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Congress Does Not Want Its War Power

A Senate vote shows that even Trump critics are happy to let the president use the military as he pleases.

The short-lived CBS series Brain Dead, now available on Netflix, is a science-fiction satire about an invasion of Washington, D.C., by extraterrestrial bugs that crawl into people's ears and hijack their minds as part of a plot to conquer the world. But the most implausible aspect of the story is a dramatic Senate committee vote on whether to authorize military action in Syria.

In the real world, of course, no such vote is necessary, because the president does whatever he wants with the armed forces he controls while Congress abdicates its constitutional responsibility to decide when the country should go to war. Last week 61 senators showed they are happy with that situation by tabling an amendment that would have forced a debate about endless, metastasizing wars that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives without making Americans any safer.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would have repealed the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 resolution approving the war in Iraq. The repeal would have taken effect in six months, giving Congress time to consider the justification for continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the various other countries supposedly covered by those resolutions.

"The war in Afghanistan has gone on 16 years now," Paul said before the vote on his amendment. "We have people who will be fighting in the war…in the next year or so who were not yet born on 9/11. We have long since killed the people who perpetrated 9/11."

For years Donald Trump opposed what has become America's longest war, calling it "a total and complete disaster" that has "wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure." After becoming president, he changed his mind, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to remain in a country where by his own account "we don't know what we are doing." But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here.

Barack Obama said the 2001 AUMF should be repealed because it was dangerously obsolete. He nevertheless claimed it authorized military action against ISIS, which did not exist when the resolution was passed. Obama belatedly sought congressional permission for that war while insisting he did not need it. But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here.

Paul notes that Congress never approved U.S. intervention in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, or Somalia. As a presidential candidate, Trump criticized such ham-handed meddling in foreign civil wars. As president, not so much. But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here.

Obama opposed the war in Iraq. So did Trump, although not until after it started. Even Hillary Clinton, who as a senator voted for the war, eventually conceded it was a mistake.

"For years now," Paul noted last week, "some senators and candidates have lamented that they voted for the Iraq war." But as far as 61 senators are concerned, there is nothing to debate here.

Those 61 senators include every Republican aside from Paul, Mike Lee (Utah), and Dean Heller (Nev.), who opposed tabling Paul's amendment, and Marco Rubio (Fla.), who did not vote. Opponents of the amendment also included 13 Democrats, several of whom have publicly questioned Trump's fitness for office.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) thinks Trump is a "buffoon." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says Trump is attacking "basic institutions of government…in unprecedented ways." Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who last year remarked that Trump "doesn't seem to know what's happening outside of Trump Tower," recently worried that he "tries to make national security policy or foreign policy through tweeting." In July a hot mic caught Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) calling Trump "crazy."

These senators view the president as ill-informed and reckless, if not mentally unbalanced. That they are nevertheless OK with granting him a blank check to use the world's most powerful military as he pleases suggests how desperate members of Congress are to dodge their duties.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Conchfritters||

    ....an invasion of... by extraterrestrial bugs that crawl into people's ears and hijack their minds as part of a plot to conquer the world.

    Khan!!!!!!

  • Conchfritters||

    "...We have long since killed the people who perpetrated 9/11."

    They beat you to it brainiac.

  • Stephen54321||

    Rand Paul: "'We have people who will be fighting in the war…in the next year or so who were not yet born on 9/11.'"

    There have now been not one but two US presidents who vowed as candidates to end the war in Afghanistan but on gaining office changed their minds. One can only suppose that the Pentagon and its brass must be incredibly persuasive.

    Given that kind of record, in all likelihood the great-great-great-grandchildren of those who died in 9/11 will STILL be battling it out against the Taliban in that Graveyard of Empires at the end of this century and on into the next. And doubtless then, as now, the Pentagon's generals will be whispering in the ear of the president: "Victory is still possible, Mr President. All we need is a few more troops and six more months while we give the Afghanis just a little bit more training,"

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Many people who defend Trump's (and his predecessors') reversal on their war stances hang their hats on the idea that the president must know something that us regular folk don't. This makes it virtually impossible to debate with them.

  • Wizard4169||

    Don't worry, Trump has a yuge, beautiful new plan. He can't tell us what it is because that might tip off the bad guys, but he definitely has one. I mean, he said so, didn't he?

