The American Kafir

2011/10/24

Libya’s liberation: interim ruler unveils more radical than expected plans for Islamic law

Filed under: Government, Laws, Libya, Shari'a Law — - @ 9:45 am

Source Article Link: The Telegraph

Libya’s liberation: interim ruler unveils more radical than expected plans for Islamic law

Libya’s interim leader outlined more radical plans to introduce Islamic law than expected as he declared the official liberation of the country.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its “basic source”.

But that formulation can be interpreted in many ways – it was also the basis of Egypt’s largely secular constitution under President Hosni Mubarak, and remains so after his fall.

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates, and other Muslim countries, have pioneered the development of Sharia-compliant banks which charge fees rather than interest for loans but they normally run alongside western-style banks.

In the first instance, interest on low-value loans would be waived altogether, he said.

Libya is already the most conservative state in north Africa, banning the sale of alcohol. Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

2011/09/30

Hizb ut-Tahrir Emerges in America

Hizb ut-Tahrir Emerges in America

Source Link: ADL

Introduction

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), an international organization that seeks to establish a worldwide Islamic theocracy, is increasing its efforts to spread its message and recruit members in the U.S.

The American branch of HT convened its 2011 Khilafah Conference, titled, “Revolution in the Muslim World: From Tyranny to Triumph,” on June 26, 2011, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois.

Messages at the conference primarily centered on promoting the organization’s vision of establishing worldwide Caliphate and how the revolutions in the Middle East affect the movement’s goals.

HT held its first major event in the U.S., a conference entitled “Fall of Capitalism and Rise of Islam,” at the Hilton in Oak Lawn, Illinois, on July 19, 2009. Although HT America’s Web site states that the group “does not work in the West to change the system of government,” speakers at the conference focused on HT’s larger agenda of establishing a global Islamic caliphate, which entails ousting existing governments.

While HT has operated as a predominately clandestine organization in the U.S., the Oak Lawn conference marked the group’s emergence onto the public stage in America.

HT is increasingly using the Internet to organize meetings in the U.S. and distribute materials, and has become active on social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook, which it used to advertise both of its conferences.

A closer look at the group’s ideology and international activity reveals that HT not only promotes Islam as a way of life, but is also fundamentally opposed to capitalism and democracy and is explicitly hostile toward Israel and Jews. These basic tenets, along with its record of advocating violence, contradict the group’s attempt to portray itself as a political party seeking change through nonviolent means.

Khilafah Conference 2011

Hizb ut-Tahrir’s American branch convened its second Khilafah conference in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois, on June 26, 2011. The conference, which was not advertised as broadly as it first conference in 2009, was attended by approximately 250 people.

Messages at the 2011 conference, titled “Revolution in the Muslim World: From Tyranny to Triumph,” primarily centered on promoting the organization’s vision of establishing worldwide Caliphate and how the revolutions in the Middle East affect the movement’s goals.

One session at the conference, titled “Breaking the Shackles,” gave voice to the organization’s idea that capitalist and nationalist systems of the West are “enemies to Islam,” and the only solution is for a unified Islamic state to replace such systems with “the rule of Allah,” Sharia, and the Sunnah. The speaker at this session, indentified as Brother Abu Saib, offered the February 2011 ousting of the Mubarak regime in Egypt as evidence of the Islamic nation awakening and starting on a path toward establishing a Caliphate.

Another session, “The Meaning of Real Change,” was accompanied by a follow-up question and answer with a panel of HT representatives in the U.S. The session addressed practical steps the Muslim community can take to bring forth the Caliphate and to prevent another dictator from seizing power in newly liberated Arab countries, like Egypt . Panelists in the Q&A session emphasized that HT was “working with the Ummah [Muslim community] in Egypt ,” and that a Muslim’s duty is to “get the West out of our lands.”

The last two sessions, “Shaking the Thrones” and “Life Under the Khilafah,” examined the state of suffering the Ummah and Islam have fallen into since the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, and how everyday life will be governed once Islamic law is implemented worldwide with the rise of a new Caliphate. One of the speakers, identified as Abu Atallah, emphasized that the rise of the Caliphate would mean that borders become obsolete, nationalist ideology would be abandoned and Muslims would control the military.

