just the way they are
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), April 12, 1999.
I gotta hand it to McCain in that he's intentionally trying to force the war powers issue...unfortunately, while McCain is a combat veteran who understands the issues, billy jeff isn't and doesn't...
well, I guess the voters (and nonvoters) are getting what the majority of them deserve, no?
-- Arlin H. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 1999.
Paul Fussell (WWII vet and much respected historian) was recently asked to brief Mr. Clinton regarding the Balkan situation and applicable military history. Upon leaving the briefing, Mr. Fussell reportedly shook his head and said, "This man has no understanding of war."
Visions of LBJ sitting in the White House designating which areas of Nam we were to bomb next and which ones were to be avoided (for purely political reasons...)
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana
-- Mac (email@example.com), April 12, 1999.