Monday, October 31, 2005

War, Power, and the Rule of Whim

Have you heard this one yet?

The press made too big a deal out of the 2000th war fatality in Iraq. 2000 casualties are light for a war of this length. Heck, in World War II, 6,000 Marines died in the battle for Iwo Jima alone!


There's one thing right about this argument. The number of Americans killed in the Iraq war have been few compared to those suffered in past conflicts.

But that doesn't justify any of the deaths in Iraq, nor does it justify the Iraq war. More importantly, a low casualty count does not signify that the war has been "successful."

And given the false manner in which America was pushed into the invasion and occupation of Iraq, one service member killed or wounded as a result of it is one too many.


One of the most visible lessons learned from the Iraq experience is that we have allowed too much power to gravitate to the office of the President of the United States. Article II, section 2 of the Constitution states that:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States…

And that's it, folks. It doesn't give him "special powers" to do whatever he wants in time of "national crisis." No power to commit troops to combat, no "Patriot Act" permission to suspend the bill of rights, no clause that lets him disregard international treaties based on a memo from his lawyer.

If you didn't already know it, Article I, section 8 specifically authorizes Congress…
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

How have those powers migrated to the White House?


In 1950, Harry Truman committed U.S. troops to war in Korea without a formal declaration from Congress, opting instead to gain approval from the United Nations.

Lyndon Johnson launched major hostilities in Vietnam Vietnam on the basis of the Senate approved "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" that gave him broad authority to escalate U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia "as the President shall determine."

Post Vietnam, with the country weary of war, Congress passed the War Powers Act of 1973 that prohibits a president from conducting war for more than 60 days without permission of Congress.

In retrospect, while this appeared to put "war declaration" powers back in the Congress, it was really little more than a road bump to any president's ambition to freely use military force as a tool on foreign policy. One can hardly imagine a scenario in which a president would commit large numbers of troops to a conflict that the Congress would put to an abrupt halt after two months.


A combination of "hidden policy," false information regarding Iraq, partisan political maneuvering, and the 9/11 attacks prompted Congress to pass Public Law 107-243, "A Joint Resolution to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq," the blank check waived the restrictions of the '73 War Powers Act on Mister Bush's plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power by means of a military invasion.


Congress later passed The Patriot Act, which allowed the executive department to bypass key amendments in the Bill of Rights. I can find no record of anyone in Congress protesting that such an action should have required an amendment to the Constitution.

And when Mister Bush's attorney Alberto Gonzalez wrote a memo "allowing" executive privilege to ignore U.S. and treaty law in the treatment of "enemy combatants," hardly anyone batted an eye.

As he was being considered for nomination to the Supreme Court, a U. S. Court of Appeals judge ruled in favor of allowing Mister Bush to conduct military tribunals of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today, that judge--John G. Roberts--is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.


It's hardly alarmist to say that our Federal Republic is in danger. In fact, it's more accurate to say that our Republic has already collapsed. Recent poll results notwithstanding, we have a man in the Oval Office who is free do virtually anything he wants in the name of "national security," and a legislative and judicial branch that are perfectly willing to let him get away with it.

Whatever your long term political party affiliation, whatever you think about Mister Bush and his associates, whatever you think about the war in Iraq, you should be alarmed and dismayed that America no longer exists under the rule of law, but under the rule of the whim of the head of state.

We the people are the only political entity left that can restore balance of power to our Federal government, but our opportunity to do so is still over a year away.

So you might want to get busy and express your dissatisfaction with the State of the Union to your elected representatives now.


  1. Paul M10:49 AM

    You are correct in noting the death of the US republic; but do not expect the majority of the populace to be upset by the current state of affairs.

    Most people are not perceptive enough to realize they are living in a gilded totalitarian state the soviets would have envied. Now is that due to apathy, ignorance, bigotry, mindwashing; I don't know. Most Americans are sheep, following the best slogan, or sound bite. Style over substance; yea, the soviets would have been proud.

    But change will come, but it will come from the few who realize that it will take blood, courage to do the right thing despite the odds for success, and the belief that the country is worth saving.

