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If you like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then you’ll love what Senator John McCain and Congressman “Buck” McKeon, the new Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, are proposing: Congress should give the President and the Secretary of Defense a blank check to wage war against anyone he or she declares “associated” with al-Qaeda or the Taliban – anytime, anywhere, anyhow.  

Just what and who is an “associated force” of al Qaeda and the Taliban? Chairman McKeon’s bill leaves that determination entirely up to the Secretary of Defense. Shock and awe – the sequel – might not be far behind. And there would be no need to get authorization from Congress before the missiles start flying – that would all be covered in this new blank-check legislation.

What could be more efficient?!? No more messy Congressional authorization, with all of those hearings, debates and prolonged votes. No more having to deal with intruding Congressional inquiries! No more having to worry about the likes of Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) who insist on accountability by the administration and oversight by the Congress!

This is not a pipe dream. Legislation that will do what I have just described has not only been introduced in both the House (H.R. 968) and Senate (S. 551), it is likely to end up in the Defense Authorization bill that emerges from the House Armed Services Committee a few weeks from now. Those keeping score should note that the new authorization is:

•    Global in scope. With no geographic boundary, the Secretary of Defense could take America to war in any country in the world where a suspected terrorist resides;

•    Never ending. This language is open ended and doesn’t require the President to return to Congress for additional authority;

•    Divorced from national security concerns. Unlike the 2001 authorization passed days after the 9/11 attacks that ties the authority to use military force to a direct attack on America, this language is not linked to any attack or imminent threat to American citizens.

It is arguably the greatest ceding of unchecked authority to the Executive Branch in modern history. Not only would this bill abdicate Congress’ authority to declare war, it would relieve the Administration of the need to seek Congressional resolutions of support or authorizations for new military actions.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to providing a blank check for war, the proposed legislation would give the president dangerous new powers to detain anyone suspected of links to terrorism (the ostensible purpose of the legislation, titled the “Detainee Security Act of 2011”). It requires that all suspects be held by the military (unless the Defense Secretary grants a waiver), and either tried by military commission or held indefinitely. This provision alone diminishes the authority of law enforcement agencies integral to our anti-terror efforts, obstructs the counterterrorism operations of officials who have a record of successful intelligence gathering, overburdens the military with responsibilities it does not want, and limits the president’s options in defending America’s national security interests. Dozens of federal agencies with critical expertise would be prevented from participating in a review of whether suspects posed a threat to national security.

The odds of the Committee stripping any of this dangerous language from the bill before it hits the floor of the House are about as long as my being signed by my Boston Red Sox. House leadership is very likely to support their Chairman and push hard for passage on the floor. Passage of similar language in the Senate Armed Services Committee is not a sure bet, but it is a distinct possibility. While the Democrats hold a voting edge on the panel, one of those “edges” is none other than Senator Joe Lieberman – a Co-sponsor of the McCain version of the bill! That leaves Senator Ben Nelson as the swing vote, putting opponents of a blank check for endless war in a very precarious position at best.  If Senator Nelson votes for the bill, Senator McCain will have a victory in Committee and have plenty of momentum as the bill heads to the Senate floor.

But the first stop for the bill will be the House Armed Services Committee and then the House floor. It will begin to make its way in just a few weeks and a final floor vote will more than likely occur by Memorial Day.    

Those who believe that this legislative attempt to grease the skids for the next US military adventure is outrageous and irresponsible need to worry. Better still, we need to get busy. Chairman McKeon’s legislation has so far been flying well below the radar of public attention. His bill is alive and well without a peep of public opposition or concern. This has to change now.

Take one minute right now and tell your Representative to oppose Chairman McKeon’s blank check for endless war.

Members of Congress need to start hearing from opponents of endless war and supporters of the U.S. Constitution. This tidy little provision – that heretofore has gone completely unnoticed by the public - should not be allowed to be tucked into a Defense Authorization bill without a fight. If there isn’t one, and Chairman McKeon and Senator McCain prevail, public opposition to any future US military action around the world won’t matter. It will have already been authorized by Congress.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Thanks for posting here, Tom. (0+ / 0-)

      And thanks for pointing out the continued, escalating insanity that is US foreign policy.  I'm making 8 phone calls myself, 4 in HI where I'm a temporary  guest worker with a voter's card, and 4 in ME where my home is and where I was proud to have you as my Rep back in the day.

