To have a better understanding of how George Bush was able to get away with his illegal declaration of war on Iraq, let's take a look at an article by James Baker and Warren Christopher, Put War Powers Back Where They Belong, from the New York Times, published on OEN on July 8.
The title of the article, itself, presumes, incorrectly, that the war declaring powers of Congress have escaped from the Constitution, or have been stolen by the president. I looked it up. They're still there.
From the article:
"Our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president (who is commander in chief) and Congress (which has the power of the purse and the power to declare war)."
There is absolutely no ambiguity in Article I, Section 8 where the Constitution says quite clearly, "Congress shall have power...to declare war." It is not true that our Constitution ambiguously divides war powers between the president and Congress. Article I, Section 8 is completely unambiguous about that. The president is not included in that statement of Congress' power.
The bit about the president, "who is commander in chief," is also not true. The Constitution provides that the president is commander in chief of the military only, "when called into the actual service of the United States." That is the only condition that allows the president to be commander in chief, and the calling into service can only be done by Congress with their war declaring power. The Constitution provides for no other way to bring the military into service. The president can't do it.
The article states that a group that Baker and Christopher led, the National War Powers Commission, spent a year studying the 1973 War Powers Resolution, and that it should be replaced. I just finished reading the Resolution, took about 15 minutes. It's a useless, unnecessary piece of legislation that has the purpose of taking war declaring powers away from the president, which, as noted above, the president never had, anyway. The entire premise of the Resolution is based on a falsehood.
The article states that the authors' proposed War Powers Consultation Act "would reserve the ability of both Congress and the president to assert their constitutional war powers." According to the Constitution, the president doesn't have any constitutional war powers. The president only has what powers the Constitution provides when and only when the Congress and only the Congress declares war. The incorrect assumption that the president has any war powers is what got us the illegal Iraq war.
The most chillingly obtuse statement in the article is that the proposed Act "would give the president the political benefit of forcing Congress to take a position on going to war. And it would do so without insisting that the president get the consent of Congress."
This is a repeat of George Bush's usurpation of Congress' power to declare war. We've already had a president forcing Congress to take a position on going to war. That's the very problem we have now. When George Bush wanted to attack Iraq for no reason at all, he got Congress to pass a half-assed resolution that allowed them to duck out of their responsibility to declare war and instead passed the buck and let George do it, unconstitutionally.
And, finally, these guys want to pass a law that allows the president, again, to "do so without insisting that the president get the consent of Congress."
They want to pass a law that will inevitably be read as retroactively covering the unconstitutional acts of George Bush. The very problem we have now is with a president who felt that he had no need to get the consent of Congress for what he wanted to do, which was his own, private, personal declaration of war on Iraq. That's a violation of the Constitution, the law of the land. George Bush got away with it. Congress let him get away with. The lied to, deceived, manipulated people of the United States let him get away with it.
And now, these guys want to make that legal.
Both the 1973 War Powers Resolution and this proposed War Powers Consultation Act address a problem that doesn't exist. That problem is that a lot of supposedly learned people think that somehow, without knowing quite how, the president has some kind of power, without knowing quite what kind, to decide whether to go to war. A simple reading of the Constitution shows that to be a completely false assumption by people who should know better, and probably do.