Sunday, March 08, 2015

Radio worth applauding

Though the Iraq War delivered thousands of new listeners to Pacifica Radio, the network soon grew tired of it.

Iraq is largely ignored (or else centrist Amy Goodman -- a War Hawk since Libya -- distorts the topic).

Law and Disorder Radio

Last month,  Law and Disorder Radio  devoted attention to Iraq.  The program is hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) and on the episode that began airing February 23rd,  the hosts discussed US President Barack Obama's recent AUMF request.

Heidi Boghosian:  Michael, President Obama has gone before Congress to get authorization to use military force against ISIS  but I understood that he was already fighting ISIS.  What is this about?

Michael Ratner:  It does seem bizarre, Heidi.  I mean, in one way it's probably going to expand his authority -- and we'll get into some of the details.  In another, I guess he feels better having Congress on his side against ISIS.  It may also be now that he has Republicans on both sides, that he has an easier time getting authority to go to war.  I think that's actually the biggest factor, the Democrats might give him a little harder time, not much harder, but a little harder.  Let me give a little of the technical details. It's called the Authorization to Use Military Force.  And, of course, under our Constitution, the Congress is supposed to approve the use of military force.  In fact, of course, this president, like every other one, seems to ignore that.  He has -- as people recall, he went to war against Libya without such a use of authority from Congress.  And he's been fighting against ISIS for five, six months already.  Although he's claimed that he's fighting against ISIS because it fits an old authorization to use military force -- the one from 2001 which was originally authorized to go after the people who were involved in the attacks of 9/11.  That's been infinitely expanded so far that not only is the President bombing ISIS but he's using drones in Yemen, he's using them in Somalia, he's all over the world with the 2001.  So you can see it hasn't a bit -- these broad uses of force that the president is authorized to use by Congress.  It reminds us, Heidi, of course, as we've talked about, of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which was passed to give the president [Lyndon B. Johnson] authority to go into Vietnam and fight against the Vietnamese.  But it was so broadly stated that it went on forever and it expanded the war to half-a-million troops.  And in addition in this case, in the case of Gulf of Tonkin, it was based on a false set of facts having to do with an attack by the North Vietnamese, a supposed attack in the waters.  But in any case, these are bad examples because what happens is you give the presidents these kinds of authority and they basically expand them into world war.  And what's amazing to me hear is that you have the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force which has already been expanded.  And they're not planning to end that one.  They're planning to leave that on the books even if they get this new Authorization to Use Military Force in 2015.  So he's going to have both.  And then he says he doesn't even need it. Even if Congress turns him down, he says, 'I still have the old one.'  So the whole thing is just a charade for wide war. 

Heidi Boghosian:  And-and I imagine Michael that it's in response to heightened media coverage of beheadings and high profile actions which, as we've seen over the years, in this country and abroad, often result in hastily passed legislation to placate public fears.

Michael Ratner: You know I that's -- that's a good point.  It may not just be the Republicans on both sides but, in fact, as the ISIS propaganda and videos come out, people are saying, 'Well what's the president doing?'  And so now he's saying, 'Look it, I'm going to Congress, I'm going to get this Authorization to Use Military Force.'  But, of course, he's going to get a very broad authorization to use military force.  Now there's three or four points in it that I want to mention because they're so shocking and surprising.  Let's just look at the scenario here.  The Democrats want to put some limits on it -- not very many, but some -- on this use of force.  The Republicans want an ever expansive use of force.  Not much real difference between them but in some of the details.  The first one comes up in what's known as the 'sunset clause.'  We've talked about sunset clauses here with respect to the PATRIOT Act, etc.  When liberals want to vote for something bad but they want to feel better about it, they say, 'Oh, we're going to put a sunset clause in!'  That means that in two, three, four years, whatever the sunset provision is, the law will end by itself and it won't be renewed automatically.  Well we know what happened with the PATRIOT Act -- which we predicted at the time -- was a lot of liberals voted for the PATRIOT Act because it had a sunset clause, that was their excuse.  'Oh, tell our liberal constituents it's going to set in four years.'  And, of course, it did set.  But, of course, before it did set, Congress went ahead and renewed it for another four, ten, whatever number of years.  So this one has a three year sunset clause.  Let's think about that.  One, they can renew it always.  But secondly, even if it sets in three years, the president -- and it won't be Obama anymore -- just goes back to the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force --

Heidi Boghosian: Right. 

