As the U.S. prepares to bomb Iraq (at this writing) it seems worthwhile to see what instructions our founding fathers laid out to tell how a young nation should prepare for war. More than two centuries later, the words still ring clear.
- No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay. (Article I, Section 10, U.S. Constitution)
- The Congress shall have Power To...declare War...(Article I, Section 8, U.S. Constitution)
In Article I, "no state" evidently suggests that the U.S. Government-a State like any other-cannot start a war without Congressional approval. And, whatever doubts that still linger over whether Article One intends for Congress, and not the Executive Branch, to commit this nation to war-Section 8 offers a clear and unambiguous affirmation.
With this in mind, we should all consider what the Sun's leading legal expert, Lyle Denniston, of their national staff, had to say regarding whether Bill Clinton had the legal authority to order bombs to fall:
"The more basic question is whether an American president ever needs approval, at home or internationally, to send U.S. forces into action abroad" (2/17/98, The Sun).
Denniston goes on to inform us:
"The Clinton administration, echoing the view of George Bush and earlier presidents, contends that it has no need for authorization from either Congress or the [U.N.] Security Council."
To be fair, it should be noted that Presidents have undertaken about 150 military interventions without the consent of Congress since our country's start. However, what made any of them legal? Denniston poses a question high school students can answer-and, one that he certainly should answer-without mentioning what the U.S. Constitution authorizes. He then offers as legitimate the government's spin on why it should have the right to conduct State terrorism on a colossal scale. Incredibly, it is based solely on a few U.N. Resolutions (like the execrable #678, which authorized U.S.-led force on Iraq in 1991). This is fantastic, because the Clinton Administration isn't even seeking the U.N.'s opinion that #678 justifies more war, or even that it is relevant today. It is preposterous also when you consider the U.S. owes the U.N. about a billion dollars.
This is Newspeak-the kind of self-censorship that first George Orwell, and now today, Noam Chomsky warn their readers about.
A key element of the media's propaganda is in declaring that the U.S. has conducted some kind of diplomacy so far. In a Sun editorial, we are told that:
"The U.S....should wait until diplomacy is exhausted in the eyes of advocates before launching violence"(The Sun, 2/17/98).
Which suggests that maybe the Clinton administration has made or is making some diplomatic gestures towards Iraq to soothe the crisis that virtually no other country on Earth perceives-perhaps by reducing the number of U.S. representatives on the U.N.'s chemical weapons inspection team.
Yet, there has been no "serious diplomacy" from the U.S. Although Clinton approved of the deal worked out by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that allowed Hussein to remove eight inspection sites under the jurisdiction of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) to a new U.N. panel, this offering wasn't initiated with any known assistance by the U.S.
According to several articles in the Washington Post (nearly buried), all along the U.S. has been demanding Iraq's unconditional compliance to the U.N. Resolutions. This is true even after the economic sanctions that the U.S. forced down Iraq's throat starting in 1991 have resulted in a half million child deaths-more, as MediaWise readers know, than the number of kids killed during both atomic bombs combined. This is true even after the horrific, nearly Apocalyptic 1991 U.S. attack launched by George Bush, who had invaded Panama prior to meting out his punishment for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
In a special box above Denniston's article the Sun thoughtfully provided synopses of the key U.N. resolutions the U.S. would go to war for. Number 660 condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, #678 has already been mentioned, and #687 concerns making the Middle East free of "weapons of mass destruction." That civilians must die so that these three U.N. Resolutions alone are enforced are part of what makes this time so surreal.
For one thing, no Middle Eastern country has violated U.N. Resolutions more often, and with greater disdain, than Israel, our ally and Iraq's greatest security threat. Israel has both chemical and nuclear weapons in its arsenal, largely paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Israel has (with U.S. support, particularly after 1971) violated international law at will concerning the safe return of refugees and withdrawal from the territories it illegally annexed during and after its 1967 war. Israel (and the U.S.) have consistently rejected U.N. Resolutions to minimize the severe mistreatment of Palestinians unfortunate enough to be living in the West Bank, the Golan Heights or the Gaza Strip by Israeli economic and military pressure.
Israel is also in violation of international law by not withdrawing from what it calls its "security zone," taken from its 1982 invasion of Lebanon that resulted in more than 20,000 civilian deaths.
Before the three U.N. Resolutions cited by the Sun, there was U.N. Resolution #242, issued after Israel's 1967 war, which calls for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." It also calls for the:
"...termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force" (World Orders Old and New, Noam Chomsky, 1996, Columbia University Press.)
As Chomsky points out, U.N. #242 is rejectionist in that it denies the Palestinians a separate state. So, its not a Utopian vision. Yet, it is the most promising Resolution for Middle Eastern peace in the past three decades.
For four years the U.S. both supported #242 and built an international coalition for it. In 1971, Henry Kissinger convinced Richard Nixon to reject #242 in favor of the policy of stalemate; i.e., no Israel withdrawals and no peace in the occupied territories. This reversal of U.S. policy comes at social and political costs that conscientious historians find staggering.
In short, a bombing campaign that comes without Congressional or U.N. authority, after enormous prior devastation to the victim country, before the slightest diplomatic gesture is made, and launched by a country that for a quarter-century has stood with its partner Israel against international opinion is exactly what we should all expect for the future if the government and the media can continue their lockstep partnership.