Constitution Thrashed: US President Can Now Declare Wars Without Asking Congress

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This must be the most overlooked attack on the US Constitution. A Bill from the Republican leadership, passed by Congress on Thursday shifts the power to declare war from Congress to the President.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) effectively enables the US President to declare unlimited worldwide war on terror, circumventing Congress and the Constitution, warns the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):


The House Armed Services Committee late last night finished marking up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains a dangerous provision that authorizes a worldwide war against terrorism. The bill was also amended to include a troubling provision delaying the implementation of the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes both of these NDAA provisions.

The war authorization provision was added to the bill by the committee's chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), and goes much further than the current authorization of war. It has no expiration date and would allow a president to use military force in any country around the world where there are terrorism suspects, even when there are no connections to the 9/11 attacks or other specific harms or threats to the United States.
“At a time when the majority of Americans want to see limits on U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, the House Armed Services Committee just passed a blank check for executive war authority,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Amazingly, this provision has had zero hearings and was tucked deep inside a bill that is hundreds of pages long. A new authorization of worldwide war will mean increased violence and will make America less safe. The House should remove this dangerous provision from the defense bill during its debate on the floor.”
Political blogger John Nichols sums it up at The Nation (and has all the links):

House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Tea Party, and their circle even attempted -- in unsettlingly bumbling manner -- to read the document into the Congressional Record at the opening of the current Congress.

Now, however, with a backdoor plan to commit the United States to a course of permanent warmaking, they are affronting the most basic premises of a Constitution that requires congressional declarations of all wars and direct and engaged oversight of military missions.
The House Republican leadership, working in conjunction with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, has included in the 2012 defense authorization bill language (borrowed from the sweeping Detainee Security Act) thatwould effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed and ill-defined foreign forces "associated" with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The means that, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which GOP leaders in the House have refused to officially recognize as a significant development), the Department of Defense will be authorized to maintain a permanent occupation of Afghanistan, a country bin Laden abandoned years ago, and a global war against what remains of bin Laden's fragmented operation.
A diverse coalition around the American Civil Liberties Union had sent a memorandum to the House Committee on Armed Services, detailing the traps of the NDAA.
Coalition Memo to the House Committee on Armed Services Regarding a Proposed Declaration of War

Wonderful. Now the US President can shoot from the hip. We know how all premature acts of war went always terribly wrong. Expect abundant collateral damage to come with it.

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