Congress Impotent at Calling War: NATO UN Only Approval Criteria for Panetta

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is conducting a hearing of the Armed Services Committee. In the first minute of the video he chats with General Dempsy, then moves on to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Panetta tells him that no Congressional authority will be need to take action in Syria, as none was need in Libya. Panetta says the President has the authority after he receives permission giving him legal basis either from NATO or the United Nations.

Jeff Sessions

Sessions responding to General Dempsey says:

I want to make sure you understand, and I know you do that, that we are not dependent upon a NATO or U.N. resolution to execute policies consistent with the national security policies of the United States.

Then he turns to Panetta, and they discuss how we joined a coalition to take action in Libya, and what will happen if we take action in Syria.

Panetta asserts several times that the President has the authority under the Constitution to defend the United States (intimating that Congress is not necessary).

What is never said is that any action taken in Libya had nothing to do with defending the United States, and any action we take in Syria will have nothing to do with defending the United States.

What we are hearing here is an in-your-face denial of the Congressional branch of our Government’s authority to deploy our Military. This is, in my opinion, the result of Congress letting Obama go around them, over them, behind them and under them to get things done without them. They have all too often willingly abdicated their authority and their sacred obligation to the people they represent. With a Globalist in the Oval Office the fruit of Congress’ foolishness is in harvest.

Here’s a portion of the transcript beginning at about 1:50.

SESSIONS: We worried about International Legal Basis but no one worried about the fundamental Constitutional legal basis that this Congress has over war. We were not asked, stunningly, in direct violation of the War Powers Act, whether or not you believe it’s Constitutional, it certainly didn’t comply with it.

We spent our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO and too little time worrying about the elected Representatives of the United States.

Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a No Fly Zone in Syria, without Congressional approval?

PANETTA: Again, our goal would be to seek international permission and we would come to the Congress AND INFORM YOU and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues I think we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.

SESSIONS: Well, I’m almost breathless about that, because what I heard you say is, we are going to seek international approval and then we’ll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek Congressional approval.

I want to say to you, that’s a big deal, wouldn’t you agree? You served in the Congress. Wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty breathtaking for the average American, so would you like to clarify that?

PANETTA: I’ve also served with Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents who have always reserved the right to defend this country if necessary.

SESSIONS: But before you do this you would seek permission of the international authorities?

PANETTA: If we are working with an international coalition and we’re working with NATO we would want to be able to get appropriate permissions in order to be able to do that. That’s something that all of these countries would want to have – some kind of legal basis on which to act.

SESSIONS: What kind of legal basis are you looking for? What entity?

PANETTA: If NATO made the decision to go in, that would be one. If we developed an international coalition beyond NATO then some kind of U.N. Security Resolution…

SESSIONS: So you are saying NATO would give you a legal basis…and an ad hoc coalition of the United Nations would provide a legal basis?

PANETTA: (blather – more about coalitions and justifying being a part of a coalition)

SESSIONS: Well who are you asking for the legal basis from?

PANETTA: If the U.N. passed a Security Resolution as it did with Libya, we would do that. If NATO came together as it did in Bosnia, we would rely on that, so we have options here IF WE WANT TO BUILD THE KIND OF INTERNATIONAL APPROACH for dealing with the situation.

SESSIONS: I’m all for having international support but I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States Military to be deployed in combat.

I don’t believe it is close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that is required to deploy the United States Military is the Congress and the President and the law and the Constitution.

PANETTA: Let me for the record be clear again…when it comes to the national defense of this country, the President of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country and we will.

If it comes to an operation where we are trying to build a coalition of Nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia, for that matter Afghanistan, we want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.

End partial transcript.

UPDATE: 3-8-12: To clarify, the War Powers Act gives the President the authority to send troops into combat situations, without the immediate granting by Congress for 30-60 days, ONLY in a national emergency. If a President goes to the dark side on this issue, Congress can defund the mission. When a Congress has staked it’s claim on unconstitutional acts, the Constitution is rendered impotent.

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Jeff Sessions and Leon Panetta on Deploying U.S. Military (video)

Posted by Maggie @ Maggie’s Notebook

  • This is why I wrote here: http://www.stevengivler.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-cant-we-end-wars-anymore.html among other places, about how essential it is to go back to the intent of the Founding Fathers when it comes to declaring war. We have allowed ourselves to be lead so far from the Constitution that nothing about war is as it should be; it’s called peacekeeping, kinetic military action, nation-building, and counterinsurgency, but never war. It’s funded, but never declared, and it’s prosecuted, but never won. The only thing consitent about our conduct of war since 1945 is that it never fails to kill fine young Americans.
    Good on Senator Sessions for holding feet to the fire, but he’s part of the problem. The Congress has tolerated unconstitutional use of the military in every conflict since the last time war was declared, which was in 1941.

