Domestic shootings sadden Obama;
Why does he aid massacres abroad?
Mass shootings in the U.S. rightfully distress President Obama. Is he at all concerned about foreign massacres –- with our weapons? Using those arms, the Saudis have killed thousands of civilians in Yemen, recently including 131 at a wedding party (9/28/15).
Obama was “deeply saddened” by the Oregon college shooting (10/1/15) and so were we. But we wanted to remind him (in an e-mail letter) of Pope Francis’s question to Congress: why do U.S. companies sell munitions abroad for the mass killing of people, largely innocent people?
The most grievous current example involves billions in sales to Saudi Arabia of arms that include cluster bombs and aircraft to deliver them.* Such bombs have been globally condemned as inhumane. The Saudis use them in their Yemen aggression, killing civilians in homes, schools, markets, a refugee camp, and that wedding party.
Customary international law outlaws such acts: conducting indiscriminate attacks that harm civilians; bombarding civilian homes, communities, or vital possessions; using weapons that cause unnecessary suffering.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — foe of human rights, friend of violent extremists:
So why the massive munition shipments to such wrongdoers? The Pope’s answer: “simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” But why does the U.S. allow it, even give arms away? Why is it a partner in war crime?
* The U.S. in 2010 approved $60 billion in Saudi arms sales over 20 years and in September gave the Saudis an additional $1 billion in arms.
Obama has said in a speech, “For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.” And later in a broadcast, “Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.”*
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer
caused 584,881 deaths in the U.S. in 2013. Even more, 611,105, succumbed to
Chronic lower respiratory disease, 149,205; accidents, 130,557; and stroke,
128,978, complete the listing of the top five causes that year, out of 2,596,993
total U.S. deaths.
As for terrorist attacks, they killed 3 Americans in the U.S., all in Boston,
and 16 abroad. More people died from being struck by lightning: 23 throughout
the country, and it was a record low.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, 128 U.S. servicemen were killed, supposedly in
combat with terrorism.
Maybe Americans would be more secure if their government put more of its
resources into eradicating major ills — like the real cancer — and fewer resources
into eradicating people.
* Speech at West Point, 5/28/14; national broadcast, 9/10/14
The president is not our commander-in-chief
Republicans and Democrats see eye to eye when it comes to making this mistake. Here are two instances in 2015:
Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, repeatedly said that Barack Obama was unqualified to be “our commander-in-chief” (by not fighting “Islamic terrorism”). Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said Republicans were “undermining our commander-in-chief” (by writing the Iranian government in opposition to the agreement then being negotiated).
Others have similarly erred throughout U.S. history, referring to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln in that way. Some presidents have encouraged such a notion: At campaign stops, Lyndon Johnson would refer to himself as “your commander-in-chief.” The mass media repeatedly refer to Obama as “the nation’s commander-in-chief,” or the like.
Under our form of government, a president does not command the country and its people. Unless you’re in the military or the federal government, you need not pay any attention to the president at all, if you don’t want to.
The Constitution, in Article II, lists a dozen functions of the president. Among them is “commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States.”
As Alexander Hamilton wrote (The Federalist, 69. 1788), it amounts to “nothing more than first General and Admiral….” He added — contrary to a present-day myth — that the president’s military function would not permit him to start wars and regulate armies and fleets, that those would be responsibilities of Congress. Like Hamilton, other framers of the Constitution left abundant evidence of their intentions. (See “The Founding Fathers on the Constitution’s War Power”.)
The military rank of commander-in-chief was not invented by the Constitution’s framers. It was a century and a half old when they drew up the document in 1787 and was never meant to carry the power to decide war and peace. (See To Chain the Dog of War, by Wormuth and Firmage, 1986, p. 105 et seq.) But power-corrupted presidents and unenlightened media have blown that function into a grandiose autocracy.
