According to the War Powers Resolution Act of 1973, the president is permitted a limited period of time in which he can send American troops to far-flung lands and have them shoot people. When that time draws nigh, he’s supposed to do what the Constitution says and get Congress’ permission to shoot those people. Should Congress refuse to grant such permission, the commander in chief is suppose to call the troops home and turn his attention to more domestic matters — like milking Littleton, saving Social Security, and salvaging his legacy.

Well, Bill’s 60-day “Kill-the-Slavs-for-free” pass ran out yesterday. Now, theoretically, Clinton faces an interesting dilemma: either he calls the troops home before they’ve finished whatever it is they’re doing in Yugoslavia, or pleads with Congress to give him a formal declaration of war so he can go on molesting the Serbs and any unfortunate Albanian bystanders.

Of course, constitutionally this is good and proper, and it’s truly heartening to see Congress actually remember that it’s supposed to read and follow that old document every now and then, but I’ve got to say, this doesn’t necessarily bode well for any of us.

Let’s say that Clinton chooses to impale himself on the first horn of the dilemma and calls the troops home. It might look like he lost — but maybe not. Let’s just say that he declares a victory — we don’t actually have to win for Clinton to claim we did. Besides, lying and making it look good is how this guy survives. After the cogs of the Clinton spin machine start cranking and the talking heads have bumped gums on the Sunday morning yammer shows, Republicans might well look like genocide fans for forcing Clinton bring home the guys in cammie pants.

Even if Clinton pulls the troops and somehow manages to look like a winner, the other choice is bleaker still. Congressmen are saying that we need to force the president to abide by the Constitution. I’m all for it. But is anyone worried about what a formal declaration of war would look like — provided Congress decides to grant it?

Despite all the bold heroics and John Wayne movies, wars mean one thing for certain — clamping down on liberties stateside. The government’s powers are expanded astronomically during times of war. Last time I read my Constitution, Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution permits the feds to suspend habeas corpus in troubled times — and thus give the right of due process a rude kick in the tuchas. With habeas corpus put on hold, Clinton could arrest just about anyone he wanted, and let them mold-over in a prison cell without trial.

Wouldn’t happen? Lincoln did it during the War Between the States, regularly jailing northern naysayers and trying them for sedition in military courts. Franklin Roosevelt caged up more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans — many who were citizens — during WWII just because they looked like the bad guys. During WWI, Woodrow Wilson locked up dozens of Germans and Commies, and some stayed behind bars until President Harding found the key and let them out — three years after we had walloped the Kaiser and ended the war.

Not only can the president scuttle folks behind fences, he can also send them packing. Under The Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the executive was permitted to arrest and deport any and all foreign guests he saw fit — including your Croatian grandmother who’s just visiting for the holidays.

Formal states of war also allow a commander in chief to regulate the nation’s economy — including draconian price controls, rationing, and limiting trade with foreign countries. The dream of every Democrat executive is fully granted in The Defense Production Act of 1950 — which gives the president carte blanche with the economy; any regulation is basically legal and within bounds. If you want to become a black-marketeer just to get a tank of gas or a bar of chocolate, this is the way.

And if you’re into the time-honored art of dissent, prepare for a government-sponsored towel in your mouth. During WWI, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the Post Office to refuse delivery of hundreds of magazines and newspapers. Newspaperman H.L. Mencken, who was opposed to both World Wars, was consequently gagged during both.

Writing for the Investor’s Business Daily last month, Brian Mitchell noted that “Critics of the war might run afoul of the Foreign Agents Registration Act by merely downloading and distributing information off Yugoslavian Web sites.” What about sites that have been a tad negative on the war, like WorldNetDaily, for instance? “The government might even attempt to jam foreign Web sites and intimidate domestic Internet service providers from hosting pro-Serb sites.”

Given the extraordinary powers that would be handed to the president should Congress declare war on Serbia, I think we should all be more than a little cautious — especially when you consider that the president in question is none other than Mr. Emperor himself, William Jefferson Clinton. If he’s given these expanded powers, we can kiss Lady Liberty goodbye.

With our liberties at stake, Congress should not permit Clinton to wage this war any longer, neither should it kowtow to a request for a declaration of war.

Because if it does, then I guess I’ll see you all in jail.

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