web analytics

“That day” in September.

Written By: - Date published: 6:14 pm, September 12th, 2018 - 6 comments
Categories: International, us politics, war - Tags: , ,

I half thought about doing a post on the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile in 1973 – the coup that arguably marked the beginning of the end for social democratic priorities of governments across the English speaking world, and the resurgence of liberal orthodoxy. But instead, I’m going to reproduce the text of a submission given to the the US Congress committee on “Congressional War Powers” by Bernie Sanders.

It strikes me as quite remarkable stuff, given that it’s coming from a Senator who, some would say, came within a hairsbreadth of being the 45th President of the USA, and who has inspired a regeneration of Progressive tendencies across the United States. The seven and a half minute video of his submission is here, and the text (with an occasional link) is all of what follows.

Senator Paul, thank you very much for holding this hearing and let me thank our panelists for, without exception, their very cogent testimony.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states very clearly, and I quote “Congress shall have the power to declare war” end quote. The Founding Fathers gave the power to authorise military conflicts to Congress for one very simple reason – Congress is the branch of the government that is most accountable to the people. There is no question, but that over the years, Congress has allowed it’s authority over this very important issue of war making, to ebb. It is time for us to reassert that authority, and to start asking some very tough questions about the wars – and I use the words “wars” -w-a-r-s – that we are currently in.

Now some people may think that this is an interesting, abstract discussion, we have brilliant constitutional scholars, wonderful intellectual debate. But let me assure every person here, that the abdication of Congress to its responsibilities over war has had incredibly dire and horrific consequences for the people of our country, and in fact, the world. I want to bring this down to earth, and away from an abstract, though enormously important constitutional discussion.

I want to give you three examples in recent American history, where Congress did not ask the right questions – abdicated its responsibility – and the consequences were enormous. Very few Americans know that when we deal with Iran – very much in the news right now – how many people know that in 1953, the United States, along with the British, overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh, reinstalling authoritarian rule under the Shah? In 1979, the Shah was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution bringing into power an extremist anti-American government. In 1953, the United States government, without Congressional approval, thought it could simply remove the government of Iran, in order to protect wealthy oil interests. And what have been the consequences of that over the years?

Congress abdicated its responsibility.

And the second one, more relevant to my generation, was the war in Vietnam. In 1964 – now, Iran took place under Eisenhower, a Republican – in 1964, Lydon Johnston, Democrat, otherwise in my view a very great President, but in this instance, cited an attack on a US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin as a pretext for escalating the US intervention in Vietnam. But we now know, from his own recordings, that Johnston himself, doubted that story about that attack. Johnsons administration misled both Congress and the American people into a war that resulted in the loss of over 50 000 American soldiers and over 1 000 000 Vietnamese. Congress was lied to. There was no serious debate about American intervention in that war.

Third example, more recently, that we all remember was Iraq. Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the Iraq war was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. In this case, the Bush administration lied to the American people claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass distraction destruction. The result of that war? The loss of thousands of brave American soldiers and the displacement of millions of people in the Middle East and bringing us to where we are right now.

In other words, what we have seen is time and time again, disasters occur when administrations – Democrat and Republican – mislead Congress and the American people, and when Congress fails to do its constitutional job in terms of asking the hard questions of whether or not we should be in a war. And I think we need to ask that very hard question today. And here is the point that I hope American people are asking themselves. Is the War on Terror a perpetual, never ending war necessary to keep us safe? I personally believe that we have become far too comfortable with the United States engaging in military interventions all over the world.

After 9/11 Congress passed an authorisation for the use of military force, quote “against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States” end quote. The following year Congress passed the 2002 AUMF against Iraq.

We have now been in Afghanistan for 17 years. We have been in Iraq for 15 years. We are occupying a portion of Syria, and this administration has indicated it may broaden that mission even more. We are aging a secretive drone war in at least five countries. Our forces, right now, as we speak, are supporting a Saudi led war in Yemen which has killed thousands of civilians, and has created the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet today.

Clearly, these outdated and expansive AUMFs have been used by three different administrations, Republican and Democrat, as a blank cheque for the President to wage war without Congressional consent or oversight. Meanwhile we are currently, quote, unquote, “fighting terrorism” in some 76 countries, with an estimated cost of 5.6 Trillion dollars, and untold lives lost since 2001.