From Truman to Obama: the corruption of power
Occasionally the courts have spoken. In 1952, during the Korean war, President Harry Truman seized American steel mills to keep a labor dispute from hampering production. He claimed that he could do so as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and by virtue of “inherent” powers to act in an emergency.Occasionally the courts have spoken. In 1952, during the Korean war, President Harry Truman seized American steel mills to keep a labor dispute from hampering production. He claimed that he could do so as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and by virtue of “inherent” powers to act in an emergency.
Eight weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that he had exceeded his authority, and it returned control of the mills to their owners. Justice Hugo Black, in the majority decision, denied that the president had any inherent power. He said all legislative power, including the matter of property seizure, belonged to Congress.
Concurring, Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “… The Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also commander in chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants.”
It was Truman who in 1950 started the cult of the president as war-maker when he plunged the country into an extremely bloody three-year conflict in Korea without the authorization of Congress required by the Constitution. Later presidents imitated him: Johnson and Nixon made war in Indochina; Reagan in Latin America; Bush Sr., in Panama and Iraq; Clinton in Iraq and the Balkans; and Bush Jr., in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At first, Obama appeared to be different. He opposed the 2003 attack on Iraq and he won a peace prize. He still talks to the American people about “rejecting violence.”* At the same time, he speaks of choosing military action as though it were a normal executive function.
Entering the White House promising change, Obama brought the nation the same old presidential war-making. He has conducted unauthorized bombings in Libya, Syria, and (again) Iraq; used lethal drones in sundry lands; and perpetuated the undeclared Afghan war for nearly seven of its fourteen years. Moreover, he supports the Saudi Arabian aggression in Yemen.
Early U.S. courts were willing to lay down the law to the executive.
(See “Court Rulings Affirming the War Power of Congress,”.) The Supreme Courts of modern times — though loath to have a president legislate the seizure of corporate property — have dodged the issue of presidential legislation of war. Let’s hope someone gives the justices a lawsuit they can’t refuse.
* Press conference, 10/2/15
Oct. 5, 2015
Hillary As Hawk
In her book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton admits having wrongly voted as senator to give President George W. Bush a free hand to attack Iraq. But she offers no apology for her many other bellicose choices.
Mrs. Clinton recently rebuked the Senate Republicans who signed an open letter to Iran that belittled President Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear agreement with the Iranians. A year earlier, she said the odds of reaching a comprehensive deal were “not good” and, even if it were reached, she was “personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver.” We can be skeptical that she has really softened her hard line.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, she called Senator Obama “irresponsible and frankly naïve” for promising to talk soon to Iran. Asked later on TV how she would respond to a (hypothetical) Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, she said, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran…. We would be able to obliterate them.” She said nothing about getting Congress’s prior approval for her war of obliteration, let alone preventing war by peaceful settlement with Iran.
Obama rejected what he called her “saber-rattling” a la Bush. But once he became president, he appointed her secretary of state.
As secretary, 2009 to 2013, Mrs. Clinton advocated escalating the Afghan war and bombing Syria for its (alleged and unproven) use of chemical weapons. Although unsupported by either the Pentagon or the intelligence community, she pushed intervention in Libya, accusing its leader, Muammar Qaddafi, of (alleged and unproven) murderous intentions toward political opponents. Ultimately he and others were murdered in the wake of an attack by the U.S. and NATO in 2011. In the anarchic conditions that resulted, the U.S. ambassador, John Christopher Stevens, was killed the following year.
The article below appeared on many Internet sites in December 2007.
* * * * *
When Senator Hillary Clinton voted on October 11, 2002, to turn over to President
George W. Bush the power that the Constitution vested in her and congressional
colleagues to decide whether or not to wage war — or, quoting House Joint
Resolution 114, whether an attack on Iraq was “necessary and appropriate” — she
appeared to have a conflict of interest:
Paul W. Lovinger, of San Francisco, has been a journalist, author, and activist with the War and Law League (http://warandlaw.org). His works include The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style.