Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 63,541
Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 63,541
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I gotta say, I imagine I'm like a lot of folks here who put their workday aside and try and find some connection here between our politics and the things we hope/need to accomplish in our own lives.
It's never been easy for me, economically. It's paycheck to paycheck, and if I stretched out my budget and matched it to my income, I'd fall way short. It's more like gambling against the future, and my work hours are far from guaranteed. As arbitrary as they are to the economy and budget of my workplace, they are even more vulnerable to a poor, uncertain, and threatened economy.
Lots of federal workers where I live and most of the rest of us are in service industries and other businesses which support that federal workforce. Needless to say, we took a big hit over this manufactured economic crisis; still are.
I don't have anything real in my life that I can actually hang on this 'victory' for Democrats against republicans and find solace enough to celebrate. I'm a bit shellshocked right now and I'm just wondering where we go next to stop this republican assault on our economy and where we go next to get us to the point where we're actually doing something politically which will translate into economic stability for my community and for the nation.
I imagine that's what this assault was all about; just to rattle our cages out here and remind us that we're always going to be in a different class of folks; always going to be beholden to someone out there for just keeping our heads above water, no matter how hard we work.
And, you get folks who must be just fine and dandy in their own economic experiences who see fit to ridicule you when you can't find much to 'celebrate' out of barely holding onto this status quo; this economic siege meant to keep the majority of us in the work market grateful for whatever splatters of meal we can scrounge from the edges and outside of the pig's trough.
It's all just a fucking game, and I'm certainly a loser. There'll be no celebrating here tonight. Just hanging on, trying to keep myself healthy enough to keep laboring for whatever hours they see fit to throw my way.
I understand the disconnect some folks have from the point I'm trying to make here. These days I'm thinking it's always going to be like this for my family. Goodness knows, we're trying as hard as we're able to make a living and survive. Just one trumped-up crisis after another, though. What the fuck is next?
Posted by bigtree | Wed Oct 16, 2013, 06:10 PM (9 replies)
THIS minority group of republicans in Congress' refusal to act to fund our government is just short of treason.Their protest is threatening and disrupting almost every instigation of government aid, assistance, and support for average Americans. The majority elected their representatives and Senators to continue to uphold, preserve, and defend those essential functions of government.
The refusal to proceed to vote on those things Congress has already agreed to provide is an outright betrayal of trust from the handful of republicans in the House leadership, and, a direct assault on the vast number of our American citizens who depend on the government they've elected to carry through on the obligations they've voted on and already advanced into law.
This morning we're told that it was the republican speaker, Boehner's, own decision to declare that Congress' exclusive gyms were deemed essential enough to continue operating, while his government shutdown halts death benefits to families of fallen soldiers; just one of a myriad of examples of the arrogant elitism practiced behind this cynical and self-aggrandizing politics.
While these congressmen and women in the national legislature, who are holding up the obligations to fund their own appropriations - working to squeeze and ransom Americans into accepting their unpopular and defeated demands - are certainly acting within the law, they are, nonetheless, acting far outside of the compact Americans made with the votes they provided to advance them to office and keep them in power and authority over their hard-earned contributions to government.
It's imperative to our democracy that we not allow this minority of legislators to default on their own obligations to Americans; not allow them to continue to hold hostage our full faith and credit to keep up the aid, assistance, and support that folks out here without the benefit of these legislators' personal (taxpayer-initiated) wealth rely on to survive and thrive.
Annoyance over the republican leadership's refusal to act has turned from bemusement; to dismay; to anger (I would think, at this point). Either by recall; or dismissal; or replacement at election time; these obstructors of the public will and law should be expelled from the offices and practices of the government they so callously refuse to maintain and fund for the folks out here who elected them.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Oct 8, 2013, 11:24 AM (5 replies)
I KNOW it's only been Fall here for a handful of days, but it's absolutely gorgeous outside. It's normally the time of year where you look around your yard and garden and almost wish for all of the eaten and declining perennials to slip into sleep for the winter, to emerge renewed for the next summer's pageant of new leaf and blossom.