  • Free Oregon||

    Ask the Generals.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    It's quite possible he knows something we don't. It's also quite possible that what he learns is that it's not a good idea for a sitting president to oppose to desires of the top brass in the world's most powerful military force.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The cost of potentially being held accountable outweighs the personal financial benefits. This analysis has led Congress in general to offload its responsibilities onto the other branches as much as possible.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    ^ This.

    And there is little-to-no chance that it will ever change.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Because I live in the real world, if I refuse to perform the duties of my job, I would soon be fired. And few would find fault with an employer arguing that they should not have to pay someone who declines to do the work they were hired to do.

    But that's the real world. Politics will continue to operate in some insane toddler-defined fantasy land until people wake up and tell all the losers, D's and R's alike, to go play in traffic.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    What you derisively refer to as "those losers" are the inquisitors with access to the big guns. They are not going away any time soon. We can just hope that in time, they future generations will mellow out a bit, much like Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping (after the Tiananmen stuff), and act in a more humane manner.

  • BALONEY TONEY MAHONEY||

    "These senators view the president as ill-informed and reckless, if not mentally unbalanced. That they are nevertheless OK with granting him a blank check to use the world's most powerful military as he pleases suggests how desperate members of Congress are to dodge their duties."

    Not at all.....Their duties are to the Globalists, Zionists & Military-Industrial Complex!

  • GrayKat||

    We now know that 911 was an inside job, and that the falling of the World Trade Center was a controlled demolition. The Obama didn't catch the REAL perpetrators of this murderous deed. Neither did Bush, and certainly not trump. Scores of trillions of dollars have been blown on an invented enemy, by the REAL enemies of the people of the United States and the World. By the real and true terrorists, the 1%, you can call them the New World Order, or Illuminati, or the Rothschild Family.

  • AZ Gunowner||

    Anyone who believes that 9/11 was an "inside job" shouldn't be let out of their house without a keeper.

  • R-Dub||

    So... 2,900 certified architects and engineers who are asking for 9/11 to be re-investigated because of serious flaws and omissions... that doesn't concern you? Have you looked at the evidence indicating that the story we were all given has serious gaps?

  • Free Oregon||

    What's interesting is that Trump cannot bring the perpetrators to justice. He too is captive.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Profiles In Non-Courage!

  • ||

    "...Congress abdicates its constitutional responsibility..." Yes, and the majority abdicate their right to life by forfeiting their sovereignty to rulers, both elected and appointed. Jurors come from a trial with tears in their eyes, feeling profound guilt about the guilty verdict, but justifing it as "following the judges instructions" or "the law". Personal responsibility is thereby denied. But deep down (as evidenced by the tears) they know they betrayed themselves, their moral code. Yet, just as the German Jews volunteered to pack, come down to the trains, and not resist their inhuman treatment, the American people obey govt. authority as if they are "brain dead" political zombies.

    I think this is the reason for the popularity for zombie movies. They touch on the unconscious fear that the public lives with daily, that they are losing control of their life to others. They are. And it is by self-enslavement. All they need to do is wake up and stop worshiping the concept that others have a right to rule them, be responsible for themselves and self govern.

  • Kosanke||

    The Libertarian Party is vulnerable to the same flip-flopping. In the last election cycle, both Johnson and Weld stated in public interviews that they did not agree entirely with the Libertarian platform. What good is a platform if political candidates are not bound to uphold it? My proposal - which will be discussed at the next convention - legally binds elected officials to the platform, and provides a mechanism for enforcement:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/
    1DakKcOvAhdxkjj9utBEzV7XWk
    _KEagA-tTzEqEY1hHU/edit?usp=sharing

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    Not all libertarians agree with what's in the platform either. Libertarianism should be allowed to be as diverse as the other political parties.

  • CE||

    A platform is to make the delegates feel good and pat each other on the back, and to scare away candidates who are too far away ideologically.

    It makes no sense to hold candidates accountable to it if they are also acceptable to the delegates. Otherwise you could just run a robot spouting the party line.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    I coulda told you that.

  • Free Oregon||

    Or does the military use Trump as it pleases?

  • Free Oregon||

    Perhaps now is the time to elect people who want to be accountable.

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