On this Memorial Day weekend, while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and rattled President Donald Trump battle over the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, another lopsided contest over presidential power is quietly being waged in Congress.
It is the second time this spring that Congress had engaged Trump in a bipartisan attack of House members to end his “right” to arbitrarily broaden the so-called Global War on Terror without the consent of Congress.
Bolstering the need to rein Trump in is his announcement Friday that he is ordering 1,500 troops, drones and more fighter jets to the Middle East to protect Americans potentially in harm’s way from unspecified Iranian military plots.
Since 2001, Presidents Bush ’43, Barack Obama and Trump have used Congress/Senate Joint Resolution 23, the so-called Authorization for Use of Military Force (A.U.M.F.), to attack any country a president deems a dangerous adversary in America’s endless war on terror.
Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs recently put the death toll for these adventures at between 480,000 and 507,000 people in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. The dead include civilians, armed fighters, police and paramilitary forces.
The report says that between 182,272 and 204,575 civilians have been killed in Iraq; 38,480 in Afghanistan; and 23,372 in Pakistan. Nearly 7,000 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same period.
The vaunted joint resolution starts as a proposed law that may originate either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. There is little practical difference between an ordinary bill and a joint resolution except in name and the implied will of Congress.
Joint Resolution 23 was passed Sept. 18, 2001 by the 107th Congress while the World Trade Center still smoldered in New York City. With it, an enraged Congress authorized the president to “. . . use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred. . . .”
The House passed the measure 235-188 and it cleared the Senate by a 52-46 margin. The vote was mainly along dominantly Republican Party lines.
The resolution’s enduring, elastic properties have since provided three American presidents almost blanket authority to attack just about any country where a terrorist perches by using his unilateral authority to make undeclared war. The Middle East has been particularly abused by the wicked nature of the resolution, although Africa continues to feel its sting.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Somalia are routinely battered under the auspices of the Global War on Terror that President George W. Bush declared two decades ago in the ruins of American goodwill. Soon after Saudi-loving Trump took office, Yemen was added to the list and Iran is never more than a step away.
After 18 years and trillions of wasted taxpayer dollars, Trump apparently wants to ignite another easily waged war to avoid harder political consequences. Under the sway of ambitious Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, an unabashed chickenhawk, Trump is hinting he is prepared to run up the score of American war dead to prevent him from facing scrutiny for his universal ineptitude.
Already 4,351 Americans have died in Iraq and another 2,382 American warfighters have died in Afghanistan as of December 2018. For what? The only abiding legacy of the so-called Global War on Terror is being the longest and most pointless military endeavor in American history.
Two weeks ago, Trump announced that pesky Iran is moving land-based rockets in civilian ships and breaking bad with other “provocative” actions still deemed too secret to reveal. The hawks’ sold their bill of goods to enthusiastic Republicans in the war room, where they got all excited watching the Pentagon’s slick presentation of third-rate Iranian armed forces preparing for war. Such presentations rival television’s “N.C.I.S” and “Bones” for over-the-top electronic gadgetry.
Listening to bedazzled dummkopfs chortle about perceived threats from Iran afterwards is almost nauseating.
Trump has since dispatched a carrier strike force, a reinforced Marine landing team, four B-52 bombers, and is threatening to send thousands of troops to the Middle East to defend against something yet to be revealed. Whether the 1,500 warfighters sent on Friday are a harbinger of more troops later is still unclear.
The U.S. Army is currently 15,000 recruits short of its annual recruiting goal. The number represents the 18-22-year-olds who live on the cutting edge of five infantry combat brigades.
Slightly over half the casualties already suffered in the war were active-duty service members that comprise 55 percent of the total Pentagon force still fighting the Global War on Terror. These forces experienced more than 80 percent of the total deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 31,957 wounded so far. Just under 3 percent of the total fatalities are women, who make up 16 percent of the total strength of the military.
This Memorial Day they are scarcely acknowledged, much less remembered. by the leaders sending them in harm’s way.
“There is a desperate need for a new A.U.M.F.” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois and a member of the Armed Services Committee. Duckworth lost both her legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq, becoming the first female double amputee Army pilot in the process. It was Duckworth who dubbed Trump “Cadet Bone Spurs” for his cowardly decision to avoid the Vietnam War by feigning physical incapacity.
“We’re talking about expanding the U.S. role in conflicts around the world, but you’re relying on an A.U.M.F. that had to do with fighting Al-Qaeda,” she said.
Last April, Congress tried stopping the insanity by passing a joint resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen that was supposed to be a sharp rebuke of Trump’s bootlicking Saudi policy. The Yemen resolution invoked the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which gives Congress the power to tell Trump to remove troops involved in foreign adventures without a formal “declaration of war or specific statutory authorization” from Congress.
Trump quickly vetoed the resolution. Trump called the congressional demand “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.” Gotcha!
His veto leaves the U.S. culpable in the death and destruction of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, along with thousands of civilians who have died fighting the medieval Saudi Wahhabist monarchy.
Trump’s administration is apparently comfortable knowing death and destruction is the cost of doing business with theocratic despots Making America Great Again.
He couldn’t do it without the Gotcha Resolution.