This is the season where the dying leaves and other foliage reduce our outdoor palette to essential colors of the earth; the yellows and reds stark against the sharp blue sky, merging together to produce orange and golden hues to highlight the lingering and evergreen trees, bushes, and grasses laden with seeds and berries.
This year, we've barely gone below 70 degrees during the day and above 50 degrees at night. Most of the green is still evident all around, with an occasional dogwood already cutting through the defiant stands of emerald with their leaves dominating their space with a fiery amber that heralds the inevitable hibernation of their reluctant neighbors.
There are still phlox in bloom, accented by a sprinkle of miniature goldenrod and scattered reddened flower heads of autumn sedum and lantana against the paisley colors of the coleus; made bolder and more vivid by the rays of the autumn sun and the chilly nights which crisps everything and hardens it against the decline of this year's abundant growing season.
Soon the oak leaf hydrangeas, Japanese maples, hazelnuts, and other autumn performers will vie for attention with their own scarlet resignations to the winter cold. Yet, for now, most everything looks unusually content in playing Summer as they take advantage of the relaxing, stress-free, temperate air and reflect on their longevity; imagining that they could go on like this forever, like the plants that I bring inside every Winter to both selfishly and obligingly keep them safe and preserve them for yet another season out in the garden.
Now that the mosquitoes are gone I've taken to sitting every morning for about an hour or so in the one spot that the sun manages to shine through the thick canopy and light up a secluded spot on the front steps, tucked in there away from prying eyes that might frown on the occasional pungent smoke that escapes my efforts to hold it all in between sips of my piping hot coffee.
It's not long before I'm joined by my catbird friend who has put aside his melodious mimicries and adopted a persistent whine and cry which has broken my solitude each and every time I've sought refuge there. He cries to me in between mouthfuls of beautyberries - maybe not ripe enough for him; they're usually ripened fully by now, but the season's stretch has allowed them a later bloom and fruit - I imagine that he's missing his friends who haven't been around since the first chill winds blew through the town about a month ago.
I tell him, softly, that he needs to get going - maybe he can hook up with the other lone male who grudgingly answers his lonely whine and cry and fly the coop to warmer tundra. More and more of his bird friends have stopped making their yearly journey south; at least not as far down as before; and are wintering over nearby. The cardinals have always been a bit stalwart; and there's the gang of starlings and an assorted sparrow and dove who come in a couple of motley groups to my patio every day all winter on their feeding rounds to advantage themselves of the seed that I sprinkle almost daily everywhere I can find a surface to scatter it .
His buddies, the wrens and the cardinals made a daily habit of coming to my open front and back doors to warn me as excitedly as they were able whenever the fox or one of the neighborhood cats were around, or whenever one of the resident hawk threatened. I'd come out and pretend that I was keeping order with a stern word or two to the open air.
"Whaa, whaa!" he cries to me, though his mouth stuffed with purple fruit.
"Whaa, Whaaa!" I cry back. Give me a moment of solitude. I threw a handful of dirt at the bush yesterday and he flew away. Today, he came back, crying; flew away; and, came back, anyway, to register his anxiety and relate to me his loneliness and apprehension over the changing season and his tardy departure.
I'm sympathetic, but not very welcoming. He might well be the annoying character who showed up early in the Spring and disrupted the neighborhood with his monotonous and piercing whistling for his companion's return.
Also making an appearance in my neighborhood this season are the greying and white-haired ladies, likely from the Friends community nearby, standing on the busy street corner with their signs saying, "War is not the Answer!" and "Stop War!" They've emerged to make their inharmonious display of resistance to match with the predictable and almost perennial calls from our government and military for armed conflict and state-sponsored violence abroad.
Behind me, above the steps where I sit, the faded banner still hangs as a flag on my home; the banner with the painted peace sign of red, yellow, and blue that I held along with many of these same folks, on those same street corners, when Bush was pressing his own case for war and imperialism across sovereign borders.
