Tag Archives: declaration of war

Declaration of war? Not even close, Mr. Foreign Minister

A statement by North Korea’s foreign minister might have gotten muddled in the translation, but I feel the need to set the record straight for this fellow.

Ri Yong Ho has accused Donald J. Trump of “declaring war” on North Korea with his threats of using military force if the North Koreans continue to threaten the United States and our allies.

According to Reuters: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

Let’s step back here.

I believe Ri needs a quickie lesson on U.S. government civics.

The president of the United States cannot “declare war” on anyone. A declaration of war in this country is a multi-step process, Mr. Foreign Minister — which is something that is alien to you and your dictator/despot Kim Jong Un.

The president prepares a declaration document, which he then presents to our Congress. He then requests the legislative branch of government to issue a declaration. The last time we did that was on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan attacked our naval and Army air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Congress voted virtually unanimously to declare war; by the way, U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana voted “no,” just as she had done when Congress declared war against Germany during World War I. Foreign Minister Ri also should know that Rep. Rankin wasn’t jailed — either time — for her principled votes.

Do I agree with Donald Trump’s bluster and bellicosity with regard to North Korea? No. He’s risking — with his taunts and childish name-calling — the potential for provoking Kim into doing something stupid in the extreme.

But he didn’t “declare war.” That’s not how we do it in this country. Our founders established a system that limited the president’s power to issue such a declaration. He’s got to ask for it from the legislative branch of government.

There. Lesson over.

The world changed 75 years ago


It took a sneak attack on American warships moored in a Honolulu bay to change the world forever.

The attack occurred 75 years ago at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japanese pilots taking off from Japanese aircraft carriers swooped in over the harbor on that Sunday morning. They strafed and bombed the ships, sinking several of them where they were docked. They did the same thing to our Army aircraft at Hickam Field.

Thousands of American sailors and soldiers died that day.

The nation was shocked beyond its ability to believe what had just happened. Think of it today as the “original 9/11.” Most Americans weren’t prepared to cope with the idea that a foreign power could strike us on our soil, killing our military personnel.

President Roosevelt stood the next day before a joint congressional assembly and asked for a declaration of war. It came quickly and overwhelmingly.

We stood united. We rallied ourselves. We mobilized. We turned our huge industrial capacity into a weapons-making machine.

All told, our nation sent 16 million Americans into the fight against the Japanese … and against the Nazi Germans and the Italians in Europe.

We seemingly don’t fight “righteous” wars these days. Our nation remains divided in the extreme as we continue to battle international terrorists in faraway places. Indeed, today’s division has its roots arguably as we fought the Korean War, then the Vietnam War.

World War II was different. We coalesced behind the president. We drafted young men into the military and sent them into harm’s way.

We created “The Greatest Generation,” which was given that title in a book of that name written by legendary broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw. It truly was the greatest generation.

Many of us today owe our very existence to the men who fought the tyrants and returned home safely to start their families. I am one of them. My late father was among the 16 million. I am proud of what he did in the Navy to save our nation from the tyranny that presented a clear danger to this great nation.

We ushered in the nuclear age and near the end of that world war, we used that terrible weapon against those provoked us into the fight. The Japanese started it; we ended it. Just like that.

Thus, the world changed forever.

Those men who answered the nation’s call to battle are dying now. Only a fraction of them remain with us. They are in their 90s.

I’ll be out and about for the next couple of days. I believe I am going to thank any of those men I see wearing a ball cap with the words “World War II veteran” embroidered on it.

We owe them everything.

Japan’s PM to visit site where ‘day of infamy’ occurred


Shinzo Abe is coming to America.

It’s no ordinary visit for a Japanese prime minister. Oh, no. He’s going to a place burned in the memories of millions of Americans.

Pearl Harbor awaits the visit of the first Japanese head of government since a bright sunny day in December 1941.

