Congress stands idly by while bombs fall


Should bombs be falling on Libya right now? That question is being deliberated by many scholars, journalists and some members of Congress. Strangely, the voices in Congress are not being heard. It seems that party lines squash dissent from Congress members. We are all behind the President’s decision to intervene with the United Nations right? Let’s go to war again!

But are we at war? That is the tricky question. In order to officially go to war, Congress must approve it. Section 8 of Article One of the United States Constitution states: “The Congress shall have power to declare war, grant Letters of Marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.”

The ability to declare war was briefly out of the hands of Congress during the Vietnam War. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 gave power to then president Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force in Vietnam without the approval of Congress. After troops were pulled out, Congress made a decision to limit the power of the President with The War Powers Resolution of 1973 and this is what we go off of now. It states the limitation of the executive branch:

The constitutional powers of the president as commander-in-chief to introduce U.S. armed forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to 1) a declaration of war, 2) specific statutory authorization, or 3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

While we are on the topic of war, was Iraq a legal action then? Yes, according to the above. Public Law 107-243: Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was approved October 16, 2002. So, invading Iraq was signed into law under The War Powers Resolution of 1973, making it constitutionally legal. Was it right to invade Iraq? That is for you to decide. The bottom line with the Iraq invasion is Congress made it law.

So, are the airstrikes in Libya lawful under The War Powers Resolution of 1973? It does not seem like it. It seems that the U.S. government is not following its own laws. Why is this? Are we attacking Libya because of the horrible atrocities being committed there with Gaddafi shooting protestors and calling airstrikes on his own people? That is bad, for sure. But why are we breaking our own laws to drop bombs there? There are certainly other governments in the region that have shot their own dissenting citizens, (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Iran as an example) This is the case in Libya but does that mean the United States, with a “coalition” from the UN, should attack the country?

Is the killing of innocent people enough to create an Unconstitutional act of war? If innocent death were enough to create a war, why is it not enough to end a war? There are plenty of civilians dying in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, at this very moment. Sure, it is easy to support those fighting for freedom but why break Constitutional law? If this is illegal, and it most certainly seems to be, why is Congress standing idly by? We as citizens are bound and subject to our nation’s laws, the same as our legislators. It seems that we now have a government operating outside of the Constitution and this is a concerning thing. Is the U.S. government above the law?

Jon is a non-traditional student majoring in English. Reach him at [email protected]