By Colleen O'Connor
This is war.
Not, the White House war between Trump’s son-in-law and his senior adviser, Steve Bannon.
Not, the war of words between the Democrats and the Republicans. Or even the war between the country’s hawks and the doves.
No, this is a war of choice — like World War I, the Vietnam War, and the never ending wars of “regime change” in the Middle East.
This is a constitutional war that has been ignored for decades as the power of the “Imperial Presidency” has all but eliminated the “checks and balances” enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Minority leader, Nancy Pelosi—more often ridiculed than respected—in this new era of “put down” politics, has rightly and forcefully called for the Congress to return from their recess and “do their duty.”
“Congress must live up to its Constitutional responsibility to debate an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against a sovereign nation,” she wrote to the current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
That “duty”—“to declare war”— in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, was purposefully designed by the Founding Fathers, to prevent Presidents from exercising an abuse of power.
After all, they just fought a war to get rid of King George III.
That is why they chose the House of Representatives–the body closest to the people—to constitute a check on that abuse—especially when Presidents commit troops to battle.
Ironically, those same founders of the Republic, repeatedly warned against “foreign entanglements.”
Those foreign entanglements, manifested in several “wars of choice”—such as Vietnam—when Johnson used the dubious “Gulf of Tonkin” incidents to push a Democrat–controlled Congress to pass a resolution to justifying his actions ex post facto.
When Nixon, equally as deceitful, expanded his “mission creep” into “secret wars” inCambodia and Laos.
And now the disastrous “regime change” episodes in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan.
These should need no history refresher courses.
Remember the fabricated “Weapons of Mass Destruction” argument used to attack Iraq?
How about when both Presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, used congressional authorizations immediately following the 9/11 attacks as “legal” justification for continuous bombings in the Middle East?
Not until 2013, did the Congress “do their duty” when they denied Obama new authorization for the use of the military force against Syria. Members of both parties voted, “no.”
In fact, 98 Republicans signed a letter, saying bombing Syria in response to a chemical attack, was unconstitutional without congressional authorization.
Not so today. Hypocrisy writ large. President Assad of Syria has used chemical weapons before and probably will do so again. So, what’s the plan? Where is the legal authority if not in the U.S. Constituion?
President Trump’s two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both cited congressional war authorizations passed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, for continued combat in the Middle East, though there is debate whether that authorization would apply to a strike against the current Assad regime—15 years after the sell by date.
Trump, in what some have called “Gulf of Tonkin 2, simply decided to ignore Congress all together and fire the 59 Cruise Missiles into Syria.
With the appointment of the new U.S. Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, it remains doubtful that even the Supreme Court could muster the votes needed to stop the President from another never-ending quagmire.
And a Republican-controlled Congress certainly won’t intervene.
Hence, Pelosi’s request that the Congress come back from a recess (perhaps because we may be on the brink of another war with unintended consequences that could morph into WWIII); or perhaps because she has lived through these other debacles and needs no additional history refresher courses, and “do their duty.”
To which, I say Brava Pelosi!
Do your duty, Congress. You are asking soldiers—sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers of your constituents—to trust you with their lives.
Do something to earn that trust.
Show up and debate the justification, intention, and war plan (if one even exists) that these Americans are risking their lives and limbs for.
A recess now is both cowardly and a “dereliction of duty” the Founding Fathers demanded of you.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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