Saturday, June 18, 2011

War in Libya & the Constitution

The following is a quote from Daniel Ellsberg (leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed the Vietnam War was not winnable):

" Fortunately there are a few Congresspersons, like Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee, Walter Jones and Ron Paul who got that message the first time, even if the Republican and Democratic leadership hasn't, yet.

On June 23, 1971, in an interview with CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, you said,  "I think the lesson is that the people of this country can’t afford to let the President run the country by himself, even foreign affairs, without the help of Congress, without the help of the public. I think we cannot let the officials of the Executive Branch determine for us what it is that the public needs to know about how well and how they are discharging their functions." How concerned are you that elected officials haven't learned those lessons?

Leaders in the Executive branch–in every country– know what they're doing, and why they're doing it, and they always want to stay in office and keep on running things with as little interference from Congress, the public and the courts as possible: which means, with as much secrecy as they can manage.  So I'm not exactly concerned that they're still at it (which is why I'm still at what I do), since that is so predictable, in every government, tyrannical or "democratic."

 Our Founders sought to prevent this. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, for the first time in constitutional history,  put the decision to go to war (beyond repelling sudden attacks) exclusively in the hands of Congress, not the president.  But every president since  Harry Truman in Korea–as the Pentagon Papers demonstrated up through LBJ, but beyond them to George W. Bush and Barack Obama–has violated the spirit and even the letter of that section of the Constitution (along with some others) they each swore to preserve, protect and defend.

However, as has been pointed out repeatedly, that no president has so blatantly violated the constitutional division of war powers as  President Obama in his ongoing attack on Libya, without a nod even to the statutory War Powers Act, that post-Pentagon Papers effort by Congress to recapture something of the role assigned exclusively to it by the Constitution.

This open disregard of a ruling statute (regardless of his supposed feelings about its constitutionality, which Obama has not even bothered to express) is clearly an impeachable offense, though it will certainly not lead to impeachment–given the current complicity of the leaders of both parties–any more than President George W. Bush's misleading Congress into his crime against the peace, aggression, in Iraq, or President Johnson's lies to obtain the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

As Lincoln put it, the alternative approach (which we have actually followed in the last sixty years) "places our President where kings have always stood."  And the upshot of that undue, unquestioning trust in the president and his Executive branch is: smart people get us into stupid (and wrongful) wars, and their equally smart successors won't get us out of them.

Either we the people will press elected officials in Congress–on pain of losing their jobs–to take up their Constitutional responsibilities once again and to end by defunding our illegal, unjustifiable (and now, financially insupportable) military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and air attacks on Pakistan, Libya and Yemen: or those bloody stalemates will continue indefinitely."

Some of the exact reasons why I voted for & supported Barack Obama, were that he expressed his opposition to war, his promise to always exhaust diplomatic options before ever considering going to war, and that he was a constitutional scholar.

I expected that he would strictly adhere to the Constitution, unlike his predecessor George W. Bush. However now, two years into his presidency, he has us in more wars, which means further financial trouble, but also making decisions to go to war without consulting with Congress.

Saying this is just a NATO alliance is simply putting lipstick on a pig. Military presence, dropping bombs & other acts of aggression are acts of war-- they would like to define it as "as long as there are not boots on the ground, it is not officially war."

If it is destructive like war.
It puts the people in the  Military's lives at risk like war.
Costs billions & requires many resources like war.

Well, you understand.
President Obama took us into war with Libya, boots on the ground or not, and this is a dangerous precedent.

• In a separate interview for "Meet the Press," Gates acknowledged that Libya does not represent a clear threat to U.S. national security interests, but said that other considerations make the military mission important.
"I don't think it's vital interest of the United States, but we clearly have interests there," Gates said. "And it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States." (See photo to the right for what I suspect those "interests" are. )
• Estimates are that about $1 billion has already been spent on an undeclared war in Libya, some would say only hundreds of millions, and that that will diminish in the days ahead," Lugar said. "But [who] knows how long this goes on? And furthermore, who has really budgeted for Libya at all? I have not really heard the administration come forward saying that, 'We're going to have to devote these funds, folks, and therefore it's something else we'll have to go or it simply adds to the deficit.'"

