Sunday, April 3, 2011

War is Holy, This I Know -- For Dear Leader Tells Me So

Ed Schultz's ancestor, celebrating the Anschluss? "He's my Leader! That's all I need to know!"

 "I take President Obama's word for it that troops will not be engaged on the ground," eructated MSNBC's Ed Schultz, rebuking investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill for fomenting doubts about the wisdom of the Dear Leader's war in Libya. When Scahill made a passing reference to "your President Obama," Schultz morphed into a portlier, more articulate version of Sean Hannity: "`My' President Obama? Is he your president, too? Jeremy, is he your president, too?"


A suitable response to hectoring of this kind from a certified cultist would be the following:

"I am not a member of the U.S. military, which means that I do not have a commander-in-chief. I am not an employee of the executive branch of the federal government, which means that the occupant of the White House is not my supervisor. Mr. Obama does not preside over me in any sense that I recognize. To the extent we have any relationship at all, Mr. Obama should be considered my subordinate, one of the hired help. He certainly doesn't have any moral or legal standing to pretend that he can order me to do anything, and if I had the opportunity I would place him under citizen's arrest for his crimes against the Constitution, individual liberty, and the peace of nations -- of which his criminal assault on Libya is the most recent but hardly the only example."
There was a time, perhaps five of six years ago, when Ed Schultz was a genuinely independent radio commentator of a left-leaning populist bent. I doubt that the Ed Schultz of 2005 would recognize the triple-jointed sycophant who began the segment with Scahill by utterling the following homily on the theme of the Leader Principle: "This isn't Bush-talk, this is totally different from Iraq.... The president has gone on record saying that Libyan agents have killed Americans -- that's all as an American I need to hear; let's get it done."

The doctrine of citizenship-as-submission to the Dear Leader's divine will is indeed "Bush talk" of the most obnoxious variety. It was preached with remarkable clarity during a July 11, 2006 exchange between Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Steven Bradbury, at the time head of the Office of Legal Counsel for the "Justice" Department.

At issue was the Wee Emperor's deliberate misrepresentation of the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, which did impose some trivial (and largely ignored) restrictions on the treatment of the detainees who are held illegally at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Bradbury insisted that because the Hamdan ruling "does implicitly recognize we're in a war," it effectively authorizes the president to do anything he wants to anyone of his choosing, since such decisions are supposedly permissible "under the law of war."

Leahy pointed out that the Hamdan decision -- whatever its faults -- explicitly rejected the Bush administration's claim of illimitable war powers, and upbraided the OLC for giving Bush the "cockamamie idea" that such a claim had been validated in that ruling.

"Was the president right or was he wrong?" Leahy demanded of Bradbury.

"The president is always right," oozed Bradbury in reply.

The Leader speaks, the Leader lies.

 The instrument has yet to be invented that can identify a substantive difference between Bradbury's statement and Ed Schultz's insistence that an unsupported presidential assertion is sufficient authority to justify an aggressive war. 

A slightly less acute version of the same leader-cult mentality was exhibited by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine. Drum's endorsement of Obama's illegal war in Libya rests heavily on what I've come to call the Gnostic Fallacy -- namely, that the president is invested with prophetic powers giving him wisdom and insight mere mortals don't possess:

"If it had been my call, I wouldn't have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I'd literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he's smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do."

In matters of power, Thomas Jefferson advised, "let us hear no more of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Modern collectivists, of both the Red State Fascist and Blue State Bombardier varieties, insist that the president himself is the Living Constitution, and that our duty is to make his will our law -- as long as their respective faction controls the White House, of course.

Bradbury, Schultz, and Drum reiterated a doctrine of executive authority under which the Leader "shapes the collective will of the people within himself," and his subjects are "bound to [him] in loyalty and obedience. The authority of the [Leader] is not limited by checks and controls ... but it is free and independent, all-inclusive and unlimited."

Leader Worship, circa 2003...

This, of course, was the official definition of Fuhrerprinzip -- the "Leader Principle," as found in The Organization Book of the National Socialist Workers Party. It is also a bedrock organizing principle of the National (or, since 2002, the Homeland) Security State.

