Rep. John Conyers of Michigan is leading five other
representatives in a lawsuit that will live in the annals of idiocy if not
infamy. The six, all Democrats, have sued President Bush contending he has
no constitutional authority to wage war against Saddam.
They are asking a federal judge in Massachusetts to issue an
injunction against Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prevent
them from using force against the Iraqi dictator.
Their argument embraces a duplicity not seen since Bill Clinton
Back on Oct. 10, Conyers did not doubt that Congress was
considering a resolution to authorize war. The signs were unmistakable. For
starters, the resolution was entitled "Authorization for Use of Military
Force Against Iraq." It said, "The President is authorized to use the Armed
Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate
in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against
the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United
Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."
In debate, Conyers said: "I rise in opposition to this
resolution authorizing the president to commence war at a time and place of
But he lost fair and square. The House approved the resolution
296 to 133; the Senate, 77 to 23.
Every politician who has joined Conyers' lawsuit said he voted
against the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq" because
it authorized military force against Iraq.
Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington said: "Under the terms of the
resolution, the U.S. may attack Iraq solely on the basis of the president's
view -- and only the president's view -- that diplomacy has failed."
Rep. Jose Serrano of New York said: "I will vote against this
resolution which permits a unilateral military attack . . . "
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio issued a statement opposing "the
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois said: "Before there is any
authorization for the use of armed force against Iraq, we must make sure
that all peaceful means of containing and eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction have been exhausted."
On Jan. 21, still opposing war and wanting to strip Bush of
authority to wage one, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas announced she had
"introduced legislation to repeal the Use of Force Against Iraq Resolution
signed into law last October."
Jackson Lee's resolution has no chance of passing. So now these
six are trying to rewrite history and the Constitution with the help of a
court in the nation's most liberal state.
Now, they say Bush never got authorization for war. How so?
In a memo supporting their lawsuit, the congressmen say the
Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq "does not permit the
President to attack Iraq."
No? And Clinton didn't have sexual relations with that woman,
Secondly, they argue, if it does permit the president to attack
Iraq it is unconstitutional, because it illicitly delegates to him Congress'
authority to "declare" war.
This is not only untrue, it is unwitting irony. Under the guise
of trying to limit the war power of the president, these members of the
House of Representatives would in reality unconstitutionally limit the war
power of Congress.
The Constitution gives Congress power "To declare War, grant
letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land
and Water." Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, appointed by President James
Madison, said this "power to declare war may be exercised by Congress, not
only by authorizing general hostilities, in which case the general laws of
war apply to our situation; or by partial hostilities, in which case the
laws of war, so far as they actually apply to our situation, are to be
observed." Letters of Marque and Reprisal, he explained, give private
citizens "an authority to seize the bodies or goods of the subjects of the
offending state, wherever they may be found, until satisfaction is made for
Clearly, somewhere between authorizing a president to make total
war and authorizing citizens to "seize bodies or goods" of offending states
lies the authority Congress gave Bush to use the stick of military force
should Saddam now reject the carrot of peaceful disarmament.