Remarks at http://whodecidesaboutwar.org conference.
Who actually does: the media, weapons companies, the permanent government, presidents (including simply by decreeing a “war on terror”, through misspending, lying, simply acting, signing treaties), political parties, culture (the one Biden lives in, in which Israel’s sovereign right to attack Iran is uncontroversial), soldiers who obey illegal orders and the culture that leads kids to that place.
Who should decide: we the people of the world, through democratically created and enforced international and national and state laws.
This is complicated by another question: what does the law say? But we may give too much importance to that. Laws violated for decades can be as hard to enforce as laws not written yet. But getting old laws enforced and new laws created has to be part of our strategy.
Which is why I wonder about proposing public referenda on wars. I’m not opposed, but undecided. With the communications system and government we have now, the public might have voted to attack Iraq in 2003. However, if required to vote again each year, the war might have lasted only one year instead of six and counting. But the initial invasion would still have been illegal, immoral, and catastrophic.
With a better communications system and election finance system and party system and voting system and congressional checks on presidential power — in other words with everything we’d need in order to control Congress and create public referenda on wars or anything else — we might see wars blocked by referenda. But if we’re making exceptions for defensive (legal) wars, then why vote the illegal ones up or down, why not (given our hypothetical ability to control Congress) deter war criminals through impeachments, including the impeachment of attorneys general who refuse to prosecute them?
And why weaken the already unconstitutionally weak War Powers Act in the manner proposed this morning by Morton Halperin and taken from “Deciding to Use Force Abroad” by the Constitution Project, which effectively would limit Congress to deciding on whether or not to fight each aggressive war? Why not ban all aggressive wars by enforcing the laws that already do that? Or why not leave Congress the undiluted power to decide on all wars, as spelled out in the Constitution? I’m just asking. If you have to have a war powers act, why not at least limit the exceptions to congressional approval to cases of immediate defense of the United States? And then, what other wars should there be?
So, how DO we the people get the power to decide about war?
Through counter-recruitment including countering mercenary recruitment.
Through systemic reforms (including restoring all but the 3rd amendment — the one still left standing; and think about why that is).
By forcing our representatives in the House to reclaim and accept power on our behalf that they do not want. By forcing them to use the power of the purse. By forcing them to use the powers of impeachment and inherent contempt. (Barbara Lee was right on Thursday to introduce a bill to block funding an escalation, but so was John McCain the same day to advocate Congress bringing a general in for questioning. We need testimony from current war makers and from recent criminals.)
By holding war criminals accountable through national, state, local, civil, foreign, or international suits.
By thinking of 3 branches rather than 2 parties. People who wanted Congress to end Bush’s wars want it to leave Obama alone.
By exposing the lies that Congress debated 7 years ago this week.
By restoring to Congress the power to make laws, wars, treaties, appointments, and spend all public money.
By dismantling the empire of bases and the military industrial media CIA/DIA complex (including the banning of any US military presence in foreign nations).
By amending the war powers act to disallow war without Congress, to require annual reauthorization, and to make violations impeachable offenses and felonies. And not to further weaken it by giving Congress the role of consultants.
By instituting a fair draft in time of war.
By making war profiteering a major felony and banning the ownership of war companies by elected officials.
By banning the use of mercenaries.
By passing Rep. Betty McCollum’s ACORN Act (Against Corporations Organizing to Rip-Off the Nation).
By passing Rep. Jim McGovern’s bill to require an exit strategy for Afghanistan.
By banning war propaganda (including a lot of recruitment ads and the Army Experience Center).
By requiring that family members of presidents and congress members who vote for wars participate.
By limiting to 25% the portion of the public budget that can go to the military and requiring a balanced budget. And by creating a separate line on income tax forms for military and war costs.
By requiring free comprehensive healthcare and education be provided to all military veterans.
By protesting at the White House on Monday, October 5th, along with http://www.nogoodwar.org
By working toward the vision Ben Manski presented today at http://www.whodecidesaboutwar.org of militias as opposed to standing armies, militias being volunteer forces that tend to resist foreign wars of aggression. By working toward the similar vision John Judge presented today of a democratic military without a judicial system separate from the civilian, with the freedom of soldiers to decline participation in wars, and with the right to unionize.
By developing, as discussed today at http://www.whodecidesaboutwar.org a legal structure for addressing impending acts of genocide around the world without permitting or facilitating wars of aggression.