Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama's Syria "Vote" in Congress: Democracy? or Theater?

He said WHAT?
You've got to give the devil his due. Yesterday, as all the other senators sat patiently through the obfuscation of Barack Obama's Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey -- Rand Paul gave 'em hell.
"Stand up for us and say you’re going to obey the Constitution and if we vote you down — which is unlikely, by the way — you would go with what the people say through their Congress and you wouldn’t go forward with a war that your Congress votes against."

"If we do not say that the Constitution applies, if we do not say explicitly that we will abide by this vote, you’re making a joke of us. You’re making us into theater. And so we play Constitutional theater for the president."
(Read the full exchange here: ‘It’s Explicit’: Rand Paul Battles John Kerry Over the Constitution, Syria in Tense Senate Showdown)

John Kerry, of course, stonewalled. "I don’t know what the decision [on Syria] is, but I’ll tell you this … [President Obama] still has the Constitutional authority and he would be in keeping with the Constitution."

Death, Duplicity, and Derision

It appears to me that Senator Rand Paul is asking the really important question in all this: where, in fact, do the war powers of the United States reside?

Given what's at stake, the only sensible thing for the United States Congress to do is to vote against war with Syria and to make it clear that if the President goes ahead with military action in direct defiance of that vote they will impeach him.

And if he uses military force against Syria, they should impeach him.

It shouldn't be necessary for Congress to go to such lengths to define war powers. On the other hand, practice has so degraded the Constitution that corrective action is necessary.

This vote -- and what happens next -- could set a precedent that defines the future of how the United States uses its military.

This goes way beyond chemical weapons, or Assad, or U.S. interests in the Mideast.

As goes the United States, so goes the world.

(No pressure.)

Related posts

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

The decision about whether to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation is our decision. And that is why the entire country is mobilizing for mass action for nuclear disarmament in 2015. Are we capable of making sure the messengers -- Obama, Putin, the other agents of government -- hear their instructions from us clearly?

(See NEEDED: Heroes to Bring About Nuclear Disarmament )

It's essential that we demand our members of Congress get on the record now about the opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria that they are registering from their districts.

(See On Syria, It's Time for Congress to Remember Who They Represent)

The U.S. narrative goes something like this: Somebody "bad" (e.g. ISIS) is doing bad stuff . . . . The U.S. wants to "help" -- without overcommitting. We'll just start with a few advisers (to instruct, not to fight) and a few drones (to survey, not to kill) . . . .One thing leads to another and there's yet another fight. (Lucky we were there . . . )  Does it every occur to us that we've got the narrative (and the causality) backwards?

(See Drones, ISIS, and Permawar )

As I read about the impending Syria vote and watch our representatives on TV, I am struck by the similarity to that gang of boys gathered on an island. Reason and logic point one way . . . and congressman after congressman confirms that the message from their constituents is overwhelmingly against U.S. military action . . . . It would seem that a simple vote would settle the matter. And yet . . . 

(See "I didn't vote for no ghosts!" )

But Kentucky has something very important to bring to the national movement to bring U.S. drone killings under control.  Kentucky's Rand Paul has been a lone voice in the U.S. Senate asking questions about drones and putting his foot down against the unilateral exercise of executive authority in conducting war by drone.

(See Question #1 for Kentuckians: Where Does Rand Paul Stand On Drones? )