- With regard to war, international and constitutional
laws are clear. Under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, only Congress
may declare war, not the president. That, in fact, last happened on December
8, 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. As a result, all subsequent
US wars have been illegal, including Obama's against Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Libya.
- Moreover, the UN Charter explains under what conditions
violence and coercion (by one state against another) are justified.
- Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement
of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened
use. And Article 51 allows the "right of individual or collective
self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security
Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."
- In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible.
However, Charter Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral
threat or use of force not:
- -- specifically allowed under Article 51;
- -- authorized by the Security Council; or
- -- permitted by the US Constitution only amendments ratified
by three-fourths of the states can change.
- In addition, three General Assembly resolutions also
prohibit non-consensual belligerent intervention, including:
- -- the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention
in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence
- -- the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International
Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance
with the Charter of the United Nations; and
- -- the 1974 Definition of Aggression.
- Nonetheless, Washington spurns international and US laws
repeatedly, especially waging preemptive aggressive wars, what the Nuremberg
Tribunal's Justice Robert Jackson called "the supreme international
crime against peace," sentencing convicted Nazi war criminals to death
for committing it.
- The War Powers Resolution (WPR)
- This resolution holds for legal wars. Applying it to
Libya, however, is a red herring as America has no authority to attack
another country illegally and may only do so in self-defense until the
Security Council acts.
- Despite questions about its constitutionality, on November
7, 1973, the WPR was passed over Nixon's veto, authorizing Congress and
presidents jointly to decide whether to send US forces into conflict zones.
As a result, section 4(a)(1) requires presidents to inform Congress within
48 hours about any introduced to areas with ongoing or imminent hostilities.
- In it, he must explain:
- -- why US forces are being sent;
- -- the constitutional or legislative authority permitting
him to do so;
- -- the estimated extent and duration of involvement;
- -- whatever other information Congress requests.
- Section 5(b) then mandates withdrawal within 60 days
plus an additional 30 exit period unless Congress extends the time frame
for another 30 days, declares war, or unavoidable circumstances require
more time, not an unlimited amount.
- On exception applies. As commander-in-chief, presidents
may introduce US forces unilaterally into conflict areas in case of a national
emergency if America, its territories, possessions, or military is attacked.
Nonetheless, every possible effort must be made to keep Congress informed
no matter the circumstances.
- Since passed, however, presidents ignored WPR as well
as constitutional and international law, including Obama's illegal wars
with no congressional objection except some boilerplate political posturing.
- Congressional Power to End Ongoing Wars
- Congress, in fact, has power presidents lack - the power
of the purse to authorize, refuse, or end funding at its discretion.
- The Constitution's Article I, Section 7, Clause I says:
"All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;
but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills."
- Either House may originate an appropriations bill although
the House claims sole authority. Either one may also amend bills, including
revenue and appropriations ones. Although Congress rarely rescinds authorized
funds, it can easily withhold future amounts without which wars end and
troops are withdrawn.
- Congressional appropriation power is key, in the House
Appropriations Committee and Senate Committee on Appropriations, both authorized
under the Constitution's Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7, saying:
- "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but
in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and
account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published
from time to time."
- In fact, only Congress has appropriations authority requiring
passage in both Houses, including amounts for war, national defense, and
other discretionary and mandatory categories.
- As a result, ending wars and occupations is as simple
as defunding them, Capitol Hill politics aside, it only happened once post-WW
II. So ignore the political rhetoric, belying America's imperial agenda
both parties endorse, eager to wage new wars when old ones end by creating
enemies when none exist.
- How Congress Ended the Vietnam War
- An early critic, Senator Frank Church said sending troops
there would be a "hopeless entanglement, the end of which is difficult
to see." Others in Congress agreed but spoke privately, including
William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr. (the former vice-president's father),
Stuart Symington and Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.
- Even Lyndon Johnson was conflicted in taped May 1964
Oval Office conversations with his best Senate friend, Richard Russell,
telling him he faced a Hobson's choice, saying:
- "I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't,"
the former being impeachment for pulling out, the latter certain defeat
that destroyed him.
- Asking advice about the "Vietnam thing," Russell
called it the "damn worse mess I ever saw," warning we weren't
ready to send troops to fight a jungle war, and adding if the option was
introducing Americans or get out, "I'd get out" (because) the
territory wasn't a "damn bit" important.
- Three months later the Gulf of Tonkin embroiled America
for over a decade, despite Johnson's misgivings. As a result, it ruined
his presidency, shortened his life after three heart attacks, ending it
in disgrace, defeating a once bigger-than-life majority leader and President.
- In 1965, in fact, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told
- "I don't believe they're ever going to quit. And
I don't see (that) we have any....plan for victory - militarily or diplomatically,"
spoken as he began escalating dramatically, knowing the futility and lawlessness.
- As early as 1966, congressional opposition emerged. As
a result, Congress reasserted appropriations power incrementally, rhetorically
at first. However, by June 30, 1970, the Church-Cooper amendment (attached
to a supplemental aid bill) stipulated no further spending for soldiers,
combat assistance, advisors, or bombing operations in Cambodia.
- It was the first attempted congressional war-making constraint.
Nixon ignored it, but other measures followed, included the key Church-Clifford
Case 1972 Senate amendment attached to foreign aid legislation to end all
Southeast Asia military funding except for withdrawal, subject to releasing
- It was the first time either House passed legislation
to defund wars. Though defeated in the House, it showed anti-war forces
strengthening that in time would prevail.
- In June 1973, they did when Congress passed the Church-Case
amendment ending all funding after August 15. In November, Congress then
passed the War Powers Resolution overriding Nixon's veto, limiting presidential
power as explained above. By April 30, 1975, America ended its involvement
entirely with a humiliating Saigon embassy rooftop pullout.
- It could happen now but doesn't because of America's
war addiction, feeding its insatiable military/industrial complex appetite,
far larger and more powerful than decades earlier. As a result, Congress
and presidents go along, acceding to its authority over their own, pious
rhetoric aside about pursuing peace, humanitarian concerns, and democratic
values, causing millions of deaths, vast destruction, and immeasurable
human misery in the last two decades alone.
- Obama today wages illegal wars against four countries
and numerous proxy ones for unchallengeable US dominance, at the same time
spurning growing popular needs during a deepening Main Street depression.
- Spending around $1.5 trillion annually for militarism,
as well as trillions more for Wall Street and other corporate favorites,
he's heading America closer to tyranny and ruin. So far, however, public
opposition is lacking, despite the urgency to act or face consequences
too dire to imagine.
- A Final Comment
- A May 25 ACLU alert highlighted Section 1034 in HR 1540:
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
- Titled: "AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL QAEDA,
THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES," it authorizes military force
anywhere against suspected terrorists, including domestically.
- As a result, the ACLU warned:
- "Congress may soon vote on a new declaration of
worldwide war without end, and without clear enemies." If enacted
by both Houses and signed by Obama, it'll be "the single biggest handover
of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern
- On May 26, HR 1540 passed 322 - 96. On May 12, a companion
Senate bill, S. 981, was introduced and referred to committee for consideration.
So far, no further action was taken, nor is it clear whether Section 1034's
language will be included unchanged or at all.
- The situation bears watching at a time America heads
closer to tyranny and out-of-control militarism, menacing peace and democratic
values everywhere. Isn't that incentive enough for mass outrage to stop
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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