The meeting ended with organizers stressing the importance of pushing forward for a unified Islamic state, and that the “Qur’an is a message for all mankind and a solution to all of man’s problems.” This was detailed in a pamphlet, “Khilafah State Structure: Introduction to the Constitution,” that was handed out during the conference.

The constitution provides a detailed look at the structure, laws, and methods of governance the global Caliphate is expected to embody once it is established. The source of the Caliphate’s authority and sovereignty will be derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which will help the Caliph “adopt certain rules […] and obliges the people to act according to them.” This pamphlet was designed to be “studied by Muslims while they are working to establish the Islamic State that will carry the Islamic daw’ah to the world.”

Some key points mentioned in the draft constitution:

  • Article 1 states that ‘aqeedah (Islamic creed) will be the sole basis of the State’s foundation. The government’s structure in its entirety can only exist if it is from the Islamic ‘aqeeda.
  • Article 7 describes that the State will be charged with implementing “divine law”, therefore those “guilty of apostasy (murtad) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy…”
  • Article 23 details the eight institutions of the Caliphate system, which includes an Amir of Jihad (war). The Amir of Jihad will oversee all war-related activities in the government.
  • In the “Army” section, Article 56 states, “Jihad is a compulsory duty (fard) on all Muslims. Military training is therefore compulsory. Thus, every male Muslim, fifteen years and over, is obliged to undergo military training in readiness for jihad.
  • The social system of the Caliphate would strictly enforce gender segregation between the two sexes, and while women will have the same rights and obligations as men, a woman’s primary role “is that of a mother and wife,” and she may not hold any positions of power within the structure of governance. (Articles 108-118)
  • In reference to trade with foreign nations, Article 157 states that “Any country we have real war between us and its citizens (such as Israel) is excluded” from trading with the Caliphate and its citizens.
  • Article 194, Section 3, describes “imperialist states” like the UK, U.S., France, and Russia as potentially belligerent states that do not have a treaty with the Caliphate.*

*With regards to Israel and the Caliphate’s policy toward the Jewish state, Section 4 states that there can be no peace, and that “a state of war must be taken as the basis for all dispositions with them. They must be dealt with as if a rear war existed between us – whether an armistice exists or not.”

Khilafah Conference 2009

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) held its first ever Khilafah (Arabic for “caliphate”) conference in the U.S. on July 19, 2009, at the Hilton in Oak Lawn, Illinois. The conference, entitled the “Fall of Capitalism and Rise of Islam,” advocated for the implementation of an Islamic financial system and promoted the organization’s larger agenda of establishing a global Islamic caliphate, or Islamic rule worldwide, which entails ousting existing governments.

Speakers addressed a crowd of approximately 400 men and women on a range of issues, including the “Islamic economic system,” “suffering under capitalism” and the rise of Islam in the United States.

Mohammad Malkawi, an HT spokesperson and computer engineer from Chicago, argued that capitalism is responsible for the world’s poverty, hunger and war. “It is time to deliver the world to Islam, an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Another speaker from Chicago, Jaleel Abdul-Adil, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Illinois – Chicago, spoke about the role of Muslims in the U.S., arguing that every Muslim should utilize his skills in the struggle for an Islamic caliphate. Abdul-Adil, who has reportedly appeared at past HT conventions in Britain, declared that “Every home and every community and every masjid [mosque] must contribute to the struggle.”

Abdul-Adil also urged the audience to never “stop calling for Islam as a complete way of life…unless and until Islam becomes victorious or we die in the attempt.”  During a question and answer session following his presentation, Abdul-Adil was asked if shari’a, or Islamic law, would trump the U.S. Constitution. “Yes, it would be gone,” Abdul-Adil replied.

Another speaker, identified only as Abuatallah, outlined how capitalism has failed America, and African-Americans in particular. “Making a black man president will not stop this systemic oppression, will not stop what we see in the urban ghettos,” he said. “Making Obama president is only a scheme, a plot, designed to quiet us.”

In a session on “The Global Rise of Islam,” Burhan Hanif, a member of HT in Britain, criticized Western governments and values and called for Muslims to “work for khilafah,” or the establishment of Islamic rule worldwide.  “Freedom and democracy has become an opium of the masses,” Hanif claimed. “We see how the call of Islam resonates in the increased desperate measures in governments around the world… they are destined to fail.”

