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ACLU: Bombing in Iraq Violates
Constitution and War Powers Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 17, 1998
WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union said today that the
bombing of Iraq ordered by President Clinton violates the Constitution
and the War Powers Act because it was not authorized by Congress.
Congress adopted the War Powers Act in 1973 to ensure that U.S. troops
are not sent into hostilities without Congressional authorization,
except in cases where a national emergency is created by attack upon the
"Launching a massive, sustained military assault is an action that no
one person in our democracy -- including the President -- can
authorize," said ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim, adding that
the ACLU takes no position on the use in force in Iraq.
"It is a power that the framers contemplated would be shared by Congress
and the President," Nojeim added, noting that Article I, Section 8,
Clause 11 of the Constitution grants to Congress "the power to declare
war [and] grant letters of marque and reprisal."
Under the Constitution, Congress is given the ultimate decision as to
whether to use force; the President's power is limited to decisions on
how to use the military after Congress has authorized the President to
Section 2(c) of the War Powers Act states that the President has
constitutional authority to "introduce United States Armed Forces into
hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in
hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, ... only pursuant
to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or
(3) a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States.
"A debate and vote on the use of force is especially important here,
since many members of Congress have publicly expressed reservations
about the timing of the attack, and Congressional resolutions have been
introduced about the use of force in Iraq," Nojeim said.
One of those resolutions expressed the sense of Congress that the United
States should not take military action against Iraq unless that action
was first authorized by Congress. That resolution, H. Con. Res. 226, was
introduced in February 1998, gathered 108 co-sponsors, but was never
voted on by the full House.
The ACLU said that the resolution that was adopted by the House today,
H. Res. 612, does not meet the requirements of the War Powers Act, and
that the Iraq Liberation Act, which was adopted by Congress and signed
by the President in October, did not authorize the use of U.S. forces in
"A debate would help ensure that all viewpoints on this important issue
are considered," Nojeim said, "and a vote ensures that such an important
decision has been endorsed by the people through their representatives