Presidents, Not Dictator/Kings, & Corrupt War Powers
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Extreme Judges on Presidential Power
Many of the Koch-network-linked Federalist Society judges Republicans are installing have extreme, unconstitutional views of presidential power.
Trump deliberately chooses extremists on presidential power.
- Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh wrote that we should never burden a president with criminal investigations, civil suits, or criminal prosecutions.
- Trump made William Barr Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department.
- Barr claims the idea of our three branches of government sharing powers is “mushy thinking.”
- Barr claims courts can’t rule on disputes between the president and Congress.
- Barr also claims courts shouldn’t even review a president’s actions to determine if they are Constitutional or legal.
- Barr told President Bush he could start the 1991 Persian Gulf War without permission from Congress and even if Congress voted against it.
- If Kavanaugh and Barr’s views prevail, our presidents will practically become dictators and kings, unchecked by Congress or our courts.
Presidents, Not Dictators or Kings
Experts agree our Founding Fathers understood the great dangers of dictators and kings with unlimited powers.
- They knew concentrating power in one leader would threaten the rights of regular citizens.
- So they put rule of law first, subjecting all men, even the president, to the law.
Our Founding Fathers rejected the British model of government by monarchy and rejected dictatorship.
Instead, they built our system of government using three equal branches with checks and balances.
Wise, Careful Separation of War Powers
Studying history, our Founding Fathers knew kings and heads of state often went to war foolishly for vanity, glory, ambition, power, greed, or conquests to build empires.
They knew the temptation of war was too great for any one man or normal politician and that not all leaders will be wise. So they wisely separated war powers between the president and Congress.
- They gave only Congress the right to declare war and fund the military.
- They made the president the commander in chief of the military, in charge of executing war.
- This system deliberately slows us down in going to war, to guard against unnecessary wars.
- George Washington only ordered defensive operations against Indians, knowing he would have to ask Congress for anything further.
- Thomas Jefferson always deferred to Congress in dealing with the Barbary pirates.
- In the early 1800s, the Supreme Court made clear the president must ask Congress for permission to use military force, not just for war.
For centuries, Americans understood the great importance of civilian control of our government.
- Military officers specialize in war and tend to see military action as the solution to every problem.
- Understanding this, military officers wisely generally shied away from politics and many even refused to vote, up until World War II.
- In 1948, Truman offered General Eisenhower the Democratic nomination for president but as a serving military officer at the time, Eisenhower refused.
- The National Security Act of 1947 required only civilians could lead the Defense Department.
- Later laws required only civilians to serve as secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
- All these laws made sure we kept civilians in charge, in order to avoid the great danger of unnecessary wars.
Corrupt War Powers
The last time Congress declared war was World War II.
But presidents have now completely sabotaged and perverted our traditional constitutional safeguards against war.
- President Truman went to war in Korea without requesting or receiving authorization from Congress, calling it a “police action.”
- Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, & Nixon never got authorization from Congress for the war in Vietnam.
- Presidents Bush (both father and son) and Obama went to war without authorization from Congress.
- Presidents now claim they can use air strikes and military force at will with out consulting with Congress, based on precedent, just because previous presidents have.
- Supposedly, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War were not wars, just “extended military engagements.”
- Obama argued the thousands of air strikes on Libya that killed thousands and destroyed Gaddafi’s government did not constitute “hostilities.”
This is completely unconstitutional. Congress perverted the Constitution, too, with two laws giving away its power to declare war to the president.
First, after Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon waged war in Vietnam without authorization, Congress tried to take back its war powers with the 1973 War Powers Resolution.
- Unfortunately, this unconstitutional and self-contradictory law failed completely.
- The War Powers Resolution says presidents can only use forces in hostile actions after Congress authorizes it or if our nation has been attacked.
- No president has followed these requirements for using forces.
- The law also unconstitutionally let presidents start military action for three months for any reason at all.
- After 60 to 90 days, it simply required a warring president to ask Congress for extensions.
- Presidents have since used the War Powers Resolution to approve military force over 130 times but they don’t bother asking Congress for extensions.
After 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF).
- Congress rejected the first version of President Bush’s AUMF allowing preemptive force to prevent terrorist acts.
- Instead, Congress only allowed military action against organizations responsible for 9/11 and against Iraq.
- Yet now presidents pretend the AUMF lets them drop bombs or deploy troops or special operations forces (wage war) anywhere in the world at any time.
- In 2016, we dropped 12,192 bombs on Syria alone, more than we dropped on any country since the war in Vietnam.
- Very often, our bombs hit civilians.
- Under Trump and Obama, we’ve been fighting wars in at least 8 countries without any formal declaration of war: Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
- We use special operations forces in over 130 countries.
- Civilian casualties have skyrocketed to record numbers under Trump.
Our Founding Fathers never imagined the US would use its military worldwide, occupy other nations, kill their innocent citizens, and never even declare war.
- They would be shocked and horrified to see Congress let any president do these things on a whim.
- They would be shocked and horrified by President George W. Bush authorizing torture and Obama executing an American suspected of terrorism without due process.
Now our military talks about “generational wars,” arguing that we must accept never-ending war.
And Trump has crippled our State Department, the center of all our diplomacy for making peace. Trump has left it largely unstaffed and wants to downsize it further.
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