By Saul Landau
Right wing Republicans want to “save” the Constitution, the Republic’s framework, at a time when the USA has enmeshed itself in foreign wars and international military alliances. They cite reverently the framers’ intentions, which did not include excluding Congress from basic information about U.S. policy. Unelected officials have now “classified” (hidden) tens of millions of documents from the people’s elected body. After the “Evil Empire” vanished in 1991, “terrorists” emerged as the pretext to hide “executive affairs” from citizens and Congress.
So we – and our un-named enemies – don’t know how successive Presidents chose to invade countries that didn’t attack or plan to attack us, or threaten U.S. interests.
Reagan invaded Grenada to save U.S. medical students who weren’t in danger. George H. W. Bush invaded Panama to arrest its military strongman. Clinton bombed Yugoslavia – for humanitarian reasons. W. Bush hit Afghanistan because its Taliban government – soon deposed – let bin Laden and company train there. In March 2003, Bush invaded and occupied Iraq because “clear evidence” showed Saddam Hussein possessed WMD and links with al Qaeda.
In March 2011, Obama “refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” As U.S. planes bombed and ships hurled missiles into Libya, Obama assured the Republic that he did not intend regime change, but to “stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly Zone with our allies and partners.”
He justified the move by referring to a UN Security Council resolution, a NATO agreement and an Arab League assent to establish a “no-fly zone.” However, the constitutional law professor didn’t consult Congress before attacking Libya. Under the terms of the War Powers Act he would have had 60 or 90 days to destroy Libya before returning for more approval. Instead, President Obama denied that U.S. ships and planes bombing and hurling missiles at Libya constituted war.
NATO bombs whacked civilians – including Gadaffi’s family members – but Obama refused to even acknowledge the existence of “hostilities.” The political and press elite didn’t ask: doesn’t “war” apply when you attack another country with the Armed Forces?
No, responded Obama, since “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.” (“United States Activities in Libya,” White House June 2011)
Translation: Obama was reassured by military brass that thanks to U.S. overwhelming tech superiority, no U.S. troops would likely die in combat. Therefore, the word “war” does not describe U.S. military action in Libya. Or, thanks to drones and other remote means of bombing, God has made possible the opportunity for a U.S. president to make war and not suffer the strain of having U.S. victims – or having a congressional debate. In 1999, Clinton tried this in Serbia, but Clinton’s ploy fizzled when a U.S. plane and pilot (rescued) got shot down – too close for the “no war” zone.
As we begin the second decade of the 21st Century, Members of Congress plead with the President to affirm their vestigial role, to show that the eroded Republican form still survives inside the imperial framework. Senators Kerry and McCain even offered a support resolution on Libya to show Congress still matters. Indeed, Congress routinely approves hundreds of billions from taxpayers into the pockets of contractors, the eternal parasites of the military industrial complex. Congress still calls it a “defense” budget. But on 9/11, the expensive armed forces did not defend us, but to their credit (literally) they have drained the nation’s surplus, put it into sliding deficit and made people more worried – not about suicidal Muslims, but about losing their jobs, homes, health plans and future.
The compliant media does not ask: “So what did Gaddafi do to the United States, England or France to justify clobbering him?” He threatened his own people, said Obama. But the Libyan opposition, unlike those in Tunisia and Egypt, rose up in armed rebellion against a recognized – albeit brutal – government.
The Saudi King, the rulers of Bahrain, Yemen, the UAE, and Syria more than threatened their opposition: their repressive forces opened fire. Israel routinely kills alleged Palestinian “rebels,” has 10,000 Palestinians locked up and routinely destroys Palestinian homes and entire villages. It sent troops to intercept and kill members of an aid flotilla in international waters under the guise of protecting its security. Yet, Obama raised the horror of Gaddafi possibly attacking his own people. How humanitarian of him, the relatives of the millions of Korean and Vietnamese civilians killed in those wars most Americans cannot explain – never could.
Back in 1970, U.S. National Guard troops killed four unarmed students protesting the War in Vietnam at Kent State University; U.S. authorities gunned down other students at Jackson State University.School kids still “pledge allegiance to the flag”– but for accuracy’s sake the pledge deserves a modest word change: “and to the republic for which it used to stand.”
Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP will screen at the Laemmle 4-plex 1332 2nd Street in Santa Monica, California on July 26 at 7 PM.
His BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch.