FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Return to Folly in Iraq

U.S. politicians are exploiting the gruesome beheadings of two American journalists to whip up war fever against ISIS, the “criminal gang” masquerading as an organization of devout Sunni Muslims that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. The American propaganda campaign seems to be working if recent polls are accurate.

No decent person is anything but appalled by those executions. But are they grounds for the United States to go to war?

No, they are not. Barack Obama says his job is to protect Americans wherever they are, but he doesn’t cite the source of this power. No such power is implied in the president’s oath of office, which obligates him only to “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

Article II of the Constitution vests the “executive power” in the president, but that just means he has the power to execute laws passed by the legislative branch. There is no blank-check language about protecting Americans, particularly outside the country.

Section 2 of that article of course says the president is “commander in chief” of the armed forces, but no matter how many times the war party repeats that phrase, it cannot be reasonably interpreted as unilateral power to take the country to war. Article I reserves the power to declare and finance wars to Congress alone.

True, since the end of World War II, presidents have assumed the unilateral power to make war, and most members of Congress have been more than happy to defer. But this does not mean that we who understand the danger of autocracy should acquiesce.

Obama says he can go to war against ISIS anywhere without “authorization” from Congress. (No one in government or the media uses the word declaration.) In his interview on Meet the Press, Obama said,

I’m confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people. And I’m always going to do what’s necessary to protect the American people. But I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy in, to debate it.

But understanding, buying in (whatever that means), and debating are not the same as authorizing through a declaration of war. Just because most members of Congress would hate to sign off on a years-long, offensive war less than two months before an election, that’s no excuse for Obama to exercise autocratic powers.

Note that Obama speaks of protecting the American people. He means Americans both abroad and at home. Americans of course are free to travel anywhere. If the U.S. government is to have the power to protect or avenge them abroad, it will have to be able to exercise military power globally. Such imperial power, which the government has long exercised, should disturb peace- and freedom-loving Americans precisely because it creates the potential for perpetual war, invites retaliatory terrorism, and requires high government spending and borrowing.

It may be taken for granted that a president can go to war when an American is killed overseas, but that kind of power is too dangerous to accept meekly. Americans, especially war correspondents, should be on notice that they travel at their own risk. This may sound callous, but the alternative is a global empire that we cannot afford either in blood or treasure.

What about protecting Americans at home? Here the irony of Obama’s position is striking. U.S. intervention in the Middle East is what endangers Americans at home. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda hit Americans here because for many years the U.S. government had perpetrated and supported violence against Arabs (Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese and others) — and it still does.

No al-Qaeda affiliate existed in Iraq before George W. Bush launched his invasion and occupation in 2003. ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and its execution of the two journalists was retaliation for recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. No doubt those murders were intended also to goad Obama into sending American forces, which would boost ISIS’s recruitment and prestige. Bin Laden did the same thing, bragging he would bleed the United States bankrupt through long years of war. He succeeded.

Hold on tight: Obama is about to replicate Bush’s folly.

Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF’s monthly journal, Future of Freedom.

 

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail