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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Says Congress Must Authorize Use of Force in Haiti; Urges Clinton to Follow Constitutional Requirements For IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 13, 1994 WASHINGTON -- With direct U.S. military intervention in Haiti almost a certainty, the American Civil Liberties Union today sent letters to President Clinton and Congressional leaders insisting that any use of force by the United States in Haiti must be first authorized by Congress. While taking no position on the use of U.S. military forces in Haiti, the ACLU said that the U.S. Constitution requires prior congressional authorization for the President to deploy U.S. forces if they will be authorized to use force other than in self-defense. "The Constitution makes it absolutely clear that only the Congress, as representatives of the people, can declare war," said Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The founders of this country worked to insure that the American people would not be thrust into military conflicts that had little popular support. "Congress must, therefore, take a stand on this potential act of war; it may not waive the authority entrusted to it by the Constitution and the American people," Glasser said, adding that this was a view widely endorsed by many Democrats when Republican Presidents threatened military intervention abroad. Even Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who is now defending the Administration's right to unilaterally decide to use force in Haiti, wrote in a 1982 Foreign Affairs article: "A government makes no more fateful decision than the decision to go to war. The President should want to share that decision with Congress. When the President and the Congress stand together, the nation's commitment is clear." Glasser said it is highly unfortunate that Secretary Christopher appears to have changed his position. "Now that the use of force appears imminent, it is all the more essential that the Administration go to Congress for authorization before it acts," Glasser said. "Not only does the Constitution require it, but common sense and good government counsel it." A copy of the ACLU's letter to President Clinton follows. -------------------------------------------------------------------- American Civil Liberties Union Washington Office 122 Maryland Avenue NE Washington DC, 20002 -------------------- National Headquarters 132 West 43rd Street New York, NY 10036 September 12, 1994 President Bill Clinton The White House Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: As the possibility of direct United States military intervention in Haiti increases, we urge you to seek a congressional vote before authorizing any use of force. While the American Civil Liberties Union takes no position for or against the deployment or use of U. S. military forces in this or any other conflict, we believe that any such action must be undertaken in accordance with the Constitution and consistent with democratic principles. We believe that the Constitution is clear in requiring Congressional authorization prior to any use of force to deal with the military junta in Haiti whether or not the use of force has been authorized by the United Nations or other regional bodies. Indeed, the Constitutional test could not be more explicit. Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution grants to Congress -- and to Congress alone -- "the power to declare war [and] grant letters of marque and reprisal." As a matter of both logic and history, this delegation of power to Congress applies to all situations in which U. S. forces are authorized to use military force abroad, except to repel sudden attacks.1 Congress itself interpreted the Constitution in precisely this fashion when it passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Section 2(c), on purpose and policy, states unequivocally that the President has constitutional authority to "introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, ... only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war. (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States..." This provision serves as a statutory definition of the constitutional war powers.2 Public debate and a congressional vote are especially important in this complicated and tragic situation. Debate helps to ensure that a full array of viewpoints on the issue are considered, both from within and outside of the government. A vote ensures that these important decisions have the endorsement of the Congress, and derivatively the people, from the beginning.3 Secretary of State Christopher echoed this view when he wrote in 1982 about the need for prior Congressional involvement in war power matters: "[A] government makes no more fateful decision than the decision to go to war. The President should want to share that decision with the Congress. When the President and the Congress stand together, the nation's commitment is clear."4 Last year when military action was contemplated in the former Yugoslavia, we suggested that Congress establish working procedures with the President to ensure formal congressional authorization prior to any future use of force. Now that the use of force appears more imminent, it is all the more essential that you go to Congress for authorization before you act. Not only does the Constitution require it, but common sense and good government counsel it. As you know, previous Administrations have taken an extreme, and in our view incorrect, view of the President's constitutional powers to authorize military force. We are aware that your Administration is faced with an immediate crisis without the luxury of examining the constitutional issues. Nevertheless, we respectfully suggest that securing congressional authorization in this situation for whatever actions you choose to take will not only result in wiser policy and more politically acceptable decisions, but will also be in accordance with the Constitution. We thus call upon both you and the Congress to make sure congressional authorization is obtained before the United States takes any military action in this conflict. Thank you for considering our views. We are available to work with you and your Administration on this issue. Sincerely, Laura Murphy Lee Ira Glasser Director, Washington Office Executive Director ________________________________________________ 1. Alexander Hamilton noted that "anything beyond [repelling force with force -- i.e., self-defense] must fall under the idea of reprisals and requires the sanction of that Department which is to declare or make war." 2. The use of force in Haiti would also fall within section 4(a) (1) of the War Powers Resolution, 50 U.S.C. section 1543(a) (1), necessitating a presidential report and triggering the 60 day time clock. However, we believe that this law is constitutionally suspect in this regard by not prohibiting the President from using force for the first 60 days without congressional authorization. Accordingly, as occurred with respect to Iraq, Congress should address this matter directly under the Constititution. 3. Any such vote could, of course, be done expeditiously. 4. Warren Christopher, "Ceasefire Between the Branches: A Compact in Foreign Affairs," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 5, 899, 1002 (Summer 1982). While Christopher went on to say that "steps short of war ought to require less collaboration and permit more Executive discretion," id., he was referring to military aid and sales, not uses of force. Id at 1003. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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