by Ron Paul
(followed by a WALL commentary)
While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.
The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.
President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011 the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.
It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week the media reported that the US military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the US is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the US military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the US military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.
The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with US backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?
The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.
Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the US Constitution will be all but a dead letter.
When it comes to Obama’s
A WALL commentary
It has been nearly a year since this site told of President Obama’s request for congressional rubber-stamping of his wars in Iraq and Syria. It appeared
tantamount to an admission that they had been unlawful. See “Terrorist group
wants to suck U.S. into religious fight, Kucinich says, warning against war
Obama gets his wish and more in Senate Joint Resolution 29, introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader, from Kentucky. It is cosponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, a GOP presidential candidate from Florida, and Republican Senators Coats (IN), Ernst (IA), Graham (SC), and Hatch (UT)
Its language bears a striking similarity to the resolution that Bush Jr. submitted and Congress rubber-stamped in 2002 to authorize his impending attack on Iraq.
Despite congressional Republicans’s perennial refrain that the Democratic President Obama has exceeded his constitutional power, McConnell aims at thrusting nearly unlimited war power upon the president.
In doing so, McConnell appears to be tossing out all the normal procedural safeguards: referral to committee, public hearing, discussion, debate. He wants war and is strong-arming it through—democracy be damned. The resolution was “read” the second time on January 21 and placed on the Senate calendar.
If passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, it could be seen by subsequent presidents as a green light for perpetual, world-wide war, employing ground troops and any methods of mass killing in our arsenal – including carpet bombing and even nuclear weapons. As soon as the first GIs are captured and executed, expect cries to “take off the gloves.”
“Terrorism” in general, ISIS (or ISIL) in particular, is becoming a bogie to excuse extended conflict, the crushing of constitutional liberties, and the giveaway of tax billions to the war industry. At one time “Communism” served that function.
The bill does not pin down the location of the war or its objective. How then do we know where it is to be waged and when it ends? Maybe it will be waged globally and last for our lifetimes—and that could be what the chicken-hawks want.
Which are the bad guys?
In 2001, the 9/11 assault by a handful of suicidal airplane hijackers so panicked the country that on 9/14 Congress surrendered its exclusive war power under the Constitution. It let George W. Bush fight anyone that he determined had anything to do with the crime.
Bush chose to attack Afghanistan, although the war-authorization act said nothing about Afghanistan and no Afghans had been among the hijackers. (He ignored the most culpable regime, Saudi Arabia.) The purpose supposedly was to prevent future terrorist incidents. Who remembers the scope or purpose of that war act ?
The following year, falling for Bush Jr.’s lies about weapons of mass destruction, Congress again gave up its constitutional power to decide war and peace. It let Bush decide whether it was necessary and appropriate to attack Iraq, which in reality he had already decided. He launched his blitzkrieg in March 2003 (against the same nation that Reagan had armed in support of its aggression against Iran and that Bush Sr. had attacked in 1991).
For over fourteen years, U.S. bombs, bullets, and missiles have been terrorizing, killing, and maiming the people of Afghanistan. About 2,400 U.S. servicemen have given their lives there for no visible purpose, some 4,500 in Iraq. For thirteen years, U.S. intervention has been destroying Iraq and its people. Far from protecting us, the destruction in both countries just makes us more enemies. No end appears in sight. (For comparison: the Vietnam-Indochina war lasted nine years and sacrificed some 58,000 GIs.)
Forget Obama’s promise to leave Afghanistan in 2014 and his boast of withdrawing from Iraq. The Afghan intervention continues, and though he once condemned the “dumb war” in Iraq, he has started another there. Bush Jr. ventured into Pakistan also, and Obama expanded the operations there.
Another question about fighting ISIS/ISIL: How are we to tell the bad guys from the civilians?
Studies show that civilians suffer most casualties in such wars. Yet the military does not count them. They are just “collateral damage.” Take a 2015 Brown University study estimating that about 210,000 civilians had died violent deaths as a consequence of the wars started by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Moreover, it found many more children, women, and men had died from hunger and illness arising from the wars than were killed by bombs or bullets.
Of course, we’re the good guys.
Violations of international law
The aggressive U.S. military operations in those three countries, as well as Syria, Libya, and Yemen, disregard international law. None of the six countries has ever attacked the U.S., whose government has been violating the following pacts. As U.S. treaties, they are all part of “the supreme law of the land” (Constitution, Article VI).
Another important rule is the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which bans attacks on civilians or indiscriminate attacks that hit civilians. It is now generally regarded as a part of customary international law. Yet the Senate has still not ratified the protocol. How about it, Senator McConnell?
The resolution: main text
The title and effective sections of Senate Joint Resolution 29 follow below. We omit all the preliminary “Whereas” clauses, 23 of them, totaling over 800 words.
Note that the resolution assumes (without proof) that U.S.national security is threatened by the Islamic State and “its associated forces, organizations, and persons, and any successor organizations.” That could take in the whole world, and the war could go on indefinitely. The terms are not defined.
It allows the president to “defend” the national security against all those supposed foes by using whatever force he considers “necessary and appropriate”—and there is no military or time limitation. The Obama proposal had a three-year cut-off.
The phrase “necessary and appropriate” appeared in the Bush Jr. resolution for attacking Iraq and in the Obama proposal. These 17 words: “in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by” have been taken word for word from the Bush resolution. In 2002 the “continuing threat” was posed by “Iraq.” Now it is posed by “the Islamic State of Iraq” etc.
Last time, the “continuing threat” from Iraq proved to be a total lie by our government. Bush’s supposed defense of our national security turned out to be naked aggression, at a vast cost in lives and treasure. Will we be twice fooled?
The misspelling of supersedes and the loose use of punctuation are the least problems with this perilous legislation.