John Yoo, the unindicted war criminal who composed most of the key memoranda outlining the Bush administration's doctrine of unlimited presidential war powers, has conferred his blessing on Obama's war in Libya. It is Yoo's position is that while it is wise for a president to seek political support from Congress, he doesn't need that body's "constitutional permission" to commit the U.S. government to war.

A few days after Yoo endorsed Obama's war, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested that Congress should consider a resolution "authorizing" the war. Unless Levin has access to Doc Brown's flux capacitor-equipped DeLorean, what he is proposing is a purely Orwellian exercise in "rectifying" the record to conform to Dear Leader's will.

“I’m interested in a vote authorizing military action,” Levin said on March 29 — a week and a half after the missiles had started to fly, and most likely months after CIA and Special Forces operators had been insinuated into Libya, Ed Schultz's ingenuous faith in Obama's assurances to the contrary notwithstanding. “The president said he’d welcome it and I think it would be helpful," Levin continued. "It’d show public support for the effort. And that’s always useful."

The Constitution doesn’t describe a congressional declaration of war as a “useful” gesture to ratify an ongoing military campaign; it dictates that such a declaration is mandatory before the government of the United States commits itself to military action against another country.

Were this an actual constitutional republic, public support for a formally declared war, expressed through an appropriate vote by elected representatives before the war began, would be mandatory. This is something both Obama and Biden acknowledged as Senators; in fact, Biden went so far as to describe presidential usurpation of congressional war powers as an impeachable offense. Now we’re told that a useless resolution issued well after the fact would be taken as a binding statement of “public support,” which is “useful” but materially irrelevant to the actions of our rulers.

... Leader Worship, circa 2009.
 The only material check on presidential war-making ability, according to John Yoo and people of his repulsive ilk, is the power of the purse: Congress has the ability to de-fund military operations once they have begun. 

 Of course, this creates a perverse incentive for presidents to use military personnel as hostages -- deploying them in a war zone and then indignantly accusing Congress of betraying "our gallant and intrepid heroes on the front lines, oh may they be blessed forever" if the body moves to de-fund the war. 

As if in anticipation of such action by Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- who seems to be channeling Dick Cheney --told Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) during a classified briefing that the administration would ignore any congressional effort intended to end, restrain, or limit the war in Libya. Some of the administration's critics have described this as a threat to violate the War Powers Act of 1973, a peculiar little enactment intended to "restrain" the power of the president to do something he isn't authorized to do at all in the first place -- namely, to wage undeclared wars abroad.

Clinton displayed a certain forthright arrogance in telling congressmen that they wouldn't be permitted to end Mr. Obama's war. However, her statement is firmly rooted in a bipartisan doctrine of totalitarian presidential war powers -- one that would likely withstand a Supreme Court challenge, given that the current Chief Justice, John Roberts, has explicitly endorsed it.

On February 19, 1984, Roberts -- at the time a special assistant to White House Counsel Fred Fielding -- wrote a memo entitled "War Powers Problem" that examined a bill conferring benefits on veterans of the Reagan administration's disastrous military venture in Lebanon. The time of service covered by that bill would run from August 20, 1982, until "the date the operation ends" -- with the latter date to be determined either by presidential proclamation or by a concurrent resolution in Congress.

 For Roberts, the idea of Congress acting to end a military conflict would be an impermissible encroachment on what he considered to be the plenary war powers of the president. "I do not think we would want to concede any definite role for Congress in termination [of] the Lebanon operation, even by joint resolution presented to the president," he wrote.

"Your memo suggests that Congress is powerless to stop a president who is going to conduct an unauthorized war," observed Senator Leahy during Roberts's September 2005 confirmation hearings. "You're saying you don't want to concede any ability to let Congress stop a war."

"Do we have the power to terminate a war?" persisted Leahy (whose zeal to restrain the imperial presidency dimmed perceptibly after January 20, 2009). "We have the power to declare war. Do we have the power to terminate war?"

Roberts took refuge in dissimulation:

"Senator, that's a question that I don't think can be answered in the abstract. You need to know the particular circumstances and exactly what the facts are and what the legislation would be like.... The argument on the executive side will rely on authority as commander in chief and whatever authorities derive from that."