Small comfort to see this one war's banner fade; just in time to find yet others' hastily, but diligently assembled once more to challenge and influence this government's insistence on flaunting their devastating weapons and other instigations of war against nations which haven't actually threatened us at all.
I read someone the other day who was mocking Code Peace for their belief that their efforts were contributing to the efforts toward peaceful settlement of the conflict our president has chosen to highlight and employ our diplomatic and military resources and manpower. Small comfort to see this perennial pageant of protest perhaps, but definitely a comfort, nonetheless.
The ladies have assembled on the corner of one of the most scenic roads in the area. I remember driving down the dark country road as a youth on the way to one of the concerts at a pavilion nearby. I had the improbable dream of living off of that scenic drive all the way through my impoverished years, and have, amazingly, settled into one of the homes tucked away down one of the mysterious and intriguing streets which branch off into the wooded acreage on both sides of the winding drive.
I wish you could gather up all of the beauty and color of Autumn in our neighborhood and hold it close and dear; eat it up like some hippie candy. I used to drive my Alzheimer-riddled dad up and down that picturesque road in the green Ford truck that now sits as an unmovable part of the landscape of our yard, as slow as I was able to afford him a lingering look at the passing scenery which he looked upon and remarked on as if he was a child reborn; from another country or another world . . .
"Everything's so clean," he would say, as he looked smilingly out of the truck window as Adam Duritz of the 'Counting Crows' (our boy, as he called him) was belting out 'Sullivan Street," or; John Hiatt soulfully counseling that 'my voice would not command'; or, Lyle Lovett covering Townes Van Zandt's 'Step Inside This House, or 'Flying Shoes'. We took our very last drive together down that road as I took him to his first day at the nursing home I'd found to care for him when I was no longer able.
Lyle would be singing . . .
"Day's full of rain
We'd fly down that country road with it's fall display of color and roll up on our beautiful home of contentment, and of endless days like summer Sundays rolling slowly to church in the quiet early morning.
"Step inside my house Babe
Posted by bigtree | Wed Oct 2, 2013, 12:19 PM (19 replies)
Pres. Obama says US can't get attention of UN Security Council w'out acting like swaggering avengers
This statement by Pres. Obama makes absolutely no sense at all, and is actually an insult to the diplomacy practiced by the very body he's appealing to.
Obama at the UN today:
"Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all."
From what I've seen, so far, it's the U.S. threat of force which is the main obstacle to any Security Council agreement on a response to chemical weapon use in Syria. It's amazing to hear the president cite that US threat of force as the only impetus for the UN to act.
As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
Posted by bigtree | Tue Sep 24, 2013, 02:26 PM (70 replies)
We've been bombarded by reports that Summers was a lock for the Fed*. The President himself had expressed confidence in Summers for that position. Now, he's withdrawn his name. That's no accident. He might have been a shoo-in if there wasn't resistance.
Likewise, the President has spent a great deal of time trying to convince Americans of his intention to step ahead of Congress and bomb Syria. He relented - decided diplomacy wasn't 'exhausted, after all - and has made moves to avert his own plans to unilaterally initiate war.
It remains to be seen whether the President holds true to his modification of his plans; is actually changing his mind to align himself with the reasoning which goes along with the dissent; whether his backtracking is something more than just a sleight of hand.
The ultimate outcome of these shifts in approach will depend on how much pressure he still feels to move in one direction or the other. We know his initial instincts. We shouldn't be sanguine about what will affect the ultimate outcome of his decision making.
The President needs more than just praise; he needs steadfastness opponents have demonstrated, so far, in vocalizing objections and insisting they be heard to overcome the nudges and cozying-up that comes from those already on the inside of his circle of influence and opinion. Opponents of his instinct away from their line of reasoning need to keep the pressure on.
Posted by bigtree | Sun Sep 15, 2013, 06:59 PM (6 replies)
Greg Sargent is confused. He's having a hard time understanding folks who can't find anything righteous about bombing Syria, yet, refuse to buy into the fiction that there's some looming diplomatic settlement being orchestrated by Russia's Putin which Washington will accept as an averting of war.
