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Toothless Congress Fails to Limit Presidential War Powers
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rips up U.S. President Donald Trump's speech alongside Vice President Mike Pence following the State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - HP1EG250A6HCV

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Some weeks ago, the world woke up to the fact that World War III had just started without anyone being invaded or shots fired. It began when American President Donald J. Trump declared himself to be a “war president” in the fight against the coronavirus, an assertion that now has been followed by a claim that the disease is actually “…really the worst attack we’ve ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There’s never been an attack like this,” Pearl Harbor was, of course, the Japanese sneak attack that brought the U.S. into World War II. Invoking the spirit of the war fought by America’s Greatest Generation in the Second World War, Trump has called upon “The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors.”

Fortunately for the U.S. military industrial complex, fighting COVID 19 has apparently not diminished the White House’s zeal to take on other, perhaps better armed and more serious traditional opponents. But of perhaps more interest is the different kind of conflict that has been initiated by the White House in attacking the United States Congress, which has been demonstrating the temerity to deny to the Chief Executive the inherent right to start a war against whomever he feels deserves a bit of “Made in U.S.A.” shock and awe.

This war fought in Capitol Hill in Washington is perhaps more significant than what is going on with coronavirus as its outcome will decide whether post 9/11 executive authority includes a president being able to attack another country that does not directly threaten the United States. Current legislation based on the War Powers Act of 1973 permits a president to respond to an imminent threat without the consent of congress, but the action thus initiated has to be terminated within 60 days. Any conflict lasting longer than that requires a declaration of war by Congress, as is stated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Trump’s dissent relates to two attempts by Congress to specifically rein in U.S. involvement in the Saudi Arabian aggression against Yemen and also to preempt a possible attempt to attack Iran. On the Yemen resolution (S.J. Res 7), approved last March, the Senate voted 54-46 in favor followed by the House passing the same resolution by a vote of 248 to 177. The Iran resolution (S.J. Res 68), which had bipartisan support through a 55-45 vote in the Senate in February and a 227-186 vote in the House in March, finally reached the president’s desk last Wednesday. Both resolutions were immediately vetoed by the president.

The two resolutions would have limited Trump’s ability to continue an armed conflict or go to war without the specific authorization of Congress. In characteristic fashion, Trump called the latest iteration on Iran “very insulting,” and also criticized its Republican supporters Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, accusing them of helping the Democrats in the lead up to November’s election. In an official statement explaining his veto, Trump stated that “The resolution implies that the President’s constitutional authority to use military force is limited to defense of the United States and its forces against imminent attack. That is incorrect. We live in a hostile world of evolving threats, and the Constitution recognizes that the President must be able to anticipate our adversaries’ next moves and take swift and decisive action in response.”

To be sure, President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contrived to attack Libya even though it in no way threatened the U.S. To do so, the mission was initially framed as humanitarian in nature and NATO was subsequently involved in it so it could be framed as a collective action against a country that posed a potential security threat to the Mediterranean region. President George H. W. Bush and his son George W. likewise were careful to get United Nations authorization for the use of force in the two wars against Iraq and the latter also relied on 2002’s blanket Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) which permitted military action against the perpetrators of 9/11. The AUMF was later expanded to de facto include all “terrorist” groups. Most of those justifications were, of course, nonsense, frequently little more than contrivances based on fabricated intelligence to permit wars of aggression.

Donald Trump’s viewpoint on the authority of the president is somewhat less fastidious, though he has also cited the AUMF. He is currently involved in a litigation going to the Supreme Court over his claim of “temporary absolute immunity” regarding an admittedly politically motivated suit by the Manhattan district attorney to obtain his tax records. He has similarly embraced the idea that he, as commander in chief of the armed forces, can use them as a resource to conduct his foreign policy, an idea possibly put into his head by his belligerent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Conceding that he has that power would grant him de facto authority to intervene anywhere in the world any time based on any pretext. It also ignores the original War Powers Act and Article I Section 8 of the Constitution which gives the sole authority for declaring war to Congress.

Given his propensity to seek military solutions and his belief that he has the absolute authority to do so, Trump has not hesitated to attack Syria several times in spite of there being no imminent treat and his act of war/war crime assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January nearly ignited an armed conflict with Iran. Indeed, though Trump has been engaged in “maximum pressure” economic warfare against Iran for the past two years, he and his administration frequently claim that it is only being done to modify Iranian bad behavior.

As there is no chance that Congress will overturn Trump’s veto in an election year in which the Republicans will be counting heads and circling their wagons, we the American people are stuck with a president who believes that he has the authority to use military force as he sees fit. And “as he sees fit” is the danger as “restraint” is not exactly Donald Trump’s middle name. And one has to also recognize that there is another political reality at play. When things are going badly domestically, as with the coronavirus, a war can serve as a great distraction and a demonstration of strong leadership. Let us hope that no one puts that idea into Donald Trump’s head.

