Moral Low Ground

US Government

House to Vote on Presidential Blank Check for Never-Ending, World-Wide War

Hidden away deep inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the federal law that specifies military budget expenditures, is an extremely frightening provision. Pushed by House Republicans and nearly unnoticed by the mainstream media, this monumental legislation would give the President greatly expanded powers to wage open-ended, worldwide war– even inside the United States.

(Photo: Lawrence Jackson)

The provision, Sec. 1034, was stealthily added to the NDAA by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. If passed, Sec. 1034 would allow the President to attack not only al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but any “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.”

Rep. McKeon and Sec. 1034’s backers apparently don’t think the President currently has sufficient power to wage war. This is extremely curious, since the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress enacted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks granted sweeping powers to the President to pursue anyone suspected of having anything to do with 9/11, anywhere in the world. It was the AUMF that supposedly validated the war in Afghanistan, not to mention the assassination of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan.

Speaking of bin Laden, you might think that now that the world’s most wanted terrorist is six feet under (six thousand feet under is probably more like it), we’d be winding down the war on terror. Think again.

Sec. 1034 shrewdly omits any reference to 9/11, since the actual relevance of that dubious day of infamy is fading away into history.

But for the hawks in Congress, the show must go on.

With their election campaigns paid for by the deep-pocketed folks at Big Oil, on Wall Street and in the Military-Industrial Complex, the prospect of a contracted War on Terror positively terrorizes many of our elected officials and their corporate masters. Sec. 1034 is manna from heaven, raising the very real possibility of a never-ending war.

That’s right. War without end, or geographical boundaries, either. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “essentially, it would enable the US to use military force anywhere in the world (including within the US) in search of terrorists. If, say, this or a future President wishes to Iran without Congressional approval, Sec. 1034 would give him the power to do so.

And since Sec. 1034 also gives the President the authority to imprison “belligerents” until the “termination of hostilities” but doesn’t say how hostilities would be considered terminated, it also raises the disturbing possibility of indefinite imprisonment of anyone the President does not like.

If this sounds an awfully lot like the current state of affairs in the War on Terror that began under the Bush administration, consider this: the current provision was actually first proposed by Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey in 2008 after the Bushists lost Boumediene v. Bush, in which the US Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detention.

In other words, the sweeping powers granted to the executive branch in the name of fighting terrorism, powers which have been grossly abused under both the Bush and Obama administrations, aren’t enough for some. The horrors of the last ten years– preemptive invasions, indefinite detention without charge or trial, Guantanamo, torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens– could pale in comparison to what the President could do under the expanded powers granted by Sec. 1034.

The ACLU says Sec. 1034 could very well be “the single biggest ceding of unchecked war authority to the executive branch in modern American history.”

And the funny thing is, President Obama hasn’t even asked for these powers. He has repeatedly said that his administration has all the tools it needs to fight terrorism.

There are those in Congress who know that passing Sec. 1034 would be a grave mistake. One of them, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) even offered an amendment to strike the provision from the NDAA. A full House debate on the measure will begin the week of May 23. We all should be paying very close attention to the proceedings, even if our mainstream media isn’t.

You can also write your Congressional representative and urge them to oppose Sec. 1034 by clicking here.

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