Permanent War: House Members Move To Give President Unchecked Authority To Launch Future Military Operations As Part Of The War On Terror

Members of Congress are taking steps to make the war on terror permanent — and make the Constitution optional — for future presidents. Only days after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, members are moving to relieve presidents of any need for approval from Congress — or anyone — in committing troops in the fight against terror. The bill would take the “The Authorization for Use of Military Force” passed after 9-11 (and used to justify two almost ten years of worldwide attacks) and extend it to allow military operations against any “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.”

While some members are still objecting to the third undeclared war in Libya (launched with no authority from Congress), other members want to give away any semblance of checks and balances on presidents in waging such operations. James Madison be banned.

The bill, approved last week by the House Armed Services Committee and heading for the floor this month, would replace the limiting language referencing Al Qaeda and the Taliban with the open-end phrase “forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.” After the rollback on standing by federal courts, it is not clear who would have standing to challenge a president’s claim of “hostilities.” The bill would also violate international law by allowing the detention of “belligerents” until the “termination of hostilities.”

The architect of this measure is committee chairman, Howard McKeon of California. Only 30 members have publicly signed a letter in protest to McKeon’s bill.

It is the latest radical change in the careful balance struck by the Framers in our Constitution. Members are continuing the trend toward the concentration of power in the president — a model expressly rejected by the Framers. During the constitutional convention and ratification conventions, the Framers repeatedly warned against giving a president this type of unchecked authority. Yet, the love for all-powerful leader seems to rest like a dormant virus in even free societies. Madison believed that “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” and created the tripartite system to have each branch jealously guarded its own constitutional power. He did not anticipate so many members eager to surrender power to an ultimate leader.

No free nation can long exist as a nation engaged in a permanent and ill-defined war. This bill itself present a clear and present danger to our constitutional values.

Source: NY Times

Jonathan Turley

49 thoughts on “Permanent War: House Members Move To Give President Unchecked Authority To Launch Future Military Operations As Part Of The War On Terror”

  1. Jill terms it “the dismantling of the rule of law,” and I agree. I’ve been trying to explain this to a dear friend of mine who was really glad that Osama bin Laden was killed, and had no qualms about the way it was done. He keeps insisting that “justice” was done. I keep trying to explain why it wasn’t. And he’s no right-wing conservative or teabagger.

    He keeps saying Well, Osama did this and that, and bragged about it, and so he deserved what he got. A trial would cost millions, he says. So what? I reply; we have millions. It would create a risk of retaliation, he says. And you think his murder doesn’t? I reply incredulously.

    He keeps jumping from bin Laden’s crimes straight to the death sentence / execution. How can I get through to him that this in-between part is the most important part?

    But bin Laden killed 3,000 people! my friend says. I keep telling him that we managed quite well to capture, arrest, and try even the monsters who ran the Nazi death camps (well, some of them), where some 6 million were killed.

    Thank you all for the comments above; they’re intelligent and reasonable, and I will use them in my efforts to bring at least one person to a better understanding of what’s going on.

  2. America is walking the plank… (Is this the weekend that it’s all supposed to end? 🙂 )

    (…and there’s reportedy been another suicide at Guantanamo.)

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    The illegal war in Libya

    By Glenn Greenwald


    That the American people must approve of wars through their Congress is no legalistic technicality (and as my very British NYU Criminal Law Professor, Graham Hughes, dryly said of his arrival in the U.S. and initial exposure to TV debates about criminal defendants “getting off on technicalities”: “I had never before been in a country where people refer to their Constitution as a ‘technicality'”). The whole point of the Article I, Section 8 requirement is that democratic debate and consent is necessary to prevent Presidents from starting self-aggrandizing wars without real limits on duration, cost and purpose; the WPR was enacted after the Vietnam debacle to prevent its repeat.

    This war, without Congressional authorization, is illegal in every relevant sense: Constitutionally and statutorily. That was true from its start but is especially true now. If one wants to take the position that it’s not particularly important or damaging for a President to illegally start and sustain protracted wars on his own, then it’s hard to see what would be important. That is the ultimate expression of a lawless empire.

    * * * * *

    A 37-year-old detainee committed suicide at Guantanamo last night, becoming the 8th detainee (by the dubious official count) to have ended his own life at that camp.

    end of excerpt

  3. From where I’m sitting… well, let’s just say, this probably isn’t gonna end well… I do hope I’m wrong, but…

  4. Gyges,
    Yeah, the fiddle music was not a good swan song.
    Buddha, thanks for the tip on the cable series.

  5. Gyges,

    They’ve been running a four part series on cable (I forget if it’s History or History International) called “Terry Jones’ Barbarian Lives”. It tells the story of the fall of Rome from the perspective of the Celtic Gauls and the Germanic tribes. Very interesting and I highly recommend it. And yes, that is Terry Jones of Monty Python Terry Jones.

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