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The War on Terror Is a Success – for Terror –

Posted by M. C. on January 6, 2022

Terrorist Groups Have Doubled Since the Passage of the 2001 AUMF

By Nick Turse

It began more than two decades ago. On September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror” and told a joint session of Congress (and the American people) that “the course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain.” If he meant a 20-year slide to defeat in Afghanistan, a proliferation of militant groups across the Greater Middle East and Africa, and a never-ending, world-spanning war that, at a minimum, has killed about 300 times the number of people murdered in America on 9/11, then give him credit. He was absolutely right.

Days earlier, Congress had authorized Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determine[d] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons.” By then, it was already evident, as Bush said in his address, that al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks. But it was equally clear that he had no intention of conducting a limited campaign. “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there,” he announced. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”

Congress had already assented to whatever the president saw fit to do. It had voted 420 to 1 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate to grant an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would give him (and presidents to come) essentially a free hand to make war around the world.

“I believe that it’s broad enough for the president to have the authority to do all that he needs to do to deal with this terrorist attack and threat,” Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) said at the time. “I also think that it is tight enough that the constitutional requirements and limitations are protected.” That AUMF would, however, quickly become a blank check for boundless war.

In the two decades since, that 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force has been formally invoked to justify counterterrorism (CT) operations — including ground combat, airstrikes, detention, and the support of partner militaries — in 22 countries, according to a new report by Stephanie Savell of Brown University’s Costs of War Project. During that same time, the number of terrorist groups threatening Americans and American interests has, according to the U.S. State Department, more than doubled.

Under that AUMF, U.S. troops have conducted missions across four continents. The countries in question include some of little surprise like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and a few unexpected nations like Georgia and Kosovo. “In many cases the executive branch inadequately described the full scope of U.S. actions,” writes Savell, noting the regular invocation of vague language, pretzeled logic, and weak explanations. “In other cases, the executive branch reported on ‘support for CT operations,’ but did not acknowledge that troops were or could be involved in hostilities with militants.”

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How State Legislators Can Bring Our Troops Home | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on March 3, 2021

Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the “Militia Clause,” permits Congress to call forth the National Guard into federal service “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” In 1990, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that National Guard units could be deployed overseas for training exercises without the consent of a state’s governor. The Justices wisely said nothing about active-duty combat deployments, knowing that such an action only falls under Congress’ purview to declare war.

by Dan McKnight

In summer blockbusters and other entertainment, the United States Armed Forces are almost always portrayed through the lens of their most elite units, such as the Navy SEALS or the Army Rangers. But while the special forces are heroes in their own right, they’re not the most irreplaceable piece on the board. That designation falls to the humble National Guard, the real backbone of America’s military.

I’ve served in the Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, and the Idaho National Guard. In my deployments to Afghanistan, I found the Guard to be the best trained of them all.

Numbering nearly 350,000 men and women, these citizen-soldiers — who when they’re not donating time to Uncle Sam are working full-time jobs, running businesses, attending college, and raising families — have carried more than their fair share of the burden. Since the launch of the Global War on Terror in 2001, 45 percent of deployed personnel have been National Guard units, with 57,000 Guardsmen located overseas as recently as December 2020. And the costs have been felt; 18.4 percent of the subsequent casualties have been Guard members.

For two decades of war, the National Guard has tried to live up to its motto of “Always Ready, Always There.” But the undeniable fact is that every American soldier sent to nation-build in Afghanistan or patrol the streets of Iraq is one less person who can protect and aid his fellow Americans back home.

Any policy that prioritizes the demands of foreign populations over that of Americans cannot be described as intelligent. Worse, any policy that prioritizes endless war, overseas imperialism, and war profiteering cannot be described as moral.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress (and they alone) with the power to make war on another nation. But since World War II, Congress has been content to obfuscate accountability and defer decision making to the Executive Branch, which James Madison called “the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it.”

That, unfortunately, has been the result. The United States currently has active-duty soldiers in a total of 150 nations across the globe. Our troops are operating in 65 of those nations engaged in counter-terrorism training missions; and in direct-fire combat operations in 14 countries. Meanwhile, seven countries are on the receiving end of drone strikes courtesy of the U.S. military. All without a declaration of war.