On Dec. 7, the United States entered World War II after its naval and air forces were attacked by Japanese bombers and fighter planes. Roughly 3,000 Americans died in that sneak attack. President Roosevelt stood before Congress the next day and declared we had been attacked “yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live … in infamy.”

The president  sought a declaration of war; Congress gave it to him — and the world changed forever.

Prime Minister Abe is coming to Pearl Harbor to meet with President Obama.


This visit very well could mark a remarkable day of atonement for the Japanese government.

Abe said in a statement announcing the Dec. 26-27 visit: “I’d like to make it (meeting with Obama) an opportunity to send a message to the world that we will further strengthen and maintain our alliance towards the future,” he said. “And at the same time, I want to make it an opportunity to signal the value of Japan-US reconciliation.”

The prime minister’s wife, Akie, visited Pearl Harbor earlier this year, touring the USS Arizona Memorial, where she laid flowers and prayed.

There’s been a good bit of that sort of thing over the years as Japanese tourists journey to Pearl Harbor. Aging men — many of whom fought against Americans during the war — have come to Pearl Harbor to pray and to seek forgiveness for their country’s role in initiating the carnage that erupted all across the Pacific Theater after what FDR labeled a “dastardly” act.

President Obama visited Hiroshima earlier this year, speaking to the world about the dangers of nuclear weaponry. He didn’t apologize for President Truman’s decision on Aug. 6, 1945 to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Nor should he have done so.

The war ended a few days later. It’s been argued during the decades since that use of the atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki likely saved many more lives than they took. Still, the debate continues.

Now the focus turns to Prime Minister Abe’s return visit to Pearl Harbor. Does he make amends? Does he issue a formal apology to the United States for the actions of his predecessors?

My own feeling is that an apology is due. Whatever he says, though, I am certain it will be heartfelt and will, as he said, speak to the “reconciliation” that has drawn the United States and Japan closer in the years that came after that horrible “day of infamy.”

It should be a historic and profoundly meaningful visit, depending, of course, on what the prime minister tells the world.

Declare war against ISIS?


Donald J. Trump has this annoying habit of talking past whatever point he’s trying to sell.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly last night he’d be willing to consider asking Congress for a declaration of war against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.

I’ve talked already about that in this blog. It’s not an altogether nutty idea, unlike so many of the things that fly out of Trump’s mouth.


Then he goes on.

Trump told O’Reilly that the United States is letting “tens of thousands” of terrorists into the country.

Really? Tens of bleeping thousands of ’em, Donald?


There you have it. The candidate of fear strikes again.

He tosses out statements with no basis in fact. There is not a single shred of evidence that “tens of thousands” of terrorists have taken up residents in the United States. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Border Patrol, state and local police agencies, Drug Enforcement Agency and the whole array of agencies charged with protecting us are rounding up bad guys every single day.

As for the war declaration, I don’t have a particular problem with that, either.

However, I see it more as a proactive approach to fighting terrorists rather than as a reactive one.

Will it ever occur? I doubt it, not even if Donald Trump were to (here comes that shudder again) become the next president.

Here’s a novel idea: Ask Congress to declare war

President Franklin D. Rossevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, December 8, 1941.  (National Park Service) NARA FILE #:  079-AR-82 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #:  743

Former Florida governor — and Republican presidential candidate — Jeb Bush wants the United States to declare war on the Islamic State.

I am going to make a leap here and presume for a moment that he means the real thing. You know, actually make a formal declaration of war. It’s kind of an old-fashioned idea that hasn’t been carried out since, oh, Dec. 8, 1941. President Roosevelt stood before a joint session of Congress and asked lawmakers to make that declaration … which is how the U.S. Constitution prescribes it.

Well, why not do it the old-fashioned way?

I am increasingly of the opinion that war is what we’ve got on our hands. The Islamic State seems to want it. They committed an act of war Friday in France, bombing and shooting its way further into infamy, killing more than 100 innocent victims.

