A friend of mine wrote me today asking for some clarification regarding the declaration of the Iraqi war and the U.S. Patriot Act. The question, if I understood it correctly, was basically asking if the President had the Patriot Act passed to gain the power to invade Iraq. If I messed some facts up, please correct me. If you have any opinions, please feel free to comment.
In response to my friends' question:
The U.S. Patriot Act was passed in haste by Congress, soon after the September 11th attack. There were many provisions that were added that gave a lot of power to many government entities, such as the Executive Branch, CIA, FBI, etc. This has stirred quite the controversy as of late, because it has come to light that the American President has authorized spying on the communications of American citizens. Is it legal? It seems to be because the Patriot Act does allow for many civil rights to be violated.
Is it ethical? That is a question we are struggling with. Congress may have passed this bill with good intention, but if you give the power to violate certain civil rights, with no form of checks and balances, then what is to hold them from using the power when it isn't justified?
Congress, later, passed what is called the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq." The senate voted in favor of this act on October 11, 2002 with a vote of 77-23. The House approved an identical resolution 296-133. So, yes. Congress did pass a law that wasn't necessarily called a "Declaration of War," but certainly authorized Bush to use force against Iraq if Hussein "did not give up his weapons of mass destruction." Of course we have found later that there were no weapons of mass destruction and members of Congress have expressed their disatisfaction with the intelligence that was brought forth to them after they found this out.
Does Congress' approval make the war legal? No. Not in the eyes of the U.N. According to the U.N. Charter, which the United States is a member of, the U.N. Security Council must explicitly approve the action, which did not occur.