U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) and five other members of Congress joined a small group of soldiers and some soldiers’ parents in litigation yesterday against President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The lawsuit hopes to restrict the president from initiating military action in Iraq without a declaration of war from Congress.
“We can claim that on October 14 Congress gave the president the power to do what he wanted in the Mideast,” Conyers said. “The lawsuit argues that that resolution didn’t give the president power to declare war on Iraq.”
A major point of the lawsuit states that Congress’ prerogative to declare war was given by the Constitution and thus cannot be taken or given away, even by a Congressional resolution like the one made last October.
But some legislators find this reasoning shaky, claiming that precedent makes this interpretation of the Constitution obsolete. “Congress, with an overwhelming majority … has given (many) presidents the ability to wage war without a declaration from Congress,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland), adding Congress has not made a formal declaration of war since World War II.
But Conyers claims there is no precedent for this sort of action. “(A declaration of war) isn’t required anymore? Wrong,” he said. “We have to look at each situation individually. … Korea was a U.N. action, Vietnam was a police action and (a special Congressional resolution) got us through the Gulf War.”
Conyers said many citizens are grateful for this lawsuit. “I’ve got thousands of people calling me from all over the country, thanking me that the Constitution means what it says and no one can change that, not even King George.”
But Hoekstra said Conyers’ action is premature. “We’re predicting what the president may do with incomplete information. … The president has decided that going to war is not an appropriate use of force today, but that may all change in the next two to four weeks,” he said. “When we get all the information, we will have some better indication as to what an appropriate use of force is.”
Legal experts said litigations like this have a history of failure.
“We had this in the Vietnam War,” said University of California at Berkeley constitutional law Prof. Jesse Choper. “The complainant lost (and) the courts refused to grant what they wanted – injunctions or declaratory judgments. … The bottom line is that, although you may find an occasional federal district judge that will occasionally go along, it doesn’t last – the courts won’t touch it.”
“This is a political question, not a judicial one,” he added.
Other experts, like Georgetown University Constitutional Law Prof. Susan Bloch said his actions are most likely not motivated by a hope of winning this case. “There’s a lot of hurdles and I think he knows that,” she said. “It’s a way of his group showing their disapproval of Bush’s actions”
“I doubt he thinks he will win,” she added.
But some students like LSA junior Megan Stevenson said she applauds Conyers for making the lawsuit. “Having people present opposing viewpoints is healthy,” she said.