"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in
man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
- Thomas Jefferson
All over the country, and even in the press, the
U.S. Constitution is being discussed in regards to the president's war powers.
This is apparently a side benefit of having an empire so corrupt and murderous
are considering impeaching and removing the president who lied
us into war and claims unlimited authority to wiretap,
whomever he likes – his lawyers even insist that the "commander in
chief" has the "inherent" and "plenary" authority to
crush a child's testicles to get at the boy's father. (Really. Click
here to read all about it.)
The Constitution is
not holy writ, but the government it describes would be a hell of a lot
better than the one we have now.
It is a commonly held fallacy that
the president of the United States has unlimited authority over this country's
foreign policy. What authority does the Constitution grant the president in
this regard? Well, he is to retain civilian supremacy over the military "when
called into the actual service of the United States," and he can negotiate
treaties that have no authority whatsoever unless and until ratified by a super-majority
of the U.S. Senate. That's it. There
is nothing else.
Congress holds "all legislative powers," according to the first sentence
of the first section of Article One.
One could argue, as Thomas Jefferson did,
that the spirit and letter of the Constitution has been corrupted since the
first Washington administration, when the president accepted Alexander Hamilton's
view that the new government could do anything not expressly forbidden by the
Constitution and signed the law creating the second Bank of the United States
– an act that caused Jefferson to resign his position as secretary of state.
Even accepting Hamilton's false
premise, as every generation since then has, it is apparent that precisely
what is considered forbidden by the Constitution has been about as fluid
as George Washington's interpretation of it and the whims of various politicians
in the years since.
No where is this clearer than in the record of America's wars. Of the five wars
that were actually declared by the Congress, as required by Article 1, Section
8, Clause 11, not one was defensive. The war of 1812-14 was the result of Jefferson
and Madison's perfectly constitutional, yet economically and politically suicidal,
trade war against Britain. James Madison, the Constitution's principal
author, chose to take an aggressive
posture against Britain (while, of course, playing the victim), and succeeded
only in getting the Capitol burned to the ground and making Andrew Jackson (who
would go on to centralize more authority in the presidency) into a war hero.
It's too bad Madison ignored his
own advice on how to keep the government limited. In 1795, he had argued
that America should do its best to avoid foreign conflicts since,
"[O]f all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to
be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is
the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts,
and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination
of the few."
The war against Mexico (in which half
of that country was stolen) was provoked
by U.S. troops as soon as possible after Texas' entry to the Union. Congress
was "notified," that is, lied to, and declared war after the fact,
to the infernal
consternation of a congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. After
gaining the presidency for himself, Lincoln turned around and provoked
the first shots of the Civil War by sending troops to occupy Ft. Sumter, a tax-collection
post in the bay of a state that had declared its independence. According
to Thomas DiLorenzo, Lincoln "wrote to his naval commander Gustavus
Fox thanking him for his assistance in drawing the first shot." Congress
never did declare war, only that the war the president had started was for the
purpose of "preserving the union" – months
By the time the Civil War was over, the
idea that anything could limit the powers of the federal government was
gone forever. The final step from a limited constitutional republic to a single
nation-state had been taken – the union had become the nation – the
united States, plural, replaced forever by the United States, singular. The
right of people to secede from what they consider to be an illegitimate government,
articulated so clearly in the
Declaration of Independence, had been replaced by the president's prerogative
to conquer them by violent force. (Yes, private slavery is also wrong.)
As soon as the settlement
of the West, and the near extermination of the American Indians, was complete,
the American empire went looking for foreign colonies to conquer. Apparently,
between post-constitutional "statehood" and empire wasn't quite as
far as the step from republic to nation-state.
Hawaii was taken at 40-inch gun point in 1893.
(Throughout all this is a history of violent intervention in Central and South
America that defies imagination.)
little" Spanish-American war of 1898, which William Graham Sumner argued
actually resulted in the U.S. being conquered by Spain, was sold to the people
and the Congress as a defensive response to Spanish sabotage of the battleship
Maine – which was, of course, a
lie. "Acquired" were Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines–
where a brutal
"anti-insurgency" campaign took the lives of hundreds of thousands,
all in the name of "liberation." There was no constitutional provision
for how to suppress insurrections by the subjects of foreign colonies, so the
Marines just improvised.
With the arrival
of the butcher Woodrow Wilson, favorite of
American court historians and thus of state-educated folks everywhere, came
a whole "New Freedom," which included mass arrests, deportations,
jailing of dissenters, and all the other staples of a totalitarian
reign of terror. He had already invaded Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the
Dominican Republic – all without just cause or congressional declaration
– before lying the U.S. into World War I. The suspicious
sinking of the Lusitania,
a ship full of civilians (and unbeknownst to them, munitions for British forces
fighting the Kaiser), was not enough to convince the American people to get
involved in the "Great War" in Europe, but when the people were shown
an intercepted message known as the Zimmerman
Telegram, which showed Germany's offer of an alliance with Mexico in the
event of war with the United States and a promise to help them retake the American
Southwest, opinion against Germany hit a fever pitch. How Germany could help
Mexico retake New Mexico and Arizona when they couldn't conquer France, England,
or Russia was never explained, but it was enough, and Wilson got his declaration
America's entry into World War I set
the 20th century on a course of death and totalitarianism. As described
by Jim Powell in Wilson's
War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World
War II, due to Wilson's interference, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Paul
Wolfowitz's hero, Leon Trotsky, were able to seize power in Russia and create
the Soviet Union,
and the French and British were able to so humiliate the Germans as to assure
the rise of the Nazi death
Between Wilson and his fascist
spawn, Franklin Roosevelt, there was an attempted "return to normalcy,"
but the incredible consolidation of state power during the Wilson years was
far too extensive to be undone, and the Republican administrations of Coolidge,
Harding, and Hoover were hardly in a hurry to undo Wilson's gains.
