The power to declare war has for a long time been in the hands of Congress alone. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution reads:
“The Congress shall have Power To…provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…To declare War”(1)
The writers of Congress wanted to shift away from a single autocratic ruler or monarch, deciding at his fancy, to put the lives of common people at risk through redundant warfare. They encoded in the Constitution the power of war be in the hands of Congress, who represent the people.
The United States has formally declared war 11 times, for 5 conflicts, in 10 nations. The last time the US declared formal war was 1942(2). Since then only informal war has been declared. In 1950, President Truman declared war in Korea without consulting Congress, relying only on UN Security Council resolution UNSCR 84 as his authority(3). In March of 1957, Congress passed a Joint Resolution allowing the President to authorize or assist in the use of force to “promote peace and stability in the Middle East(4). In August of 1964 Congress adopted a Resolution allowing war in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam(5). Under President Reagan in 1983, Congress adopted S.J. Resolution 159 to allow involvement in a multi-national force in Syria following UNSCR 425 and 426(6,7). In 1990 President Bush declared war in Kuwait using S.J Resolution 77, which was a province of Iraq at the time, based solely on Security Council resolution UNSCR 678(3,7). On July 31, 1994, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution “inviting” all states to use “all necessary means” to remove leadership on the island of Haiti. Bill Clinton cited the resolution as reason to declare war in Haiti(3,7).
After 9/11 Congress passed an AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) which passed as S.J. Resolution 23(8). While the FBI had theories about Al Qaeda being responsible, no conclusive evidence was provided to the American people. It wasn’t until 3 years later in 2004 that Osama Bin Laden, who had strong ties to the Bush family through business and other dealings, and who worked for the CIA for many years, declared that he and Al Qaeda were responsible for 9/11. The war in Afghanistan was declared in December of 2001, and the war in Iraq was declared in 2003, using the 2001 AUMF and lies sold to the public. Since 2001, 8 operations have been launched in at least 7 other countries, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Lybia twice, Pakistan and the Phillipines(8). The US Military is active in at least 80 countries, giving counter-terrorism training to 65 countries, taking part in exercises in 26, engaging in conflicts in 14 countries, and performing drone strikes in 7 countries under the direction of the CIA. The 2001 AUMF has been used as justification for war 36 times now as of this January(9).
The only Representative to cast a vote against the 2001 AUMF was Barbara Lee of D-California. She warned that the AUMF would authorize “open-ended war”(10). Lawmakers since then have been concerned with this new trend of bypassing Congress to make war everywhere in the world. In 2017, many in the House or Representatives cheered as language was passed in the Defense Spending Bill revoking the President’s endless authorization for war(11). However, the bill did not pass the senate, and the new bill granted 716 Billion dollars to use for warfare, the largest ever passed, and far above a limit set by Congress years earlier.
Trump argued that the limits that were set were improper constraints on his Executive authority(12). I find that interesting, since we are learning that it is the Judiciary’s job to interpret the law and not the Executive Branch. Senator Rand Paul comments on the new Kaine/Corker AUMF in an open letter to the public, declaring that the new bill “is a complete rewriting of power of the executive and constitutional separation of powers”. It grants the President the authority to declare war anywhere, anytime and on practically anybody, with no checks and balances(13).
I am particularly worried about the authority to wage war finding its way back into the hands of a single leader, especially one which has spoken of interest in abolishing term limits, refused to declare when and where soldiers are sent to war, and one which has such positive relationships with tyrants like Duterte of the Philippines, Xi Jinping of China and Putin of Russia. I worry about the day when citizens of the USA are rounded up on the streets and disappeared to concentration camps with the fancy new name of “re-education facilities” or “de-radicalization centers”, which is happening right now in the UK(14), France(15) and Germany(20), China(16), Russia, India(17), Nigeria, Saudi Arabia(18) and Turkey(19) and many other countries(21).
As a soldier who swore an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, I feel disempowered by new interpretations and authorizations that leave the Old Republic in shambles, and threaten the life, liberty and freedom of every American citizen and citizens globally. The ability of the government to declare someone to be a “radical” has been applied to journalists, activists and the media has focused on numerous red herrings in order to justify this new abuse of authority and power. The majority of people have no idea this new form of order has taken hold globally, and so I leave this forum post as a warning and reminder, that Fascism has taken hold in America and around the world.