HT presented several videos at the conference, including a recruitment video showing HT conferences and demonstrations around the world. “Now it is your turn,” the video says, “Join Hizb ut-Tahrir America.”

A pamphlet entitled “Islamic Reformation: Exposing the Battle for Hearts and Minds,” was reportedly distributed at the conference.  The pamphlet, written by Adnan Khan, an HT member in Britain, calls for the death penalty for those “in the khilafah [who] openly leave Islam.” The pamphlet is also critical of the West, where “crime, sexual promiscuity, individualism and civil disorder is rife.”

The Aqsa School in Bridgeview, Illinois, which was originally scheduled to host the event, cancelled two weeks before the conference, claiming that the group did not disclose the true nature of HT or the conference.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Background

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Arabic for “Party of Liberation,” is an international organization that seeks to establish a global Islamic caliphate.  Established in Jerusalem in 1953, HT claims to be a political organization “whose ideology is Islam.”

HT maintains an extensive international following; it is currently active in more than 45 countries, and its August 2007 convention in Indonesia drew approximately 100,000 delegates.

HT’s strategy to establish a global Islamic caliphate consists of three stages. In the first, the group seeks to recruit “people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party.”  This stage mimics that of the prophet Muhammad, who “gathered together secretly those who believed in him on the basis of this ideology,” according to HT’s Web site.

In the second stage, HT seeks to educate the larger Muslim community about its interpretation of Islam so that the community can work “to establish it in the affairs of life.”  This stage consists of approaching the masses through “lessons, lectures, and talks in the mosques, centers, and common gathering places, and through the press, books and leaflets.”

The third and final stage entails replacing all governments and implementing a global Islamic caliphate.

HT conferences around the world suggest that the group is currently in the second stage of its goal of establishing a global Islamic government. In commemoration of the anniversary of the abolishment of the Islamic caliphate 85 years ago, HT held worldwide events throughout the summer of 2009, calling “on Muslims around the world to mobilize to re-establish the Islamic Khilafah.”  In addition to the July 19 conference in Oak Lawn, Illinois, events took place in Ukraine, Mauritius, Lebanon, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Britain, Indonesia, Sudan and Turkey, among other places.

HT claims that it does not engage in violent activities and generally espouses a policy of nonviolence.  However, in a January 2010 press release, HT called for violence against U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan.  The group accused “US crusaders” of killing nine school children and injuring 85 others in Afghanistan.  “Such incidents,” HT said in the press release “has to be answered by sharp swords of Muslim united armies under a true Muslim leader (Imam/K), not by few words of condemnations, rallies and demonstrations or submissions of list of demands to the UN’s or Human Rights, which are the protector of these crusaders, not us.”

Its position on nonviolence is complicated by its admission that “jihad” is compulsory for Muslims in an Islamic country to fight their perceived enemies. According to the group’s Web site, “the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them.” HT’s statements in response to the Israeli naval operation to stop a flotilla of ships en route to Gaza, which called on Muslim armies to “fight the Jews” and “blow ‘Israel’ off the map,” further demonstrate the group’s acceptance of violence.

The radicalization of HT members who adhere to the group’s extremist ideology can also lead to violent acts.  In 2007, German police arrested three men on suspicion of plotting to bomb military and civilian airports, restaurants and nightclubs. Two of the men were allegedly Uzbek members of the HT splinter cell Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which carried out a terrorist attack against the American and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan in July 2004.

Two British HT members were also allegedly involved in terrorist activities. One of the men was among those responsible for the 2003 suicide bombing at Mike’s Place, a bar in Tel Aviv.  Another HT member was suspected of joining Al Qaeda and plotting to attack several New York-Based financial targets.  He was arrested in 2004 by British authorities.

Some observers have suggested that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s former leader, were also members of HT.

In 2003, Germany banned HT for allegedly spreading anti-Semitic propaganda.  Russia declared the group a terrorist organization that same year after reportedly detecting links between HT and Chechen terrorists.  The group had previously been banned in Russia in 1999 for being a criminal organization.  HT has similarly been banned in several Arab and Central Asian countries as well.