Of course, under the Constitution -- which, admittedly, has no tangible relationship to the exercise of governmental power in our current system -- all of the president's war powers are derivative. This includes his temporary role as commander-in-chief of the U.S. government's military forces when called into service by Congress, which has the sole and exclusive power to declare war and to issue regulations governing the military. 

That's what the Constitution says on the matter. However, Roberts -- like all other proponents of Fuhrerprinzip -- insists that the president's war powers are "not limited by checks and controls," as the definitive expression of that doctrine put it (albeit in the original German). In fact, the Bush administration -- building on a string of precedents going back to the Vietnam War -- actually held that the president has the authority to spend un-allocated funds to continue military operations even after Congress refuses to continue appropriating money for a war.

In 2007, Congress and the White House were at loggerheads over a "supplemental" spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Insisting that "We expect there to be no strings on our commanders," Bush threatened to veto a spending measure that called for an end to the Iraq war by no later than September 2008. 

As the impasse deepened, a fascinating proposal was offered by economics pundit Stan Collender, an executive vice president for the PR firm Burson-Marsteller -- which received some very lucrative Iraq War agitprop contracts (and, appropriately, has made a fortune  sanitizing some of the world's most hideous dictatorships). Writing in the National Journal, Collender suggested that the administration could invoke the "Feed and Forage Act of 1861" in order to permit the Pentagon to continue procuring war materiel in the absence of an actual congressional appropriation.

The Lincoln-era Feed and Forage Act, Collender insisted, "turns the federal budget world on its head. The standard procurement process is for obligations to be incurred by a federal department or agency only after an appropriation is enacted. Food [sic] and Forage allows funds to be obligated before the appropriation is in place. In other words, the deadlines the White House keeps using for the Iraq war supplemental are irrelevant. Indeed, the Pentagon may have already begun to obligate funds for this purpose while the debate on the supplemental is continuing."

An analysis of the issue published by OMB Watch pointed out that on at least a half-dozen occasions since 1968, the Feed and Forage Act was used to fund ongoing military operations. "The act gives the military, at its own discretion and in the absence of appropriations, some power to obligate the federal government to purchase goods and services during emergencies for use through the end of the fiscal year," explained the analysis. 

None of the "emergencies" described in the report involved an actual threat to the United States -- but this is entirely proper, since the text of the measure "does not expand upon conditions or circumstances that would constitute an `emergency,' relying instead on case-by-case determinations." A 1994 GAO Report entitled "Analysis of Options for Funding Contingency Operations" concluded that the Feed and Forage Act endows the Pentagon with "virtually unlimited contract authority" to purchase whatever it deems necessary to continue a war.

"With this understanding, it seems more than plausible that President Bush could use the powers in the Feed and Forage Act to sustain U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan once other sources of funding have run out," concludes the report. This is to say that thanks to this measure -- an legacy of Abraham Lincoln's war to conquer the independent South -- the president and the Pentagon can continue to spend money in defiance of a congressional decision to de-fund a military operation.

What this means is that under present arrangements, Congress is not only denied a role in declaring war, it has no effective means of ending an undeclared war.  But this is troubling only to those heresy-riddled souls who refuse to submit to the infallible judgment of our Blessed Leader.

Obiter Dicta

My apologies for delaying the promised report on the outrageous Maryanne Godboldo case in Detroit; I'm still working on the piece, and hopefully I'll be able to publish it within the next several days.

I should acknowledge that the expression "triple-jointed sycophant," used above to describe the wretched Ed Schultz, was inspired by a line from Eric Metaxas's superb biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which I would love to review if the opportunity presents itself.

My sincere thanks for your help in keeping Pro Libertate on-line! God bless.

Dum spiro, pugno!


Retread said...

So Caesar has not only crossed the Rubicon; but, now has a four lane bridge for his convenience. No surprise, at least not anymore.

whitebuffalo said...

You don't understand Mr. Grigg. This isn't a war - it's just a kinetic military action.

And a bank robbery is just a kinetic economic transaction.

