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Preventing Trump’s Wars

July 16, 2017

In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed typical DC turmoil regarding both President Trump’s Administration and the GOP dominated Congress. News seems to center around three main areas – the Russian/election tampering/Trump campaign alleged collusion dealing with last fall’s election, the Senate’s continuing attempts to make a mess  of the American health care system and President Trump’s somewhat contradictory attempts to show international leadership while withdrawing from major international commitments at the same time.

These aforementioned circumstances have served very nicely to give Donald Trump pretty much a blank check to do as he wishes with regard to our military adventures abroad. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on this country on 9/11/01, Congress took action passing legislation giving the George W. Bush Administration great leeway to deal with the aftermath of the death and destruction wreaked on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania by Al Qaeda on 9//11. Homeland Security was formed. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded. Trillions have been spent. Thousands of Americans have been killed with many thousands more wounded. Untold numbers of people in Iraq and Afghanistan – many innocent civilian men, women and children – also became casualties.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress nearly 16 years ago with nearly unanimous consent, along with the US Patriot Act, have been used right up to the present with little change to justify acts by our government not directly addressed or even foreseen as possibilities at the time of their passage. These include all of the activity conducted during the Arab Spring uprisings (particularly the enormously chaotic regime change that occurred in Libya which to this day remains destabilized beyond recognition) the intervention in the Syrian civil war and the multinational war on ISIS.

Whereas President George W. Bush sought broad multinational support, both in the UN and from our NATO allies in the military actions perpetrated against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the subsequent regime change invasion of Iraq (based to a great degree upon either faulty intelligence reporting or outright fabrication of evidence), he was not as successful as his father had been in achieving a coalition of allies leading up to the first Iraq War in 1991. When the situation in Iraq and Syria deteriorated and ISIS made its prominence felt in its use of graphic acts carried out in the course of forming its announced caliphate, President Obama, recognizing the inadequacy of the earlier AUMF, asked Congress to pass a new one to deal with the changed situation on the ground. Congress, as has been its wont in recent years, declined to do so – refusing, in effect, to perform its Constitutional responsibilities with regard to the conduct of military operations.

There has, in recent years, been increasing support within Congress to more adequately oversee and provide checks and balances on the authority of the Executive branch in time of war. So far, this support has been insufficient to rectify our government’s inability to deal with international conflict. Congress has not officially declared war since World War II. To state that this means that the United States has not been at war since then would be grounds for committal to a mental institution (or at least evidence of a severe lack of education in history). The war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history. There is no end in sight. President Trump is proposing to send in more troops once again to (hopefully, finally) stabilize the situation there. The situation regarding ISIS in Iraq and Syria seems to be stabilizing, thanks to enormous military expenditures by the US to arm and train  Iraqi forces, which recently resulted in the retaking of Mosul from ISIS (at great cost to the civilian population).

Syria seems to still be a somewhat intractable situation, largely due to the close proximity of American, Russian and Iranian forces, as well as Kurdish and Turkish intervention, the various factions of other internal opposition forces and the remnants of ISIS there. President Trump has not seemed to help matters. His use of guided missiles in an attack alleged to be a reprisal for a new use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own people certainly risked further escalation at the expense of millions of dollars that could obviously have been better spent. An American plane shooting down a Syrian one did nothing to defuse the situation. With American and Russian forces apparently working at cross purposes within the country, the opportunity for serious “accidents” to escalate frictions certainly continues to exist. The fact is, Syria does not now present a danger to the security of United States and never has. We have no business under international law to be shooting their planes down over their own territory when we have no business being there to begin with.

The entire Middle East seems to be a cauldron of conflict with our meddling, either through special forces, air and sea support or huge arms sales to those participating on all sides of the conflict (along with other nations weaponry being supplied to a lesser degree) seems to making the situation deteriorate even further. Witness the Saudi incursion in Yemen and the recent fare-up in tensions regarding Qatar. We cannot afford to allow one man to determine our entire foreign policy throughout the world without significant oversight from Congress.

The North Korean situation is even more troubling, with two seemingly extremely volatile leaders vying to outdo each other with their bravado. Thousands of American troops, along with millions of Korean civilian and military people, stand at risk of life and limb should that situation take a turn for the worst – not to mention potential escalation to Japan, China and even Russia. Trump’s apparent willingness, perhaps even desire, to go it alone in dealing with the rest of the world is troubling, especially when combined with a penchant to spout off in anger inappropriately at the least provocation or perceived personal slight. One need only peruse his Twitter feed or watch and listen to some of his speeches – campaign and otherwise – to come to this conclusion.

Congress needs to get its act together. Eight years of almost total lack of legislative activity and ignoring so many of their Constitutionally mandated duties to the American people need to be reversed. The Executive branch must be held accountable to us through the work of our elected representatives. They need to do more than raise campaign funds, pass what they call budget bills at the last minute and hold interminable investigative hearings on momentous issues that result in absolutely nothing that benefits us as people or as a nation. Pass a new AUMF and hold the President and the Pentagon responsible for how they spend the hundreds of billions of taxpayer money they are given every year to the same extent that they grill the administrators of the programs that benefit real people here and abroad. Start treating our children and aging citizens better and stop devoting such a large share of our resources to benefit the bomb builders and others who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.

I do not place much faith in Donald Trump’s leadership ability or his commitment to improving the wellbeing of anyone outside of his immediate family or social circles. Continuing to allow him to wield the powers he possesses as President of the United States of America effectively unfettered by the checks and balances put in place in our Constitution is a mistake for which future generations may not be willing or able to forgive us.

Further Suggested Readings:

Tim Kaine: U.S. strikes on Syrian forces ‘completely illegal’

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria

Another Step Toward Devastating War

After 16 Years, House Panel Takes Step to Cancel ‘Blank Check for Endless War’

Congress mulls new checks on military power

Washington’s War Crimes in Syria

Fueling ‘Perpetual War,’ Trump to Send 4,000 Troops to Afghanistan

America Illegally At War For a Long Time Now

Lawmakers applaud after panel approves language revoking war authority

Are We Finally Ending The 9/11 Undefined Blank Check For ‘War’?

Our President’s Word Wars

The Trump Administration’s Penchant for Escalation in Syria Must Be Challenged

Make No Mistake, We Are Already at War in Syria

U.S. officials believe North Korea has tested ICBM capable of reaching Alaska

Trump’s Policy Is Clear: Civilian Casualties Don’t Matter in the War on Terror

Wag the Dog? Offering No Proof, Trump Threatens New Attacks Against Syria

Stop the War’s Statement on Trump’s Claims About Syria

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