What Does The Constitution Actually Say About Waging War?

In this episode of “Behind the Headline,” host and MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh talks to peace activist and author David Swanson about a world without war and whether it’s even a possibility.
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    MINNEAPOLIS — Have you ever thought: “What would a world without war look like?”

    It certainly wouldn’t resemble the world we live in today.

    Sometimes we declare war against social ills or injustice that needs defeating, like poverty.


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    But, more often than not, our “wars” end up doing more harm than good, as in the war on drugs.

    We’ve got war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, just to name a few.

    A new Cold War is brewing with Russia, and we’re waging economic war with China.

    When something is defined as a war, violence is often touted as the only solution — or so we’re told.

    But if George Orwell’s “1984” taught us anything, war — no matter which war that is — “is not meant to be won; it is meant to be continuous.” The principal enemy of the state conspiring against Big Brother writes: “A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. … The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

    While it comes from a work of fiction, this statement couldn’t be more accurate in describing the United States’ addiction to war.

    America has been engaged in acts of war for 223 out of 240 years of existence. That’s 93 percent of the time. That’s just 21 years of peace.

    This endless cycle of war has helped to create the largest empire the world has ever known — a dubious distinction if ever there was one.

    The U.S. military budget for fiscal year 2015 is $601 billion. For an idea of scale, consider this: the military budget exceeded $610 billion in fiscal year 2014 — that’s three times the military budget of China and more than six times that of Russia. And our nation, which has 1,000 military bases or more dotting the globe, is deploying more and more Special Ops troops to assist foreign militaries with a known record of human rights abuses, often without congressional approval.

    But how did we become a nation built on, and sustained by, war?

    Here to explain how war became embedded in the American psyche and folded into our social fabric is David Swanson , a renowned peace activist and author of a number of books, including “War Is A Lie.”

    Watch the full episode of Behind The Headline:

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      • James Wherry

        So what’s the answer to the questions, Mnar?

        When you go to Friday prayers – assuming you are allowed in a mosque with men – Do you pray for “victory over the Infidels?”

        Am I one of the “Infidels?”

        Are American Citizens the “Infidels” over whom you pray for victory?

      • James Wherry

        The original question, however, was what the Constitution says about the Power to Make and Declare War. This power is vested with Congress, but a lot of silliness has been wrapped up in three issues:

        1. Does the President nevertheless retain the power to respond to immediate threats without Congressional approval? Yes. Inherent within his authority as Commander in Chief is the power to repel attacks while Congress considers a formal declaration of war. No U.S. citizen seriously expects America to commit suicide while politicians assemble to deliberate such important issues.

        We’ve also seen pre-authorization given to the President in the War Powers Act which does little more than recognize that inherent power in the Executive Branch while imposing strict reporting requirements. All Presidents since the WPA have chafed under Congress’ imposition of those requirements, yet the complaints seem foolish in light of the obvious authority of Congress and the acquiesence to the Executive’s inherent power.

        2. Can Congress mandate LESS than a war? Yes. If you have the broad power to declare a War, the Congress can mandate the use of military force in whatever lesser form it desires. Contrary to what former Congressman Ron Paul fantasized, there is not “magical incantation” about the word “War.” It was Harry Truman, however, who claimed the authority to engage in a “police action” in the Korean Peninsula, without Congressional authority. It was only in August, 1950 that Truman finally obtained the consent of Congress both for the war and for spending. Truman had secured UN Security Council Resolution 82 in June of that year – much to the dismay of the Soviet Union, which never again boycotted such votes.

        3. Does international law impose additional requirements for the use of military action? Yes. Congress ratified the U.N. Charter which only recognizes an “inherent right to SELF defense” in Article 51. That right may be extended to mutual defense pacts, but should it ever have been used in Libya? The U.N. Charter also mandates military intervention with U.N. Security Council endorsement, but for the USA, that only places the question back in the hands of Congress, it is not an abrogation of Congress’ responsibilities. Again, none of this existed for Libya and none of it exists for Yemen. There is also not a mutual defense pact.

        The U.N. Charter DOES mandate all nations to fight against Genocide, but any war can be stretched and mis-shaped to be mischaracterized as a Genocide with enough effort. While Libya definitely had inter-tribal overtones, it was not a “Genocide,” that would have permitted military involvement without the consent of the U.N. Security Council.

        You could have made the case for intervention in Syria and Iraq due to Genocide in 2014, but these days, the Yezidis, Christians and Shi’ites are either dead or fled. In 2014, that might have worked to satisfy – at least temporarily – both the international law and the Constitutional tests for military intervention, but after this long and without Congressional approval for military action, it is far less Constitutional.

        • tapatio

          I’m sure that the Judeo-Naz! troll, “Wherry”, can show us EXACTLY how all of the nations below have committed acts of aggression against the United States. Truth is that the United States has been reduced to NOTHING more than the thug for Wherry’s bankster & predatory capitalist masters

          “… The following is a list of countries invaded by the US forces (naval, military and ultimately air forces) since its inception in order of major incidents. This catalogue derives heavily form the work of US academic Dr Zoltan Grossman’s article “From Wounded Knee to Libya : a century of U.S. military interventions” [1], Gideon Polya’s book ‘Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (that includes a brief history of all countries since Neolithic times) [2] and William Blum’s book “ Rogue State ” [3]. This list includes instances of violent deployment of US forces within America (e.g. against demonstrators, miners etc), and includes small-scale bombing and military intervention operations, military evacuations of Americans and specific instances of explicit threats of use of nuclear weapons. The list does not include the 1801-1805 US Marine Barbary War operations against Barbary pirates based in Morocco , Algeria , Tunisia and Libya , and also ignores massive US subversion of virtually all countries in the world.

