Endless War and Hypocrisy

It seems that Democrats have suddenly discovered their love of Congressional war powers. Hatred of Trump sure does bring out the best in people.

Now that the dust is settling between the U.S. and Iran, Rep. Nancy Pelosi has decided to take a break from her full-time job of not submitting articles of impeachment to instead discussing presidential war powers.

Where was this lioness for Congressional power when Libya was in the crosshairs? Where has this love of constitutional law been hiding for the last decade and a half?

For years, President Obama engaged in a bombing campaign against targets that Congress had never approved, and Democrats in Congress kept silent. Obama concluded a treaty with Iran, sidestepping Congress, and the Democrats made not a peep.

Their candidates for president brag about their plans to seize guns illegally, pass illegal taxes, and generally enforce their unilateral will on the people (Constitution be damned) and Congressional Democrats applaud.

They complain when Trump begins to disengage in Syria, they cry when he doesn’t attack Iran following provocation, and then they turn around and panic when he does respond. Believe me, I welcome their voices in the fight to reestablish Congressional war powers, making the presidency just a tiny bit weaker, but come on. Their hypocrisy and duplicitousness would be nauseating if we hadn’t been inoculated to it long ago.

Of course, hypocrisy is not a partisan issue—many Republicans who squawked about Obama’s regular executive overreach now assure us that Trump should have this power.

But at least there are some Republicans who hold consistent views on constitutional law and Congressional authority.

God bless Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul, should they really fight to repeal the 2002 AUMF. America’s war—or is it wars?—in the Middle East bears no resemblance to the original reason for the AUMF. 17 years ago, Congress passed the Authorization to give the President powers over the war against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and to the manage the occupation to follow.

This same authorization, intended to set the scope for the war in Iraq, has been used to justify American intervention in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. For people who aren’t geography nerds (apparently all of Congress) Libya is on a different continent than Iraq. It would seem there has been some mission creep.

This same overly broad, outdated document is what empowered Trump to kill Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. At this point, allow me to say that in no way should we be apologizing for the killing of this blood-soaked monster. Nor should we fault Trump for deploying Marines to defend the U.S. Embassy as Iranian-backed militias stormed the gates and seemed poised for further violence.

However, we have to face an uncomfortable reality: We were brought to the edge of war because of the decisions of one man. No president should be afforded the responsibility of deciding where, when, and with whom we go to war.

As a republic, our system of government demands that we debate these decisions in Congress rather than have fiats issued by an imperial president.

To those who argue, “Should we vote every time we have to kill a terrorist?” I say of course not! We should vote on whether we’re going to be in the killing business at all, and if we are, which forces exactly we’re going to be fighting. Once we have decided that, it is the executive branch’s duty to direct military matters.

We have spent most of my life fighting in the Middle East under a document that has granted presidents the immense power over war and peace—fighting wars that our leaders claim we are always winning yet never seem to end.

It’s time that Congress retake its responsibility and claim its power.

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Dallas Emerson

Dallas Emerson is writer, activist, and public speaker with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL).

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