    • Steven, it’s never too late to start. Today is the only day we have (and we may not have all of it). If Sessions is awake now, he still has a Democrat majority in the Senate. I am deeply angry that we seldom hear the voice of Congress on these important matters. If Sessions doesn’t carry this forward and KEEP talking about it, and making it a very big issue, then it is all for naught.

  • So What?! This has been going on since Korea. Congress goes right along and releases the funds. This is what Ron Paul has been railing against for decades now. If you want to go to war, do it Constitutionally, with a Declaration. Wanting to follow the Constitution makes you an insane and naive kook. Sure.

    The reality is that this country lost it’s military sovereignty under the War Powers Act. I will remind everyone that in the founding minutes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it was agreed that nothing could change a society as quickly and as efficiently as war. (This was circa 1908). They then came up for three objectives for their group (1)Take control of the State Dept. (2) Take Control of the teaching of American History at the collegiate level (3)Take control of the educational system.

    Within 10 years, the USA was in the middle of WW1, a garden variety European war, made longer and more severe by US involvement. During this time, the War Industries Board was formed, and socialism began in America.

    Then wash, rinse and repeat. With every war we’ve been involved in, America looses sovereignty and freedom. Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of war because that’s how these antichrist collectivists seize power, in the midst of crisis.

    But I better get back to my own blog now…

    • republicanmother, it’s more than a so what (and I know you mean it rhetorically). The fact is we did go to Congress for Afghanistan, but did not declare war because there was not a ‘country’ to declare against, but the Military had Congressional approval to go in against, I believe, those who attacked us or aided us on 9/11/01. It was a first on both ends, BUT we were attacked and there was an a need to protect us – or an easily perceived ‘need.’

      But Libya and Syria. No.

      Whatever has happened in the past, we still have a Constitution, and if we have enough Constitutionalists in Congress now, we can change things. Today all of us know more than we knew back whenever. Today we are aware.

      We can only begin today.

      • The constitutional solution to the terrorism problem is issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal. It’s right there in Article 1 and was used against the Barbary Pirates. This prevents never ending wars which reduce our freedoms.

        I will remind you that the Gulf of Tonkin incident has been proven to have never happened. 58,000 dead Americans as a result of not following the Constitution, but rather the War Powers Act, which was drafted by those associated with the Fed Cartel.

        http://www.americablog.com/2008/01/nsa-report-confirms-gulf-of-tonkin.html

    • Richard E. Perry

      I don’t know why You don’t take all of the Bad things Oboma has made put them all together and “Impeach him ?

      • commanderperry – the answer: a democrat senate.

  • Well that’s it then … the King has spoken.

  • War is so different from the time of our founders that something like the War Powers Act is necessary and should be done by a constitutional amendment. For the time being, the WPA is the law of the land and no President is above the law. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Maggie, in that just because presidents and congresses have ignored the constitution for 70 years, is no excuse to continue letting them do it. If my grandsons are to be sent to war, at the very least I want it to be a declared war.

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  • Ronald W. Sprague

    We have a spineless congress. Sen. Sesions should have called out the Master at Arms and arrested Penetta and military generals on the charge of treason against the United States and breaking their oath to uphold the constitution.
    The military is paid by U.S. citizens taxes and only be under the juridiction of congress that we hired to represent us. Our military should never be dictated to by any international government. International law has no authority over our constitution, unless we have now become a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT. Wake up people and grab our government by the seat of the pants and remind them that our government is a government of the people and for the people and for the people and not for the United Nation dictators tsars.

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  • Anti-Moron Brigade

    I shudder at how easily people condemn others as traitors, but lack the basic sense to even listen to the hearings in the first place.

    Maggie, you conveniently ignored to set the premise on the situation. In many circles, that is called being dishonest. The discussion was centered on a military intervention against Syria involving any proposed coalition.

    Clearly Panetta wants to deflect the current war-mongering atmosphere in Congress by citing the need for the approval of an international coalition prior to any intervention. It was a responsible statement, and prevents Congressional leaders from acting irresponsibly by unilaterally pressuring the administration and the military to intervene militarily in Syria.

    • Anti-Moron Brigade, did you just drop by and see the title and comment. I CLEARLY mentioned Syria and said the discussion was about what happened in Libya and what might happen with Syria.Examples:

      “Panetta tells him that no Congressional authority will be need to take action in Syria, as none was need in Libya.”

      “What is never said is that any action taken in Libya had nothing to do with defending the United States, and any action we take in Syria will have nothing to do with defending the United States.”

      You apparently haven’t a clue how Government is supposed to work. Panetta is a Cabinet Member. He cannot “deflect” war, but Congress can.

      Really, calling me dishonest is dishonest.

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