“There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time,” insisted the late Rep. Henry Hyde in 2002, as the regime of Bush the Lesser prepared to invade and occupy Iraq. “Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to modern society. Why declare war if you don’t have to? We are saying to the president, `Use your judgment.’” Having Congress declare war, Hyde concluded, would be “inappropriate, anachronistic – it isn’t done anymore.”
Like most modern conservatives, Hyde’s conspicuous reverence for the U.S. Constitution did not extend to the document’s unambiguous provision that Congress alone has the power to commit the U.S. Government to war by way of a formal, explicit declaration. Conservatives of his type are stridently committed to strict construction of the Constitution regarding every function of the federal government, save only the costliest and most destructive one.
Regarding the war-making power — which Madison described as the greatest of all “enemies of public freedom” — conservatives sound a great deal like FDR, who dismissed constitutional limitations on federal power as the archaic residue of “horse-and-buggy thinking.”
Warfare “encompasses and develops the germ” of every variety of domestic tyranny, Madison warned. It breeds “armies, and debts, and taxes,” which are “the known instruments for bringing the many under the dominion of the few”; this is why “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continued warfare.” Madison’s indictment, while sound, neglects one aspect of perpetual war’s full-spectrum malignity: Continual warfare is, at best, a program for the incremental destruction of a nation’s independence.
UN Peacekeepers play with a Somali youth.
The impending war with Libya is now added to the list of undeclared wars being conducted by the Regime in Washington. The Obama administration, emulating the diplomacy of the first Bush administration,circumvented Congress entirely, building an international “coalition” for a UN declaration of war. It did so in stupendously cynical fashion.
Thus it is that with Washington’s tacit blessing, Saudi troops are helping Bahrain’s U.S.-equipped security forces to massacre peaceful protesters. This was done, once again, to secure an Arab League resolution asking the Security Council to authorize a “no-fly zone” in Libya, which the public was told would be a “limited” engagement. Of course, as Rep. Ron Paul points out, a “no-fly zone” is an act of war. When warplanes invade and occupy a country’s air space, and the pilots are given orders to kill, foreplay has ended and intromission has occurred.
It is abominable that 535 people in Washington assume they have the moral authority to compel Americans to make sacrifices of their lives and property in the service of what Daniel Webster (of all people) described as “the folly and wickedness” of the wars arranged by our rulers. Although requiring Congress to declare war didn’t make those conflicts morally defensible, it did put those responsible on record. Now, however, such matters are disposed of by foreign diplomats and bureaucrats who are distant, unreachable, and beyond accountability of any kind this side of eternity.
Militarist conservatives generally denounce the UN as an impotent forum incurably devoted to pacifism and appeasement. Progressive internationalists treat the world body as an instrument for the peaceful resolution of disputes. Both of those perspectives are entirely wrong.
UN war propaganda: A January, 1943 front page.
“American critics of the United Nations often zero in on its lack of serious military capacity … [and consider it to be little more than ] ineffective do-goodery gone wrong,” observed British journalist Simon Tisdall in a recent review of the book America, Hitler, and the UN. “Imagine their surprise, then, to learn that the UN was born amid nude scenes in a White House bathroom and that its primary purpose was as a war-fighting machine.”
On December 28, 1941, just weeks after Pearl Harbor – an attack of which FDR had detailed advance knowledge, and which he permitted in order to open the “back door to war” – FDR suggested to Winston Churchill, a guest at the White House, that the anti-Axis coalition call itself “the United Nations.” Churchill agreed. The following New Year’s Day, FDR and Churchill formally introduced that name and the concept of “collective security” when they unveiled the Atlantic Charter.
Roosevelt and Churchill “set about creating a robust international organization that would not only win the war but … persuade the hitherto inward-looking American people of their country’s manifest destiny as a paramount international power with global duties and interests,” summarizes Tisdall.
