Andy’s Newspaper column archive

Title: How does the U. S. declare war? ©

Up front, I am not a lawyer and not giving legal advice. I can however, read and comprehend the English language and if unsure, will use a dictionary to search out the meaning of words.

There’s a lot of angst these days about war or no war in Syria. The foundation of laws in these United States resides in the Constitution of the United States of America. If you have read it in school, however many years ago that may be, it may be time to dig in and learn about it for the second time. Too often we debate issues before reading the written documents affecting our understanding of the issue. Lawyers are good at this. They speak with authority and avoid citing the rule of law that brings them to expound on the subject under discussion.

There appears to be two parts in the constitution regarding declaring war and the job of a President.

The first is:  “Article II. Executive Department. Section 2.  Powers of the president.

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 Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”

The second is:  “Section eight Powers granted to Congress”. Item eleven is under this  title: “War.  11. To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.” If my command of the English language is worth a damn, a President cannot declare war. I would also infer from this that he better not start one on his own initiative.

You can see the full Constitution on line at

In 1973 Congress passed the war powers act. Having read it, it seems to be lawyer busywork. The constitution seems pretty clear. Congress declares war. The president as Commander in Chief manages the troops and the war. Even President Nixon used his veto to prevent the War PowersAct and yet it passed. It has been too long that Presidents have been in violation of the Constitutional provision as to who declares war. The basic problem in this great country of ours is lawyers. They can be self indulgent politicians interpreting the Constitution and stretching its meanings far beyond what is written in it and expounded upon in The Federalist Papers. Yes, all this is on the internet so it must be true.

If we go back before 1973 there was a department of War that existed from 1789 until September 18, 1947. After World War II, in 1949, the United States government renamed the Department of War to the Department of Defense. Since then we have been defending Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada,  Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and maybe now Syria. My impression has always been that defense begins and ends at home. War on the other hand, can happen anywhere but does defense happen everywhere? We are a powerful country wasting resources becoming involved in other peoples disputes. For me, I’m O.K. with letting them duke it out, wasting their resources and money while we gather strength and security at home. I can’t find anything about our national interests causing us to go to war and even more to the point, it ain’t in the Constitution. Just what are our national interests. I’m hearing the words but not the specifics in this Syrian issue.

War should come of necessity, a direct attack or threat against the United States. Defending ourselves,  not two small countries in the middle East trying to destroy each other. I watch Television news with dismay. The pundits and politicians argue the merits of the Constitution and the War Powers Act. I see those pictures of helpless Syrians dying from gas and mortar attacks. Yet, something is missing and now I recognize what it is. Our personal interest. I’m looking for two types of pictures. The first is the photo of our men going in to battle, healthy, strong. The other is a photo of those same men coming back, missing their arms, legs or both, blind, mentally damaged and worse. They are not even called in to view during these debates, when in reality what we are being asked to do is to send our healthy men and women, our citizens, to a foreign country where both sides don’t like us. We no longer fight to win, we fight to compromise. The winner in a war brings peace.

It seems more appropriate to have the surrounding countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon and perish the thought Israel, well maybe not Israel, deal with this.

Now I know we have agreements, treaties that we will come to the aid of our allies when attacked. We need a list of those trustworthy allies to better understand our obligations. We also need to stop borrowing money so we can give foreign aid to those who are not in the trustworthy category.

But back to the War Powers Act. There is suddenly a plethora of pro’s and con’s about an attack on Syria. The presidents men are telling us we’re just going to send him a message. Huh? What’s the message? We have too many missiles? Would you please save the unexploded munitions we are sending your way? They might come in handy for future events. Oh, and by the way, if you manage to capture any of our men don’t worry. I won’t be having any ground troops involved. Just send our guys and gals back to us. We have kept them in the dark about why we are sending you this note for peace. The address to return out men and women is 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC., Attention Mr. Obama and Mr Kerry.

In conclusion, war is war. An attack on a foreign sovereign nation whether by an invading army or a salvo of missiles, is WAR. WE JUST MIGHT BE LOOKING AT WW III, ALL BECAUSE OF PRIDE AND A LITTLE RED LINE IN THE SAND.

Andrew Alberti Jr