Seriously, it is a delight to watch the hypocrisy derby as the "Bush's wars bad/Obama's wars good" lefties compete with the "Bush's wars good/
Obama's wars bad" righties. The doublethink and doublespeak from both sides exposes the serious lack of intellectual integrity of either party.

Tionico said...

the dimbulbs in power fail to recognise WHY our Founders troubled themselves to labour long and hard to give us a Constitution: so MEN would not rule, but consistent LAW would. What will it take to remove this Pretender in Chief from his appointed role as supreme exalted ruler of all? He would have made a great member of the FEO Masons... and would be a LOT less disastrous in consequences of his delusions. Masons have little power outside their own circles. This guy wants to take over the world. He thinks WE are HIS subjects, forgetting HE is OUR SERVANT.. time he sets his lil ol self to be about his lawful business.. of SERVING us, his rulers. Remember, it is WE THE PEOPLE who are the sovereigns in ths nation, not our "free and exalted leaders".

Bob said...

And don't forget, Whitebuffalo, we had gone through World Kinetic Military Actions One and Two.

MoT said...

Gary North lately points out the obvious: The Constitution is responsible for what we're burdened with. Heck! Even Spooner back in the 19th century made that obvious. I say the only way this might end is for states to once and for all stand on their own feet and declare their sovereignty and cut the ties that bind them to Moloch on the Potomac. Either they can do so peacefully or else a new storming of the Bastille may be necessary.

The Omega Man said...

I must respectfully disagree with you on this, MoT. North and Spooner have valuable insights into many subjects, but they're wrong about the Constitution. If I want investment advice I'll listen to Gary North, but for insights regarding the Constitution, I'll listen to Ron Paul and Andrew Napolitano. Leaving aside the strong possibility that the Articles of Confederation may indeed have worked out better, our current state of authoritarian affairs is not the fault of the Constitution. A code of law only works if each successive generation believes in it. Our current foreign belligerency is specifically forbidden by the Constitution; that successive presidents thumb their noses at our laws is not the fault of the Founders. They're not alive to hold Bushes and Obamas and Roosevelts to the system of checks and balances---that's our job, we the living. And if states broke ties with the Federal government and reasserted sovereignty, the resulting decentralization of power would be a good thing relatively, but not a panacea. Since each state would be less powerful than a federal government, our freedoms would be somewhat more secure, but by no means assured. A State is, after all, a State, whether its power is concentrated in Washington DC or Richmond or Madison. Our rights and freedoms can be trampled nearly as easily by a governor and state legislature as they are by a president and Congress. No code of laws or ethics, no matter how good and wise, can protect us if no one believes in them. And while I agree that '..a new storming of the Bastille.." is a pleasing thought, we ought to remember what happened to France afterward.

Let me clarify here that I agree with MoT and most other of Mr. Grigg's eloquent regulars--it is a credit to Mr. Grigg that his essays attract such a group of like-minded lovers of liberty--on what is generally wrong with our country today. I am merely disagreeing with the contention I occasionally run across that the Constitution and its framers are somehow to blame. The power-hungry will always find ways around any obstacles we put in their path, no matter how we decentralize power, unless we are vigilant. If they found loopholes in our constitutional republic--and they certainly have--they will find loopholes in any alternative way we do things. They would almost certainly have found ways to circumvent and distort the Articles of Confederation, for example. Where there's a will there's a way, it's said, and where lust for power is concerned, there's a powerful will.

To my knowledge the best option is what the Founding Fathers did: create a system of checks and balances within a limited constitutional republic to keep political power contained as long as possible, make it less malignant, and impart to their descendants the importance of eternal vigilance. That is what was meant by the phrase "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". If that system begins to fail, which it has, then it isn't the Constitution that failed; we failed. Don't blame Adams and Jefferson for our current state--blame our parents, and grandparents, and their parents...and ourselves. The system will always be flawed, because people will always be flawed. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: "We've given you a republic....if you can keep it." Well we didn't. That's not Jefferson's fault, it's ours.

Yossarian said...