          (1) American Indian nations (1776 onwards, American Indian Genocide; 1803, Louisiana Purchase; 1844, Indians banned from east of the Mississippi; 1861 onwards, California genocide; 1890, Lakota Indians massacre), (2) Mexico (1836-1846; 1913; 1914-1918; 1923), (3) Nicaragua (1856-1857; 1894; 1896; 1898; 1899; 1907; 1910; 1912-1933; 1981-1990), (4) American forces deployed against Americans (1861-1865, Civil War; 1892; 1894; 1898; 1899-1901; 1901; 1914; 1915; 1920-1921; 1932; 1943; 1967; 1968; 1970; 1973; 1992; 2001), (5), Argentina (1890), (6), Chile (1891; 1973), (7) Haiti (1891; 1914-1934; 1994; 2004-2005), (8) Hawaii (1893-), (9) China (1895-1895; 1898-1900; 1911-1941; 1922-1927; 1927-1934; 1948-1949; 1951-1953; 1958), (10) Korea (1894-1896; 1904-1905; 1951-1953), (11) Panama (1895; 1901-1914; 1908; 1912; 1918-1920; 1925; 1958; 1964; 1989-), (12) Philippines (1898-1910; 1948-1954; 1989; 2002-), (13) Cuba (1898-1902; 1906-1909; 1912; 1917-1933; 1961; 1962), (14) Puerto Rico (1898-; 1950; ); (15) Guam (1898-), (16) Samoa (1899-), (17) Honduras (1903; 1907; 1911; 1912; 1919; 1924-1925; 1983-1989), (18) Dominican Republic (1903-1904; 1914; 1916-1924; 1965-1966), (19) Germany (1917-1918; 1941-1945; 1948; 1961), (20) Russia (1918-1922), (21) Yugoslavia (1919; 1946; 1992-1994; 1999), (22) Guatemala (1920; 1954; 1966-1967), (23) Turkey (1922), (24) El Salvador (1932; 1981-1992), (25) Italy (1941-1945); (26) Morocco (1941-1945), (27) France (1941-1945), (28) Algeria (1941-1945), (29) Tunisia (1941-1945), (30) Libya (1941-1945; 1981; 1986; 1989; 2011), (31) Egypt (1941-1945; 1956; 1967; 1973; 2013), (32) India (1941-1945), (33) Burma (1941-1945), (34) Micronesia (1941-1945), (35) Papua New Guinea (1941-1945), (36) Vanuatu (1941-1945), (37) Austria (1941-1945), (38) Hungary (1941-1945), (39) Japan (1941-1945), (40) Iran (1946; 1953; 1980; 1984; 1987-1988; ), (41) Uruguay (1947), (42) Greece (1947-1949), (43) Vietnam (1954; 1960-1975), (44) Lebanon (1958; 1982-1984), (45) Iraq (1958; 1963; 1990-1991; 1990-2003; 1998; 2003-2011), (46) Laos (1962-), (47) Indonesia (1965), (48) Cambodia (1969-1975; 1975), (49) Oman (1970), (50) Laos (1971-1973), (51) Angola (1976-1992), (52) Grenada (1983-1984), (53) Bolivia (1986; ), (54) Virgin Islands (1989), (55) Liberia (1990; 1997; 2003), (56) Saudi Arabia (1990-1991), (57) Kuwait (1991), (58) Somalia (1992-1994; 2006), (59) Bosnia (1993-), (60) Zaire (Congo) (1996-1997), (61) Albania (1997), (62) Sudan (1998), (63) Afghanistan (1998; 2001-), (64) Yemen (2000; 2002-), (65) Macedonia (2001), (66) Colombia (2002-), (67) Pakistan (2005-), (68) Syria (2008; 2011-), (69) Uganda (2011), (70) Mali (2013), (71) Niger (2013)…”

          • James Wherry

            I’m not going to waste my time on a treatise to satisfy your ignorance. Suffice it to say that most of the dates you cite are from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The U.S. did enforce the Monroe Doctrine and frequently came to the aid of nations within the western hemisphere. As to native Americans, they engaged in war with one another for millenia. There was a time, when you could obtain territory through military conquest. Muslims felt the same way. Those days are over.

            None of that changes my view on the Constitution.

            • TecumsehUnfaced

              Why should you waste your time trying to recover from your complete destruction?

              • James Wherry

                Nothing in his response had anything to do with my comment. Come to think of it, neither does your’s.

                • TecumsehUnfaced

                  That just shows how completely you’ve been destroyed.

                  • James Wherry

                    You sound like a mindless, name-calling 5-year old.

                    • TecumsehUnfaced

                      Aww…. did I hurt the Khazar thug’s itty bitty feelings?

                      • James Wherry

                        Correction: 3-year old child.

                        • TecumsehUnfaced

                          Look! He can count backwards! But he can’t get the numbers consecutive yet.

            • tapatio

              “I’m not going to waste my time”……..equals………I have no possible rebuttal that would be credible.

              ACTUALLY, MY POST ABOVE WAS COPIED FROM A US GOVERNMENT REPORT

      • James Wherry

        You forget the religious bigotry aspect. Muslims were commanded to ‘fight against the infidels, until they submit and pay the jizya (blood money) with due humiliation.’

        This license to conquer is a license to kill.

        When you “fight” against someone, you risk hurting and wounding them, and therefore killing them. It is the reason for war throughout the middle east, not “an imbalance of wealth with the west.”

        As to the money spent on Iraq, take away the money spent on socio-economic improvements. I know of no Muslim nation in all the world that ever, ever spent its own treasure to fix up and improve a country it had fought a war in – and then left. If anything, that money – and the money to fight the war – is a cost needlessly heaped on America by anti-war advocates who want to make war and its aftermath as costly as possible. Blame yourselves.