The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.
– From George Orwell’s, 1984
This morning, I came across an extremely important story with tremendous long-term negative implications for freedom in these United States. It relates to the fact that the always shady Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving to fast track an Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) for the President that would allow for unrestricted warfare against ISIS. There would be no time or geographic restrictions on this authorization. Rather than being a favor to President Obama, this is primarily a means to ensure that whoever takes control in 2017 receives a blank check for unrestrained militarism with no expiration date. This is terrifying.
Before I get into the issue at hand, some background is necessary. Many legal scholars, and indeed, even many members of Congress have admitted that Obama’s war against ISIS is illegal and unconstitutional. One of the best articles I’ve read on why this is the case, was published in the New York Times in 2014, which I covered in the post, Obama’s ISIS War is Not Only Illegal, it Makes George W. Bush Look Like a Constitutional Scholar. Here are a few excerpts:
President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.
Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.
This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.
But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.
Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda’s competitor, not its affiliate.
Mr. Obama may rightly be frustrated by gridlock in Washington, but his assault on the rule of law is a devastating setback for our constitutional order. His refusal even to ask the Justice Department to provide a formal legal pretext for the war on ISIS is astonishing.
It’s been almost two years since that Op-ed was written, and Obama is still carrying out his illegal war on ISIS with barely a peep from our incredibly corrupt and useless Congress. Indeed, the only thing Congress is scheming to do is to ensure the next President receives a blank check for perpetual war.
From the National Journal:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered members a snow-weekend surprise late Wednesday night: Quietly teeing up a potential debate on the legal underpinning for the fight against ISIS.
After months of worrying that such a resolution—known as an authorization for the use of military force—would tie the next president’s hands, McConnell’s move to fast-track the measure surprised even his top deputy, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who was unaware that McConnell had set up the authorization.
The AUMF put forward by McConnell would not restrict the president’s use of ground troops, nor have any limits related to time or geography. Nor would it touch on the issue of what to do with the 2001 AUMF, which the Obama administration has used to attack ISIS despite that authorization’s instructions to use force against those who planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By contrast, the legal authority put forward by the administration last February wouldn’t authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations” and would have ended three years after enactment, unless reauthorized.
Read that over and over and over until you get how incredibly dangerous it is.
Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, said Thursday in an email that the new AUMF “is not the one the [p]resident asked for” and “not one that would tie the [p]resident’s hands.”
Exactly. It’s not the one the President asked for, it’s far more aggressive and dangerous.
Stewart added that the process McConnell used to set up the AUMF, known as “Rule XIV,” merely sets up the authorization for a future vote, but does not put it on the calendar—meaning a vote could come at any time, or not at all. The resolution already has four Republican cosponsors: Sens. Lindsey Graham, Daniel Coats, Joni Ernst, and Orrin Hatch.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said that there is still a “wide diversity” of opinions on the issue. Some Democrats were critical of even the president’s own draft AUMF, warning that they’d need additional restrictions from the administration on troop levels and geographic boundaries before they could support any authorization. Republicans, meanwhile, worried deeply about restricting the president as this administration, and the next one, work to combat ISIS.
“This is the right thing,” said Graham, a cosponsor on the new AUMF resolution. “This is the right infrastructure to have.”
“If our Democratic friends don’t want to give this president and other presidents the ability to go after ISIS without limitation to geography, time and means—be on the record,” he added.
Indeed, I’d like to see every member of Congress go on the record as to the issue of perpetual war to fight an enemy created by our government’s own foreign policy and our “allies’” funding and armaments.
Kaine said that although he and the vast majority of Congress support combatting ISIS, he disagrees with the administration that the president is within his authority to do so. “I believe the war is illegal,” Kaine said Thursday. “I don’t think there’s a legal justification for it. And I think the greatest danger we end up doing is allowing the president to wage a war without Congress weighing in.”
Cornyn, who in December said that Republicans would not present an AUMF of their own until the president outlined a strategy, said that he nonetheless welcomed debate on the issue.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of that debate, but we need a coherent strategy from the president which we still don’t have and we also don’t need to tie the hands of the next president by restricting what the president can do,” Cornyn said.
Sorry, but wasn’t the entire idea of a legislative branch to precisely restrict what the President can do. Congress is purely ceremonial at this point. What an utter embarrassment.