While the American public had never warmed to the notion of a peacetime League of Nations, “the idea of united nations joined in common cause against fascism proved immediately popular with an American public fearful of Japanese attacks on the US mainland…. The term `UN Forces’ was soon routinely substituted for `US’ `British,’ or `Russian’ forces in reports of allied military actions. American newspapers of the period took up the theme, carrying headlines such as `United Nations Powers Reveal Plan for Smashing Blows at Hitler’ … and `United Nations Pledge International Body to Keep Peace after the War.’”
Decades before George H.W. Bush claimed to have coined the expression “new world order” during a fishing expedition near Kennebunkport, FDR claimed that the term “United Nations” suddenly came to him while shaving. In his eagerness to share his epiphany, FDR supposedly barged in to tell Churchill the news while the British Prime Minister was naked and dripping wet from his morning bath.
Diverting and disgusting as that mental image might be, FDR’s queer little story is a patent lie. The fact is that the United Nations organization, both in concept and in name, was being discussed two years before America was maneuvered into World War II.
On December 8, 1939, the U.S. State Department, working with a grand provided by the Rockefeller Foundation, commissioned the Council on Foreign Relations (a group not without influence in policy-making circles) to create a “Committee on Post-War Problems.” It was through that committee that the Roosevelt administration devised its grand military strategy, including the creation of a permanent United Nations organization following the war. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the war itself was seen by Roosevelt and his handlers as a means to create that world body.
“For Roosevelt, the critical task in 1943-45, beyond winning the war, was to commit the United States to postwar international structures before peace could return the nation to its old habits,” pointed out Establishment court historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “So he moved methodically to prepare the American people for a continuing world role”; this meant, among other things, putting in place key elements of the UN system, beginning with the financial institutions – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“Above all, FDR saw the United Nations, in the words of [presidential adviser] Charles E. Bohlen, as `the only device that could keep the United States from slipping back into isolationism,” Schlesinger continued. “He was determined to put the United Nations in business while the war was still on so that the American people were still in an internationalist mood; hence the founding conference in San Francisco, which took place after his death but before victory. And, as Winston Churchill emphasized, the new international organization `will not shrink from establishing its will against the evil-doer or evil-planner in good time and by force of arms.’”
Fortunately – at least from Schlesinger’s depraved perspective – “the United States did not, as Roosevelt feared, slip back into isolationism. Within a few years after the end of the Second World War, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO, other security pacts, and overseas troop deployments entangled the United States in the outside world in ways that isolationists in their most despairing moments could hardly have envisaged.” This “upsurge in internationalism” was “a reaction to what was perceived as a direct and urgent threat to the security of the United States” from the Soviet Union and its satellites.
What this means, Schlesinger candidly admitted, is that Joseph Stalin – a mass murderer far more prolific than Hitler – was the savior of the internationalist cause: “It is to Joseph Stalin that Americans owe the forty-year suppression of the isolationist impulse.” The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Schlesinger lamented, threatened the designs of internationalists “with the prospect that haunted Roosevelt half a century ago – the reversion to isolationism.”
Oddly enough, every time the specter of peace rears its ugly head, some convenient crisis materializes to dispel such an ominous prospect. In 1951, Americans were growing disenchanted with the costs and burdens of UN-centered “collective security”; fortunately, as Secretary of State Dean Acheson later recalled, “the Korean War came along and saved us.”
Sure, more than 50,000 Americans died, along with hundreds of thousands of Koreans and Chinese, in a pointless and endlessly protracted conflict – but that’s just the price that must be paid in order to keep Americans “engaged” in the world. The same can be said of 9/11, the “Pearl Harbor for a new century” that has given rise to the longest combat engagements in U.S. history – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, like every war since our nation entered the UN, have been conducted on the purported authority of the president, fortified by UN Security Council resolutions, without a constitutional declaration of war.
Americans, especially those who choose to enlist in the military, simply have to endure such outrages, according to Schlesinger. After all, he blithely declared, “We are not going to achieve a new world order without paying for it in blood, as well as in words and money.”
The War Machine Empowered: Vandenberg signs the UN Charter.