France has called it a wartime act. French President Francois Hollande has vowed zero mercy in seeking revenge for the killings. The Islamic State already has demonstrated unfathomable barbarism with its video-recorded beheadings of foreign captives, including Americans.

ISIL has killed tens of thousands of Muslims on its reign of terror — supposedly in the name of Islam. It is a murderous cult that must be wiped out.

This war, though, is being fought on terms with which the world is not yet familiar. There used to be a time when we defined war simply as nations taking up arms against each other. This war is vastly different.

It is an ideological war being fought with guns, knives and bombs.

Is it possible then to declare war the way this country used to declare war? I think it can be done.

The question now is this: Does the president have the will to ask for a declaration and does Congress have the courage to make that declaration?

Your thoughts? Is a war declaration possible?


Time for a declaration of war?

The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to believe it is time for Congress to step up to the plate in this “war on terror.”

As in really step up. As in it should perhaps do its constitutional duty and declare war. Formally. In writing. After a thorough and comprehensive debate.

I have been vacillating on this war vs. counter-terrorism business. Now, though, I am thinking it’s time to take the gloves off with the monsters who claim to be acting on behalf of some religious tenet.


The 9/11 attacks signaled a new era in warfare. President Bush committed troops to battle after the terror attacks on New York and Washington. He then took us to war in Iraq by invading a sovereign country after selling us essentially a bill of goods about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its bogus nuclear weapons development program.

Saddam Hussein was an evil man, but he didn’t pose an imminent threat to the United States. We went to war anyway.

So, we fought that war and then pulled out. Our war in Afghanistan, where we began fighting right after 9/11, is about to wind down.

Now the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State has decided, in effect, to declare war on the United States.

What should be our response?

It’s time for Congress to get in the game — all the way.


Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lays out the powers of Congress. It says flatly that our legislative branch — and only the legislative branch — can “declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Capture on Land and Water.”

Not since Dec. 8, 1941 has Congress declared war on anyone the way it did on the Empire of Japan after “the date which will live in infamy.” We’ve no shortage of armed combat, though, since the end of World War II. Indeed, we’ve lost more than 100,000 American lives in undeclared wars ever since — with vast majority of those deaths occurring in Korea and Vietnam.

Presidents have gone to Congress to seek permission to fight these conflicts. They’ve also exercised their role as commander in chief when the need has arisen.

This time, as we prosecute this war against terrorists all around the world, it is time for Congress to declare its intention. Does it want to declare war or not?

If we’re going to take this fight to the evil forces around the world, then it ought to be time for the government to commit itself fully to that effort.

Does a war declaration mean necessarily that we commit ground troops to battle? Not at all. It merely states that the United States means business as it seeks to destroy the forces intending to us harm.

Mr. President, get that request written and send it to Capitol Hill. Members of Congress, put up … or shut the hell up.

Let's debate this war declaration notion

Matthew Dowd, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, is quite correct to call attention to whether the United States of America has gone to war under the rules set forth by the U.S. Constitution.

He was speaking this morning on ABC-TV’s “This Week” and said the debate should have commenced 30 years ago.

The Constitution states in Article I, Section 8 that Congress has the power “To declare war.”

There it is. No argument. No qualifier. The power to declare war rests exclusively with Congress.

And yet …

We’ve been to war in Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea — am I missing anything? — without Congress voting on a declaration of war.

The discussion this morning comes just as the United States is gathering a coalition of allies to bomb the Islamic State into oblivion as it seeks to destroy what’s been called “an existential threat” to this country. Congress has authorized the training and arming Syrian rebels, but hasn’t yet debated whether to send American aviators into hostile air space to bomb ISIL forces.

That’s warfare, as I understand the meaning of the term.

Shouldn’t we be having this debate? Shouldn’t Congress declare war on ISIL if that is what the commander in chief says is occurring as we seek to “degrade and ultimately destroy” this terrorist cult?