The closest imitations of a congressional war declaration are the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) from 2001 and 2002, which are nothing but a blank check acquiescence to the president. There is a way, however, to strongarm an absentee Congress into reasserting its war powers, while simultaneously bringing our troops home. The answer is to “Defend the Guard.”

The brainchild of Delegate Pat McGeehan of West Virginia — who served as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer across the Middle East — and inspired by the Principles of ’98, “Defend the Guard” is state-based legislation that would prohibit National Guard units from being deployed into active combat without a declaration of war by the U.S. Congress.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the “Militia Clause,” permits Congress to call forth the National Guard into federal service “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” In 1990, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that National Guard units could be deployed overseas for training exercises without the consent of a state’s governor. The Justices wisely said nothing about active-duty combat deployments, knowing that such an action only falls under Congress’ purview to declare war.

“Defend the Guard” would not prevent the National Guard from deploying to other states to offer assistance, or participating in training missions overseas, or going into federal service for the reasons explicitly written in the U.S. Constitution. Its sole, narrowly defined purpose is to prevent the National Guard from being used in illegal wars and requiring that congressmen put their names on the dotted line before they ask our soldiers to put their boots on the ground.

For decades, the movement to restore Congressional war powers has run into roadblock after roadblock setup by the Beltway Blob. The fact is, outside of a handful of senators and congressmen — such as Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, Ro Khanna, Matt Gaetz, and Thomas Massie — very few on Capitol Hill seem to care about the Constitution or their duty to our men and women in uniform. And in the rare moment Congress musters enough votes to act, they’re easily swatted away by presidential veto.

On the other hand, “Defend the Guard” bypasses the Blob altogether by decentralizing U.S. foreign policy and taking the fight directly to state legislators. These representatives are more diverse of thought, closer to their war-weary voters, and more susceptible to grassroots lobbying. This year, “Defend the Guard” bills have already been introduced in thirteen states and will be introduced in a dozen more by the end of the 2021 legislative session. Cosponsors include both Republicans and Democrats, with endorsements as varied as Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to Brigadier General John Bahnsen, one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. military history.

The fight has already begun. Last week, a House chairman in my home district of Idaho used chicanery to block “Defend the Guard” even though it had majority support on his committee. His local party is already preparing to censure him.

Earlier this week, I was invited to testify before the relevant committee of the South Dakota House of Representatives to advocate on behalf of a “Defend the Guard” bill. Opposite me was South Dakota’s adjutant general, the commander of the State’s National Guard and occupant of a position filled by men uniquely capable of putting the demands of Washington D.C. before the needs of their home units.

The general admitted that since 9/11, the South Dakota National Guard has been deployed continuously around the world, with only a 42-day exception. His defense was that these men and women “didn’t join the South Dakota militia to only stay here.” With respect, these patriotic Americans joined to uphold and protect the U.S. Constitution with the trust and understanding that it would be followed.

The most astonishing admission from the adjunct general was his claim that, “If this was a resolution, I’d probably be okay with it.” That is because a resolution is toothless. A resolution will do nothing to pressure the federal government or impede the profits of the military-industrial complex.

That’s why “Defend the Guard” is a threat to their imperial machinations. It’s real, actionable legislation that can curtail their ability to wage endless war by stripping them of the most important resource used to fight it. It only requires a handful of the nation’s local representatives to stand up on their hindlegs and say to the War Party and its empire, “You cannot take our Guard without first following the Constitution.”

The road to restoring war powers is through the states. And “Defend the Guard” is how we’ll do it.

This article was originally featured at Responsible Statecraft

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How empire is destroying the American republic – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on October 6, 2020

McCrystal’s deployment of anti-terrorism technology to manipulate domestic political opinion during an election is surely incompatible with republican values. One would have thought that the McCrystal revelation would have generated more controversy as it comes on the heels of the astonishing abuse of another anti-terrorism tool, NSA surveillance, by FBI agents who submitted phony warrants to the FISA court in order to frame Trump campaign operatives.

Written by
William Smith

Many American hawks fail to grasp one of the most axiomatic rules of history: when a republic becomes an empire, it is no longer a republic.

For all their concern about spreading democracy abroad, many hawks show a decidedly noticeable failure to recognize that imperial adventures weaken republican government at home. The devolution from republic to empire has a number of causes, some practical and some cultural, with most on display in our current politics. 

On a practical level, the massive national security commitment necessary to maintain an empire tends to overwhelm the republican safeguards against unnecessary wars. In recent decades, for example, the national security state has gone to war in numerous countries — Libya and Syria are only two examples — on the basis of an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was enacted by Congress to sanction attacks on the perpetrators of 9/11.

The use of that AUMF to justify wars unrelated to 9/11 made these wars blatantly unconstitutional. Yet it is apparent that most of Congress is now a mere appendage of the national security state and no longer protects its constitutional prerogative to sanction war as this would require difficult votes as well as jeopardize the largesse bestowed by defense contractors. Madison’s famous argument in Federalist #51 that, in a republic with separated powers, one branch of government would “resist encroachments of the others” becomes obviated in an empire. Empires tend to ignore republican rules. 

The other practical difficulty of maintaining a republic when it aspires to empire is that the technologies created to fight wars abroad end up undermining republican government at home. In imperial Rome, the legions themselves became a threat to domestic order; in the present U.S. the domestic attacks are more subtle. 

Numerous media reports indicate, for example, that an anti-Trump PAC, Defeat Disinfo, is employing retired Army General Stanley McCrystal to deploy a Defense Department-developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool to counter candidate Trump’s social media posts and to create “counter-narratives” using a network of “paid influencers.” The AI technology was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to counter the propaganda of terrorist groups overseas. The culture of our present officer corps seems a long way from that of General George Marshall who once remarked to Eisenhower, “I may make a thousand mistakes in this war, but none will be the result of political meddling!”

McCrystal’s deployment of anti-terrorism technology to manipulate domestic political opinion during an election is surely incompatible with republican values. One would have thought that the McCrystal revelation would have generated more controversy as it comes on the heels of the astonishing abuse of another anti-terrorism tool, NSA surveillance, by FBI agents who submitted phony warrants to the FISA court in order to frame Trump campaign operatives. 

As observers from both parties have noticed, military technology and tactics have bled into domestic policing with local police departments deploying armored vehicles and drones. One need not be a Trump partisan, nor a rabid libertarian, to conclude that the technologies developed to maintain the American empire are now being used to undermine our republican traditions. 

Tufts law professor Michael Glennon has concluded that the national security state has in fact grown so large that the “Madisonian” branches of government — the presidency, Congress and the courts — are no longer in charge of national security policy. Glennon asserts that we now have a “double government” in which policy decisions are made by “a largely concealed managerial directorate, consisting of the several hundred leaders of the military, law enforcement, and the intelligence departments and agencies of our government” who “operate at an increasing remove from constitutional limits and restraints, moving the nation slowly toward autocracy.” Despite his clear desire to do so, Trump’s inability to extricate us from Afghanistan is confirmation that the Madisonian branches of government no longer determine policy.

The rise of a double government was captured perfectly in a Tweet by Michael McFaul, an Obama national security official, who commented that, “Trump has lost the Intelligence Community. He has lost the State Department. He has lost the military. How can he continue to serve as our Commander in Chief?” To those with an imperial outlook, the President serves at the pleasure of those who run the empire, not the voters. To Michael McFaul, the unelected members of the foreign policy establishment determine the legitimacy of elected leaders. 

While legal breakdowns and the technologies of American empire are overwhelming our republican traditions, the much deeper problem is that American leaders have eschewed a constitutional culture and adopted an imperial culture. 

Republican institutions cannot operate unless its leaders embody a certain temperament or “constitutional personality.” They must demonstrate measured and restrained habits even with political opponents. They will seek common ground and compromise. They would, in Hamilton’s words, “withstand the temporary delusion” of popular pressures and engage in “more cool and sedate reflection.”  

In foreign policy, this constitutional temperament would, in Washington’s words, “observe good faith and justice toward all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all” and “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded.”  In other words, republics have leaders of a certain quality and type, leaders who demonstrate restraint not only in domestic politics but on the world stage. 

Contrast this constitutional temperament with our current crop of leaders. In domestic politics, we have fierce, vituperative and irrational partisanship. There is no spirit of compromise and no willingness to show good faith with political opponents. Our politics, as Hobbes said of the state of nature, exhibit “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” In foreign policy, the imperial personality shows itself in “maximum pressure” campaigns, an “inveterate” antipathy toward Russia, and chest-thumping assertions of American exceptionalism. The constitutional personality exhibits a certain humility; the imperial personality exhibits none. 

