How Nixon’s Invasion of Cambodia Triggered a Check on Presidential Power

When President Richard Nixon ordered American ground troops to invade Cambodia on April 28, 1970, he waited two days to announce on national television that the Cambodian incursion had started. With resentment already growing in the country because of the conflict in Vietnam, the incursion seemed to be a final drop.

The news sparked criticism from many who thought the president had abused his powers by robbing Congress. In November 1973, criticism led to the adoption of the War Powers Act. Vetoed by Nixon, it limited the scope of the commander-in-chief’s ability to declare war without congressional approval.

Although the law has been an unusual challenge, presidents have since exploited gaps in the resolution on war powers, raising questions about the executive, especially during states of emergency.

READ MORE: US and Congress have long clashed over war powers

Why did the United States invade Cambodia?

LISTEN: Nixon orders invasion of Cambodia

Cambodia was officially a neutral country during the Vietnam War, although North Vietnamese troops brought supplies and weapons to the northern part of the country, which was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that stretched from Vietnam to Laos and neighboring Cambodia.

In March 1969, Nixon has started to approve secret bombing of alleged communist base camps and supply zones in Cambodia as part of “Operation Menu”. The New York Times revealed the operation to the public on May 9, 1969, triggering an international protest. Cambodia was not the first neutral country to be targeted by the United States during the Vietnam War – the United States began secretly bombing Laos in 1964 and would eventually make it the country per capita. most bombed in the world.

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