The executive branch’s abuse of military power
On Oct. 7, 2001, former President George W. Bush announced the first airstrikes on Afghanistan with the rage born from 9/11 still fresh in the hearts of the American people. This rage was far from unjustified and well within the confines of patriotic outrage that united us regardless of party, race, or class. We waged bloody war against an enemy that so vehemently attacked us without warning and killed 3,000 of our citizens, and this writer will not argue that we were not right to do so, but as the years have trudged on and as the body count still rises, it is time to ask ourselves: where does it end? When we invaded Afghanistan in 2001, we did so under the legal and moral premise of self-defense, reacting to an attack by a terrorist threat that spilled American blood on American soil.
In his address announcing the authorization of strikes in Afghanistan, then-President George W. Bush justified the coming war by stating: “I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps; hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network; and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price.”
He gave the American people clear, concise reasoning as to why war was necessary, and why it was just and right to fight this threat. But, after nearly 20 years of war and thousands of casualties both American and otherwise, it is becoming obscenely and painfully clear that the people of the United States gave the Executive Branch a dangerous amount of power.
The president no longer requires a declaration of war to send men and women into war zones, to wage war against foreign nation-states, and to establish governments of his or her choosing in what we now call “regime change”. Instead, the presidents of the present skirt around this constitutional restriction with such flippant ease that it should nauseate us all. Under Article one Section eight of the U.S. Constitution, the power to declare war rests with and only with Congress. It provides no exceptions to this truth and yet the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all waged war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and now Syria without regarding this legally binding restriction, which has been in our constitution since the very beginning of our nation’s birth.
When we first invaded Afghanistan, the justifications were clear, legal and by no means without reason. We were attacked. That was an act of war and as such, it was well within our rights to retaliate, but the cost of said retaliation has been great and painful for all. Iraq alone has taken the lives of approximately 4,500 honored heroes, as reported by the Huffington Post and in Afghanistan, that number is 2,403. Yet, we continue to expand our forces outward with nearly 2,000 troops now in Syria, acting as advisors or support to the local militias. Where will it end? Where we once operated against a threat to our nation in defense, we now are intervening in foreign nations in direct violation of international and constitutional law.
Under Article two, Section four of the U.N. Charter, it is stated that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Is that not what we are doing in Syria? Our government is attempting to fight and curtail the authority of a sovereign state in violation of the U.N. charter, a charter that was signed and ratified by the United States Senate on July 28, 1945.
Thus, it was secured as legally binding under Article six of the constitution which states: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.”
It is self-evident by the language of our constitution and our own agreements that we have no authority to continue a war that should have ended through the avenging of our citizens with the death of Osama Bin Laden seven years ago. Congress should, and must end these unlawful conflicts and take back its rightful authority regarding war. I am in no way blaming the men and women who put their lives on the line day in and day out giving everything for the nation. Rather, I intend to call out those desk-warriors who sit behind their positions and call for sending other people to fight for them with no constitutional legitimacy and no consequences to their person. It is high time we remember who holds the power over war, and end this bloodshed while we still have the power to do so.