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IN THE NEWS - August 31, 2002: Rules on Making War - 2002-08-30

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In The News.

American officials and the public are debating if the United States should take military action against Iraq. Officials say Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is expanding his biological and chemical weapons program and seeking to build nuclear weapons. President Bush says he must be removed from power.

There is support for action against Iraq among most leaders of Mister Bush’s Republican Party and many Democrats. Yet some of them say the United States should not act alone. Leaders of many countries have expressed concern about the possibility of an attack by the United States.

The Bush administration claims it already has Congressional permission to go into Iraq. It says a resolution passed by Congress in nineteen-ninety-one approving the Persian Gulf War is still in effect.

However, some political experts and members of Congress say new congressional approval would be required for military action against Iraq. On Thursday, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, called for Congress to debate and vote before any possible military action. He said the United States Constitution demands it and the American people expect it.

Article One of the Constitution gives the legislature of the United States government the power and right to declare war. Article Two makes the president the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. So, Congress is responsible for declaring war and the president is responsible for carrying it out.

In ninety-seventy-three, Congress passed a law linked to those parts of the Constitution. It is called the War Powers Act. It says the president must tell Congress when he deploys troops into areas where hostile actions are probable. The same law orders the president to withdraw troops within sixty days unless Congress declares war, approves the military action, or extends the time limit.

In nineteen-seventy-five, Gerald Ford became the first president to use the War Powers Act. He sent troops to re-capture an American transport ship captured by the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. He took quick and limited military action against Cambodia and reported to Congress about it as required.

Since then, other presidents have taken military action without following the War Powers Act. For example, President Reagan sent troops to assist Kuwaiti ships during the Iran-Iraq war in nineteen-eighty-seven. He said that action did not require use of the law.

On Thursday, Vice-President Dick Cheney said that President Bush understands the importance of public and congressional support for any military action. He said Mister Bush would seek some kind of congressional approval for action in Iraq if he decides it is necessary.

This VOA Special English program In The News was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.