A Syrian Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Congress Ready To Be Flattered Into Killing More Syrians – Published on Dissident Voice (first on Reader Supported News), by William Boardman, September 5, 2013.

When it comes to war, isn’t our account overdrawn?
When the president asks Congress for a blank check for war, why does the Congress fret about setting a limit on war powers instead of just saying “NO” to any check? What happened to checks and balances (as if we all didn’t know)?
Already quislings of both parties in the Senate – Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas – are staking out the “compromise” position of a limited war in response to President Obama’s proposal for an open-ended war authorization. 

According to Leahy, Democratic senate staffers are working on an alternative authorization for killing Syrians … //

… The blank check comes with no due date, late fees, or penalties

The White House draft “authorization for use of United States armed forces” is problematical from the first “whereas,” which asserts as a fact a charge that remains in dispute:

“Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians….”

If this premise is wrong, as seems quite possible, than the following seven “whereas paragraphs are mostly accurate but irrelevant, with some demagoguery thrown in to persuade or intimidate Congress.

But even if the premise turns out to be correct, the “authorization should be unacceptable for the unlimited scope of action allowed to the president, who still uses the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) against terrorism to justify his authority to wage war by whatever means he chooses in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and elsewhere. That law remains open-ended and unmodified by Congress, allowing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against pretty much anyone he “determines” deserves to be attacked.

The new authorization gives the president the freedom “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria,” which seems as if it’s at least limited to the geography of Syria, and only as long as there’s a conflict there. Of course, it implicitly leaves it up to the president to determine what a “conflict” is and even, arguably, what “Syria” is.

Such limitation is a chimera. Unfettering the president from even that illusory constraint, the authorization goes on to allow him to respond to any “proliferation” inside – or outside – of Syria “of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons….”

And just in case that’s not broad enough to let the president do most anything he chooses, the authorization goes on to allow him to do anything necessary to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.”

When protecting against a “threat,” nothing is ruled out, no matter how crazy paranoid the threat may be. In post-9/11 United States, threat perceptions don’t have much restraint on the paranoid crazy.

In a fundamentally cowardly Congress, members are unlikely to oppose this kind of threat to the national interest, especially now that they getting their egos stroked by the White House.
(full text).

(William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This article was first published in Reader Supported News. Read other articles by William).

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%)..

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