- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Congress and the Constitution irrelevant today? Last week, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta stated repeatedly that the administration felt it was legally justified to use military force against Syria only with “international permission” from the United Nations, NATO or some other international body (“Panetta: U.S. pledges $10 million in aid to Syrians,” Web, March 7).

Mr. Panetta told an “almost breathless” Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, that depending on the situation, the administration would “consider” informing Congress of its decision.

The power to declare war is found in the Constitution under Article 1, Section 8. Yet the last time Congress formally declared war was in December 1941, following the Pearl Harbor attack. Since 1942, the U.S. military has been engaged in Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, Bosnia, Liberia, Haiti and Libya with only U.N. resolutions as the authority. Congress continues to authorize funds because one must “support the troops.”

By all accounts, the people’s branch of government has abrogated its constitutional authority to the executive branch, which in turn gets its marching orders from an international body. Why was this declaration from Mr. Panetta such a surprise? This practice has been going on - unconstitutionally - for 70 years.

Congress‘ approval rating is at a low and one could blame its members for this travesty, but remember who votes these people into office. When the average American knows more about college basketball ratings, the “American Idol” winner and the Kardashians than how Congress is performing, just who is to blame?

Wake up, Americans. How many lives and how much money must be wasted? Our country is in economic crisis. Don’t depend on the media or your party to choose the right candidate to end the status quo. Support the troops. Bring them home to guard the nearly 2,000 miles of U.S. southern borders.

If Congress won’t defend the Constitution, at least remind members of Congress that they still have the power of the purse. No money for undeclared wars.

ANITA GAUCK

Columbus, Ind.