Monday, May 16, 2016

Confronting Permawar: 5 Lessons from Captain Smith

Captain Nathan Michael Smith -- US Army photo

US Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith has sued the commander-in-chief, President Obama, for ordering war in violation of the US Constitution. Therein lie 5 lessons.

(1) What we've got: permawar
"Permawar" (who benefits?)

The US is making war in so many places, and so continuously, that it not longer makes sense to speak of this war or that war; it is a state of permanent war -- "permawar."

George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" stunt only serves to underline the fact that it's never mission accomplished -- the US rolls from conflict to conflict to conflict -- Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq . . . .

The next war is always just around the corner (e.g. Iran) or being carried out by a proxy (e.g. in Palestine).

Many people seem to have forgotten this is not the way it's supposed to be. But Capt. Smith hasn't. (He remembers the Constitution he's sworn to to uphold.)

(2) Why we've got it: Congress is asleep

One explanation for the
Congressional coma . . .
People can disagree over Congress' performance in general, but there can be no disagreement that Congress has failed to do it's job with respect to war. Under Article I, Section 8, of the US Constitution, the Congress shall have Power...:
* [Clause 10] To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

* [Clause 11] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

* [Clause 12] To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

* [Clause 13] To provide and maintain a Navy;

* [Clause 14] To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

* [Clause 15] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

* [Clause 16] To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

(3) PS: WE're asleep!

Tell Congress: say NO to war!
And before we ordinary citizens get all huffy, we need to remember: Congress works for us!

Ask yourself:

* do you know the details of Congress' war powers under the US Constitution?

* when was the last time you told your congressman in detail how you wanted her/him to represent you in war deliberations?

* which advocacy group(s) do you work with on issues of war and peace?

(4) It's not hopeless

On Syria, It's Time for Congress
to Remember Who They Represent
It's important to remember that there is a very recent example of the People telling Congress, and then Congress telling the President, that the US should not go to war.

In summer/fall 2013, President Obama was on the verge of going to war in Syria. Congress debated the issue and the US public resoundingly told their members of Congress they opposed war.

The US finds all kinds of ways to contribute to war and violence in places like Syria. But there's no question that US citizens and the US Congress can slow it and stop it when they try.

(5) It will take courage

I am (I will become) Bradley Manning
I can't imagine the courage that Capt. Nathan Michael Smith has mustered to challenge his commander-in-chief.

However, I've noticed we're seeing more and more people come forward to put the truth and justice above their own personal convenience and comfort.

For those of us who lack the opportunity and/or courage to make such big contributions, we can still ask: what can I do to lift up and support the work of such citizen leaders?

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