Saturday, October 27, 2007

The New York Times, Iran, and International Law

By Howard Friel

Once again, an American president is threatening to use force against another country; in this case, the Bush administration is threatening, at a minimum, to launch cruise missiles into Iran. President Bush also recently said that a military confrontation with Iran could lead to World War III. And once again, such threats demonstrate that the U.S . news media is content to permit the president to operate outside the U.S. Constitution and the UN Charter when it comes to one of the most important and momentous foreign policy decisions-when to resort to the threat and use of force against another country. How can it be that one person, given our well-established system of constitutional checks and balances, can make that decision alone without any immediate need to defend the territorial borders of the United States against an armed attack?

It is clear that the president has no legal authority under the Constitution or the Charter to decide whether to attack another country. According to the Constitution’s delegation of war powers, only the Congress is authorized “to declare war,” while the president as “Commander in Chief” has the authority to conduct war once it is declared by Congress. Referring to the constitutional limitations placed upon the president, James Madison wrote: “Those who are to conduct war cannot in the nature of things be the proper judges whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.”

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