I continue to be puzzled by an enormous imbalance we’ve seen in much of the commentary — from neutral analysts and Republican lawmakers alike — about Obama’s handling of Syria. On the one hand, the basic take has been that Obama’s handling of the process has shown him to be weak and inconsistent. He changed his mind on whether to go to Congress. But Congress rebuffed him. He changed his mind again on using military force, instead opting to pursue a diplomatic solution when the possibility presented itself. But he’s failed to get what he wanted from Putin. This sends a message of weakness and vacillation abroad that diminishes the credibility of the commander in chief and the United States.
What Sargent and other folks arguing persistently to 'do something' about Syria's chemical attacks fail to understand is that the administration and its war supporters have utterly failed to demonstrate how the threat of military force, or actually bombing Syria, will do ANYTHING substantive to end the possibility that chemical weapons are used again in their civil war.
Those folks out here who don't believe in either bombing or buy into the pantomime of diplomacy that Russia has cynically initiated; or buy into the administration's cynical embrace of the Russian initiative as a back door out of their dead end run through Congress; are told that their disbelief in the fiction of the successes of gunboat diplomacy against a nation which has not threatened us is really an outright rejection of diplomacy itself - as if this one opportunistic ploy by the Russians and Syria to forestall U.S. attacks is the end-all, beat-all of diplomacy regarding Syria.
Truth is, there aren't any folks out here opposing U.S. military intervention in Syria who don't welcome ANY pause or halt to the administration's deliberate and insistent march to war. It isn't as if there's some solid comfort zone that opponents of military strikes can relax and rely on watching this kabuki dance between U.S. and Russian officials.
President Obama has insisted all along that he has the authority to strike Syria without pre-approval from Congress, and, there are more than a handful of Democrats in the congressional and Senate leadership who have echoed the administration's insistence that this lull in their initial rush to war with Syria that they won't wait indefinitely before launching their military response.
Kerry initially gave the wait-and-see period before brushing the Russian diplomacy aside no more than a week. Democratic leader Steny Hoyer offered that he expects to have exhausted his patience in withholding support for military action 'no more than weeks' from now. Hoyer says the President already has authority to strike Syria, without his legislative body's approval.
That question is always answered by the level of support or opposition Congress manages in response to the autocratic decisions presidents make under the War Powers Act to declare adversaries a 'threat' and initiate their own unilateral militarism by reasoning that it's a defense of our national security.
To folks out here who have opposed previous administrations' exercise of that dubious and subjective 'authority' that president's sometimes assume, President Obama's invoking of that power in regard to Syria looks to be a distortion of what constitutes a threat to our nation and are not convinced that allowing military strikes would be a defense of our national security from a technical definition of a threat to our security or national interest.
That national interest is best defined when expressed by our legislature as a whole; not as a unilateral declaration from the chief Executive. It's not enough for the administration to have convinced itself of the efficacy of military force against a country which hasn't even threatened us. Nation's go to war; not administrations.
There may well be some merit in employing the resources and manpower of our nation's defenses in some humanitarian pursuit. Yet, the risks and consequences of lobbing missiles across sovereign borders for a dubious defense of morality and humanity is not a decision that should lie solely in the hands of one man.
If the Obama administration believes so strongly in the Russian diplomatic initiative, they should be prepared to see that process through; whether it takes weeks or months to resolve. That would be the commitment to diplomacy that proponents of military action chide the anti-war contingent for not caring about when they point to the obvious self-interest Russia and Syria have in promising anything to forestall U.S. attacks.
That insincerity on Russia's part - and the cynical embrace of that Russian initiative by the Obama administration's faltering rush to war - doesn't necessarily have to be the last word in diplomacy regarding Syria. The administration and their supporters would have you believe that, though.
The entire embrace of the Russian plan by the administration has been a hollow exercise to show Congress' recalcitrant members that the administration has 'exhausted' every option short of military strikes; a ridiculous and opportunistic view which ignores their own pivot away from a failed resolution in Congress toward this dubious, but diplomatic initiative; even after they had declared before the world at the UN that diplomacy with Syria was dead.
