J. D. Heyes
May 20, 2011
After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush and Congress committed the nation to a “global war on terror,” which – for perhaps the first time in U.S. history – the nation launched a military campaign that was aimed more against fighting an ideology rather than an army.
And today, 10 years later, the U.S. finds itself engaged in the kind of perpetual state of war that author George Orwell warned against in his novel, “1984.” In the book, Orwell’s fictional state of Oceania is at perpetual war with Eurasia and Eastasia; today, the U.S. fights “global terror” whenever and wherever it is found. And worse, this perpetual state of war may be about to get both wider and easier to wage.
Defense spending legislation currently pending before Congress could lead to “the single biggest hand-over of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern American history,” the ACLU has warned.
Here’s what it does in a nutshell: the legislation would allow the president to unilaterally authorize military action, in the name of “fighting terrorism,” anywhere in the world and in the United States. Once upon a time, when the U.S. Constitution was still valid, Congress – not the president – was solely authorized to declare war. Once that declaration was formally made, the president, in his role as commander-in-chief, was responsible for the war’s prosecution.
This legislation would change that.
Congress affirms that —
(1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
(2) the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force. …
Could the bill get anymore general than that? While the Taliban is largely limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda has tentacles all around the world. It is an international terrorist group.
“Al-Qaida has cells worldwide and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks,” says an assessment by GlobalSecurity.org. “Al-Qaida is a multi-national network possessing a global reach and has supported through financing, training and logistics, Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritrea, Kosovo, the Philippines, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Yemen, and now Kosovo. Additionally, al-Qaida has been linked to conflicts and attacks in Africa, Asia, Europe, the former Soviet Republics, the Middle East, as well as North and South America.”
That’s a lot of ground to cover. Given the language of this new bill, the U.S. – by presidential edict – could send troops virtually anywhere and everywhere there is a perceived terrorist threat.
War is a terrible thing in and of itself. It is bad enough that nations can’t find other ways to solve their problems other than trying to kill and destroy each other. Sometimes war, unfortunately, is necessary, and the U.S. has a legitimate right to defend itself. But authorizing, in Orwell’s words, “perpetual war” over an ideal is akin to lunacy. And it’s not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they risked everything to throw off the yoke of tyranny.
Perhaps founding father James Madison said it best, when he noted in 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution:
“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 dominion of the few. … No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”