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. If only there was some sort of historic example of a Republic that during a time of increasing military action decided to hand more and more power to a chief executive. It’d be really great if it had a short and snappy name, maybe something that rhymed with home.

  2. Speaking of illegal wars & war crimes, on May 19 the war against Libya will reach its 60-day mark. On that date this war will be in explicit violation of the War Powers Act.

    The War Powers Act is a U.S. law that grew out of the protracted struggle against the war in Vietnam. It requires a president involved in a military conflict lasting longer than 60 days to come before Congress for authorization to continue the war.

    Knowing that the Iraq war was immoral, illegal and based on lies, the Obama administration has refused to address the reasons behind initiating yet another war after years of death and destruction in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

    In the past 57 days of a war that was promoted as a “humanitarian intervention” to enforce a “no-fly zone,” the U.S. and NATO have conducted more than 2,500 bombing missions.

    A May 13 NATO bombing killed 11 Islamic religious leaders and injured 47 other members of a highly publicized, unarmed religious peace delegation of 150 Imams and other Islamic leaders. The NATO command has acknowledged the attack occurred.

    This was a deliberate, targeted massacre by U.S./NATO aircraft. The religious leaders were gathered to attempt a meeting of peace and reconciliation with the NATO-supported opposition. The attack occurred in the city of Brega, which is 500 miles east of Tripoli and close to the area under opposition control.

    Since time immemorial, in every country and culture, peace delegations, religious delegations and unarmed envoys traveling under white flags have been accorded respect and safe passage, especially in war zones.

    U.S./NATO Command, with reconnaissance predator drones that are able to read a license on a car, knew exactly what this large, highly respected Islamic peace delegation was, where the delegates were staying and what their announced purpose was.

    This latest NATO airstrike is a most grievous war crime. It is an unprecedented new level of international lawlessness and it reveals a dangerous escalation of the war on Muslim people. It comes on top of the ongoing criminal assassination attempts on Col. Gadhafi that have already killed his son and three of his grandchildren.

    NATO bombs have hit numerous civilian targets including the Libyan Down’s Syndrome Society, a school that provided speech therapy, handicrafts and sports sessions for disabled children. NATO Planning Staff claim that “All NATO targets are military targets,”

    And the New York Times reports that Gen. Sir David Richards, Britain’s top military commander, is propsing that NATO target Libyan “infrastructure,” including electrical power grids and fuel dumps, in government held areas. Such targeting would be an attack on the civilian population that would constitute a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions.

    The people of Libya, North Africa, the Middle East, the U.S. and the world deserve a debate on the need to immediately end this war.

    With the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression having a continued impact on the peoples of the U.S. and the world, we must stand up and demand the end to the bombings and other destabilization efforts against Libya, and all other forms of hostility against this African country.

    We the People need money for jobs, housing, food, health care, and quality education — not for war and destruction.

    Tell Congress, the White House and the corporate media that the illegal and criminal war on Libya must end now.

    Stop the bombs! End the war!

    You can do something to help by SIGNING an online petition at:

    to send messages to House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, congressional leaders, the Obama administration, the U.N. Secretary-General, Security Council, General Assembly President and member states, and the national and international media.

  3. Lives in the balance just doesn’t fit the bill for this one.

    More like say a prayer for the …

  4. Swarthmore Mom,
    I hope the Dems remember to use the Filibuster every chance they get if the Teapublicans get the majority in the Senate! This is outrageous and an attempt, once again, to prevent the current administration from getting their judges installed.

  5. Paraphrased from HeeHaw”

    Gloom dispair ‘n agnony on me

    Deep dark depression, excessive mizzery

    If’n it weren’t fer bad news, I have no news a’tall

    Gloom dispair n’ agony on me…


    You know folks, I am retired and I had ‘mine’ like some others here who have also savored the once-abundant American good life. My deepest regret is that there seems nothing we decent people can do to halt the destruction of our constitutional republic and the accompanying devastation with which we are harnessing upon our children and grandchildren.

    At times, I would prefer that I did not care about what happens after my life because—like some of you—I often anguish over the chaotic state we are leaving for the most innocent and deserving individuals; had they only the chance that we had.

  6. Bob,

    “Did you catch The Daily Show on May 16; the interview with Jon Ronson?

    The percentage isn’t as large as you think.”

    Yes. I added his book to my must read list, however, the numbers he used were in line with other studies I had read so the numbers are exactly about what I expected. As to my response to this? The ratio of a toxic substances mass to the whole is only one part of the toxicity puzzle. You’d have to eat a bathtub full of saccharin to get cancer from it, but barely enough Sarin to cover the head of a pin will kill you dead.

    “So you’re happy just charging them; with no hope of conviction?”

    Of course not, Bob. Don’t be ridiculous. But juries have to be educated about facts and law all the time. That’s that’s part and parcel of why we are allowed to present evidence and arguments in the adversarial process – informing the judiciary (be it judge and/or jury).

  7. One of the “minor” aspects of unending war is that the indefinite detainees at Gitmo will be imprisoned for life, sans trial. I used the term “life sentence” in a letter to the editor and they changed it to indefinite detention. Look for this: As our freedoms and defense of human rights evaporate, euphemism will flourish.
    Bobby Fuller sang, “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won.” One thing about laws fashioned by poltroons: They don’t fight fair.

  8. that guy is a fool. I bet his district in CA has some sort of defense contractor engaged in some sort of business having to do with terrorism.

    I am surprised only 30 people are against this bill. By by rights hello fascism.

  9. Bob,

    (Blouise, If the senate doesn’t toss it out completely what will that say about our legislature?)

    A treasonous attack to negate the Constitution and form their own government.

  10. Buddha: “Except you cannot shame sociopaths/psychopaths like most politicians.”

    Did you catch The Daily Show on May 16; the interview with Jon Ronson?

    The percentage isn’t as large as you think.

    Me: “You’ll never win a prosecution for an attack against the constitution like this without a jury that understands the nature of the attack.”

    Buddha: “That’s a whole other kettle of fish.”

    So you’re happy just charging them; with no hope of conviction?

  11. Bob,

    “You may want to educate the electorate first with some simple public shaming first.”

    Except you cannot shame sociopaths/psychopaths like most politicians.

    “You’ll never win a prosecution for an attack against the constitution like this without a jury that understands the nature of the attack.”

    That’s a whole other kettle of fish.

  12. Unchecked power is dangerous even in the hands of a “liberal” president like Obama. Imagine such power wielded by Nixon.

  13. Blouise,

    If the senate doesn’t toss it out completely what will that say about our legislature?

  14. “It it necessary to have “standing” to challenge in all cases in fed courts?”


    “Can a fed court address the issue of constitutionality on its own without action from an outside party?”


    Interesting enough, the whole concept of standing and justiciability centers on the concept of the separation of powers doctrine as well.

  15. Bob,

    Yep … I was simply pointing out the futility … if it makes it out of the House and Senate can anyone with even half a brain see Obama vetoing it?

    If it makes it out of the House then maybe, maybe, the Senate will gut it with amendments … maybe …

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