by Michael Boldin
Recently, an Associated Press report reaffirmed to me that the leadership of the two major political parties in America are totally in favor of continuing war in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Senate agreed to spend an additional billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as lawmakers passed a massive bill that funds the Pentagon.
The bill sailed through by a vote of 98-0
I was immediately reminded of a common sense observation by Thomas Paine:
"In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes."
Interestingly enough, that doesn't sound much different than what we experience today!
A TWO-HEADED MONSTER
There are only a few politicians that are truly opposed to war. Some people are amazed or even angry when I state my position; that war is not the fault of just Bush and the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party as well; they are equally responsible for starting, fueling, and funding the war machine.
If my memory hasn't failed yet, it wasn't just the Republican Party that got us into this horrible mess. The Democrats voted for it as well, promoted it as a necessity, and even bombed Iraq on a regular basis throughout the 1990s; all the while aggressively supporting UN sanctions that resulted in over one million innocents dead.
Not only did both parties authorize the invasion en masse, they continue to join together to overwhelmingly approve billions more dollars to continue the killing.
So, even though Bush will someday leave office and cease being a "war president," we must start facing the fact that it's not just him or his neo-conned Republican party that are guilty of war crimes; it's the American political machine, fronted by both the Republicans and Democrats, that is completely addicted to the power and profits of warfare. It's the American political machine that we must resist.
The only way to improve America's image is to end our wars immediately. We must also bring home all our troops, not only from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from the more than 100 other countries where the U.S. government interferes with its so-called military presence. Of course, once we achieve this, those Americans who would nonetheless wish to leave their families and jobs to help oppressed people overseas would still be free to do so.
But, such a "withdrawal" will never happen as long as the Republican and Democratic parties are ruling over us.
By now, it's become rather clear to those of us "not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest" that even when the People want peace, the two major parties pursue war.
Another 98-0 vote should make that quite obvious.
BACK TO BASICS
The standard belief is that all American wars have been fought to "protect freedom." On the contrary, these wars have been the primary impetus for the growth of centralized power in the federal government. Wars have eaten away at our liberty, crippled our economy, intensified our national debt and shamed our image as the "land of the free." We have lost freedom because of these wars; not secured it as the politicians have told us.
Simply stated, the Constitution allows for the commencement of war only after a declaration of war from the Congress. By waging wars without the constitutionally required declaration of war, the president has blatantly violated the Constitution.
Some people have tried to tell me that a declaration of war wasn't necessary after Congress delegated this power to president in late 2002. They claim that this was a legal substitute for the Constitutionally-required Congressional declaration of war.
This is utter nonsense.
First of all, the power to "declare war" was given to Congress by the Framers so that the legislature - the branch most closely tied to the People, whose money and lives would be put at risk - would be making the decision of whether or not war would commence. The commander-in-chief only has the power to wage war once war has been declared. It's the representatives of the People who have the power to declare war. Such power is clearly enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.
Furthermore, in accordance with the Tenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has long held it to be illegal for any branch of the federal government to delegate or transfer its constitutional powers to any other person or branch of government.
Simply put, unless a direct attack is being repelled, Congress is where war starts. Period.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land that We the People have instituted to limit the actions of federal officials. Like it or not, politicians must abide by its restrictions on power. If they don't like a particular part of the Constitution, or even if they think it's outdated, the only appropriate action is to call for a Constitutional Amendment, not just ignore the law.
By waging wars without a Congressional declaration, the Executive branch has repeatedly violated the Constitution. By delegating its power to declare war to the president, the Congress has repeatedly violated the Constitution as well.
DANGEROUS TO LIBERTY
Beginning with Harry Truman and the Korean War, Democrat and Republican presidents alike have taken the position that it's no longer necessary for Congress to declare war. Presidents send armed forces to fight wars all over the world without Congressional declarations.
The sad reality, though, is that Congress can stop or even prevent such foreign entanglements at any time by simply refusing to finance them. Such power is not insubstantial. The current war in Iraq has now been going on for over 15 years, has spanned the administration of three presidents, and multiple congresses under the control of both political parties. This proves that Congress is just as responsible as the Executive for this unconstitutional war.
So, in Iraq, we see yet another failure of our vaunted Constitutional Republic to maintain a peaceful America.
Thus, the Constitution has become little more than a glorified sham, as Congress and the Executive have habitually succeeded in using it as a cover to violate our inalienable rights. Since our current wars were started on unconstitutional grounds, any further funding and continuation of them is illegal and unconstitutional. In this sense, any funding bills approved by the Congress are illegitimate.
So, unfortunately, unless we do something ourselves, we're stuck waiting for an unconstitutional Congress to take the lead. With yet another war funding bill "sailing through the Senate," the prospects for peace don't look too good.
The painful truth is that Democrats and Republicans aren't going to end this war. We will, by refusing to play by their rules.
WHAT THE FOUNDERS THOUGHT
As the founders stated so often, the greatest threat to our liberty is our own government. This is the only reason we even have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If our government wasn't dangerous to freedom, these documents wouldn't even be necessary.
Historically, what is the number one way that governments take away freedoms from the People? The founders knew quite well; through its military. This is why many of the founders vehemently opposed a standing army; a professional military force. They knew that such an institution would grow into a beast, and be used to involve the country in dangerous, costly, destructive and foolish wars. Even more so, they warned that politicians would eventually use the troops to ensure a subservient citizenry at home.
There is only one solution to these threats to our liberty and safety. We must finally act on the warnings of the Founders against standing armies. If we would have dismantled the massive American military empire years ago, the federal government wouldn't have had the power to create the catastrophe we face today. They wouldn't have had the ability to set up a massive military presence throughout the Middle East. Thus, they would never have been able to kill over a million in Iraq with unconstitutional wars, sanctions, and invasions. Without all this death, we wouldn't have had terrorist attacks on our country, and therefore, we wouldn't have had a "war on terrorism." Without the war on terror, we never would have experienced the Patriot Act, warrantless spying, secret courts, military tribunals, rendition flights, and other attacks on our rights.
None of this would have been surprising to the founders. James Madison gave us ample warning, "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."
STOPPING WAR NOW
As stated so clearly in the Declaration of Independence, the American people have every right to write a new declaration of independence from the illegitimate, unlawful, and unconstitutional acts of their rulers. Such rights are inalienable and absolute in all people. Rights cannot be altered or abolished; governments can.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, felt that governments should be abolished periodically just to keep political leaders in check. Shortly before the Constitution was ratified, he wrote to Abigail Adams, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive."
My hope is that such a spirit of resistance will rise once again before too many more innocent lives are lost.
Michael Boldin [send him email], an outspoken critic of the American political system, is a senior editor and contributing writer for PopulistAmerica.com.