Removing the practical dangers of empire would be hard, but not impossible. Restoring congressional authority in matters of war and peace and banning the domestic use of military and intelligence technologies are both achievable goals for those wishing to restore republican values. However, the imperial culture of our national security elites flows out of a will to power that is, at root, a character flaw. Changing laws is easy compared with improving character. 

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At the RNC, Rand Paul Is Right About the Need To End Wars, but Trump Hasn’t Ended Any –

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2020

Trump even vetoed a bill that would stop him from military action in Iran without congressional approval.

Tonight Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) spoke on behalf of President Donald Trump’s reelection. His remarks were heavily influenced by Paul’s own longstanding positions against excessive foreign military interventions, but only loosely tied to Trump’s actual record.

“I flew with him to Dover Air Force Base to honor two soldiers whose remains were coming home from Afghanistan,” Paul said. “I will never forget that evening. I can tell you the president not only felt the pain of these families but the president is committed to ending this war.

“President Trump is the first president in a generation to seek to end war rather than start one. He intends to end the war in Afghanistan. He is bringing our men and women home.”

You all may remember that Barack Obama ran for president also promising to end our overseas wars, and it did not happen.

As we approach the end of Trump’s first term, we cannot help but notice that the president has not, in fact, ended any wars and has in fact risked escalation of military engagement between the United States and Iran when he approved the drone-strike assassination of an Iranian general.

It’s true that Trump is promising to bring thousands of troops home from Afghanistan, and that’s wonderful, assuming it all happens and he completes the pullout. The Trump administration is, in reality, resisting any and all attempts by Congress to rescind the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that previously gave President George W. Bush permission to wage war against Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his speech, Paul railed against Biden for supporting this war. But when Congress, in a rare act of bipartisanship, passed a resolution stopping the president in engaging in any further military action against Iran without congressional approval, Trump vetoed it. Paul voted for this resolution and has consistently voted to rescind the AUMF.

And despite Paul’s attempts to insist tonight that Biden and the Democrats will continue overseas wars or start new ones, the congressional record shows that in reality, Democrats have been joining with Paul, agreeing with him in votes to bring the troops back home. It’s actually the White House and hawks within the Republican Party who have really been standing in the way.

Now both the Democratic Party 2020 platform and Trump’s 50-point plan for his second term promise, yet again, to end the wars and bring the troops home. For those who truly oppose foreign military intervention, the appropriate way to look at Trump’s first term is not unlike Obama’s. This promise has not been kept.

Watch more about Trump’s failed promises to end war:

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Preventing Liberty from Becoming a Coronavirus Fatality – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on April 1, 2020

Given the historical record of how previous emergencies spawned corrosive policies that continue to menace basic freedoms years or decades later, it is urgent to seek effective curbs on the growing abuses of power in the current crisis.


Public attitudes about the coronavirus outbreak increasingly exhibit features of a collective panic. That development creates the danger that government measures designed to deal with a very real public health problem may lead to enormous collateral damage both to the economy and the freedoms that Americans take for granted.

Given the historical record of how previous emergencies spawned corrosive policies that continue to menace basic freedoms years or decades later, it is urgent to seek effective curbs on the growing abuses of power in the current crisis. We must resist being stampeded into endorsing whatever policies self-interested officials insist are necessary.
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Governments at all levels have taken ever more extreme (even outrageous) actions in an effort to stem the outbreak. The governors of New York, California, and other states have issued orders closing most private businesses and requiring residents not engaged in “essential” activities to remain in their homes.  Nevada’s governor greatly restricted doctors from prescribing an anti-malaria drug that Trump administration experts suggested held promise for treating coronavirus, because in the governor’s opinion, such prescriptions might lead to hoarding.  U.S. Justice Department officials secretly asked Congress to give the executive branch the authority to seek orders from federal judges to detain indefinitely any individual during the current emergency or any future one.

Although appalling, such attempted eviscerations of constitutional liberties should not be surprising.  Governments invariably exploit crises to expand their powers—often to a dangerous degree. That certainly has been the track record in the United States throughout our history.  Worse, a significant residue of expanded powers always persists after the crisis recedes and life supposedly returns to normal.

