Domestic shootings sadden Obama;

Why does he aid massacres abroad?

WALL commentaries

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).

  Saudi warplanes bomb hospital in Yemen [Photo source]

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:

  • Conducts public beheadings of those accused of protesting, of religious or sexual offenses, of witchcraft, etc. Victims—including juveniles — don’t get fair trials.
  • Unofficially supports terrorism, having financed Osama bin Laden’s gang for years. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.
  • Refuses to rule out nuclear bombs. The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. says his nation may need nukes, and they are not negotiable (CNN, 3/27/15).

          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.

Is terrorism cancer?

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 heart disease.

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
by Paul W. Lovinger 

    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:

Her husband, Bill, was of course the former chief of the executive branch. And during her eight years as first lady, Mrs. Clinton never objected to Bill’s eight wars, attacks, or interventions: in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Yugoslavia. He bombed Iraq in 1993 soon after taking office, again in 1996, and from 1998 till he left office. For a time, he was dropping bombs on Iraqis and Yugoslavs simultaneously in 1999.

None of those acts of war were authorized by Congress. The House of Representatives even voted its opposition to the undeclared bombing war on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro (4-28-99). Bill paid no attention and carried on his one-sided warfare for eleven weeks.

Mrs. Clinton had been instrumental in persuading Bill to attack Yugoslavia, according to multiple writers. Biographer Gail Sheehy wrote in Hillary’s Choice (p. 345): “On March 21, 1999, Hillary expressed her views by phone to the president. ‘I urged him to bomb [Yugoslavia].’ “ Bill was indecisive. She invoked the Holocaust, alluding to claims of mass killings by Milosovic and his men, and asked, “What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?” (Originally it was to defend Western Europe against a possible Soviet attack.) Days later the president gave the go-ahead for war, thereby usurping the constitutional prerogative of Congress.

The Milosovic-massacre tale (which Senator Clinton repeated in her 2002 Senate speech) was subsequently debunked by several European pathological teams. The Clinton-NATO air raids, however, killed a couple of thousand civilians. A year later Amnesty International charged that international law was violated by indiscriminate bombings.

Calls aggression defense

Speaking in behalf of the Iraq war resolution Senator Clinton praised her husband’s bombing of Iraq and argued that “undisputed” facts linked Saddam Hussein to weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons program, and to ties to Al-Qaeda. But such a contention was indeed disputed by facts presented by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, buried stories in the leading papers, and many Internet sites. She denied that the resolution amounted to a rush to war, though it came from the White House, which had already decided to wage war on Iraq.

When Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003, Senator Clinton called it defense. Even after the supposed facts about WMD and terrorist ties were exposed as monstrous lies, the senator defended her vote for war, never renouncing it. She claimed it was just to support negotiation, but the resolution said nothing about negotiation. And she claimed she had been given incorrect intelligence, but cited no details. She opposed any timetable for withdrawal and advocated more troops and permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

As of last September [2007], that supposed defensive war was estimated, by the British polling agency Opinion Research Business, to have taken 1.2 million Iraqi lives. [In January 2008, ORB revised its estimate to about 1.03 million Iraqis, both military and civilian.]

Even if the lies she fell for had been proven true, the senator’s lack of concern for international law would still stand revealed. The Charter of the United Nations, which as a U.S. treaty has the force of law, says (in Article 2): “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state....”

The North Atlantic Treaty — the basis for the organization that Bill Clinton, with his wife’s encouragement, perverted from a defensive to an aggressive force — echoes that principle (in Article 1): “The Parties undertake ... to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Furthermore, before there was a UN or a NATO, there was the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928, renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. It was used to convict Nazis of crimes against peace, and it remains in effect as a U.S. treaty.

Threatens Iran and others

Just as Senator Clinton accepted Bush and Cheney’s fiction about danger from Iraq and supported the 2003 aggression against that country, she tends to accept their drive for an encore against Iran. At Princeton University in January 2006, she said, “A nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel, its neighbors and beyond. The regime’s pro-terrorist, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric only underscores the urgency of the threat it poses.”

In her own, anti-Iranian rhetoric, she threatened a nation that had not attacked anyone for centuries and that — U.S. intelligence now states — had given up its atomic bomb program three years earlier: “We cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran — that they will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.” Three months later, Bush used nearly the same expression when asked if he planned a nuclear attack on that country: “All options are on the table” (AP, 4-8-06).

Last September 26 [2007], Senator Clinton voted for a Senate resolution urging Bush to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a major branch of the Iranian armed forces, as a foreign terrorist organization. She has echoed the proofless Bush charges of support for Iraqi insurgents (mostly Sunni) by Iran (Shiite).

She has refused to rule out presidential use of nuclear weapons, notwithstanding the 1996 World Court ruling that use of the weapons violates international humanitarian law because they blindly strike civilians and military targets alike. And she voted to end restrictions on countries violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Senator Clinton has called for more toughness on Syria and leftist regimes in Latin America, supported arms and training for various repressive dictatorships, opposed bans on land mines and cluster-bomb exports, and advocated even more military spending than Bush requested. More contributions from war contractors have reached Hillary for President than any competing campaign.

The senator boasts of her experience. She is indeed experienced in jumping to bellicose conclusions on the basis of meager facts and false information. If she wins, I expect her to follow the pattern of husband Bill in shooting from the hip in actions abroad, to ignore both the Constitution and international law, and to try to prove that a woman president can be just as warlike as any man.

Paul W. Lovinger, of San Francisco, has been a journalist, author, and activist with the War and Law League ( His works include The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style.