Several other European countries, including the United Kingdom, have considered banning HT.  The British government sought to ban the group after allegations that it was linked to the London bombings in July 2005.

HT also has a growing presence in the West Bank, which stands in opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and rejects the legitimacy of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.  In 2007, the group held a conference in Ramallah that reportedly drew approximately 20,000 supporters.  That same year, HT marched through Ramallah in opposition to the “Zionist provocation” against the Al Aqsa mosque.  Palestinian officials banned HT from holding a July 2009 rally opposing both Fatah and Hamas and the concept of a modern nation-state.

On Israel and Jews

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) claims that Islam is in conflict with the existence of Israel, which it says harms both Islam and Muslims, and has a history of encouraging followers to eliminate Israel and the Jews as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  This long record of hostility toward Israel and the Jews belies HT’s claim that it does not espouse or condone violence, and, according to the U.S. State Department, can yield violent acts against the U.S. and its allies and generate support for terrorism.

A press release dated May 31, 2010, was posted on HT America’s Web site in response to the Israeli naval operation to stop a flotilla of ships en route to Gaza on the same day. “O people: indeed Hizb ut-Tahrir strengthens your determination… there is no solution except to mobilize armies, gathering the capable soldiers and fight the Jews,” the statement declared.  The release also calls on Pakistan and Iran to attack Israel, saying “O you possessors of the missiles that you boast can blow ‘Israel’ off the map, so where are you now, O Pakistan and Iran’s rulers?!”

In another press release in response to the flotilla incident, the Pakistani branch of HT issued a statement calling on the Pakistani army to “prepare nuclear bombs and other weapons for Jihad… fight under this command to annihilate Israel.” The Bangladeshi branch of HT also condoned violence in a press release that called upon Muslim armies to “eradicate Israel and purify the earth of Jewish filth.”

In March 2008, HT posted a press release on its Web site in response to Israel’s retaliatory military action in Gaza, which was employed to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israeli towns.  “There is only one and uniquely one solution,” the statement declared, “and that is to exterminate the entity of the Jews from existence.”  In another press release that month, HT called on Pakistan and Iran to attack Israel as “the only option that the state of Jews deserves.”  The statement also urged Muslims to “direct your anger at the armed forces so that they stir up fighting the Jews.”

In addition to the inflammatory pronouncements on its Web site, HT America has also condoned violence and jihad during their monthly online discussions. In April 2010, an HT America leader asserted, “When the Muslim land is occupied, jihad is the obligation to those who are attacked by the kufar [non-Muslims].”

Leaders of HT America also produce a monthly newsletter, titled “The Shield,” which has condemned Israel.  In the May 2010 newsletter, an editorial claimed, “Israel was created by the West in order to ensure the Ummah remains divided and continually occupied in an endless struggle with a Western proxy.”

HT has also distributed virulently anti-Israel leaflets. In 2007, HT Australia reportedly promoted a conference in Sydney with a leaflet that depicted a dagger plunged into a map of the Middle East with the words “‘Israel’ is an illegal state” written in blood.

HT Denmark’s spokesman Fadi Abdelatif was convicted in Copenhagen in 2002, and again in 2005, for inciting young Muslims to kill Jews, first in an Internet posting and later in a leaflet.  The leaflet, which called Jews “a people of slander…a treacherous people,” made threats against Jews and called on Muslims to “kill them all, wherever you find them.” The leaflet, which was available on HT’s Web site, encouraged suicide bombings in Israel as “legitimate” acts of “martyrdom.”

HT has also been prosecuted elsewhere in Europe for distributing anti-Semitic publications.  Germany banned the group in 2003 for “spreading hate and violence” in leaflets that called for the killing of Jews, according to German officials. In 2005, the National Union of Students barred HT from universities in the UK after accusations of anti-Semitism.  The group does, however, still operate legally in the UK.

HT’s leadership has also publicly expressed opposition to Jews and Israel.  In an April 2002 response to Israel’s military operations at the Jenin refugee camp, HT in Sudan released a press statement on its Web site condemning the “miserable brethren of pigs and monkeys” of carrying out “brutal massacres.”  “Recognition and negotiation with the Jews,” the press release continued, “is a betrayal of Allah.”

