Monday, November 10, 2008

What Constitution?

Under the US Constitution, the power of declaring war is quite clearly vested in the Congress. Once the declaration is made, the President, in his/her capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the military, executes that declaration. At least, that's how it's supposed to work and how it did work for for over 230 years. Then, along came George W. Bush and his notion of "pre-emptive war". Now we are learning that the unitary president has been secretly authorizing military raids into other nations, including those with whom we are not at war, via a secret executive order. From today's NY Times:

The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States. ...

The 2004 order was a step in the evolution of how the American government sought to kill or capture Qaeda terrorists around the world. It was issued after the Bush administration had already granted America’s intelligence agencies sweeping power to secretly detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in overseas prisons and to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on telephone and electronic communications. ...

Bush administration officials have shown a determination to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provides a legal rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent.
[Emphasis added]

Two things are notable about this news. The first strikes at our own democracy. Traditionally, notice of all executive orders are published in the Federal Register. In this manner, citizens (including those serving in Congress) are put on notice as to an executive action; there is at least some notion of transparency involved. Here, however, we are dealing with "classified" actions, and it is only through happenstance (usually an appalled leaker) that the information gets out to the public. One wonders how many other "classified" executive orders have been issued in the last eight years involving our military and intelligence gathering agencies which will never see the light of day unless the new administration labors over what records there are to find them.

The second strikes at the very concepts of sovereignty and aggression. Invading another country is considered by sane people as an act of war. No "expansive definition of self-defense" covers the situation in the real world, and, contrary to all of the neocon philosophy, that is the world in which nations must operate. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world exhaled in relief as the results of the November 4 election were announced?

But it's not over yet: the current administration still has 71 days to work its mischief.

71 days.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it amazing that you leave out one important fact: the President can send troops without the approval of Congress and W. has been criticised by Joe Biden for not doing what this disclosure says he was. It is just crazy to think that this wasn't available until now...another example of the media muzzling themselves until their "messiah" is elected.

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing to add. Your post should be a black box warning on the masthead of every newspaper and on the chyrons of every television station.

OOh - my word verification is "noxic" - that should be a term to describe Bush's last days' actions.

9:31 AM  

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