Declaration? War Powers Act? AUMF? Or just AMOK?

Dropper of the bomb, founder of the CIA, inventor of war without Congress

The necessity of believing in monsters

by Tom Winter, September 17, 2016

When was it, that last time that a President of the United States Asked Congress for a Declaration of War? Let’s see. President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to make the world “safe for Democracy” April 2, 1917, by declaring war on Germany. This was spurred by the German sinking of the Lusitania, then the Housatonic, and finally, the last straw was the Zimmerman telegram, in which Germany offered Mexico German help to recover Mexican territory taken by the US.

And of course Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a Declaration of War against The Empire of Japan in reponse to the Day of Infamy.

FDR’s Vice President Harry S. Truman led the way for war without Congress: After committing troops to Korea, there came the UN Security Council’s call for military action. The tail wagged the dog. And Congress was left with the unhappy choice of spanking the President, or leaving US troops unsupported! They kowtowed, and war without Congress was on its happy way.

And as the world knows Lyndon B. Johnson asked Congress for a Declaration of War . . . Uh, no. 

But there was the Tonkin Gulf resolution. This was subjected to rigorous debate, including, most notably, Senator Ernest Gruening’s famous objection to 

“sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated.” 

Finding that their Tonkin Resolution was based on fraud, Congress repealed it in January 1971. The encroachment of the President on Congress’ prerogatives about war spurred the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which President Nixon vetoed. 

But Congress then felt so strongly about limiting military adventurism that they over-rode the veto. Nixon overcame objections like Senator Gruening’s by instituting the All Volunteer Army, which came into effect July 1, 1973. 

And then there was the AUMF (“Authorization for the Use of Military Force”) of 2001. It was the response to 9.11 and was intended to target and punish the perpetrators, the “nations, organizations, or persons” — This last is euphemism for assassination, of course. Here are the actual terms.

“the President is authorized 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 order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States”

“he determines”! Our President is authorized to determine who the enemy is and to go sic our military machine on them! What an authorization! How Halliburton, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and their ilk must have rejoiced as Congress declared “open season” on the world! 

The 2001 AUMF has been the legal justification for not just the American-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but also for drone strikes in Pakistan against Al Qaeda, missile launches in Yemen, and the September 2014 attack in Somalia targeting the leader of terrorist group al-Shabaab.

But the AUMF specifically left unchanged the requirement of the War Powers Act, a clause which mostly means the 60-day time limit.

Leap ahead to Libya: Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton testified to Congress that Congressional authorization was not needed for the military intervention in Libya, and later, when the War Powers Resolution’s 60-day limit was exceeded, President Obama himself notified Congress that it did not apply because the leadership of the operations in Libya were in the hands of NATO. (Not us, just our sock puppet.) Another bit of pro-war wiggle  room is that the War Powers Act never defined “hostilities.”

For popular support, as Neil Clark put it “Every time a country is targetted for a ‘regime change’ by the American Empire, its chief is delegitimized.” 

This means Saddam was a monster, Gaddafi was a monster, and currently, Bashar Al-Assad is a monster. But there is an exception. We have boots on the ground in Yemen. And there is no monster there. Even the unwritten rules go by the board!

Our DoD announced in May that we have “a very small number of US troops in Yemen.” Who sent them there? Who authorized it? No need: we have information that an Al-Qaida branch is there. And the President of the United States is authorized to pursue any nation, organization or person that ‘he determines.’ War ad-libitum, and we’re being taken along for the ride.

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