      Keep up the good work.  This should be at the front of every Progressive's agenda.

      Oh, and (not that it would make a difference) Obama also needs to know how his "base" thinks about this, even if his constitutional law cred has pretty much been shredded by his blatant disregard for much of that great document.  Hmmm.  Maybe he thinks "base" means "doormat," like he thinks "due process" means "life in prison without trial."

      I'll make it 9 calls.


      "Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." - Confucius -/- "Yeah, well, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi

      by nailbender on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 11:17:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Conveniently (9+ / 0-)

    it also absolves Members of Congress from having to take any pesky votes on taking the country to war.

    So much for checks and balances.

    When it becomes "uncivil" to call out liars, lying becomes free. -- Rick Perlstein

    by Joan McCarter on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 09:55:51 AM PDT

  •  Nice catch. But links would be good...nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SuperBowlXX, liberte

    Beware of Bad Bhadsha - Zn'rx Proverb

    by Jack Pine Savage on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:01:03 AM PDT

    •  here's one from Human Rights First: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joan McCarter, liberte, aliasalias
      ....both bills require that terrorism suspects be held in military custody rather than handled by FBI agents and federal prosecutors, who have successfully elicited a substantial amount of valuable intelligence information from terrorism suspects, including telephone numbers and email addresses used by al Qaeda and its affiliates, al Qaeda communications methods and security protocols, al Qaeda recruiting and financing methods, the location of al Qaeda training camps and safe houses, information on al Qaeda weapons programs, the identities of operatives involved in past attacks, and information about future plots to attack U.S. interests.

      Moreover, by forcing terrorism suspects into military custody, the McCain and McKeon bills tie the hands of federal prosecutors, who have convicted over 400 individuals of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11.  So instead of ensuring that terrorism suspects are properly interrogated and promptly brought to justice, the McCain and McKeon bills contemplate sending even more terrorism suspects to Guantanamo to languish indefinitely.  This would only further complicate the President’s plan to close the offshore detention facility, which continues undermine the U.S.’s reputation and serve as a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

  •  Well, Libya (8+ / 0-)

    would seem to be the better model, since for those two, Congress actually gave its approval, but your point is well-taken. An extremely dangerous bill.

    It would also effectively end civilians trials for terrorism suspects, make the closing of Gitmo impossible by making the temporary ban on transfers permanent, and require that all terrorism suspects picked up in the U.S., even American citizens, be turned over to the military.

    Look for most Democrats to hide in the cloak room during this debate.

  •  This is why the rest of the world needs to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lepanto, BigAlinWashSt, divineorder

    ...marginalize and bankrupt the US by refusing to lend us money to invade and murder citizens of sovereign nations -- and why the Dollar should be rejected as a global currency.

    It's time to beach this whale so the world can enjoy some peace and prosperity.

    And, it looks like that is exactly what is happening.... Finally.

  •  What Constitution? (6+ / 0-)

    S.A.W. 2011 STOP ALL WARS "The Global War on Terror is a fabrication to justify imperialism."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:14:06 AM PDT

  •  This proposal is sick. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigAlinWashSt, liberte, divineorder

    The last thing we need is more wars. What we need most of all is a new cast of mind, whereby we don't turn automatically to war, to violence, as the solution to all problems.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:40:41 AM PDT

  •  Sorry, I'm too busy reading meta for worrying (0+ / 0-)

    about my rights and my country anymore.


    "... the Professional Left, that is simultaneously totally irrelevant and ruining everything" (Glenn Greenwald)

    by ranger995 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 12:22:35 PM PDT

  •  Eisenhower's prophecy fulfilled (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I would say President Eisenhower has now been proved 100% correct in his concerns about the Military/Industrial Complex. It is really quite sad.

    I always did like Ike. I'm just old enough to remember watching the 1956 convention on our first TV. My parents were supporters of Adlai Stephenson, but I watched the TV and decided, at age 5, that Eisenhower was who I wanted to win -- except I didn't understand what it meant to win.

    "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet." -- Stephen Hawking

    by dratman on Fri Apr 29, 2011 at 06:13:49 AM PDT

  •  It's already being implemented (0+ / 0-)

    The wars in Libya and Pakistan occurred without any Congressional approval.   Not since Nixon was President has the U.S. engaged in so many wars.  This will make the Bush foreign policies law.  

    "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power....The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
    George Orwell, 1984

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