The implications of U.S. involvement in a permanent UN organization were understood by at least some of the Senators who debated ratification of the Charter — including those who opposed this repudiation of congressional war-declaring powers.
Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-Michigan), a one-time defender of U.S. independence who became an internationalist after being morally compromised by British intelligence, observed that requiring “the consent of Congress to every use of our armed forces … would violate the spirit of the [UN] Charter” — as if that document, not the U.S. Constitution, was the one he was sworn to uphold. That confusion may have come naturally to Vandenberg, given that he had signed the Charter as a delegate to the UN’s founding conference in San Francisco.
On December 20, 1945, Truman signed into “law” a measure called the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (UNPA), which amounts to a statutory repudiation of Congress’s constitutional duty to declare war. The UNPA authorizes the U.S. President to “negotiate a special agreement or agreements with the Security Council” concerning the use of American military personnel and facilities for UN “peacekeeping” and “peace enforcement” missions.
The measure also specifies, “The President shall not be deemed to require the authorization of the Congress” to make American troops and assets available to the Security Council. In essence, Truman and his successors have used the UNPA as a perpetual declaration of war granting them authority to deploy American troops anywhere in the world under the color of the UN’s purported authority.
During the final congressional debate over the UNPA on December 18, 1945, Representative Pete Jarman (D-AL), who volubly supported the measure, admitted: “After the Congress ratifies the agreement signed by the President with the Security Council those troops are at the disposal of the Security Council. Neither the President nor the Congress can prevent their use.”
Several congressmen emphatically condemned this proposed surrender of congressional authority. Representative John Robison (R-KY) observed that “this measure before us is violative of the Constitution of the United States, which expressly provides that Congress alone shall have the power to declare war …. [I]f this measure is adopted, Congress will not be called upon in the future to declare war as provided in the Constitution.”
Representative Frederick Smith (R-OH) concurred: “This measure strikes at the very heart of the Constitution. It provides that the power to declare war shall be taken from Congress and given to the President. Here is the essence of dictatorship, and dictatorial control over all else must inevitably tend to follow.”
Representative Clare Hoffman (R-MI) admonished his colleagues — in terms that seem almost prophetic — that “the desire for peace should not lead us down a path that will bring us continuous war [and] give opportunity for the oppression of smaller nations.” Hoffman yielded to nobody in his support for American military strength and insisted that “we should continue as we are, the greatest and strongest nation in all the world” and retain our independence from entangling diplomatic pacts. However, he lamented, “we are advised that we must go in, surrendering at least a portion, not only of our sovereignty, but of our freedom of action, and be bound by the decision of the Security Council.”
Several UNPA supporters uninhibited by a capacity for shame invoked the Christmas holiday and blasphemously suggested that the UN represented the consummation of Christ’s teachings. This cynical display of sanctimony provoked Representative Howard Buffett (R-NE) — the Ron Paul of his era — to offer this rebuke:
“A number of speakers here have mentioned with quite some piousness the birthday of the lonely Nazarene, but I do not think many of them have mentioned … that it was probably the first international police force of all times that crucified the lonely Nazarene. It was the Roman legions that were in this land foreign to their own that crucified the lonely Nazarene whom we revere as the founder of Christianity. That leads me to the further observation that if great international police forces are set up we might again see the spectacle 2,000 years later of an international police force crucifying Christianity that the lonely Nazarene died for years ago.”
Perhaps the most emphatic and perceptive critique of UNPA was delivered by Congresswoman Jesse Sumner (R-IL), who declared that “our government’s peace program “is no peace program …. The movement for it is led by the same old warmongers, still masquerading as princes of peace, who involved us in a war while pretending their purpose was to keep us out of war.”
“And what have Americans gotten out of that war?” Sumner continued. “Nothing but Communism and corpses and [a] new eunuch world plunderbund….” Further, Sumner predicted, “This measure obviously authorizes the surrender to the new world supergovernment of enough American men and military might to conquer any nation in the world, including the United States, in the same way the southern states were conquered in the Civil War.”