Philip Giraldi, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

(Republished from Strategic Culture Foundation by permission of author or representative)
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  1. I may be wrong, but I thought that according to sec. 5c of of the War Powers Act of 1973, congress can force Trump to do things like remove the U.S. military from the Persian Gulf area, for example, by a concurrent resolution, which doesn’t require a presidential signature.

    If this is the case then I wonder why (if congress is acting in good faith), do they attempt to assert their constitutional authority by way of a “joint resolution” which does require a presidential signature?

    Is it all political theater, or did this part of the War Powers Act get struck down by a federal court? If Sec 5c of the War Powers Act was deemed unconstitutional by a court, then the rest of the act would seem to be unconstitutional as the act would then operate to cede congress’ war making power to the executive branch. In any case it seems like congress should take the matter to court, especially because Trump’s war-mongering in the Mideast has the potential to become a devastating WW3. One man simply cannot have this authority.

    • Replies: @Realist
  2. Exile says:

    The AUMF tactic is a cowardly deflection of the duty of the Congress under the Constitution to publicly vote for or against war.

    Congress doesn’t want to highlight its prostitution and genuflection to the Jewish Lobby and the MIC. They’d rather let the President shoulder the blame.

    Zion Don’s complicity is pure Jewish self-interest and contra the Russiagate vapor-panic of kvetching (((American Ashkepaths)), Jews and Shabbos Goys in the US are marching in lockstep to push the Palestinians into the sea and declare war on every one of Israel’s non -“Finalandized” neighbors.

    • Agree: mark tapley
  3. Sean says:

    The precise conditions under which the United States would employ armed force being much more certain and limited would be good news for anyone contemplating an unattributable cyber or bio warfare attack. Or a nuclear one.

    Do you think that the US would have attacked China with the COVID-19 bioweapon if I Had been known to have the personal authority to order stikes ranging from the specimen thermonuclear destruction of a single American city all the way up to full attack on the entire US?

  4. He has similarly embraced the idea that he, as commander in chief of the armed forces, can use them as a resource to conduct his foreign policy, an idea possibly put into his head by his belligerent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    It seems to me that Mike Pompeo must really be at least twice his reported age. Clearly, he put that into Nixon’s head about Laos and Cambodia. While it was the CIA, not the military that assassinated Patrice Lumumba, there was plenty of military help for dictator Seko, as there was for the Guatemalan death squads. Obviously, it was Pompeo that advised Reagan on Grenada, Clinton on Yugoslavia, Obama beyond Libya in all of his executions by drone across the world, and his placing special forces in Syria. Trump has done something different only in kind. Sure it’s wrong, but so were all of his predecessors, including Truman whose USAF bombed Switzerland during WWII, because “neutral” means you aren’t opposed to the enemy.

    As for the Manhattan DA’s “admittedly politically motivated suit”, what is there in anyone’s tax returns, beyond curiosity or a political agenda, that would be of any interest to anyone outside the IRS? If the POTUS’s tax returns are up for grabs, why not the guy across the street driving that fancy car?

    • Replies: @Realist
  5. Realist says:

    Toothless Congress Fails to Limit Presidential War Powers

    …and brainless also. Does anybody watch these slobbering, stuttering, corrupt, lying dumb bastards make pronouncements and proclamations? Especially McConnell and Pelosi…is anyone proud of these goddamn losers, or most of the other 533 members? Will the people of this country ever get their head out of their ass?

    • Replies: @mark tapley
  6. Realist says:

    It seems to me that Mike Pompeo must really be at least twice his reported age. Clearly, he put that into Nixon’s head about Laos and Cambodia.

    No, it is just that psychopaths gravitate to positions of power in government.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  7. Realist says:
    @Harold Smith

    If this is the case then I wonder why (if congress is acting in good faith), do they attempt to assert their constitutional authority by way of a “joint resolution” which does require a presidential signature?

    if congress is acting in good faith…good one, do you write your own material?

    • Replies: @Harold Smith
  8. @Realist

    Obviously, it was my intention to show that they apparently AREN’T acting in good faith, as usual.

    • Replies: @Realist
  9. Realist says:
    @Harold Smith

    Just making a snide remark…no insult intended.

  10. @Realist

    We need to make Israel a state and appoint Netanyahu as President then Congress would not have to go through the shabbos goy Jew lickass Trump to find out what the Kazar Criminals want the U.S. to do next for them. We have unlimited young people to die and endless resources for Greater Israel.

    • LOL: Realist
  11. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:

    Yes, libido dominandi (the lust to dominate) explains a lot. Many of us wonder why some jillionaire, instead of enjoying and sharing his wealth, seeks political office, creates foundations, etc. When the next million dollars is meaningless, they want to rake in people.

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