“He Shall judge among the nations. And shall rebuke many peoples and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into prunninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
“The Congress shall have the power to: “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules Concerning Captures on Land and Water.”
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States
Senator Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California has introduced H.R. 198-Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force. In the emotional and panic stricken weeks following 911 the Congress largely gave away its Constitutional duty as well as its authority to declare war.
The initiation of war with other nations, factions, groups, and individuals is among the most serious decisions our Federal Government in Washington must make. From the very inauguration of the United States Constitution in 1789 the very first Congress onward has the primary if not sole authority to authorize the President as Commander-In-Chief to wage war using the United States military.
The Executive Branch has always had full authority under the Constitution of the United States to defend our people and borders and even to wage war in defense of the nation when it comes upon us quickly, and without our beginning it. So the base needs of the Executive Branch to make war in response to threats to the national security are fully protected even in that original supreme law of the land with regard to Homeland Security in the post 911 era of terrorism.
Anyone who wants to understand fully the argument that Presidents have always had the authority to defend the United States with military force when we are attacked suddenly and to use our means of gathering intelligence to anticipate those threats should read a classic book by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. on the powers of the Presidency he wrote back in 1973. Carte blanche authority to make war deprives our people of the help Congress might provide in making decisions on all elective wars and any military strikes that are not so constrained by time to decide. And it is how our Constitution is supposed to work. Congress, not the Executive Branch, has the full authority to declare war.
What happened in 2001 was that a panic stricken Congress gave the President and our military industrial complex the power to decide for themselves about war and peace. As a result we have been in a constant state of war since 911. War has become the normal state of affairs rather than peace.
Senator Barbara Lee was one of the very few sage members of Congress to vote against that blanket authorization of power for the Executive Branch to decide on war back in 2001. It is long past time to repeal this broad authority to make war and return at least part of that authority back to the oversight of Congress—representing more fully all of the people of the United States and with a more deliberative function.
H.R. 198 says in part: “Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force—States that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (P.L. 107-40) has been used to justify an open-ended authorization for the use of military force and such an interpretation is inconsistent with authority of Congress to declare war and make all laws for executing powers vested by the Constitution in the U.S. government.”
Our nation needs to follow the good advice of the Lord as communicated to us from the sage Prophet Isaiah to beat some swords into plowshares and to make peace and not war the norm. What we have done is to prevent Congress from having the necessary oversight into policies from the nature and number of drone strikes, the use of rendition for terror suspects, the continuing existence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and what can now be de facto declarations of war by the Executive Branch before Congress can even exercise its Constitutional duty and authority about war.
In the enfolding wings of peace the peoples of the world can rest easier. Children can come to adulthood without fear and they won’t have their lives cut short by war’s cruelties. Nation’s might then lie down like the lion and the lamb as given us in the Scriptures. Yet, if a threat comes to us like a mother protecting her children the United States can and should be able to make war. Barbara Lee’s bill H.R. 198 makes that more likely and restores the natural balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of our government intended by the founders.