I think it is very clear, and our panelists I think ade the point extraordinarily well, without exception, that the time is long overdue Mr Chairman, for the UNited States Congress to respect the Constitution of this country, and to stand up for that Constitution, and to demand that it is the Congress of the United States – not a President – who determines whether our young men and women are put in harms way.

Thank you again Mr Chairman.

 

 

6 comments on ““That day” in September. ”

  1. Incognito 1

    Wow! Only one single woman has consistently opposed the AUMF since 2001.

    Interestingly, Sanders voted in favour: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2001/roll342.xml

    However, a year later, in 2002, he voted against the AUMF against Iraq: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/05/14/only-a-third-of-the-114th-congress-was-around-for-the-iraq-vote-but-a-lot-of-presidential-candidates-were/?utm_term=.1b6e16a21af1

    Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Sanders#War_in_Iraq

    As long as the cycle of violence continues and the military-industrial complex makes trillions I think it will be near-impossible to repeal the AUMF.

    Awful stuff!

    PS I hope this comment won’t end up at the bottom of the OM pile as well.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Well, I share his sentiment but must point out the flaw in his logic. In the late 18th century the practice of state-craft and foreign policy incorporated the declaration of war as precursor to military attack. It was a geopolitical foreign policy norm.

    As far as I know, the last time war was declared was the start of WWII. Since the UN was founded to prevent repeats, we probably ought to assume that the practice of declaring war was discontinued as a result. Which was why the Korean War was never declared, and those since likewise. So now we have a different geopolitical foreign policy norm: states attack others or go to war without declaring war.

    So the authority Sanders is trying to invoke actually got eliminated 73 years ago. He was only four years old, so can’t blame him for not noticing. He ought to notice now, and reframe his stance accordingly. The power to make war has been usurped in the USA by the president. His task is to attack that usurpation!

    • Bill 2.1

      It’s a question of accountability.

      So the UK didn’t get to go whole hog on Syria because of a Parliamentary vote. Now sure, the UK military is still doing shit in Syria, so…..

      Anyway, pointing to how “the executive” (if that’s the right term) has usurped the authority of Congress, and how Congress has been happy enough to give up its constitutional responsibility, and doing that while giving a basic run down of, what to most Americans would be news, is quite a big thing.

      Wonder why (I don’t really) snippets of that speech, or the points raised, haven’t been reported on CNN, The Washington Post etc. 😉

      Anyway, I was quite surprised to learn that the US, apparently, hasn’t declared war since 1941, and that it’s actively engaged in this “War against Terrorism” in about 1/3rd of the countries in the world.

    • AB 2.2

      He’s doing exactly what you say he should be doing .
      You are getting bogged down in semantic pedantry around the word ‘declare’. Change the word ‘declare’ in what Sanders says to the word ‘wage’ or ‘make’, and your elaborate objections disappear.
      B*gger the semantics – the intent of what he is saying is perfectly clear and correct, whatever word he uses.

      • Dennis Frank 2.2.1

        Your logic applies to ordinary folk like you & me. At the level of statecraft & geopolitics, the key players co-create their own rules and conventions of engagement. I described the historical reality in the centuries leading up to WWII.

        The mistake Sanders made was basically to assume that those he was speaking to were as ignorant of that historical reality as he was. Those familiar with history would have felt he was insulting their intelligence. Uncool. Also, politically ineffective. You have to engage reality to be effective in politics: moral grandstanding hardly ever works.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Government's response to preliminary referendums' results
    Minister of Justice Andrew Little has acknowledged the provisional results of the two referendums voted on in the 2020 General Election. New Zealanders were asked whether they supported the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, and whether they supported the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force. On ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • New testing requirements for international maritime crew arriving in NZ
    The Government is moving to provide further protection against the chance of COVID-19 entering New Zealand through the maritime border.  “Yesterday I instructed officials to consult with the maritime sector around tightening of the requirements for international maritime crew entering the country,” Health Minister Chris Hipkins said.  “Ultimately, this will ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Fast-tracked Northland water project will accelerate economic recovery
    The Government has welcomed the decision to approve a new water storage reservoir in Northland, the first of a number of infrastructure projects earmarked for a speedy consenting process that aims to accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.  The Matawii Water Storage Reservoir will provide drinking water for Kaikohe, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago