The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, July 16, 2002  

Government by the Constitution

As President George W. Bush quietly and secretly prepares for what appears to be an inevitable war on Iraq, we thought we would dust off a copy of the Constitution, just for a “refresher course” in which branch of the government has the power to do what when it comes to conflicts with other nations.

Here is the relevant text:

The Constitution of the United States

Article I
Section 8

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; . . . To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; To provide and maintain a navy; To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Article II
Section 2

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

Yes, we know there are conflicting interpretations of this language and we’re fully aware of the War Powers Act as well. But can we at least express our hope that before Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, uh, we mean the Bush administration, approve an invasion of Iraq, the relevant officials at least consult Congress?

Oh, and in case there were any confusion, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is not the U.S. Congress. Nor is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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