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War Powers Act applies



Published: Sun, August 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



President Bush has declared and reiterated that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is an enemy of the United States, one of three nations that the president described as an axis of evil.

Late last week and yesterday, American officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, held consultations with leaders in the Iraqi resistance movement, discussing how each could best serve the other's goal of removing Saddam from power.

And President Bush has been talking with congressional leaders about U.S. interests and options in Iraq.

Through all this, however, the president has not specifically said that he recognizes that the War Powers Act of 1973 would apply to the introduction of U.S. forces into Iraq. He should.

The Constitution makes the president commander in chief of the armed forces, but it gives Congress the power to declare war and to raise and support armies. The War Powers Act was passed to emphasize that distinction after experience showed that it was possible to drift into an undeclared war.

The president described himself yesterday as a deliberate person, and that is a good thing to be when contemplating a large-scale military operation. Congress is the nation's deliberative body, the voice of the people, and before hundreds of thousands of American men and women are put in harm's way, Congress should speak.

Presidential precedent

On the eve of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, President George H.W. Bush sought authorization to send American forces into Kuwait to liberate that nation from Saddam Hussein. Authorization was given, after a healthy debate and not by an overwhelming margin. But once the battle began, the president had the unqualified support of Congress and the vast majority of the American people.

That is the way it should be in a democracy.

There is good reason to debate the advisability and necessity for an invasion of Iraq. Clearly, it is against U. S. interests to have Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction. But as we are seeing in Afghanistan, removing an oppressive regime is far easier than restoring order to a splintered nation.

And in the present political climate of the Mideast, invading Iraq could set off a chain of events that would escalate out of control. For instance, during the Persian Gulf War, the United States prevailed upon Israeli leaders not to respond to the 39 missiles Saddam fired at Israel. Had Israel counter-attacked, the alliances of the Persian Gulf War could have been redrawn overnight. Would the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon show the same patience in 2002 or 2003 as was shown by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1991?

These and other issues should not only be considered by the Bush administration, but should be debated in Congress.




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