In a 2000 interview with the Central Asia Caucasus Institute at John Hopkins University, an unidentified HT Central Asian leader openly stated, “We are very much opposed to the Jews and Israel… The United States is the enemy of Islam with the Jews.”

HT’s former global leader, Sheikh Abdul Qadeem Zalloom, reportedly declared an injunction in 1988, saying, “If the plane belongs to a country at war with Muslims, like Israel, it is allowed to hijack it, for there is no sanctity for Israel nor for the Jews in it.”

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

2011/03/29

What Happened to the American Declaration of War?

Source Link:Stratfor

Written By George Friedman

In my book “The Next Decade,” I spend a good deal of time considering the relation of the American Empire to the American Republic and the threat the empire poses to the republic. If there is a single point where these matters converge, it is in the constitutional requirement that Congress approve wars through a declaration of war and in the abandonment of this requirement since World War II. This is the point where the burdens and interests of the United States as a global empire collide with the principles and rights of the United States as a republic.

World War II was the last war the United States fought with a formal declaration of war. The wars fought since have had congressional approval, both in the sense that resolutions were passed and that Congress appropriated funds, but the Constitution is explicit in requiring a formal declaration. It does so for two reasons, I think. The first is to prevent the president from taking the country to war without the consent of the governed, as represented by Congress. Second, by providing for a specific path to war, it provides the president power and legitimacy he would not have without that declaration; it both restrains the president and empowers him. Not only does it make his position as commander in chief unassailable by authorizing military action, it creates shared responsibility for war. A declaration of war informs the public of the burdens they will have to bear by leaving no doubt that Congress has decided on a new order — war — with how each member of Congress voted made known to the public.

Almost all Americans have heard Franklin Roosevelt’s speech to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941: “Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan … I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

It was a moment of majesty and sobriety, and with Congress’ affirmation, represented the unquestioned will of the republic. There was no going back, and there was no question that the burden would be borne. True, the Japanese had attacked the United States, making getting the declaration easier. But that’s what the founders intended: Going to war should be difficult; once at war, the commander in chief’s authority should be unquestionable.

Forgoing the Declaration

It is odd, therefore, that presidents who need that authorization badly should forgo pursuing it. Not doing so has led to seriously failed presidencies: Harry Truman in Korea, unable to seek another term; Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, also unable to seek a new term; George W. Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq, completing his terms but enormously unpopular. There was more to this than undeclared wars, but that the legitimacy of each war was questioned and became a contentious political issue certainly is rooted in the failure to follow constitutional pathways.

In understanding how war and constitutional norms became separated, we must begin with the first major undeclared war in American history (the Civil War was not a foreign war), Korea. When North Korea invaded South Korea, Truman took recourse to the new U.N. Security Council. He wanted international sanction for the war and was able to get it because the Soviet representatives happened to be boycotting the Security Council over other issues at the time.

Truman’s view was that U.N. sanction for the war superseded the requirement for a declaration of war in two ways. First, it was not a war in the strict sense, he argued, but a “police action” under the U.N. Charter. Second, the U.N. Charter constituted a treaty, therefore implicitly binding the United States to go to war if the United Nations so ordered. Whether Congress’ authorization to join the United Nations both obligated the United States to wage war at U.N. behest, obviating the need for declarations of war because Congress had already authorized police actions, is an interesting question. Whatever the answer, Truman set a precedent that wars could be waged without congressional declarations of war and that other actions — from treaties to resolutions to budgetary authorizations — mooted declarations of war.

If this was the founding precedent, the deepest argument for the irrelevancy of the declaration of war is to be found in nuclear weapons. Starting in the 1950s, paralleling the Korean War, was the increasing risk of nuclear war. It was understood that if nuclear war occurred, either through an attack by the Soviets or a first strike by the United States, time and secrecy made a prior declaration of war by Congress impossible. In the expected scenario of a Soviet first strike, there would be only minutes for the president to authorize counterstrikes and no time for constitutional niceties. In that sense, it was argued fairly persuasively that the Constitution had become irrelevant to the military realities facing the republic.

