Under questioning from Sen. Sessions at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that “international permission,” rather than Congressional approval, provides a ‘legal basis’ for military action by the United States.
Sen. Jeff Sessions: Do you think that you can act without Congress to initiate a no-fly zone in Syria, without Congressional approval?
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta : Again, our goal would be to seek international permission and we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this. Whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.
Sen. Jeff Sessions: Well, I’m almost breathless about that. Because what I heard you say is, “we are going to seek international approval, and then we will come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we ‘might’ seek Congressional approval.”
Panetta then goes on to explicitly state that the President has the authority to “act in the defense of the nation” without Congressional approval and that a NATO resolution would be all the legal justification the administration needs in order to wage yet another foreign war.
The War Powers Act prohibits the US President from engaging in war unless the Congress authorizes:
- a declaration of war,
- specific statutory authorization, or
- a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
This makes it illegal for the US President to wage a foreign war of aggression without Congressional authorization.
Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution remands the power to declare war specifically to the Congress. This power is distinct from raising and funding an army, which is also a separate declared power of Congress. The US Constitution and the War Powers Act make it clear that President may not initiate an undeclared war without the consent of Congress. If this was not the case, the US Constitution would not have separated the power to declare war from the position of Commander in Chief. Should Obama engage in an undeclared war without the consent of the US Congress, he could be impeached under the War Powers Act.
“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.” – Gen. Smedley D. Butler.