Don’t blame Adams? You mean John “Alien and Sedition Acts” Adams or John “Destitute men can’t form a right judgement and are too dependent upon others to have a will of their own” Adams? I blame him and also John “The mass of men are neither wise nor good” Jay, George “mankind are not competent to their own government without the means of coercion in the sovereign” Washington, Alexander “Governments are formed because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint” Hamilton, Alexander “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: YOU MUST FIRST ENABLE THE GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL THE GOVERNED” Hamilton (that may have been written by James “Feets don’t fail me now” Madison; we just don’t know) and Henry “Congress needs the power to force the states to do those things which are essential for their own welfare or for the general good” Knox.

The “mass of people” (y'know, we, the people?) were, at various times, desperate, unprincipled, arbitrary, capricious, and treasonous, while the “rich and well-born” so-called founding fathers were men of reflection, property, station and principle.

Anonymous said...

The Omega Man said... "North and Spooner have valuable insights into many subjects, but they're wrong about the Constitution..."

I wonder if The Omega Man and People like The Omega Man have even read the arguments presented by North and Spooner before dismissing them? It just doesn't seem like it, especially in light of what Yossarian said so elegantly.

In many instances in today's business world individuals are set-up for certain failure by design, sometimes knowingly. Such a set-up is not always easy to recognize, especially if the design of the set-up is due to organizational structure.
It is the same with the organizational structure of government.

Anonymous said...

Also,... man is that photo of Hillary wicked.

Anonymous said...

@The Omega Man...

Nothing in your comment addresses the constitution's legitimacy. Spooner had weak arguments on some subjects (see: The Law of Intellectual Property; or An Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas [1855]) but his treatment of the constitution is spot on. If you claim he is wrong, at least give us a summary of your argument. Otherwise, I have to assume you don't have one.

liberranter said...

To my knowledge the best option is what the Founding Fathers did: create a system of checks and balances within a limited constitutional republic to keep political power contained as long as possible, make it less malignant, and impart to their descendants the importance of eternal vigilance.

And how well has that worked out?

Here's a well-executed shredding of that farcical fantasy called "checks and balances."

zach said...

Levin's comments read like they're out of The Onion.

yossarian said...

In Fed #10, Madison explains why we are a republic rather than a democracy:

[First sentence]: Among the numerous advantages promised by a wellconstructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and CONTROL the VIOLENCE OF FACTION.

By a FACTION, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of PASSION, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community… the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.

The rest of it is about our (the masses) sinister views, convulsions, passions, factions, dangers, schemes of oppression and the best way to CONTROL us. Why a republic? Unlike a democracy, in a republic the masses are spread out over a wide area and are “represented” by a few and don’t come together in large groups as in a democracy. Therefore, being spread out, they are easier to control and are less likely to form factions, i.e. tax "rebellions," which strike their "hearts" with terror. He mentions “government ruled by law” only, let me get my calculator, zero plus zero equals... zero?

Now here’s the relevant part of the last sentence: In the extent and proper structure of the Union, therefore, we behold a republican remedy for the diseases [of faction] most incident to republican government...

That Shays tax “rebellion” influenced them more than anything else to secretly create a new government seems true. Controlling the wayward masses and threatening them with military force if they are “disobedient” (in paying their taxes) is the theme of the Federalist Papers.

This is what Hamilton wrote about Shays “rebellion” (which happened in Massachusetts) in Fed #21: Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union in repelling those DOMESTIC DANGERS which may sometimes threaten the existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. USURPATION may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of the people, while the national government could legally do nothing more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts, would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of Connecticut or New York? Which, being interpreted, means "If the surrounding states join this "rebellion," we're sunk.

Somebody quick! Hand that bulbous-nosed little twit some smelling salts, lest he faint from indignation!

Funny he should mention Rhode Island being in danger of despotism from citizens in Massachusetts. During the second meeting of the very FIRST congress, Rhode Island had not yet voluntarily joined the voluntary union, so they decided she must be “punished” for her “disobedience.” A law was written (and passed) that Rhode Island would be “sanctioned” – no other state could trade with RI, and RI could trade with no state; however, money would still be collected from her. Ah, freedom! I wonder what it’s like?