Nuclear war was seen as the most realistic war-fighting scenario, with all other forms of war trivial in comparison. Just as nuclear weapons came to be called “strategic weapons” with other weapons of war occupying a lesser space, nuclear war became identical with war in general. If that was so, then constitutional procedures that could not be applied to nuclear war were simply no longer relevant.

Paradoxically, if nuclear warfare represented the highest level of warfare, there developed at the lowest level covert operations. Apart from the nuclear confrontation with the Soviets, there was an intense covert war, from back alleys in Europe to the Congo, Indochina to Latin America. Indeed, it was waged everywhere precisely because the threat of nuclear war was so terrible: Covert warfare became a prudent alternative. All of these operations had to be deniable. An attempt to assassinate a Soviet agent or raise a secret army to face a Soviet secret army could not be validated with a declaration of war. The Cold War was a series of interconnected but discrete operations, fought with secret forces whose very principle was deniability. How could declarations of war be expected in operations so small in size that had to be kept secret from Congress anyway?

There was then the need to support allies, particularly in sending advisers to train their armies. These advisers were not there to engage in combat but to advise those who did. In many cases, this became an artificial distinction: The advisers accompanied their students on missions, and some died. But this was not war in any conventional sense of the term. And therefore, the declaration of war didn’t apply.

By the time Vietnam came up, the transition from military assistance to advisers to advisers in combat to U.S. forces at war was so subtle that there was no moment to which you could point that said that we were now in a state of war where previously we weren’t. Rather than ask for a declaration of war, Johnson used an incident in the Tonkin Gulf to get a congressional resolution that he interpreted as being the equivalent of war. The problem here was that it was not clear that had he asked for a formal declaration of war he would have gotten one. Johnson didn’t take that chance.

What Johnson did was use Cold War precedents, from the Korean War, to nuclear warfare, to covert operations to the subtle distinctions of contemporary warfare in order to wage a substantial and extended war based on the Tonkin Gulf resolution — which Congress clearly didn’t see as a declaration of war — instead of asking for a formal declaration. And this represented the breakpoint. In Vietnam, the issue was not some legal or practical justification for not asking for a declaration. Rather, it was a political consideration.

Johnson did not know that he could get a declaration; the public might not be prepared to go to war. For this reason, rather than ask for a declaration, he used all the prior precedents to simply go to war without a declaration. In my view, that was the moment the declaration of war as a constitutional imperative collapsed. And in my view, so did the Johnson presidency. In hindsight, he needed a declaration badly, and if he could not get it, Vietnam would have been lost, and so may have been his presidency. Since Vietnam was lost anyway from lack of public consensus, his decision was a mistake. But it set the stage for everything that came after — war by resolution rather than by formal constitutional process.

After the war, Congress created the War Powers Act in recognition that wars might commence before congressional approval could be given. However, rather than returning to the constitutional method of the Declaration of War, which can be given after the commencement of war if necessary (consider World War II) Congress chose to bypass declarations of war in favor of resolutions allowing wars. Their reason was the same as the president’s: It was politically safer to authorize a war already under way than to invoke declarations of war.

All of this arose within the assertion that the president’s powers as commander in chief authorized him to engage in warfare without a congressional declaration of war, an idea that came in full force in the context of nuclear war and then was extended to the broader idea that all wars were at the discretion of the president. From my simple reading, the Constitution is fairly clear on the subject: Congress is given the power to declare war. At that moment, the president as commander in chief is free to prosecute the war as he thinks best. But constitutional law and the language of the Constitution seem to have diverged. It is a complex field of study, obviously.

An Increasing Tempo of Operations

All of this came just before the United States emerged as the world’s single global power — a global empire — that by definition would be waging war at an increased tempo, from Kuwait, to Haiti, to Kosovo, to Afghanistan, to Iraq, and so on in an ever-increasing number of operations. And now in Libya, we have reached the point that even resolutions are no longer needed.

It is said that there is no precedent for fighting al Qaeda, for example, because it is not a nation but a subnational group. Therefore, Bush could not reasonably have been expected to ask for a declaration of war. But there is precedent: Thomas Jefferson asked for and received a declaration of war against the Barbary pirates. This authorized Jefferson to wage war against a subnational group of pirates as if they were a nation.