If the Obama administration is serious in securing an agreement with Russia and Syria, perhaps they should consider the conditions that their adversaries have offered. One important one for Russia and Syria is their insistence of the removal of the threat of military action by the U.S. before agreeing to secure their chemical weapon stockpile.
Conversely, the administration insists that it is that very threat of force which is their only motivator to an agreement. Without that threat of force, the administration and supporters insist, Syria would not be compelled to do anything.
Problem is, that's not diplomacy; it's outright coercion. That may well be an effective cudgel against those who fail to live up to our nation's expectation for them, but, it's also the mark of an arrogant nation and an arrogant administration which doesn't respect the primacy of Americans in deciding whether to employ our nation's defenses in such a dubious manner; so unrelated to our actual security.
Perhaps, it wouldn't be such a blatant course if the administration was content to rest with the judgment of Congress that they should exercise restraint and not lead with their militarism. Perhaps it would be a more convincing demonstration of their own commitment to diplomacy if they didn't insist - even as they appeal to the UN to adjudicate the Russian proposal - that they have the right to press ahead of the American people and launch military strikes against Syria whenever they feel they've had enough with diplomacy.
For those of us out here who have come to grips with the limitations and counterproductive nature of our military forces to effect these dubious goals of politics and humanitarianism toward nations who don't directly threaten us, there's isn't a point in this confrontation with Syria where we feel diplomacy dies and the military option progressively takes its place.
We believe that the introduction of U.S. military force in Syria will effectively place our nation in the role of the Syrian regime's primary adversary; instead of the Syrian resistance which our government has been so careful to distance itself from because of associations of elements of our nemesis, al-Qaeda. Yet, our nation isn't yet at war with Syria. It's hard to imagine though, how anyone would be able to credibly claim that distinction after a U.S. launch of destabilizing missile strikes which would serve to advantage one side of that civil war against the other.
Either the Obama administration is committed to war with Syria; or, they're committed to diplomacy. they can't have it both ways; they can't claim that gunboat diplomacy against a nation which hasn't threatened us is anything more than an outright provocation to war.
It's not for opponents of military intervention with Syria to prove that they can move mountains in Syria and force the regime to relinquish and renounce their chemical weapons with diplomacy. That burden is on those who are telling us that military strikes are the inevitable option after they've decided that waiting for a diplomatic solution isn't in their interest.
That burden is on proponents of war on Syria to demonstrate to the American people just how their militarism will effect ANY of their goals to restrain or eliminate the use of chemical warfare in Syria. So far, they just haven't made the case.
Posted by bigtree | Fri Sep 13, 2013, 10:54 AM (14 replies)
_____ Best case scenario for the Obama administration is Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Russia, hashes out a solid deal to get Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles put under international control, Syria complies without pulling any funny business, and the U.S. goes back to remembering that looming debt ceiling battle . . .
"Russia has played a card here, and they think it's going to work out in their advantage, this could be a total backfire for Russia," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey.
"If at the end of the day the sincerity, the transparency ends up being that this was just a ploy, I think the Russians pay a huge consequence for it," said Menendez.
read/watch discussion: http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/12/democratic-senator-russia-played-a-card-on-syria-it-could-backfire/
As Sen. Menendez says, the Russian initiative might be just a ploy, but the WH's cynical embrace of that initiative as the end-all to diplomacy with Syria is just as much of a sham.
Both Syria and Russia were looking for a way to forestall the imminent military strikes as the President insisted all along he had unilateral authority to launch; with or without Congress.
On the other hand, President Obama saw little downside to calling Russia's bluff and making a cynical embrace of the dubious proposal. He was set to lose the vote in Congress this week and believed he could advantage his case by engaging in a pantomime of diplomacy.
And, let's be clear; the cynicism came from the President and Kerry before anyone had a chance to express doubts about Russia's sincerity and Syria's intentions of following through.
The ploy from the WH? Present this dubious Russian proposal as the last word on diplomatic efforts regarding Syria; after Syria fails to follow through, they can then work to convince recalcitrant members of Congress that they'd gone the last mile and have no other choice but to follow through with their plan to begin bombing.
