Impeachment called 'legitimate response' to unlawful acts of war by the presidentMilitary action initiated by the president is unconstitutional and impeachable, say two scholars in political science.
"The Constitution grants to Congress the sum total of the nation's power to commence hostilities," Louis Fisher and David Gray Adler write in Political Science Quarterly (v.113, no.1, 1998). Fisher is the senior specialist in separation of powers at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Adler is a professor of political science at Idaho State University. Both are authors.
"The president was never vested with a general power to deploy troops whenever and wherever he thought best, and the Framers did not authorize him to take the country into full-scale war or to mount an offensive attack against another nation," they write. The Constitution "vests in Congress the sole and exclusive authority to initiate military hostilities, regardless of their scope or magnitude."
They observe that "Clinton has used military force repeatedly without congressional authority," citing two attacks on Baghdad, combat in Somalia, the Haiti occupation, air war in Bosnia, and dispatch of 20,000 ground troops there.
The article was written before President Clinton's 1998 mobilization for war on Iraq, missile attacks on Afghanistan and the Sudan, and plans for war over Kosovo, all without approval by Congress.
It tells of the failure of federal courts to strike down comparable offenses by his predecessors. In 1990 when President Bush planned to fight Iraq on his own initiative, 54 members of Congress sued to enjoin him. Judge Harold H. Green did not do so but did declare that a president could not constitutionally decide to attack a country.
"Impeachment remains a legitimate response to presidential usurpations. The congressional power of impeachment was for the Framers a cornerstone to the foundation of the state," Fisher and Adler continue.
"The Framers' fear of unilateral presidential war-making, the deep-seated concern that one person might plunge the nation into a rash of chaos, misery, and disaster, drove them to vest the warmaking authority in Congress, and they did so in unmistakable terms. Presidential aggrandizement of that power-an act subverting the Constitution-is precisely the sort of abuse of power, trust, and office that epitomized what George Mason characterized as the 'great and dangerous offenses' that would invite impeachment....
"If for reasons of character, political motives, arrogance, or contempt of Congress, the Constitution, or the rule of law, a president refuses to adhere to constitutional constraints surrounding the war power, impeachment is warranted."
The above was written in October, 1998. On Sept.25, 1998, a letter had appeared in The New York Times criticizing a Sept.20 editorial urging Clinton and Secretary of State Albright to "mobilize European leaders" for military action, supposedly to help refugees in Kosovo.
"Whether American action is needed or not, the decision is not up to the President or European leaders. It is up to Congress. Under the Constitution the Senate and House of Representatives must first vote to authorize any war or military actions," the letter said.
"By initiating acts of war in Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Sudan, President Clinton breached our supreme law - just as his predecessors did in Korea, Indochina and elsewhere.
"Those are the real impeachable offenses." (The letter was signed Deetje Boler and Paul W. Lovinger, San Francisco. That "the writers represent the War and Law League." was omitted..)
On December 16, 1998, facing impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, Clinton launched his biggest attack on the Iraqis. Three days later, the House impeached Clinton, but not for starting illegal war. The grounds were perjury and obstruction of justice, stemming from his cover-up of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The Senate acquitted him on Feb.12. 1999.
On March 24, 1999, Clinton and his NATO supporters attacked the Yugoslavs. Bombing went on for eleven weeks. (See "Attacks on Yugoslav civilians in the Clinton- NATO war" and 'Laws violated by the President's war actions.")
Clinton's bombing of Iraq continued sporadically into 2000 as his intervention in Colombia's civil war was coming to light.