1973 August 4

Supreme Court Refuses to Halt U.S. Military Operations in Cambodia


In the case Schlesinger v. Holtzman, decided on this day, the Supreme Court refused to stop military operations in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Member of Congress Elizabeth Holtzman (D–New York) was the lead plaintiff in the case. Congress had voted to discontinue all funds for military operations in Cambodia in June 1973; and on July 25, 1973, in response to Holtzman’s suit, a federal District Court ordered an end to U.S. military operations in Cambodia. The Supreme Court reversed that decision on this day.

The case was one of several in which opponents of the Vietnam War turned to the courts to seek an end to it. Several of the others involved claims that the war was unconstitutional because there had never been a Congressional Declaration of War. None of the suits were successful. In response to the Vietnam War, and the widespread feeling that the U.S. had either drifted into the war and/or been lied to by a succession of presidents, Congress on November 7, 1973, passed the War Powers Resolution, designed to limit the power of presidents to get the U.S. involved in armed conflicts. In the opinion of most experts, from both the Left and the Right, however, the War Powers Resolution has not been effective.

Learn more: Peter Irons, War Powers: How the Imperial Presidency Hijacked the Constitution (2005)

Learn more at “War Powers for Dummies”:  http://prospect.org/article/war-powers-dummies

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