Words Of War: Ron Paul Misses the Point As Usual
By: Daniel Clark
As Bugs Bunny once said, “Of course you know, this means war.” Someone needs to tell that to Ron Paul, before he drives himself Looney Tunes over what he calls the “undeclared war” in Iraq.
The idea that the war is undeclared and therefore unconstitutional has been a central theme of the Texas congressman’s quixotic campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately, this charge has gone almost completely unchallenged. During some of the debates, Paul’s opponents have confronted him over his demented frothings about American foreign policy being to blame for 9-11, but whenever he’s said anything less objectionable, they’ve simply ignored him.
That might be a sound campaign strategy, but it has had the unfortunate effect of making Paul — who is a constitutional stickler in many areas of domestic policy — appear to be making a valid point when he pronounces the war in Iraq to be unconstitutional. Not until the word “neocons” spills from his mouth does he reveal to the viewers at home that he’s living in the world according to Howard Dean.
All the Constitution says about declarations of war is that Congress has the power to declare war. It doesn’t say how that declaration must be worded. To hear Paul’s protestations, you’d think that the Library of Congress had stacks of yellowing form letters, with the words “DECLARATION OF WAR” written in boldface at the top of the page. Just check the box marked “Iraq,” and retain the pink copy for your files, and, presto, you’ve declared war.
In 2002, Congress passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, which was informally known at the time as the “Iraq War Resolution.” That document begins with 23 “whereases” making the case against Saddam Hussein, and then proceeds to state the following: “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to: (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”
Leave it to our dictatorial, power-drunk, fascistic, neoconservative president to misrepresent that as a declaration of war. Oh no, wait a minute — that’s exactly what it is. Authorizing the Commander-in-Chief to use military force is a declaration of war, whether the words “declaration of war” appear in it or not, for the simple reason that the legislature is endorsing of an act of war.
Paul is right when he criticizes his congressional colleagues for not being forthright in labeling their bill a declaration of war, because the purpose of omitting such language was to give cover to Democrats who wanted to take both sides of the issue. Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, now says that while she voted to give the president the authority to wage war, she opposed his decision to exercise it. This explanation makes the resolution appear to be not a declaration of war, but a declaration of the consideration of the possibility of war, or what Zell Miller might call “a bunch of yes-no-maybe mush.”
By essentially agreeing with Sen. Clinton’s characterization of the resolution, Paul is himself guilty of a Clintonian prevarication. He has written that Congress “shirked its constitutional duty to declare war and instead told the president to decide for himself whether or not to go to war.” The truth is that any declaration of war leaves the decision to go to war to the president, because Congress does not have that power. Congress cannot deploy troops, launch battleships, fire missiles, or be directly responsible for any physical action against the enemy whatsoever. All it can do is to tell the president to act on its behalf.
The resolution noted that Iraq posed “a continuing threat to the national security of the United States,” that it had refused to comply with the terms of the cease-fire that had ended the Gulf War, that it had attempted to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush, and that it had repeatedly fired on American and Aillied aircraft. Based on these acknowledgments, it authorized the president to use military force “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate.”
Of course, Congressman Paul should know that this means war. The language may not be as direct as one might prefer, but it is not the least bit confusing — at least not to anyone who has any more of a clue than Elmer Fudd.
Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.