• Back door spending:

Sen. Lugar said: "There have to be objectives and a plan and an agreement that we're prepared to devote the military forces but also the money," Lugar said. "It makes no sense in the front room, where in Congress we are debating seemingly every day the deficits, the debt ceiling situation coming up, the huge economic problems we have -- but in the back room we are spending money on a military situation in Libya."

For all of the above reasons, I do think Congress must take action to correct President Obama's huge mistake.
On the adherence to the Constitution front, on the need for check & balance process, so no President can decide to bring the country to war by his/herself, my personal opposition to war, and for obvious financial reasons, bringing the US to war in LIbya must be stopped. 


D.K. Raed said...

Ahhh, Mr Ellsberg, my hero! A man who stood up, a man who still stands up, for truth. No wonder he is still a dangerous man!

I grasp why Obama did not ask for congressional blessing when the Libyan "action" was first undertaken. What I have trouble grasping are all the reasons why he has not given congress a chance to ratify since then. Is it only that he does not consider it a "war", or, that he sees the current congress is on an anti-obama spree and would love nothing more than to use it as separation point for garnering personal votes back home?

What is our noble purpose in Libya anyway? I thought it was about supporting Nato in their desire to help the citizens be free of Gaddaffi's stranglehold. To me, the effort was admirable and it is no shame on us that we have not been able to accomplish it. We tried. Time to check that box ... time to wind it up and move on ... same as we should be doing in afghanistan. If Nato or some other coalition wants to continue the effort, now's their chance.

Ellsberg made an invaluable contribution toward ending the war in vietnam. He shined the light of truth on the whole dirty deal, from the lies that got us involved in the first place to the lies about body counts, etc. Without the Pentagon Papers haunting Nixon, there might've been even more death. As it was, from the time they were published until the war ended, another 22K americans were killed. A terrible price to pay for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Fran said...

When we address the issue: Not allowing a brutal regime to harm the people, I have to ask why not Rowanda or Darfur?
Why do we only see fit to intervene in oil rich countries?

Obama is supposed to be a constitutional scholar, and I do expect better of him, to tow that line entirely- not skirt the edge or find creative interpretations, or total disregard (like Bush 2 did).

For him to give the OK singlehandedly, and essentially choose to spend at least a billion on that commitment all by himself, seems very very wrong.

Ellsberg nailed it!

Christopher said...

As President Pootie Tang spent a leisurely day playing golf Saturday with Speaker John Boehner, US-led NATO forces slaughtered nine Libyan civilians.

The body count included men, women and at least two toddlers.

Who, I wonder, is the terrorist menace to the Libyan people?


D.K. Raed said...

Re: The War Powers Act. I didn't realize today is the 90th day which means Congress now has the the chance to yank the funds.

The WPA was designed to limit the president by allowing him to deploy American forces without congressional consent for up to 90 days. It was intended to restrict the powers of the presidency after wars were fought in Korea and Vietnam without declarations of war from Congress.

After today, our involvement in the Libyan mission, now led by NATO, continues without congressional approval.

Reps Kucinich and Heck are expected to offer amendments this week giving Congress a chance to end our involvement by yanking funding. If they fail, it will be seen as tacit congressional approval, if not an outright authorization.

I still think the outset of the intervention was humanitarian because Gaddaffi's army was nearing Bengazi, the biggest rebel controlled city (apprx 1 million people). He was threatening to go house to house shooting down "the rats". We did stop that. That we did not intervene in Ruwanda or Darfur is our national shame.

Fran said...

Christopher~ Go figure!

DK ~ Yep the 90 day grace period is up, and I for one appreciate Kucinich & Conyers moving ahead with legal action regarding this mission in Libya.

The initial idea was to help with a civil uprising, but not it just looks like another link in the endless war schemes the profiteers enjoy so well.
Not comfortable with 1 person make such a huge decision.
It;s not all about money-- but this action already cost a billion w/o 1 vote... meanwhile they are talking about yanking medicare, soc sec & bumping up retirement age.... as well as just digging this country deeper in debt.
Jobless people are going without homes, food & medical care.
We are already over a trillion in the hole from Iraq & Afghanistan wars alone & still there in both places.
About to hit the $15 trillion debt overall in the very near future.
At what point do we declare bankruptcy??