Shortly after taking office, the Reagan Administration dramatically increased United States support for the military— civilian junta in El Salvador. The Administration sent 56 “military advisers” to train government forces in techniques of counter-insurgency and sent millions of dollars worth of arms, including helicopters which are used to hunt down the popularly supported opposition forces of the Democratic Revolutionary Front.
As this aid escalated, there was increasing concern in the United States and in Congress that another Vietnam was in the making. Once again, there were so-called advisers being sent to a country without congressional approval, and once again, military aid was sent by the President acting on his own. The granting of aid to the junta was particularly offensive in view of the well-documented human rights violations engaged in by the government and its armed forces.
At the request of a number of members of Congress, organized by Congressmen George W. Crockett, Jr., of Michigan, CCR attorneys filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt this aid and bring public attention to the President’s violation of domestic and international laws prohibiting such aid.
A key claim of the lawsuit is that the President is violating the War Powers Resolution. The Resolution, which implements the constitutional power of Congress to make war, was passed over the veto of President Nixon, and was designed to prevent war-making by presidential fiat and thereby prevent future Vietnams. The critical language of that Resolution requires the President to remove all armed forces from a country that might be subject to imminent hostilities within 60 days of their commitment, unless Congress specifically authorizes the forces to remain. In El Salvador, the U.S. armed forces have remained for over 60 days, although there has been no congressional authorization. Thus, the Resolution is being violated.
The other claims in the case are under the Harkin Amendment and international laws which prohibit the granting of aid to countries which are gross violators of human rights. Such violations by the junta have been documented by Amnesty International, the Catholic Church and a variety of other organizations. The Harkin Amendment stands for the proposition that such aid should not now be going to El Salvador.
We believe that the War Powers Resolution and the Harkin Amendment claims have a better chance of success than did similar claims in suits against the Vietnam war. At the time those suits were brought there was no specific congressional legislation designed to restrain the President from encroaching on congressional power.
Shortly after the suit was filed, a group of right-wing Senators and members of Congress moved to intervene as defendants along with President Reagan. These persons are represented by the Washington Legal Foundation, a Coors- funded legal office. One of their claims is that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional because it takes away powers from the President. CCR attorneys are opposing the intervention.
Members of Congress who the Center represents as plaintiffs are: George W. Crockett, Jr. (D-Mich.); Anthony Beilenson (D-Calif.); Phil Burton (D-Calif.); William Clay (D-Mo.); Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.); Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.); Robert W. Edgar (D-Pa.); Don Edwards (D-Calif.); Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.); Thomas Foglietta (D-Pa.); Barney Frank (D-Mass.); Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.); William H. Gray, III (D-Pa.); Tom Harkin (D-Iowa); Mikey Leland (D- Tex.); Michael E. Lowry (D-Wash.); Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.); George Miller, III (D-Calif.); Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.); Anthony Toby Moffett (D-Conn.); James L. Ober- star (D-Minn.); Richard L. Ottinger (D-N.Y.); Frederick W. Richmond (D-N.Y.); Gus Savage (D-Ill.); Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.); James M. Shannon (D-Mass.); Louis Stokes (D- Ohio); Harold Washington (D-Ill.); Theodore Weiss (D-N.Y.).
Michael Ratner, Frank Deale, Peter Weiss, Morton Stavis, Margaret Ratner, Robert Boehm, Arthur Kinoy with Rev. Robert F. Drinan, and Ira Lowe