Thursday, August 29, 2013


I don’t read newspapers.

There are only so many bytes of memory left in my hard drive, and I don’t want to waste them on the trash that passes for news these days.

Once in a while I slip. Got ahold of a Wall Street Journal when visiting a friend. It was full of stories about Syria. The lead article was sheer, unabashed propaganda.

“Unnamed sources at the Pentagon,” “a high government official,” “sources close to the White House. ” Two full pages of speculation about how and when and why the President of the United States will be committing an act of war against Syria.

Article I, Section 8 of the constitution of the United States says that the Congress shall have the power to declare war.

Article II, Section 2 says that the President is the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. Nowhere in the Constitution is the President given the power to declare war.

O.K. He can’t declare war. But that is not the question, is it? The question is: Can the President start a war? The President is the Commander in Chief. That means he can give orders to the Generals and the Admirals. Did the framers of the Constitution intend to give the President the power to invade Canada or Mexico or any place else?

James Madison reported that in the Federal Convention of 1787, the phrase "make war" was changed to "declare war" in order to leave to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks but not to commence war without the explicit approval of Congress.

We’re not talking here about repelling an attack. Or even about responding aggressively to an attack. Although remembering the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor all involved actual declarations of war by the Congress.

No, the question here is, “Does the constitution authorize the President to start wars?

I don’t think so. I don’t think that the Founders of our nation intended to empower the President to embark on military adventures or prosecute geo-political warfare. And I am morally certain that neither the American people nor their Representatives in Congress would approve of committing American lives and fortunes to the Syrian civil war.

The preamble to the Constitution which the President is sworn to protect and defend announces that its purpose of to “provide for the common defense.”

There’s nothing about spreading democracy or Christianity or capitalism or freedom all over the planet.

Three days before he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed the American people. His final farewell is often remembered as the speech about the military-industrial complex.

What Ike said that day bears repeating and remembering. He noted that, in his time, the United States had developed a huge armaments industry. His words:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

When a prestigious newspaper carries unattributed puffing in favor of military action, when nightly news programs host a parade of retired generals to ruminate about strategy, when the Secretary of State and the Vice President publicly herald the launching of missiles, I have to ask the obvious question:

Who will profit?