DeFazio to Bush: Iran Military Strikes Require Congressional Authorization

Traprock Homepage

April 19, 2006

CJ & SM: We hope people will ask their representatives as well as senators to support legislation by Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon to head off an unconstitutional presidential attack on Iran. See his press release and letter below.

The attack could come as early as next month and include the first nuclear bombing since Nagasaki. U.S. troops have already been illegally sent to Iran to map bombing sites. See also JH, PWL, War and Law League, SF,

DeFazio To Bush: Iran Military Strikes Require
Congressional Authorization

April 13, 2006

Press Release | Contact: Danielle Langone (202)

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio will
send a letter to President Bush reminding him that he
is constitutionally bound to seek congressional
approval before making any preemptive military strikes
against Iran. DeFazio is circulating the letter to
other members of Congress seeking additional support.
Recent news reports, including a report by Seymour
Hersh, who won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the My
Lai massacre, have indicated that the administration
is planning a military action against them.

DeFazio will also introduce a resolution expressing
the sense of the Congress that the President cannot
initiate military action against Iran without
congressional authorization. He is seeking additional
support among other House members for the resolution
as well. The text of the letter is included below:

April 13, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

We are concerned by the growing number of stories that
your Administration is planning for military action
against Iran. We are writing to remind you that you
are constitutionally bound to seek congressional
authorization before launching any preventive military
strikes against Iran.

As you know, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S.
Constitution grants Congress the power “to declare
war,” to lay and collect taxes to “provide for the
common defense” and general welfare of the United
States, to “raise and support armies,” to “provide and
maintain a navy,” to “make rules for the regulation
for the land and naval forces,” to “provide for
calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the
Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions,” to
“provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the
militia,” and to “make all laws necessary and proper
for carrying into execution…all…powers vested by
this Constitution in the Government of the United
States.” Congress is also given exclusive power over
the purse. The Constitution says, “No money shall be
drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of
appropriations made by law.”

By contrast, the sole war powers granted to the
Executive Branch through the President can be found in
Article II, Section 2, which states, “The President
shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy
of the United States, and of the Militia of the
several States, when called into actual Service of the
United States…”

Your Administration has argued that this
“Commander-in-Chief” clause grants the President wide
latitude to engage U.S. military forces abroad without
prior authorization from Congress. You further argue
that previous unilateral actions by presidents of both
political parties add credence to your interpretation
of the U.S. Constitution.

Contrary to your Administration’s broad reading,
nothing in the history of the “Commander-in-Chief”
clause suggests that the authors of the provision
intended it to grant the Executive Branch the
authority to engage U.S. forces in military action
whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior
authorization from Congress. The founders of our
country intended this power to allow the President to
repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to
unilaterally launch, without congressional approval,
large-scale preventive military actions against
foreign threats that are likely years away from
materializing. With respect to Iran, according to the
most definitive U.S. intelligence report, Iran is
likely a decade away from developing a nuclear weapon.
Even the most pessimistic analysis by outside experts
puts the timeline at least three years away, but
that’s only if everything in Iran’s development
program proceeds flawlessly, which would defy the
history of nuclear programs around the world,
including Iran’s.

The architects of the U.S. Constitution were well
aware of government models, like the monarchy in Great
Britain, which vested the power to go to war with the
head of state. Instead, the Founding Fathers made a
conscious decision to grant the solemn war-making
powers to the Legislative Branch. The intent of the
authors of the U.S. Constitution is clear.

In the Federalist Paper Number 69, while comparing the
lesser war-making power of the U.S. president versus
the King of Great Britain, Alexander Hamilton wrote,
“…the President is to be commander-in-chief of the
Army and Navy of the United States. In this respect
his authority would be nominally the same with that of
the King of Great Britain, but in substance much
inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than
the supreme command and direction of the military and
naval forces, as first General and admiral of the
Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to
the declaring of war and to raising and regulating of
fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution
under consideration, would appertain to the

James Madison declared that it is necessary to adhere
to the “fundamental doctrine of the Constitution that
the power to declare war is fully and exclusively
vested in the legislature.”

In 1793, President George Washington, when considering
how to protect inhabitants of the American frontier,
instructed his Administration that “no offensive
expedition of importance can be undertaken until after
[Congress] have deliberated upon the subject, and
authorized such a measure.”

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson sent a small squadron of
frigates to the Mediterranean to protect against
possible attacks by the Barbary powers. He told
Congress that he was “unauthorized by the
Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go
beyond the line of defense.” He further noted that it
was up to Congress to authorize “measures of offense

While presidents in the latter half of the 20th
Century have initiated military action without prior
authorization by Congress, “everybody does it” is not
a legitimate defense to ignore the plain words of the
U.S. Constitution, the clear intent of the authors of
the U.S. Constitution, and more than 150 years of
legal precedent.

We also want to go on record that the Authorization of
Force Resolution (Public Law 107-40) approved by
Congress to go after those responsible for the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country
does not, explicitly or implicitly, extend to
authorizing military action against Iran over its
nuclear program. The legislation specifically says,
“The President is authorized to use all necessary and
appropriate force against those nations,
organizations, or persons he determines planned,
authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks
that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such
organizations or persons, in order to prevent any
future acts of international terrorism against the
United States by such nations, organizations, or
persons.” There is no evidence that Iran was involved
in the September 11, 2001, attacks. Nor is there any
evidence that Iran harbored those who were responsible
for the attacks.

Further, the Authorization of Force Resolution (Public
Law 107-243) approved by Congress to go to war with
Iraq does not extend to military action against Iran
over its nuclear program. This resolution only
authorized you to “(1) defend the national security of
the United States against the continuing threat posed
by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations
Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” Like
P.L. 107-40, there is no explicit or implicit
authorization on the part of Congress in P.L. 107-243
that would allow you to attack Iran without first
coming to Congress to seek a new authorization.

When asked about reports of your administration
planning for war with Iran, you said on April 10,
2006, “It [prevention] doesn’t mean force,
necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.” We
agree with the focus on diplomacy. But, we want to be
clear, should you decide that force is necessary,
seeking congressional authority prior to taking
military action against Iran is not discretionary. It
is legally and constitutionally necessary.

Member of Congress


Print Note: This page is excerpted from the web site
of U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, Fourth District,