Democratic Congressmen ask Bush about reports of US military operations in Iran
Published: Monday April 17, 2006
Two Democratic Congressmen have written letters to President Bush on the heels of a growing number of news reports that American forces may have already begun military operations in Iran, RAW STORY has found.
Both House members express concern that if the stories are true, then the president may have acted unilaterally without first obtaining proper authorization from Congress.
"Recently, it has been reported that U.S. troops are conducting military operations in Iran," wrote Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) last Friday. Kucinich is the Ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.
"If true, it appears that you have already made the decision to commit U.S. military forces to a unilateral conflict with Iran, even before direct or indirect negotiations with the government of Iran had been attempted, without UN support and without authorization from the U.S. Congress," Kucinich continued.
Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) intends to introduce a resolution "expressing the sense of the Congress that the President cannot initiate military action against Iran without congressional authorization" soon, and is forwarding his letter to other House members to collect additional signatures.
"We are writing to remind you that you are constitutionally bound to seek congressional authorization before launching any preventive military strikes against Iran," DeFazio writes.
Citing Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution ("The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States..."), DeFazio attacks the administration's frequent interpretation of the clause to historically justify unilateral military actions by presidents without authorization of Congress.
"Contrary to your Administration's broad reading, nothing in the history of the "Commander-in-Chief" clause suggests that the authors of the provision intended it to grant the Executive Branch the authority to engage U.S. forces in military action whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior authorization from Congress," writes DeFazio.
"The founders of our country intended this power to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to unilaterally launch, without congressional approval, large-scale preventive military actions against foreign threats that are likely years away from materializing," DeFazio adds.
Text to both letters follow:
Kucinich's letter to President Bush:
Dear President Bush:
Recently, it has been reported that U.S. troops are conducting military operations in Iran. If true, it appears that you have already made the decision to commit U.S. military forces to a unilateral conflict with Iran, even before direct or indirect negotiations with the government of Iran had been attempted, without UN support and without authorization from the U.S. Congress.
The presence of U.S. troops in Iran constitutes a hostile act against that country. At a time when diplomacy is urgently needed, it escalates an international crisis. It undermines any attempt to negotiate with the government of Iran. And it will undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts at the U.N.
Furthermore, it places U.S. troops occupying neighboring Iraq in greater danger. The achievement of stability and a transition to Iraqi security control will be compromised, reversing any progress that has been cited by the Administration.
It would be hard to believe that such an imprudent decision had been taken, but for the number and variety of sources confirming it. In the last week, the national media have reported that you have in fact commenced a military operation in Iran. Today, retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner related on CNN that the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, reported to him that the Iranians have captured dissident forces who have confessed to working with U.S. troops in Iran. Earlier in the week, Seymour Hersh reported that a U.S. source had told him that U.S. marines were operating in the Baluchi, Azeri and Kurdish regions of Iran.
Any military deployment to Iran would constitute an urgent matter of national significance. I urge you to report immediately to Congress on all activities involving American forces in Iran. I look forward to a prompt response.
Sincerely, Dennis J. Kucinich Member of Congress
DeFazio's letter to President Bush:
Dear President Bush:
We are concerned by the growing number of stories that your Administration is planning for military action against Iran. We are writing to remind you that you are constitutionally bound to seek congressional authorization before launching any preventive military strikes against Iran.
As you know, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power "to declare war," to lay and collect taxes to "provide for the common defense" and general welfare of the United States, to "raise and support armies," to "provide and maintain a navy," to "make rules for the regulation for the land and naval forces," to "provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia," and to "make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution...all...powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States." Congress is also given exclusive power over the purse. The Constitution says, "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law."
By contrast, the sole war powers granted to the Executive Branch through the President can be found in Article II, Section 2, which states, "The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States..."
Your Administration has argued that this "Commander-in-Chief" clause grants the President wide latitude to engage U.S. military forces abroad without prior authorization from Congress. You further argue that previous unilateral actions by presidents of both political parties add credence to your interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Contrary to your Administration's broad reading, nothing in the history of the "Commander-in-Chief" clause suggests that the authors of the provision intended it to grant the Executive Branch the authority to engage U.S. forces in military action whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior authorization from Congress. The founders of our country intended this power to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to unilaterally launch, without congressional approval, large-scale preventive military actions against foreign threats that are likely years away from materializing. With respect to Iran, according to the most definitive U.S. intelligence report, Iran is likely a decade away from developing a nuclear weapon. Even the most pessimistic analysis by outside experts puts the timeline at least three years away, but that's only if everything in Iran's development program proceeds flawlessly, which would defy the history of nuclear programs around the world, including Iran's.
The architects of the U.S. Constitution were well aware of government models, like the monarchy in Great Britain, which vested the power to go to war with the head of state. Instead, the Founding Fathers made a conscious decision to grant the solemn war-making powers to the Legislative Branch. The intent of the authors of the U.S. Constitution is clear.
In the Federalist Paper Number 69, while comparing the lesser war-making power of the U.S. president versus the King of Great Britain, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "...the President is to be commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to raising and regulating of fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature."
James Madison declared that it is necessary to adhere to the "fundamental doctrine of the Constitution that the power to declare war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."
In 1793, President George Washington, when considering how to protect inhabitants of the American frontier, instructed his Administration that "no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after [Congress] have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure."
In 1801, Thomas Jefferson sent a small squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean to protect against possible attacks by the Barbary powers. He told Congress that he was "unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense." He further noted that it was up to Congress to authorize "measures of offense also."
While presidents in the latter half of the 20th Century have initiated military action without prior authorization by Congress, "everybody does it" is not a legitimate defense to ignore the plain words of the U.S. Constitution, the clear intent of the authors of the U.S. Constitution, and more than 150 years of legal precedent.
We also want to go on record that the Authorization of Force Resolution (Public Law 107-40) approved by Congress to go after those responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country does not, explicitly or implicitly, extend to authorizing military action against Iran over its nuclear program. The legislation specifically says, "The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons." There is no evidence that Iran was involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks. Nor is there any evidence that Iran harbored those who were responsible for the attacks.
Further, the Authorization of Force Resolution (Public Law 107-243) approved by Congress to go to war with Iraq does not extend to military action against Iran over its nuclear program. This resolution only authorized you to "(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." Like P.L. 107-40, there is no explicit or implicit authorization on the part of Congress in P.L. 107-243 that would allow you to attack Iran without first coming to Congress to seek a new authorization.
When asked about reports of your administration planning for war with Iran, you said on April 10, 2006, "It [prevention] doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy." We agree with the focus on diplomacy. But, we want to be clear, should you decide that force is necessary, seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action against Iran is not discretionary. It is legally and constitutionally necessary.
Sincerely, PETER DeFAZIO Member of Congress