The United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, launched 107 strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities. During his first appearance in front of the press, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis proclaimed that President Trump had the authority to act without Congressional approval based on Article II of the Constitution. Up until this moment I was following along just fine, but when the word “Constitution” came from the mouth of Mattis, I thought “wait just one minute!”
I’ve read the Constitution numerous times, and couldn’t remember anywhere in Article II where the executive is given power to act unilaterally in the “national interest”. To quote General Mattis,
“As our Commander-in-Chief, the President has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important United States national interests. The United States has vital national interests in averting a worsening catastrophe in Syria and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”
Now, let us compare what he said the Constitution says with what it actually says. Just so no one accuses me of clipping certain parts out, here’s Article II in its entirety.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representatives from each State having one Vote; a quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall choose from them by Ballot the Vice-President.
The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
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 President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
If you found where Article II gives the President power to strike overseas enemies without Congressional approval, please let me know. I didn’t see it. In fact, I never found the words “strike”, “war”, or “national interest” in there anywhere.
This can leave us with only two possible conclusions. Either a) General Mattis has never read Article II, and is completely ignorant of what it actually authorizes the President to do, or b) General Mattis knows the truth and also knows no one in MSM will call him out, because they themselves are ignorant.
Oh wait – there is a third option. It is possible that Mattis was thinking of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, in which the President was granted power to wage war for a limited period of time without Congressional approval. Would Mattis be confused about the War Powers Resolution, it was written to give the President the authority to act in cases of immediate national defense, in cases of a sudden and surprise attack on Americans. It WAS NOT for policing the world.
See this excerpt from the War Powers Resolution –
50 U.S. Code § 1541 – Purpose and policy
Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation
The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
The specific circumstances in which the President has power to wage war are (1) A formal Congressional Declaration of War (which Congress has not passed since WWII), (2) a specfic statutory authorization (authorization for the use of military force, i.e. post 9/11), or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its terrirories or possessions, or its armed forces.
None of these qualifiers were met prior to the United States’ strike on Syria Friday evening.
It should also be noted that the War Powers Resolution has never been brought before the Supreme Court, and hence has never been deemed either Constitutional or unconstitutional. There are valid views on both sides of this debate, but to date it remains unaddressed.
All of this still leaves out numerous questions surrounding the strike. Consider first that the OCPW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) had yet to conduct a test of the site of the attack to either confirm or deny whether chemical weapons had even been used.
The OPCW has no evidence that chemical weapons were in fact used, much less if they were used by the Assad regime. Although it is reported as if only Assad could have used them, years ago it was discovered that Syrian rebels obtained and have used chemical weapons on civilians themselves. Were we to know that these weapons were used, we are still unsure about who used them.
Whether Syrian civilians being killed is a United States national interest is also unclear. No Americans were killed, no Americans were provoked. In fact, the United States occupation of Syria is against international law. Russian forces were invited by Syria to help in the fight against ISIS; the United States was not.
Finally, assuming everything reported by the media is true, and everything said by various members of the DOD, CIA, and NSA are correct, we still must question why the case for this intervention was never made to the American people. Were it an emergency, the President should have by all means acted in the national defense. Be it that this was not a national defense emergency, Congress should have been consulted, and the voice of the American people should have been heard.
Whether you love, hate, or are suspicious of President Trump, he is not a king. He is our employee.