Validation of those warnings came quickly. As Schlesinger points out, the first test of this new mechanism came in 1951, when “President Truman proposed, without reference to Congress, to send four divisions to Europe – not to engage in combat but merely to reinforce the American Army under NATO,” a treaty organization that was designed to be a regional affiliate of the United Nations. This initiative was opposed by Senator Robert A. Taft (R.-Ohio), who correctly accused Truman of “usurping authority `in violation of the laws and the Constitution.’”
“Representative Frederic Coudert of New York City introduced a Sense of the Congress Resolution declaring that `no additional military forces’ could be sent abroad `without the prior authorization of the Congress in each instance,’” recounted Schlesinger. “Truman replied that he certainly did not need the approval of Congress to send more troops to Europe, and his administration `would continue to send troops wherever it is necessary to uphold our obligations to the United Nations.’”
Truman used America’s alleged “obligations” to the United Nations to justify sending troops to serve in NATO; shortly thereafter, in a remarkable example of seamless bootstrapping, Truman invoked the precedent of sending troops to serve under NATO command as authority for his decision to wage war on behalf of the UN in Korea. Although a cease-fire ended active hostilities, the UN-supervised Korean War has never ended, and U.S. military personnel remain entrenched in the Korean peninsula, under UN command, more than six decades later.
“In the case of Desert Storm, I honestly believe history will say we got this one right,” insisted former President George H.W. Bush, who — in a fashion worthy of Saddam Hussein — celebrated his own wisdom and benevolence in an auditorium bearing his own name. Also on hand to praise the Dear Leader’s insight and bold resolution was former Secretary of State James Baker, who extolled Desert Storm as “a textbook example of the way to go to war.”
The “textbook” to which Baker referred is one from which congress’s constitutional war had been excised. Were Bush, Baker and their comrades a bit less besotted with themselves, they might have considered the possibility that the twenty-year war they began in 1991 might offer a textbook illustration of the disastrous consequences that result from ignoring the Constitution’s limits on presidential war powers. But this would mean accepting the proposition that they were subject to the rule of law, and accountable to the people whose lives and property they dispose of so whimsically.
The Desert Storm anniversary panel was moderated by Ryan Crocker, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, where the event took place. Crocker was also Bush the Elder’s former ambassador to Iraq. Given his background and the setting in which the discussion was held, it’s not surprising that nobody was interested in asking pointed and necessary questions. The closest thing to an inquiry of that kind came when Crocker asked the panel what would have happened if congress had not approved an inconsequential and constitutionally spurious resolution “authorizing” Bush to enforce a UN Security Council resolution against Iraq.
That question was eagerly answered by Dick Cheney, the ambulatory bile-sack who served as Bush the Elder’s secretary of defense before becoming the power behind the throne when it was occupied by Bush’s specially challenged namesake.
“I would have recommended that we go forward anyway,” Cheney declared. “I was a believer in the notion that we already had, from a legal standpoint, all the authority we need. I’m not a layer [but] I didn’t let that stand in the way.”
Baker eagerly seconded Cheney’s opinion, adding a critical bit of legal exegesis.
“Well, I am a lawyer,” Baker began, “and I would have argued the same thing. And I’m quite positive that the president would have gone [to war] anyway because we did have the authority under Article 51 of the UN Charter,” through which the Security Council is given the supposed authority to approve the use of military force in the interests of “collective security.”
Conservative militarists invoke “National Security” to justify suspension of due process guarantees; progressive militarists appeal to “Collective Security” to sanctify aggressive war as a “multilateral” exercise. And of course, each of those collectivist factions will embrace the other’s nostrums when convenient. The result of this depraved dialectic is a domestic garrison state on a permanent war footing, with the UN Security Council serving as an instrument of Washington’s imperial ambitions. It will be interesting to see what role the War Machine on the East River will play as Washington’s power and prestige continues its precipitous decline.
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Dum spiro, pugno!
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