Most, but not all, of the abuses and unhealthy expansions of power have occurred during wartime. World War I led to statutes and executive orders that still haunt us more than a century later.  For example, various administrations have used the Espionage Act of 1917 to punish whistleblowers and intimidate investigative journalists. Barack Obama’s administration even waged a campaign to harass and intimidate journalists who published leaked material. Officials conducted electronic surveillance of both New York Times reporter James Risen and Fox News correspondent James Rosen in an effort to identify their sources.  The government named Rosen as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in an espionage case brought against his source.  The administration asserted that it had the right to prosecute Risen, even though it chose not to take that step.

Later presidents used other laws passed during World War I in ways the legislators who enacted them never contemplated.  For example, in August 1971 Richard Nixon declared a national emergency under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 to impose import tariffs, close the gold window for international payments, and establish domestic wage and price controls.

World War II produced additional abuses and dangerous precedents. The most alarming example was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order putting Japanese Americans in “relocation centers” (concentration camps).  In an especially shameful ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of his action.  That decision is not just a matter of academic or historical interest.  Later administrations developed contingency plans along the lines of FDR’s infamous executive order.  In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, suggestions surfaced that Muslim aliens (and even Muslim-American citizens) should be subjected to internment measures as part of the war on terror.

During the Korean War, President Harry Truman expanded the number and scope of executive orders, further enlarging the power of the presidency—a power surge that already had reached troubling levels under Woodrow Wilson and FDR.  Truman’s most flagrant initiative was his attempt to seize control of the nation’s steel mills as a wartime measure.  Fortunately, on that occasion the Supreme Court fulfilled its constitutional duty and struck down his dangerous executive power grab.

More recently, the policy responses to the 9-11 terrorist attacks included that 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), ostensibly to wage war against Al Qaida and its allies.  However, the AUMF became a veritable blank check for presidents to wage wars anytime, anywhere, for any reasons those presidents deemed appropriate.  Domestically, the response to 9-11 included the so-called Patriot Act and its legendary erosions of the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as the weakening of other substantive and due process rights guaranteed in the Constitution.  That measure was a crucial building block in the growth of the current pervasive surveillance state.

Wars and other “national emergencies” produced an array of lesser, but still undesirable, expansions of governmental power and the narrowing of individual rights.  For example, the federal government’s response to the economic and financial dislocations of the Great Depression included Roosevelt’s executive order banning the private ownership of gold.  That annoying limitation continued until the mid-1970s.

The historical record also demonstrates that “temporary” measures enacted to deal with a specific crisis frequently prove to be anything but temporary.  One insidiously corrosive “temporary” change was the establishment of the withholding provision to the federal income tax during World War II.  That temporary measure is still with us, and the effect has been revolutionary.  Paying the tax in installments that show up as nothing more than an entry on an employee’s paycheck stub disguises the extent of the actual tax burden on that individual and reduces the emotional impact.

The fundamental lesson from these historical episodes is that Americans need to resist the casual expansion of arbitrary governmental power in response to the current coronavirus crisis.  New local and state governmental assaults on civil liberties came early and already are disturbingly plentiful. In early March, authorities around the United States ordered schools to close and ether prohibited large-scale public events or pressured the sponsors to take such action.  A growing number of jurisdictions soon went further. San Francisco ordered residents to “shelter in place,” barring them from engaging in any “nonessential” activity outside their own homes.  All of this occurred before California Governor Gavin Newsom and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set a new, even more intrusive pattern by ordering statewide lockdowns.

Beyond the trampling of property rights and other crucial liberties, the coronavirus episode has led to worrisome erosions of the democratic political process.  Louisiana and Georgia were the first states to cancel primary elections, citing the danger of contagion among polling place crowds. Other states, including Ohio and Maryland, soon followed

Both the nature and scope of the expanding restrictions should alarm all defenders of liberty.  In mid-March, North Carolina went beyond shutting down individual enterprises or even types of businesses; authorities there placed most of the Outer Banks off limits to tourists and other outsiders.  Police established checkpoints to examine identifications and required special permits for access.  There is more than a small echo in that measure of the ubiquitous police or military checkpoints and “show your papers” demands that countries in the old Soviet bloc implemented, and various dictatorships around the world require today. It’s an ominous policy and image.

Sentiments in favor of comprehensive lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus reflect understandable emotions, but panic is always a poor basis for policy decisions.  The economic costs of such radical responses to the coronavirus outbreak are enormous, and the damage to basic liberties ultimately may prove even worse. Ugly, potentially dangerous precedents are being set left and right.  In virtually every case, officials imposed restrictions without any provisions for appeal—or even public comment. Worse, they did not seem to recognize any limits to their power with respect to a health crisis. The steps taken to date go far beyond the longstanding authority of local governments to impose quarantines on individuals or families diagnosed with certain highly contagious diseases.  Entire cities and states are now being put on similar lockdowns, even though the overwhelming majority of residents show no signs of coronavirus

Worries about expansive government diktats and precedents are especially warranted if the coronavirus outbreak is neither unique nor a crisis of short duration.  Originally, there was a pervasive assumption that the emergency would last only a few weeks, and then life in America (as well as other countries) would return to normal.  But in Trump’s March 16 press conference, both the president and his health policy advisers indicated that the outbreak might last until July or August.  Some experts in Britain fear that it could last until spring 2021.

That possibility creates some very serious concerns. There is no realistic way that a complex, inter-connected market economy can operate effectively for an extended period of time with a country—or even major portions of it–on lockdown.  A similar problem arises if the coronavirus does not prove to be a one-time visitor, but resembles influenza outbreaks that ebb and flow each year. In addition to the adverse economic consequences, forcibly cocooned populations will have every justification to become furious if arbitrary bureaucratic edicts repeatedly uproot their lives.

There is an imperative reason to monitor and curb some of policy precedents being set.  Future overcautious or egotistical public officials will be tempted to impose drastic measures even in response to lesser health or other emergencies.  Government orders closing private businesses fundamentally alter the relationship between individuals and the state in a dangerous fashion. Travel restrictions that confine people to their homes or bar them from specific areas are further cause for alarm.  Such restrictions always have been a hallmark of authoritarian political systems. Likewise, the postponement of elections is unsettling. Giving incumbent officials such authority creates an obvious potential for abuse—especially if the incumbents face the prospect of electoral defeat.  Perhaps worst of all is the possibility of the federal government being able to seek the indefinite detention of people based on nothing more than a Justice Department request and a compliant judge’s order.

Given the historical record of how previous emergencies spawned corrosive policies that continue to menace basic freedoms years or decades later, it is urgent to seek effective curbs on the growing abuses of power in the current crisis. We must resist being stampeded into endorsing whatever policies self-interested officials insist are necessary. Benjamin Franklin observed that “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Americans must keep that wise admonition in mind during and after the coronavirus crisis.

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Why Is Congress So Afraid to Use Its War Powers? – Rolling Stone

Posted by M. C. on January 16, 2020

The encounter, Wyden says, is a reminder that there are real and dire consequences to Congress’ inaction. “I’m always struck by how these debates that go on in Washington,” he says, “that seem so sterile compared to when a mom is in front of you in a small town in Oregon, crying because for her, what she wants to know, and what she deserves to know, is if her boy on the other side of the world is going to be safe.”

It was the rarest of sightings: Last week, a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives approved a resolution to restrict the president’s ability to go to war with Iran. The vote happened one week after the Trump administration assassinated via drone strike Iran’s top general. Government officials have offered only the flimsiest of evidence to justify the attack while putting the country on the path toward yet another conflict in the Middle East.

What’s so striking about the House’s symbolic rebuke of Trump is that Congress bothered to do it at all. For decades, America’s elected representatives have green-lit bloated defense budgets year after year, allowed Democratic and Republican presidents to wage endless wars around the world, and done little to assert the legislative branch’s authority when it comes to one of the most difficult decisions a lawmaker may face. The last time Congress formally declared a state of war was in 1942 with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. In other words, they’ve all but abdicated their constitutional duty to decide when the country goes to war and with whom.


“Our system is not designed to have one person in charge of war,” Rep. Justin Amash, an independent from Michigan who quit the Republican Party last year, tells Rolling Stone. “But that’s the system we now have.”

How did this happen? Why is Congress asleep at the wheel?

On September 18th, 2001, Congress passed legislation authorizing the use of military force against the planners of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, paving the way for the Afghan invasion and hunt for Osama bin Laden. Almost a year later, on October 16th, 2002, Congress passed another Authorization for the Use of Military Force, better known as an AUMF. This one paved the way for President Bush’s war in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

But in the years that followed, the scope and meaning of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were stretched beyond recognition. They were used by Democratic and Republican administrations to justify interventions on multiple continents and against terrorist organizations and individuals that, in some cases, didn’t exist at the time the two AUMFs were enacted. Instead of pushing back, Congress went mute. With a few lonely exceptions over the years, elected officials from both parties stood idly by as different administrations ordered troops all over the world, often with shifting objectives and no end in sight, costing tens of thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. “We’ve let the executive walk all over this institution,” says Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

There’s a constitutional argument for Congress reclaiming its war powers; there’s also a practical one. Elected members of Congress are the voices of the people back home. Without real debate over whether to declare war, citizens have little say over one of the most serious and consequential decisions a government can make.

“I represent more troops than any other member of this body. I buried one of them earlier today at Arlington,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the House, in announcing his intention to vote in favor of the resolution. “If our servicemembers have the courage to fight and die in these wars, Congress ought to have the courage to vote for or against them.”

Interviews with the lawmakers who have resisted endless wars dictated by the White House shed light on why the legislative branch has been reluctant to step up.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a stalwart progressive, calls a vote to go to war “one of the most difficult votes anyone can make.” Foreign policy is a difficult and unpredictable issue that can sink the careers of politicians with an eye on higher office. Merkley says members of Congress see limited incentive to do their job given the potential consequences.

“There’s a collective group of senators and House members who are like, ‘Well, if we leave this with the president we don’t have to take these tough votes over the use of force,’” he says. “People look back at the vote to authorize the administration to go after Saddam Hussein. Biden probably thinks about that just about every day.”

In 2018, Merkley introduced legislation that would repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and put a three-year expiration date on future AUMFs. The bill never got out of the Foreign Relations Committee. Still, Merkley continues to speak out about the need for Congress to challenge presidential war powers. “Presidents did not respect the actual language of the AUMFs,” he says, “so we need to explicitly slap them upside the head and restore the role of Congress.”

Rep. Amash, a libertarian who is a critic of runaway defense spending and interventionist foreign policy, says Congress’ silence on war powers is indicative of a broader abdication by rank-and-file lawmakers on most business…

The most recent debate over the Trump administration’s killing of Qasem Soleimani, who led Iran’s elite Quds Force, revealed another possible reason for Capitol Hill’s reluctance to reclaim its authority on war powers: a fear of looking weak. In one example, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the prestigious Judiciary Committee, ridiculously accused House Democrats of being “in love with terrorists” for daring to debate (as is their constitutional duty) President Trump’s authority to declare war and launch future attacks on Iran. Collins, who later apologized, wasn’t the only Republican trotting out this tired weak-on-terrorism soundbite…

Sen. Bernie Sanders cited the potential for such attacks as one reason lawmakers have gone silent on war powers. “I think perhaps the answer has been the fear that somebody will be seen as being soft on terrorism, not prepared to defend the troops or whatever,” Sanders says. “But the truth is we have seen under Republican and Democratic administrations Congress not utilizing its responsibilities under the Constitution.”…

The encounter, Wyden says, is a reminder that there are real and dire consequences to Congress’ inaction. “I’m always struck by how these debates that go on in Washington,” he says, “that seem so sterile compared to when a mom is in front of you in a small town in Oregon, crying because for her, what she wants to know, and what she deserves to know, is if her boy on the other side of the world is going to be safe.”

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American National Government




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Tomgram: Michael Klare, It’s Always the Oil | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on July 12, 2019

Michael Klare

What more did you need to know once Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, claimed by the Taliban, was Iranian-inspired or plotted, one “in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests”? In other words, behind the Sunni extremist insurgents the U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001 lurks the regime of the Shiite fundamentalists in Tehran that many in Washington have been eager to fight since at least the spring of 2003 (when, coincidentally enough, the Bush administration was insisting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had significant ties to al-Qaeda).

It couldn’t have made more sense once you thought about it. I don’t mean Pompeo’s claim itself, which was little short of idiotic, but what lurked behind it.  I mean the knowledge that, only a week after the 9/11 attacks, Congress had passed an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, that allowed the president (and any future president, as it turned out) “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

In other words, almost 18 years later, as Pompeo knows, if you can link any country or group you’re eager to go to war with to al-Qaeda, no matter how confected the connection, you can promptly claim authorization to do your damnedest to them. How convenient, then, should you be in the mood to make war on Iran, if that country just happens to be responsible for terror attacks linked to the Taliban (which once did harbor al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden). Why, you wouldn’t even need to ask Congress for permission to pursue your war of choice. And keep in mind that, recently, Congress — or a crew of corrupted, degraded Republican senators — simply couldn’t muster the votes or the will to deny President Trump the power to make war on Iran without its approval.

Let me hasten to add that the supposed link to al-Qaeda isn’t the only thing the Trump administration has conjured up to ensure that it will be free to do whatever it pleases when it comes to Iran. It’s found various other inventive ways to justify future military actions there without congressional approval. Pompeo and crew have, in that sense, been clever indeed. As TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of the upcoming book All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, points out today, there’s only one word largely missing from their discussions of the increasingly edgy situation in the Persian Gulf, the most obvious word of all. But read him yourself if you want to understand just how, when it comes to Iran and that missing word — to steal a phrase from the late, great Jonathan Schell — the fate of the Earth is at stake. Tom

The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis
Oil’s Enduring Sway in U.S. Policy in the Middle East
By Michael T. Klare

It’s always the oil. While President Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent U.N. report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II)….

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Sold: Oil Rack - Ampol with six bottles, reproduction sign ...



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Endless War and the Lack of a Progressive Critique of the Pentagon – Original

Posted by M. C. on October 31, 2018

So, while it’s true that the military establishment failed to win those “hearts and minds” in Vietnam or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, they sure as hell didn’t fail to win them here. In Homeland, U.S.A., in fact, victory has been achieved and, judging by the latest Pentagon budgets, it couldn’t be more overwhelming.


A few months back, I wrote a note to one of my senators to complain about America’s endless wars and received a signed reply via email. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it was a canned response, but no less telling for that. My senator began by praising American troops as “tough, smart, and courageous, and they make huge sacrifices to keep our families safe. We owe them all a true debt of gratitude for their service.” OK, I got an instant warm and fuzzy feeling, but seeking applause wasn’t exactly the purpose of my note.

My senator then expressed support for counterterror operations, for, that is, “conducting limited, targeted operations designed to deter violent extremists that pose a credible threat to America’s national security, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.” My senator then added a caveat, suggesting that the military should obey “the law of armed conflict” and that the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that Congress hastily approved in the aftermath of 9/11 should not be interpreted as an “open-ended mandate” for perpetual war.

Finally, my senator voiced support for diplomacy as well as military action, writing, “I believe that our foreign policy should be smart, tough, and pragmatic, using every tool in the toolbox – including defense, diplomacy, and development – to advance U.S. security and economic interests around the world.” The conclusion: “robust” diplomacy must be combined with a “strong” military.

Now, can you guess the name and party affiliation of that senator? Read the rest of this entry »

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Rand Paul: Congress Moves to Give the President Unlimited War Powers | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on May 8, 2018

Handing war-making power from Congress to the executive branch is not an exercise in congressional power. It is the final and full abandonment of that power. It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and it should be stopped.


In the near future, Congress will debate a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). I use the word “debate” lightly. So far, no hearings have been scheduled, and no testimony is likely to be heard unless something changes. That’s a shame, because this is a serious matter, and this is a deeply flawed AUMF.

For some time now, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to declare war. The status quo is that we are at war anywhere and anytime the president says so.

So Congress—in a very Congress way of doing things—has a “solution.” Instead of reclaiming its constitutional authority, it instead intends to codify the unacceptable, unconstitutional status quo… Read the rest of this entry »

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Senators Will Use War Powers Act to Try to End US Involvement in Yemen War – News From

Posted by M. C. on March 1, 2018

The war is the fault of one of the planet’s poorest countries, on the other side of the globe whom did not attacked US and does not poses such a threat to the US homeland.

At a Wednesday press conference, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) unveiled the bipartisan Senate resolution which aims to force an end to the US military involvement in the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.

The bill makes use of the 1973 War Powers Act, which allows any legislator to introduce a resolution which would compel a withdrawal from any conflict that was not specifically authorized by Congress in any Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Neither of the two extent AUMFs have anything to do with the attack on Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi movement… Read the rest of this entry »

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