Professors Claim Invasion Violated International Law
Law-professors agreed last night that President Nixon's decision to send U. S. troops into Cambodia was in violation of international law, but they denied that Nixon usurped his constitutional prerogatives in doing so.
"I don't think that the President even tried to justify it under international law," said Abram J. Chayes '43, professor of Law and former legal advisor to the State Department. "He just said I want to do it and I'm going to do it."
"Even Johnson had a legal memorandum on the Dominican Republic, but apparently the President thinks that is old hat," he said.
Jerome A. Cohen, professor of Law, agreed with Chayes' judgement on the decision's legality. "We say it isn't an invasion of Cambodia, and yet it's obviously an infringement of its territorial sovereignty," he said.
"In foreign countries-and not necessarily hostile ones-it will be seen as a clear obliteration of international law," he said.
In the case of South Vietnam, he said, the U. S. has claimed that it is defending the South Vietnamese government under the provisions of the SEATO treaty, but Cambodia is not a member of the SEATO organization.
Cohen went on to say that the invasion raised more questions under international law than constitutional law, "Obviously we have been waging war without a declaration of war for a long time and this is simply an extension of it." he said.
Alan M. Dershowitz, professor of Law, agreed with Cohen that the invasion did not go beyond the President's constitutional powers, "My own view is that as disgraceful and counterproductive as the invasion was, it is not unconstitutional." he said.
"The President certainly has the power to make such a decision without informing the other side before he does it, but after that. Congress has the power-indeed the responsibility-to review it and rescind it if it wishes." he said.
"The Senators who have suggested that the President did not have the power to make such a decision are just wrong, but on the other hand, the President is wrong if he continues to wage war without the consent of Congress," he said.
"You might say the ball is in Congress's court." he said, referring to the proposed legislation by Senators to cut off funds for continued military activities in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Chayes also said that Congress has the means to oppose Nixon's latest escalation. "It's been done over and over again without Congress's approval. My own feeling is that if Congress wants to stop this, it should cut off the President's money."