Somebody at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has clearly been brushing up on the Constitution since they noticed President Trump hinting about raining hellfire down on Kim Jong-un’s head one of these days. They’ve issued a call to the President to go before Congress and get their blessing before any bombs (conventional or tactical) begin falling on Pyongyang. (The Hill)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned President Trump on Tuesday that only Congress can authorize a military strike on North Korea, as tensions with Pyongyang continue to escalate.
“The American Civil Liberties Union strongly urges you to uphold the Constitution, and the fundamental principle of separation of powers, by recognizing the sole authority of Congress to declare war — and to refrain from the use of force against North Korea in the absence of explicit congressional authorization for the use of force,” the group wrote in a letter to Trump on Tuesday.
“This drumbeat of threats over the past several weeks has raised concerns across the country about whether you will abide by the check on the president’s power that is fundamental to the Constitution’s separation of powers on war authority.”
While I certainly agree with the ACLU in principle and have for a very long time now, I’m sorry to say that this ship has pretty much sailed. When was the last time Congress actually declared war on another country? (I’m not counting resolutions of authorization to use military force here.) I’m pretty sure it was in 1941 when a flurry of them went out for very good reasons. But since then, and particularly since the passage of the War Powers Act, Congress has pretty much abandoned their duty on that front.
There was always some sort of excuse, too. Sometimes it was a United Nations “action” instead of an actual war declared by us, such as with Korea. We weren’t really “at war” with Iraq because we were just “liberating their people” from a dictator. And we weren’t “at war” with Afghanistan because we were actually just fighting the Taliban, right?
There’s one interesting feature of this declaration by the ACLU to note and it slides fairly close to the line of hypocrisy. The last time they were making this particular speech was when Barack Obama was gearing up to go after ISIS with various expressions of power back in 2014. So what did the ACLU have to say about it at that time? Oh, they were still demanding action by the legislative branch, but instead of making the demand of Obama they put it on the shoulders of Congress instead.
We now have a Congress so anxious to avoid tough votes that it is ducking any decision on whether to go to war in Iraq and Syria, and a president who is grabbing unprecedented power to take the country to war all on his own.
It is a dangerous combination of congressional political cowardice and presidential overreach. Almost a week after the president’s speech on a military campaign in Iraq and Syria – and almost a month and half since President Obama began airstrikes in Iraq to confront the group – Congress has yet to authorize, or reject, any use of military force against the group. With Congress set to adjourn for a seven-week recess as early as Thursday, the time to debate and vote on any timely authorization is quickly evaporating.
They went on from there to state, “The ACLU is urging Congress to reassert its constitutional role before it leaves for recess.”
So I suppose we can give at least minor props to the ACLU for some level of consistency. They’ve wanted everyone to play by the constitutional rules all along. But it’s worth noting how their demands are targeted toward Congress when a Democrat is in the White House, but they hit the President directly when the GOP is in power.