Yesterday, many Senators seemed surprised that our executive branch had claimed the power to strike anywhere in the world, with boots on the ground, without congressional approval.
The law granting such power is known as “AUMF“, or Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
The Senators’ surprise was, well, surprising to me. Many of us have been braying in the wilderness about this Constitutional assault in the name of the “war on terror”. The authority granted in the AUMF legislation contained no temporal or geographical limits…hence drone strikes in several countries with absolutely no democratic input or oversight whatsoever.
Senators in the hearing seemed upset at the near-dictatorial powers Obama has claimed, but they, as a body, voted to give the executive branch this authority and even renewed & broadened it.
The AUMF was criticized immediately for exactly what seems revelatory now. Congresswoman Barbara Lee tried to repeal it in 2001 for exactly the same reasons now being raised as novel concerns. Read her letter to her colleagues on the issue here. Her resolution to repeal the granting of military force to one man, without geographical or temporal limits was killed in committee. It has since been reintroduced and waits in committee again. Our “patriotism” at the time of the AUMF’s passage was so feverish. The idea that Congress should not give its Constitutional war powers to one man, for an indefinite time was not powerful enough even to make it to the floor for a vote.
So…why now? Why are Senators now acting so surprised?
I believe that Glenn Greenwald is correct when he says that the AP scandal was a “sea change” in the war against civil liberties that has been waged by two successive administrations in the name of the “war on terror.”
It is not hyperbole to say that we have been hurtling towards a much more openly totalitarian form of government in the name of the war on terror.
When one man, without anyone else’s approval, without any oversight whatsoever, can send drones anywhere in the world to bomb as long as he likes, as viciously as he likes, you have a totalitarian system. As recently as April 23, 2013, President Obama refused to share any details of the drone program with Congress, the sole branch in the Constitution with war powers, much less to submit to any democratic oversight whatsoever.
These powers now claimed openly by Obama and his soldiers do not protect us. They are the threat we need to be most concerned about.
President James Madison and a father of our Constitution wrote “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
Plato wrote “This and no other, is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”
More people die in bathtub drownings in America each year than are killed by terrorists.
We should fear and fight the encroachment of this totalitarian, democracy-destroying consolidation of power that is immune to the wishes of the people and beyond the reach of even our Constitution…which, unfortunately, requires defending right now.
Organize and speak out against this obvious abuse of power.
Again, legislation calling for the repeal of AUMF is in committee now. It is known as “H.R. 198: Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force”. It can be found here. Write your legislators and demand that they act on limiting the executive branch’s authority to keep us in perpetual war, without democratic input.