Has Eric Cantor Read the Constitution?

Virginia Republican Congressman Eric Cantor met with President Obama on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Syria.  Shortly after his conference with the president, Cantor released a statement saying, “I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria.”

Just in case you didn’t get that, allow me to interpret Cantor’s statement.

“I intend to abdicate my constitutional duty and give the President of the United States monarchical powers that the Constitution clearly prohibits him from possessing.”

Seriously, has Eric Cantor read the Constitution?  Did Cantor’s copy not include Article 1, Section 8 that outlines which branch of the federal government has war powers?

This section reads, “Congress shall have power to declare war….”  Or, stated differently, “Congress, and Congress alone, shall have the power to determine who the United States can fight, where and for what length of time.”  It doesn’t say, “Congress shall have the power to declare war or to defer to the president whenever it doesn’t feel like doing its job.”

The Constitution is clear: the president has no power to declare war.  Period.  Congress makes that call. And that doesn’t mean signing off on allowing the president to go to war if he wants to. The Congress debates and makes the decision. The president carries it out – whatever it may be. Cantor wants to let the president decide with his blessing. No! That’s YOUR job congressman!

Why is it that the people who have the hardest time understanding this are the people whose job description is literally “to uphold the Constitution of the United States”?

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An Impeachable Offense

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

Make no mistake about it: President Obama’s 90-minute telephone conference call with a group of congressional “leaders” to consult about his plans to initiate a military attack on Syria does not comport with the U.S. Constitution, the higher law that the American people have imposed on federal officials.

The Constitution is clear: The power to declare war lies with Congress, not the president. Like it or not, under our form of government the president is prohibited from waging war without a declaration of war from Congress. If someone doesn’t like it, he’s free to start a movement to amend the Constitution to enable the president to both declare and wage war.

From a legal standpoint, it makes no difference that previous presidents have waged wars without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. Prior violations of the Constitution do not operate as an implicit amendment of the Constitution. If Obama proceeds to carry out his threat to initiate war against Syria, he will be committing a grave constitutional offense.

The Framers did not want President Obama or any other president to have the omnipotent, dictatorial authority to send the entire nation into war on his own initiative. They knew that rulers inevitably embroil themselves in things like “saving face,” “maintaining credibility,” and “showing toughness.”

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Confession: I Supported Bush’s Wars

I have a confession.no syria

I supported the Bush wars. Actually, his daddy’s wars too. And Clinton’s wars. In fact, I pretty much supported all of the wars.

My worldview has shifted 180 degrees over the last five years.

Since the war drums started pounding out their cadence, driving the march toward Syria, I’ve spoken openly about my opposition to intervention. I even made a photo expressing my anti-war sentiment my Facebook profile pic.

I admit; it feels a little weird. A bit uncomfortable. Kind of like putting on a shoe that doesn’t quite fit. Or maybe putting on a shoe that fits just right after spending most of my life sporting ill-fitting footwear.

Here’s the thing: supporting war isn’t hard. Rage and hate come easily. War is bellicose and powerful. In my warmongering days, I could simply ridicule opponents. Shout them down. Paint them as unpatriotic, unamerican, cowards and trample over them. They were weak. I was strong.

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The Dictatorial Power to Punish a Dictator

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

President Obama is considering what military action the U.S. government should take against Syria in retaliation for its purported use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. At the risk of asking an indelicate question, where in the Constitution does it authorize the president to undertake such action?

When our American ancestors were calling the federal government into existence, they had two basic ways to go: (1) give the president unlimited authority to do whatever he deems is right or (2) limit the authority of the president to undertake only certain actions.

The first option would obviously have vested dictatorial powers within the president. That’s what a dictatorship is all about — the ability of a ruler to undertake whatever actions he wants and whatever he deems is in the best interests of the country.

That’s not the type of government our American ancestors desired to bring into existence. Instead, they chose the second option — the one in which the ruler’s powers are limited in nature.

That’s what the Constitution was all about. At the same time it brought the federal government into existence, it also limited the powers of the president (and other federal officials) to those expressly enumerated in the Constitution. The idea was that if a power wasn’t enumerated, the president was not authorized to exercise it.

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A Long History of Constitutional War Power Violations

Barack Obama is clearly not the first president to ignore the framers’ intent regarding the executive’s war powers. In many ways Obama is merely building upon the framework of George W. Bush, whose many foreign interventions were based on, at best, faulty evidence, and even worse constitutional reasoning.

Believe it or not, it is not constitutional for Congress to officially hand over its war responsibilities to the president. This was the basis for Bush’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But even George W. “If You’re Not With Us You’re Against Us” Bush didn’t lead the way in trailblazing the path of presidential war powers. Harry Truman kicked it off with his “police action” in Korea. The reasoning back then was pretty much the same as it is today. If war was redefined as a “police action,” it wouldn’t have to be declared by Congress and the President could wage it on his say-so alone.

If you or I tried to redefine the law like that we’d end up in jail. But when a president does it we’re supposed to fall in line with a chorus of “Yes, sir.”

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The Role of Foreign Policy in Security-State Surveillance

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

In the national discussion over the national-security state’s massive surveillance scheme over the American people, it’s imperative that we keep in mind how the national-security state’s foreign policy of empire and interventionism play into how we have ended up with an Orwellian system of national surveillance at the hands of the federal government.

How are statists justifying the NSA’s surveillance over the American people? Not surprisingly, they’re saying it’s all designed to “keep us safe.” The federal monitoring of everyone, they say, enables them to catch a small number of people who are planning terrorist attacks. Never mind, of course, that all that monitoring didn’t prevent the Boston bombing.

A critically important question has to be asked: Why are there people who are initiating terrorist attacks against the United States?

The answer is a simple one: Because the U.S. national-security state is killing, torturing, abusing, humiliating, impoverishing, and destroying people in foreign countries through such policies as coups, support of dictatorships, regime-change operations, interference with internal politics, intervention in foreign disputes, assassinations, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, secret imprisonment, and so forth.

The foreign victims of those policies get angry. A certain percentage of them go on the rampage with acts of anti-American terrorism. That’s in fact what the Boston bombings were all about. And the Ft. Hood killings. And the Detroit and New York City would-be bombers. And 9/11. And the USS Cole. And the attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa. And Benghazi.

So, here’s how the national-security system has developed.

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Thomas Jefferson vs. John McCain

There is no question that Syria has been ruled by the authoritarian al-Assad family since 1971, that the country’s human rights record is dismal, and that over 40,000 Syrians have been killed in a civil war that has been ongoing for almost two years.

The question is what the United States should or shouldn’t do about any of these things.

Senator John McCain thinks he knows the answer.

John McCain (born 1936) graduated from the Annapolis Naval Academy in 1958. After flight training, he spent some time on aircraft carriers in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas before volunteering for combat duty in Vietnam. In 1967 Lieutenant Commander McCain began bombing runs over North Vietnam. He was shot down on his twenty-third bombing mission and held as a prisoner of war for five years. After his release in 1973, McCain resumed his naval service until his retirement in 1981. While in the Navy, he earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After leaving the military, McCain began his career in politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. After two terms there, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, and has been there ever since.

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Why Isn’t the Murder of an American Boy an Impeachable Offense?

by Jacob Hornberger, FFF

Article 2, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice for matters arising out of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

If perjury and obstruction of justice constitute high crimes or misdemeanors, then doesn’t it seem rather obvious that the murder of an American citizen by the president would also constitute a high crime or misdemeanor, especially if the citizen is a child?

That’s precisely what President Obama, acting through U.S. national-security state agents, did on October 14, 2011. He murdered a 16-year-old American boy who was traveling in Yemen. The boy was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was the son of accused terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who the CIA had assassinated two weeks before.

Why did President Obama and the CIA or the military kill Abdulrahman? The president, the CIA, and the Pentagon have all chosen to remain silent on the matter, refusing to even acknowledge that they killed the boy. But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs implicitly provided the justification: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”

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Enemy of the State

In a published FOIA request, an Airman stationed in the UK was investigated after a mental breakdown caused by conflicting values of US military’s mission and her own political beliefs. She was found to sympathize with Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks. She had admitted to communicating her political ideas with various organizations known for anti-war/anti-military sentiments on Twitter and to a UK journalist. She also attended the Julian Assange Trial. However, her own admission and tweets revealed that she was never asked to release any intelligence to these groups and denied volunteering any intelligence to any journalist or group. The US Airforce Office of Special Investigations filed a complaint report on matters alleging “Communicating with the Enemy.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 104: Communicating with the Enemy states:

“Any person who–
(1) aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things; or
(2) without proper authority, knowingly harbors or protects or gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly;
shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.”

Who is the enemy in this document? Is it Julian Assange? Wikileaks? Journalists? Bloggers? Social media users? Those opposed to an unconstitutional and failed foreign policy? Anti-war organizations? The leaked document does not directly point to any person or organization but acknowledges who the Airman was in contact with and her activities surrounding her political beliefs. But, constitutionally speaking, who gets to determine the enemy?

The Constitution does not provide any structure to determine an enemy. An enemy could be those the US is at war with. Congress has the power to declare war but there is no framework as to what constitutes a declaration of war. In Federalist Paper number 3, it states, “The just causes of war, for the most part, arise either from violation of treaties or from direct violence.”

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