Declaration of Independence (A very interesting document.)
Examine the structure of the document -- Why was it written?   What does it do?

The Declaration did not declare, nor start, nor cause a war.
The Declaration did not propose all-out war or escalation of an existing war.
The Declaration did not demand anything nor ask anything, -- not even agreement.   -- not even a reply.
The Declaration of Independence merely asserted the right of a peaceful people to be left alone.

The Declaration of Independence was a statement. -- A public statement
Others would make other public statements, but the assertions and actionjs of the Continental Congress
   did not await a reply to the Declaration. They acted as they saw fit, as befits a sovereign nation (which is what they had just become).
The new nation did not seek or wait for the permission or coalition of any other country or group.

  • When the President and Congress both recognized that a "state of war" existed, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, it was described as a "Declaration of War" and conformed to the wording contained in the Constitution and exercised the powers granted by that document to the Congress and to the President.
  • The attack which led to that "declaration" was an "act of war".
  • President Roosevelt announced that fact.
    The Congress got around to passing a formal "declaration", and it authorized money, etc.
    to enable the Commander-In-Chief to prosecute the war.

  • Congress also has powers to dictate "rules of war" and the conduct of the military.
  • Only the President can order the military to act.
    Only the President can command or delegate command.

    [Checks & Balances:   One branch is not ehuf to make war!]

    Oddly, Dec. 1941 was the last time that Congress actually used the words "declare" and "war" together in the language of its resolutions. But whenever Congress actually authorizes the President to conduct wars and to command acts of war, that falls under the 17 powers granted to the Congress by Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. Therefore, such resolutions actually are "declarations of war" whether they use those words or not. (Otherwise, such resolutions would be unconstitutional!)

    In the Korean War, Congress also authorized the President (Truman) to conduct a war. The specific acts of war and rules of war involved cooperation with other countries and with the United Nations, but the legal and Constitutional basis of the resolution was the power of Congress to "declare war", as granted by Article I Section 8.

    In the Viet Nam Conflict and in "Desert Storm" (two euphonisms for what indisputably were "wars"), the language of the resolutions avoided the politically incorrect phrase, "declaration of war". Nevertheless, Congress exercised its power to "declare" war
    The powers of Congress exercised to pass those resolutions are authorized ONLY by Article I Section 8. (If not, the bills authorizing acts of war would be unconstitutional!)
    The phrase might not be politically correct or palatable, but the power exercised was the power to "declare war".

    Sometimes Congress declares war after the war has actually begun.
    (That is often the case with non-agressive nations.)

    Congressional action was after the fact, after the actual start of war,

  • in 1941
  • in Kennedy's blockade of Cuba,
  • in Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin resolution,
  • in Carter's helicopter attack on Iran,
  • in Reagan's invasion Grenada,
  • in Bush's invasion of Panama,
  • in Clinton's bombings of Belgrade, Baghdad, and elsewhere

    Congressional action was certainly after the fact

  • in September 2001.
    The "War Powers Act" acknowledges the fact that there are circumstances where the President must respond first and consult soon after.
    (48-hours is the usual time-window.)

    The US was attacked on 9/11 {exactly} one year ago, . . .
    and it was attacked before that, by more-or-less the same groups,

    Previous attacks notwithstanding, a state of war certainly existed on the morning of September 11th.

    This state of war was recognized by the President.
    He defined the US role clearly as a "War on Terrorism":

    In mid-September, Congress (almost unanimously) passed a resolution that supported the President's announced war, supported his definition of it, and more or less said the same thing that he said in his speech announcing the War on Terrorism.

    BTW Some people say that wars are only declared against countries.

    This is simply untrue!
    Many (perhaps most) wars are declared against entites that are not nations:

  • Historically, most wars were declared against Kings and Emperors, and even Popes;
  • America's first war was explicitly declared against King George, not against the Brittish people or their parliament;
  • In the War of Secession, the USA was careful not to recognize the CSA as a country; war was declared against states in rebellion and those who supported them.
  • War was declared against the Barbary pirates, Emperor Maximillian and his , Pancho Villa's gang,
  • Politicaians blithely declare wars on drugs, crime, poverty, illiteracy, illegitimacy, or jaywalking -- but we should probably ignore those as mere rhetoric, plus criminal misuse of the English language
  • Regardless of what they were called, recent Presidents have commanded acts of war against such non-nations as Manuel Noriega, leaders of the coup in Haiti, Sendero Luminosa, and the Columbian drug cartel.

    Not all of these were acknowleged as "war". But they were, and they all involved military actions and acts of war that would have been been illegal and unconstitutional unless Congress was acting under its authorized powers in Aticle I Section 8.

    Clearly (and there and many more examples where it is not necessary to name an enemy nation to declare war), the resolution passed by Congress last September was a declaration of war. Let's look more closely at what it was and was not.

    The resolution did NOT compell the President to make war.
    Congress does not have the power to do so!
    Only the President can command the military. Not the Congress.

    Conress may only "declare" that a state of war exists, make rules for the conduct of war, appropriate the money, etc.

    The September 17th resolution, passed by Congress and singed into law by the President, was very carefully worded.
    It did not use the phrase "declare war". Perhaps it should have, but it didn't have to.
    It was a declartion of war, because that is all Congress may do. Congress had to use its power to declare war, or there would have been no resolution.

    After the Congress declared whatever it declared, and authorized the President to conduct war, one of his first actions was to issue an "ultimatum" to the Taliban government.

    The Taliban was a tinpot regime, mostly foreigners, which occupied and ruled Afghanistan.

    Next, after the ultimatum was ignored, the Taliban regime was attacked and overthrown.

    The resolution of Sept. 17th was passed by Congress in response to the specific request in the President's speech, calling for a "War on Terrorism" - including war, if necessary, against countries that harbored terrorists and/or support terrorism.

    Iraq is certainly included in the list of countries that harbor Al Quaeda cells.A
    In addition, Iraq was specifically identified, in the "Axis of Evil" speech, as one of the countires that also develops weapons intended to be used against civilian populations. Furthermore, Iraq is one of the few countries that were previously proven to have used chemical weapons against civilian populations, within its border against Kurdish civilians, and across its borders against Iranian civilians. (China is another, but disregard this and cite the border with Tibet as some sort of internal boundary, much the way India ignores its border with Kashmir. But I digress....)

    Now, back to the actual resolution. It did recognize the War on Terrorism and it authorized the the President to conduct that war. Theoretically, the President does not need further authorization to go after the weapons and the terrorists in Iraq. Politically, he is wise to consult further with Congress - for a very short while - then seek another resolution.

    Personally, I think he is about 6 months overdue in delivering an ultimatum to Iraq. After the Gulf War, Iraq surrendered more or less unconditially, and agreed to full inspections of sites suspected of being used to develop chemical, bacteriological, and nuclear weapons. In effect, Iraq's renegging on inspections actually reinstates the previous state of war which the agreements supposedly ended.

    Beyond that, Iraq's development of such weapons - for use against civilian populations - puts it squarely in the sights of the War on Terrorism, which the Congress authorized the President to conduct.

    Wise tho it may be to seek another, more explicit authorization from the Congress, there is absolutely no need to seek or depend upon the consent of any other nations or organizations.