Had Bush requested a declaration of war on al Qaeda on Sept. 12, 2001, I suspect it would have been granted overwhelmingly, and the public would have understood that the United States was now at war for as long as the president thought wise. The president would have been free to carry out operations as he saw fit. Roosevelt did not have to ask for special permission to invade Guadalcanal, send troops to India, or invade North Africa. In the course of fighting Japan, Germany and Italy, it was understood that he was free to wage war as he thought fit. In the same sense, a declaration of war on Sept. 12 would have freed him to fight al Qaeda wherever they were or to move to block them wherever the president saw fit.

Leaving aside the military wisdom of Afghanistan or Iraq, the legal and moral foundations would have been clear — so long as the president as commander in chief saw an action as needed to defeat al Qaeda, it could be taken. Similarly, as commander in chief, Roosevelt usurped constitutional rights for citizens in many ways, from censorship to internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Prisoners of war not adhering to the Geneva Conventions were shot by military tribunal — or without. In a state of war, different laws and expectations exist than during peace. Many of the arguments against Bush-era intrusions on privacy also could have been made against Roosevelt. But Roosevelt had a declaration of war and full authority as commander in chief during war. Bush did not. He worked in twilight between war and peace.

One of the dilemmas that could have been avoided was the massive confusion of whether the United States was engaged in hunting down a criminal conspiracy or waging war on a foreign enemy. If the former, then the goal is to punish the guilty. If the latter, then the goal is to destroy the enemy. Imagine that after Pearl Harbor, FDR had promised to hunt down every pilot who attacked Pearl Harbor and bring them to justice, rather than calling for a declaration of war against a hostile nation and all who bore arms on its behalf regardless of what they had done. The goal in war is to prevent the other side from acting, not to punish the actors.

The Importance of the Declaration

A declaration of war, I am arguing, is an essential aspect of war fighting particularly for the republic when engaged in frequent wars. It achieves a number of things. First, it holds both Congress and the president equally responsible for the decision, and does so unambiguously. Second, it affirms to the people that their lives have now changed and that they will be bearing burdens. Third, it gives the president the political and moral authority he needs to wage war on their behalf and forces everyone to share in the moral responsibility of war. And finally, by submitting it to a political process, many wars might be avoided. When we look at some of our wars after World War II it is not clear they had to be fought in the national interest, nor is it clear that the presidents would not have been better remembered if they had been restrained. A declaration of war both frees and restrains the president, as it was meant to do.

I began by talking about the American empire. I won’t make the argument on that here, but simply assert it. What is most important is that the republic not be overwhelmed in the course of pursuing imperial goals. The declaration of war is precisely the point at which imperial interests can overwhelm republican prerogatives.

There are enormous complexities here. Nuclear war has not been abolished. The United States has treaty obligations to the United Nations and other countries. Covert operations are essential, as is military assistance, both of which can lead to war. I am not making the argument that constant accommodation to reality does not have to be made. I am making the argument that the suspension of Section 8 of Article I as if it is possible to amend the Constitution with a wink and nod represents a mortal threat to the republic. If this can be done, what can’t be done?

My readers will know that I am far from squeamish about war. I have questions about Libya, for example, but I am open to the idea that it is a low-cost, politically appropriate measure. But I am not open to the possibility that quickly after the commencement of hostilities the president need not receive authority to wage war from Congress. And I am arguing that neither the Congress nor the president have the authority to substitute resolutions for declarations of war. Nor should either want to. Politically, this has too often led to disaster for presidents. Morally, committing the lives of citizens to waging war requires meticulous attention to the law and proprieties.

As our international power and interests surge, it would seem reasonable that our commitment to republican principles would surge. These commitments appear inconvenient. They are meant to be. War is a serious matter, and presidents and particularly Congresses should be inconvenienced on the road to war. Members of Congress should not be able to hide behind ambiguous resolutions only to turn on the president during difficult times, claiming that they did not mean what they voted for. A vote on a declaration of war ends that. It also prevents a president from acting as king by default. Above all, it prevents the public from pretending to be victims when their leaders take them to war. The possibility of war will concentrate the mind of a distracted public like nothing else. It turns voting into a life-or-death matter, a tonic for our adolescent body politic.

2011/03/21

Tyranny the “Official Language” of Misguided Conservatives

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