    "True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else." -- Clarence Darrow

    “The privileges of being an American belong to those brave enough to fight for them.”
    -- Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (Later Air Force Lt. General) Commander, 99th Pursuit Squadron

    Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
    Malcolm X

  2. Paul,

    I'm hoping Mister Bush's 39% approval ratings signal that Americans are becoming more perceptive.

  3. William Bollinger11:03 AM

    "you might want to get busy and express your dissatisfaction with the State of the Union to your elected representatives now"

    Yeah, right.

    Writing our elected representatives will be a total waste of time. We've been writing and expressing disapproval for five years now, and they've been selling us out for even longer.

    Paul M said, "change will come, but it will come from the few who realize that it will take blood, courage to do the right thing despite the odds for success, and the belief that the country is worth saving". Those few will continue to be ignored.

    Change isn't going to come until a majority of Americans realize that they've thrown the last hundred years worth of progress towards freedom away. Of course, by then we'll have to work about the same amount of time to get them back.

    Seeing my country so willing to follow in the footsteps of facist Germany has caused me to pretty much lose faith in it. Americans have gotten soft and lazy, and no longer deserve freedom. A period of time as wage-slaves of our new robber-baron masters may remind them what freedom meant.

    Damn, I hate Mondays.

  4. Not lazy, depressed. The critical cognitive componant to depression is learned helplessness-the state that assesses the locus of control to be outside of oneself. People crave security which is predictability and control over the outcomes of behaviors. When a repeated action has no effect on the desired outcome, the behavior is extinguished. The robber barons of Mad Ave have known this for decades, courtesy of behavioral psychologists who pioneered the connection between sex and selling any product. And so the Puppet Masters know that if the connection between voting (or caring about it at all) and a legitimate outcome are uncoupled, people will perceive that it is out of their control and the behavior of voting/caring will extinguish. Nothing's anygood (to quote Joni Mitchell) and so you watch FOX, smoke, drink, shoot dope, shop,stare at the wall in a fog because no action will change the outcome. Learned helplessness-see Martin Seligman for more on this topic.

  5. William,

    I kind of think the think that will get our elected officials' attention will be voting them out of office. Or at the very least, making it clear to them through the ballot box that their "mandates" are shrinking.


    I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    I'm reminded of this phenomenon every time I see one of those "ask your doctor about..." commercials that push one depression/anxiety medication or the other.

    I'm only partially aware of Seligman's work. I'll have to research him.

    Thanks for stopping by and chatting.


  6. William Bollinger12:47 PM

    OK, so what's the answer?

    Diebold and faux nooz will protect that "mandate", so they don't have to care about what we "make clear to them". As lots of leftie sites mention, if you keep doing something that fails in the hope that it will succeed, you've lost it.

    I'm old and out of shape, but I've got an old Winchester, and know how to stuff gasoline and a rag into a beer bottle. Does someone yell "Charge!", or is there an option that hasn't already failed yet?

  7. Well, there was some guy out there who managed to create a national crisis with 19 men. If that doesn't affirm the power of the individual, I don't know what does.

    Historically, Americans get pissed when the economy crashes. When dubya's fiscal policies create inflation, more losses in middle-class wages, and a possible depression, then Americans might care. If we aren't spurred into action, then we really are screwed and we deserve it.

    If we eventually get a Hitler or Stalin, I still think that our oligarchy/neoconservatives will live to regret their actions. They may think they can go off to Europe when they screw up the U.S. but does anyone remember the movie "Voyage of the Damned"? It was about the SS Saint Louis oceanliner carrying Jewish refugees from Germany to Cuba in 1939. Initially, no country would accept the refugees. The majority ended up in concentration camps.

  8. "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
    Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948), "Non-Violence in Peace and War"

    I agree with you Jeff- In a war that we shouldn't even be in, 1 soldier killed is 1 too many. This is the typical response of our gov't - Lets make someone else look like they did something wrong and maybe the public will forget about what a-holes they have in office. Hopefully, that tactic is starting to be less effective.

  9. Hi, Gang.

    Well, it's frustrating. I fear we'll be in Iraq until Bush and Co run out of excuses to stay.

    And they're a creative bunch.

    More about this to come on the front page.