John Burroughs

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and 32 co-sponsors have introduced a resolution (H. Con. Res. 391) in the House of Representatives declaring that the House, with the Senate concurring, “strongly and unequivocally believes that seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action against Iran is not discretionary, but is a legal and constitutional requirement.” DeFazio and 61 members of the House also wrote to President Bush expressing the same view.

The resolution and letter provide a history lesson, for example quoting President Washington that “no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after [Congress] have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.”

In the case of the Iraq war, Congress basically rolled over, adopting a resolution that turned over the decision of whether or not to attack Iraq to Bush. His subsequent decision to invade was wrong, unwise, and contrary to the UN Charter. What has been lost in the chatter since then is that Congress abdicated its constitutional role. As the Washington Post reported at the time, it was not for lack of alternatives:

“A [resolution] sponsored by Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) and Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), would have authorized U.S military action only if it were sanctioned by the Security Council or by a second congressional vote later this year. It lost 270 to 55.

A similar resolution, proposed by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), was defeated 75 to 24 in the Senate.”

Let’s hope that Congress has learned something and as Rep. DeFazio urges will assert its constitutional role with respect to any military action against Iran, whether it’s considered weeks, months, or years from now. It’s also way past time to start bringing the UN Charter and other international law into the deliberations.