After all, he had just been emulating their conservative
By the time Franklin Roosevelt and Harry "Lucky" Truman were through,
the Constitution was nothing but pretty calligraphy on parchment for folks to
reminisce about on the Fourth of July. Through various states of national
emergency, the wholesale
rewriting of the interstate commerce clause by the courts, and America's
participation in WWII (another war in which the American people were
into thinking that our intervention was defensive in nature, though their sons
were conscripted when that still wasn't
good enough), Washington, D.C., had permanently established itself as
the center of economic and political power in the United States. Garet
Garrett called it Ex-America
way back then: a massive warfare/welfare/regulatory/national security state,
the final reduction of the several states to the status of large counties under
"federal" control, a permanent military-industrial
complex, and the inheritance of all the Western empires, plus Japan's. War
could now be declared by the
president or the
United Nations Security Council. The Constitution was no longer amended
when politicians decided they needed more power – they just went ahead.
The rule of law was dead.
It is impossible to have a limited constitutional republic in a state of perpetual
war. Since WWII, the Right has agitated for more foreign conflict –
a government's most effective means of
expanding its control – while the Left has sung J.P.
Morgan's song of good democratic government and pushed for the disregard
of the limits the law places on the actions of the state. As the historians
Gabriel Kolko and Murray Rothbard have shown, the push for "progressive"
government regulation of business in
the years before World War I and during
the Great Depression was led by the big businesses that were to be regulated.
They had decided that competing over control of congressmen was easier than
competing in a free market. The Left bought
it, and continues to.
When the Republicans are in charge, the Left is mad at them for "not doing
enough." When Democrats are in power, the Left openly laments that our
government doesn't interfere in people's lives quite as much as in Europe. Even
the most atrocious and aggressive wars are sometimes praised by liberals, who,
believing wholeheartedly in the benevolent power of the state to order the domestic
sphere, carry that faith over into "humanitarian" and "peacekeeping"
roles for the U.S. military around the world. Enumerated powers? Never heard
of such a thing.
The Cold War – a neat euphemism for 40 years of constant fear and warmongering
– required even those most dedicated to markets and the rule of law to
accept a "totalitarian bureaucracy on
our shores," according to the court intellectuals, as the military
fought its proxy wars and the CIA installed
overseas. As the Cold War was winding down, the National Security
Council was preparing to scrap the Constitution altogether and create a military
dictatorship, as detailed in the Miami
Herald on July 5, 1987.
When the Soviet menace imploded, the U.S. government created
new enemies here and abroad
to fight in the name of ending the distribution of illegal drugs and stopping
aggressive war, beginning with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which American
diplomats had, of course,
It is easy to see why the politicians lie us into all these conflicts: Americans
don't want empire and never have. We have continued to believe in the traditions
of our nation's founders, who led a successful rebellion against an empire and
created in its place, at least they claimed, just enough government to protect
our rights. When the politicians send our families off to war, they must always
call it "liberation" and "defending freedom" against the
forces of malevolent tyrants in order to disguise our empire's truly
With the "war on terror," we see the brutal
face of the $2.5 trillion per year government that has been created in this
land, supposedly under this
Constitution, in the name of all these good
works. Halliburton – which has done such a great job with the ghost
prisons overseas – has now been awarded the contract to build domestic
concentration camps. In the event of a "Red Alert," we may very
well see the Department of Homeland Security fulfill its destiny as the American
National Police Force; the repeal (or reinterpretation
out of existence) of posse
comitatus; and the deployment of the military's new Northern
Command over the people of this once-free land.
Some may try to pretend that the U.S. has become like the Soviet Union "allofasudden,"
under the corrupt direction of recent leaders, but the truth is that our government
has been turning into this imperial leviathan for generations, while the citizenry
it on. It has taken the blundering
stupidity and ruthlessness
of this recent gang to make people see what's happened – and now it
may be too late to do anything about it.
There's one course left open, and that is the election of the House of Representative
every two years. (Look
out, they're trying to destroy that, too.) All bills for raising and appropriating
revenue must originate in the House. They finally ended the Vietnam War by refusing
to continue paying for it.
The U.S. Constitution provides us with the mechanism to completely purge our
bloodshed – and we may not have many chances left. We could, theoretically,
in this year's primary elections, send the machine candidates in both parties
home and completely purge the House of Representatives (current reelection rate
99 percent). But will
the choice between republic or empire be on the ballot in 2006?