Millions of people, including 122,000 Americans, have
been killed in wars started illegally by U.S. presidents
Until President Truman began three years of fighting in Korea without the authorization of Congress, nobody in government had ever suggested that a president had the legal right to initiate war.
That false doctrine of his was adopted by later presidents, among them Johnson and Nixon (Indochina), Reagan (Latin America and Middle East), Bush (Panama and Persian Gulf), Clinton (Iraq, Yugoslavia, and six other countries), Bush II (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.), and Obama (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Yemen).
As though possessed of absolute power, the executive orders acts of war, invasions, bombings anywhere he want—and Congress and the courts timidly fail to cry “Stop!” Life and death are in the hands of one man with nuclear weapons at his fingertips.
No matter how many high crimes of that sort have been committed, they remain unlawful. The Supreme Court has established that illegality does not become legal by repetition — though it ducks the issue of the war power.
Constitution says only Congress can start a war
As Jefferson wrote, “Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war.” The executive’s military role is, as Hamilton wrote, “nothing more than ... first General and Admiral” after the legislature has declared war. The overwhelming evidence of history shows that the Constitution’s framers intended that only Congress could make the decision to go to war. (See quotations at the end.)
They knew that foreign rulers were prone to start wars and resolved that in this country no one man would have the tyrannical power to cause war’s death, destruction, and suffering. Before any military action abroad could begin, whether big or small, the Senate and the House of Representatives would have to vote to begin it.
Bar presidential wars, says War and Law League
In the hope of returning to constitutional principles, ending White House lawlessness, and preventing unlawful wars, the War and Law League (WALL) was formed in March of 1998.
WALL had no desire to wait for each presidential war in a far-off land and then react to it. Instead, we said, let us (1) bar the president from starting any war in the first place, (2) require that the decision to fight any nation be made by Congress, with ample debate and formal voting, and (3) set up the machinery to guard against, undo, and penalize executive violations.
In some fifty-five years since the Korean war, U.S. presidents have initiated over a hundred foreign military actions. To prevent such unconstitutional acts is to prevent most potential U.S. wars, to save countless lives.
Seeking a return to the Constitution and abolition of unlawful wars, the War and Law League began in March, 1998. Among highlights of its first fifteen years, WALL:
Since Korea (1950–53), our presidents have initiated foreign military actions in the hundreds. To prevent such lawless acts is to avoid most potential U.S. wars, to save countless lives.
Join us. End presidintal tuyranny over life and death.
War and Law League (WALL)
A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, upholding the Constitution and treaties of the United States in matters of war and peace, opposing any wars started by presidents and not declared by Congress.
War and Law League, P.O. Box 42-7237, San Francisco, California 94142 E-mail:
What the Founders of the U.S.A. Wrote About the Constitution’s War Power
Alexander Hamilton: “... ‘The Congress shall have power to declare war’; the plain meaning of which is, that it is the peculiar and exclusive duty of Congress, when the nation is at peace, to change that state into a state of war ....” (“Lucius Crassus” 1, 1801.)
“The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States .... It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and Admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and the raising and regulating of fleets and armies — all of which by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.” (The Federalist, 69, 1788.)
Thomas Jefferson: “We have already given in example one effectual check to the dog of war by transferring the power of letting him loose from the Executive to the Legislative body ....” (Letter to Madison, 1789.)
“Considering that Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition from peace to war, I have thought it my duty to await their authority for using force in any degree which could be avoided.” (Message to Congress, 1805.)
James Madison: “...The power to declare war...is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature;...the executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.” (1793.)
“The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.” (Letter to Jefferson, c. 1798.)
William Paterson framer and Supreme Court justice): “ ... It is the exclusive province of congress to change a state of peace into a state of war.” (United States v. Smith, 1806.)
George Washington: “The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.” (Letter to Gen. William Moultrie, 1793.)
James Wilson: (framer and ratifier): “This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large ....” (To the Pennsylvania ratifying convention, 1787.)