China, Too, Has a Role to Play in Persian Gulf; War Powers Clock – Letter to the Editor NY Times

To the Editor:

”Congress and the Crisis: To Intervene or Not?” (Washington Talk, Sept. 13) mistakenly says that the War Powers Resolution requires a pullback of troops in 90 days unless Congress endorses their presence.

However, the resolution requires a pullback in 60 days from the time the President reports to Congress or should have reported to Congress that troops have been introduced into hostilities or imminent hostilities. You also state that President Bush has maneuvered to avoid triggering the time limits imposed by the War Powers Resolution by not using language that hostilities were imminent.

It is not, however, the President who controls the triggering of the 60-day automatic troop withdrawal clock. The clock is triggered by objective circumstances, whether the President acknowledges such circumstances or not.

In the Persian Gulf confrontation, my belief is that the 60-day clock began running on Aug. 10, the day the President declared a blockade, an act of war. Be that as it may, it certainly began on Aug. 18, when United States ships fired warning shots over Iraqi tankers.

MICHAEL RATNER

Cooperating Staff Attorney

Center for Constitutional Rights

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/26/opinion/l-china-too-has-a-role-to-play-in-persian-gulf-war-powers-clock-016290.html

 

Text of Article

CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF: WASHINGTON TALK; Congress and the Crisis: To Intervene or Not?

By NATHANIEL C. NASH, Special to The New York Times

Published: September 13, 1990

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12— ”It not only will give a sense of shared responsibility, but it will give a sense of unity in this country on a major decision,” said Representative Dante B. Fascell, a Florida Democrat who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Those who argue for invoking the resolution also argue that the issue is preserving the power of the institution of Congress and not ceding through inaction authority to the executive branch. So far, they say, Congress has repeatedly failed to effectively enforce the resolution to make Presidents more accountable when they take the country into foreign conflicts. If the resolution is not going to be used, why keep up the charade that it matters, they ask. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the majority leader, has held two meetings with some of his colleagues this week, worrying this point.

”If they do anything, it will be to preserve the integrity of the Congress,” said Tom Korologos, a longtime Republican lobbyist. ”They are seriously concerned about not eroding the power of this institution.”

The drafters of the Constitution specifically gave Congress, as representative of the broad public, authority to declare war, reasoning that the President, as Commander in Chief, would be more inclined to engage the country in armed conflict.

Only five times in the country’s history has Congress declared war -the War of 1812, the Mexican War (1846), the Spanish-American War (1898) and World War I (1917) and World War II (1941). Even prolonged conflicts like the Korean War and Vietnam were waged with no formal Congressional declaration.

The War Powers Resolution, specifically passed in 1973 as an attempt to halt the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, has been used successfully only once, to endorse the presence of peacekeeping troops in Lebanon during its civil war, authorizing an 18-month extension of their stay. Within weeks a car bomb blew up the American Embassy, killing 231 marines.

While the strikes against Grenada by President Reagan and Panama by President Bush were so short that the 90-day trigger became a moot issue, many argue that the Persian Gulf involvement – which Administration officials have said will almost certainly last for months – seems almost ideal for asserting the authority of the law.

But President Bush, who said during his campaign that he wanted to repeal the War Powers Resolution, has maneuvered carefully to avoid triggering it. While he notified Congress when United States troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, he did not use language specifically saying that hostilities were imminent. That would have set the 90-day clock ticking.

For Congress the issue now seems to have become one of whether the wimp mantle has been passed from George Bush to Capitol Hill.

Members agree that concern over ceding authority to the White House is slow in evolving, and some are up in arms.

”The Congress should move to reassert its authority because right now we are just being told what is happening and not really brought into the deliberations,” said Senator Brock Adams, Democrat of Washington. ”For too long we have been in a politically defensive position. There is a stirring that they should be doing something, but so far it’s just a stirring. They are not about to come out and challenge Bush on this one.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/13/world/confrontation-gulf-washington-talk-congress-crisis-intervene-not.html

 

 

CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF: WASHINGTON TALK; Congress and the Crisis: To Intervene or Not?

By NATHANIEL C. NASH, Special to The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12— ”It not only will give a sense of shared responsibility, but it will give a sense of unity in this country on a major decision,” said Representative Dante B. Fascell, a Florida Democrat who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Those who argue for invoking the resolution also argue that the issue is preserving the power of the institution of Congress and not ceding through inaction authority to the executive branch. So far, they say, Congress has repeatedly failed to effectively enforce the resolution to make Presidents more accountable when they take the country into foreign conflicts. If the resolution is not going to be used, why keep up the charade that it matters, they ask. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the majority leader, has held two meetings with some of his colleagues this week, worrying this point.

”If they do anything, it will be to preserve the integrity of the Congress,” said Tom Korologos, a longtime Republican lobbyist. ”They are seriously concerned about not eroding the power of this institution.”

The drafters of the Constitution specifically gave Congress, as representative of the broad public, authority to declare war, reasoning that the President, as Commander in Chief, would be more inclined to engage the country in armed conflict.

Only five times in the country’s history has Congress declared war -the War of 1812, the Mexican War (1846), the Spanish-American War (1898) and World War I (1917) and World War II (1941). Even prolonged conflicts like the Korean War and Vietnam were waged with no formal Congressional declaration.

The War Powers Resolution, specifically passed in 1973 as an attempt to halt the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, has been used successfully only once, to endorse the presence of peacekeeping troops in Lebanon during its civil war, authorizing an 18-month extension of their stay. Within weeks a car bomb blew up the American Embassy, killing 231 marines.

While the strikes against Grenada by President Reagan and Panama by President Bush were so short that the 90-day trigger became a moot issue, many argue that the Persian Gulf involvement – which Administration officials have said will almost certainly last for months – seems almost ideal for asserting the authority of the law.

But President Bush, who said during his campaign that he wanted to repeal the War Powers Resolution, has maneuvered carefully to avoid triggering it. While he notified Congress when United States troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, he did not use language specifically saying that hostilities were imminent. That would have set the 90-day clock ticking.

For Congress the issue now seems to have become one of whether the wimp mantle has been passed from George Bush to Capitol Hill.

Members agree that concern over ceding authority to the White House is slow in evolving, and some are up in arms.

”The Congress should move to reassert its authority because right now we are just being told what is happening and not really brought into the delibarations,” said Sentor Brock Adams, Democrat of Washington. ”For too long we have been in a politically defensive position. There is a stirring that they should be doing something, but so far it’s just a stirring. They are not about to come out and challenge Bush on this one.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/13/world/confrontation-gulf-washington-talk-congress-crisis-intervene-not.html