Putin is to be expected to engage in sophistry in his defense of Syria against U.S. military aggression, but, our Democratic administration is playing their own cynical game with Putin's proposal which has every appearance of leading to war. That too could 'backfire.'
Posted by bigtree | Thu Sep 12, 2013, 03:54 AM (3 replies)
. . . with the devastating force of our weapons.
I view it as a capitulation to every wrong instinct that the Bush administration exercised; every wrong instinct that most of us thought we had repudiated with the exit of Bush and our elevation of someone who claimed to understand the limitations, risks, and consequences of our nations use of military force abroad.
Now we have an entirely new set of justifications for authorizing the president to war against Syria which borrows on almost every one of Bush's imperialistic justifications for his own out-of-control military ambitions.
This will be a classic period of protest against an out-of-control White House working to manipulate Americans into supporting their dubious and dangerous military ambitions toward Syria. We'll be told that their every militaristic instinct is born out of their desire to address Syria's chemical weapons capability, but we won't see any abatement at all in their drive to war.
We didn't see one blip away from that militarism from President Obama tonight. We are now a nation being determinately driven to war by the man many of us convinced ourselves was above and beyond the type of reasoning which sees militarism as an indispensable part of our foreign policy.
The 'diplomacy' practiced toward Syria is nothing more than an ultimatum by this President- a coercion behind the devastating threat of our military arsenal. Even if Syria says they are in agreement with this cynical embrace of diplomacy by the WH, President Obama is determined to press ahead with seeking authorization to war.
We are undone, as progressives; as Americans; by this capitulation to military strikes. We will scarcely hope to restrain this administration as they prosecute their war and we will have lost every instinct or instigation away from the precipice that Bush took the nation to; that we hoped this President had pulled us back from.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Sep 10, 2013, 09:39 PM (85 replies)
tweeted by, Ezra Klein @ezraklein 1h
The "Kerry option" gives Obama a new argument he can use to persuade Congress to vote "yes." That's a big deal: http://wapo.st/13FSJbq
- The “Kerry option” gives wavering members of Congress another excuse to vote “no”. Any senators who want to vote against the force authorization without completely abandoning the administration have a new excuse: They don’t want to authorize force until this promising diplomatic solution is fully explored.
- It also gives the Obama administration a new argument to persuade Congress to vote “yes.” Prior to today, there was no option that either Russia or Syria were particularly worried about the U.S.’s “unbelievably small” war. That’s over. “Even if Russia’s proposal is just a bluff, it shows that President Obama’s threat has backed Moscow into a bit of a corner, and has forced Russian officials to at least pretend to negotiate seriously for the first time in a long time,” writes Max Fisher.
The Obama administration can now go to wavering members of Congress and argue that they need the authorization of force in order to have maximum leverage while pursuing this diplomatic option. And members of Congress can argue that they’re simply voting to give the Obama administration that leverage. Is all this a bit reminiscent of the bankshot arguments that ultimately passed the authorization for the war in Iraq? Yep. But remember, those arguments worked.
The Kerry Option at least gives Obama the opportunity to make a new argument in tonight’s primetime speech.You could see him previewing it to NBC News. “What we’re seeing is that a credible threat of a military strike from the United States, supported potentially by a number of other countries around the world has given them pause and makes them consider whether or not they would make this move,” he said. Now he can go before the American people and claim his policy is working and simply needs to be continued.
What good is a diplomatic initiative which still seeks authorization for military strikes? This is more like an ultimatum than it is a diplomatic proposal. If Assad abandons support for Russia's proposal, and a resolution is in place which authorizes military strikes, that will be a clever one-two step dance into war by the administration.
That will guarantee little more than just warring. Formally coupled with an authorized threat of force, this diplomatic initiative will be nothing more than a trigger to war against Syria.
