Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a little 3-hour chat yesterday with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during which Miss Rice said some pretty scary things.
Not only did Miss Rice refuse to rule out the possibility of military action against Iran and Syria, but she actually went so far as to claim that the “president” does not actually need to ask for authorisation to declare war:
I don’t want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. I think you’ll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war in Iraq.
And the Constitution?
The Congress shall have Power To declare War
- Article I, Section 8, Clause 11
You see, Condi, our founding fathers intended that the president would request a declaration of war, and then Congress could choose to grant that declaration of war.*
In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, according to which there are two possible ways to establish the legality of a war:
- By a declaration of war according to Art I, or
- By a resolution of Congress authorising the use of force within 60 days of initiating hostilities.
The 2nd possibility may actually be unconstitutional, however it has never been tested before the Supreme Court.
But still, Miss Rice reminded us that there are special rules for George W Bush.
Senator Lincoln Chafee: Under the Iraq War Resolution, we restricted any military action to Iraq. So would you agree that if anything were to occur on Syrian or Iranian soil, you would have to return to Congress to get that authorisation?
Rice’s answer was that, no, the “president” would not need new authorisation.
Miss Rice went on to remind us that we are caught in a struggle of good v evil, us v them:
Syria and indeed Iran must decide whether they wish to side with the cause of war or with the cause of peace.
Under these circumstances, we very clearly cannot worry about silly formalities in Congress.
Thank you for explaining that to us, Miss Rice.
* Starting with the Korean War there have been no declarations of war by Congress. Instead presidents have claimed constitutional authority as Commander in Chief of the military forces (Art II, Sec 2). Dangerous.