Michael Ratner: -- which has no sunset.  So essentially the sunset clause is meaningless for lots of reasons except it gives liberals cover.  And for that reason, I oppose the sunset clause because I don't want liberals having cover.  They ought to vote for what they understand they're voting for which is  indefinite war against the world.  So that's one very bad provision. 

Michael Ratner:  A second one -- and a big struggle is going on --  or, I don't know if it's big, a struggle of some sort -- at least in the press around these guys -- is the use of ground forces.  How are we going to limit the use of ground forces?  Initially, I think we were told there won't be any ground forces used against ISIS or they believe they have to use ground forces. So what does this Authorization to Use Military Force say -- the new proposed one?  This does not authorize the use of the United States armed forces in -- and here's the key word -- "enduring" offensive ground combat operations.  The word is "enduring offensive ground combat operations."

Heidi Boghosian: Right.  And what does that mean? That means a long term -- 

Michael Ratner: How long is enduring?

Heidi Boghosian:  -- something short of -- Exactly.

Michael Ratner: One year? Two year?  Five years?  Ten years?

Heidi Boghosian:  Right. 

Michael Ratner:  What's "enduring"? Forever?

Heidi Boghosian:  It's over broad and vaguely drafted. 

Michael Ratner: It's meaningless.

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

Michael Ratner: Basically the president is authorized to use ground forces forever.

Heidi Boghosian:  Right. 

Michael Ratner:  So, again, the Democrats are going to be able to say to their constituents -- or maybe a few Republicans who are a little isolationists here, will say, 'It doesn't say we gave them authority.'  So --

Heidi Boghosian: [Laughing] It's not in perpetuity!

Michael Ratner: It's b.s.  That's number two.  A third part of the law says it allows war to be made on associated persons or forces.  That means individuals and organizations associated in some way with ISIL or ISIS -- the Islamic State.  And the problem is, that's like saying war can be made anybody.  And we know that from experience because in the 2001 AUMF, it also uses the term -- or has been interpreted to mean -- you can make war on associated forces of al Qaeda or the Taliban.  Well now under the US definition -- the government definition -- that's everybody.  That's the people in Somalia, that's the people in Yemen, that's the people in Mali, that's everywhere.  So it's a meaningless restriction, 'associated forces.'  That's number three.  And number four -- and this is really striking -- really, if you're thinking about the US and perpetual war, the act, the new proposed authorization to use military force of 2015 has no geographical limitations. That means if they think there's an ISIS guy living next door  --

Heidi Boghosian: In the US of A.

Michael Ratner:  In the US, anywhere in the world. They can get that guy -- whether through Joint Special Operations, drone him, whatever they want to do.  So war on the world is not a fantasy from this act, it's not a fantasy of mine.  

Michael Ratner:  And just remember this as we go on, there was a Times article a few days ago that talks about the so-called spread of ISIS almost playing into this new Authorization to Use Military Force saying there's ISIS groups in Saudi Arabia and Yemen and Algeria and now the US,  under this act, can make war everywhere.  So what we have now is an authorization if it passes that allows the president to make more war around the world and kill thousands and thousands of Muslims.  Instead of this, of course, we should have less war, no war.  We should probably have the Congress impeaching the president for already going way beyond the war authorization he's had. Sadly, for me, the US as an imperial power has been almost impossible to restrain.  You and I know this, Heidi, since our days as Vietnam activists and beyond.  The US has been at constant war.  So we're watching a charade going on in Congress and in the media, the thousands of words, what's going to happen with the AUMF, it doesn't  make any difference in a sense.  We're watching a bloody charade that will continue for -- for a very long time. 

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