As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
BBC Breaking News @BBCBreaking 24m
Secretary of State John Kerry says US cannot wait long for Russian proposal on #Syria chemical weapons to work http://bbc.in/1b1cSxa
Posted by bigtree | Tue Sep 10, 2013, 10:57 AM (10 replies)
It isn't 'Bush Fatigue' which is responsible for opposition to Syria strikes; it's 'Lessons Learned'
One of the things Americans came to understand about George Bush's push past the UN Security Council to invade Iraq, despite the international organization's objections, was that he regarded that body as nothing more than a rubber stamp when they agreed with him and a mere nuisance when they did not.
Bush pushed past UN objections and forced UN inspectors to leave Iraq by pushing forward with his military invasion before they had time to conclude that Saddam did not have WMDs. The authority to commit forces is not actually inherent in the Iraq War resolution that he obtained. That authority is contained in the War Powers Act (referenced in the resolution) which decades of presidents have used to commit forces for months without congressional approval.
Some Democrats, at the time, saw the resolution as a way to restrain Bush and send him back to the U.N. Many were desperate to stifle Bush's argument for immediate invasion and sought to mandate a return to the international table by limiting Bush's authority in the resolution.
Yet, whether or not the resolution had passed, Bush was intent on invading and occupying Iraq. He had gone around for weeks proclaiming that 1441 gave him the authority to do whatever he wanted because of his definition of a 'threat' to our nation and defense of our national security. If the resolution had failed, I believe Bush would have committed forces anyway, as decades of presidents had also put troops in the field for months without congressional approval.
In that event the Congress would likely be loath to retreat and remove forces. Then, by law a resolution would have been drawn up, likely resembling the one we ended up with; urging Bush back to the U.N. and calling for internationalization of the conflict. Of course, by that time, Bush had already drawn the nation and our allies into a institutionally intractable military conflict.
That is how determined presidents get us into war. Check and checkmate. It's democracy-lite. It stinks, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to restrain a president from committing forces because of the loophole inherent in the War Powers Act, which is referenced in the IWR. Bush's position before, during and after invasion was that 1441 gave him authority to do any thing he wanted to in that region. He wanted cover, but the IWR didn't actually give him cover for his unilateral, preemptive invasion. Nowhere in the bill does it mandate what he ultimately did.
It isn't as if there's an infallible and decisive line of accountability from Congress to the president. Whatever control they have is a complicated gambit of allowing or withholding defense funds. That's where the actual check on that presidential authority lies.
One of the things that I, personally, want in a post-Bush presidency is a White House which understands that they take a nation to war, not just their administration. Having Congress assume initial responsibility for waging war is an integral and vital facet of our democracy. It's not a perfect check on that presidential prerogative, as we saw in the Bush-era, but it is a substantially important one.
That initial recognition by the president of that responsibility of Congress to initiate warring should be more than some political formality. However, as we've seen in many unilateral uses of force by the Executive over the course of history, Congress is loath to deny funding for an operation that's underway; for a mission where troops have already been committed to the field.
All our contemporary CiCs have had to do is make a unilateral declaration that their actions are in defense of 'national security' or in response to some 'threat' or the other against the U.S. or our interests. That's the reasoning the White House has decided to promote for their military ambitions in Syria. By declaring that attacks within Syria are in our 'national interests', and pose a 'threat' to our nation, the President and his deputies are declaring themselves above and beyond the initial judgment of Congress of whether their mission has merit and is supportable. For many folks out here, that's just a slippery slope to war.
That may well suit those who are firm in their belief that military force is imperative, yet, it is a stance which flies in the face of the overwhelming rejection of military strikes from a majority of Americans polled and a majority who have bothered to tell their Representatives and Senators where they stand.
As far as I've understood the President and his SoS, they believe they have that authority already, so I'm a bit puzzled why there's some question out there about whether he'll buck the judgment and vote of Congress and invade anyway. Maybe he won't, in the end. I just know that the President needs a constant and vocal reminder that there are a majority of us out here who don't agree with his stance and would appreciate if he would tell us up front that he'll respect the judgment of our elected officials and not rely solely on his own determination - his own decision - that we should go to war with Syria.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Sep 7, 2013, 02:45 PM (2 replies)