Monday, January 4, 2010

The Absence of War Is Not Peace

Sen. Joe Lieberman was on ABC's This Week to announce once again that the sky is falling. Lieberman and some of his fellow senators are distressed that the Obama administration has decided to prosecute the Nigerian bomber who attempted to blow up a Northwest Airlines international flight on Christmas Day in criminal court instead of as an enemy combatant. According to Lieberman:
That was an act of war. He should be treated as a prisoner of war. He should be held in a military brig...He should be questioned now and should have been ever since he was apprehended for intelligence that could help us stop the next attack or get the people in Yemen who directed him to do what he did. Yes, we should follow the rule of law, but the rule of law that is relevant here is the rule of the law of war.
It's business as usual for Lieberman, take any opportunity that you can to attack the actions and policies of the Obama administration. It plays well with a lot of the public, which isn't surprising given that basic civics classes seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur and the only Americans who bother to study the Constitution are the immigrants seeking to pass the citizenship exam.

Hey Joe, according to Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, only Congress can declare war and it has only done so five times with the last time being in 1941, WWII. Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan are police actions authorized by Congress but not by formal declarations of war. This is no small distinction. Lieberman and his ilk label the attacks on the US as acts of war; perhaps they are, but if so, why doesn't Congress declare war on somebody? (Note: I do not support a formal declaration of war; however, I am disgusted that Congress is effectively getting away with playing at war without taking the responsibility for engaging us in war. Declarations of war are serious and not undertaken lightly, that's why this nation has not been quick to declare war. However, the net result of all of these police actions, or engagements of force is the same--devastation, loss of life, PTSD, and all the attendant ills of war.)

Ah ha, you might say, we have declared war on terrorism. Generally speaking wars are declared by one nation against another nation, not against an ideology that fuels behavior. This lack of a fomal declaration of war against a clearly identifiable enemy is an underlying issue when it comes to the Bush administration's decision to label suspected terrorists as enemy combatants. Obama's critics have been quick to climb on the prisoners of war bandwagon yet again, insisting that persons arrested for acts of terrorism should be treated as prisoners of war, and therefore subjected to a military interrogation. Of course, based on past behavior, that may be code speak for waterboarding.

Just like our so called war on drugs, this war on terrorism cannot be won. The definitions applied by the Bush administration have created a hybrid that does not fit the rules of war. There is no nation with whom to negotiate a treaty. The alleged enemy combatants hail from different nations, the flavor of the month is Yemen. How do we even determine when we've won? Who surrenders, who signs the treaty? Who are the parties to a treaty?

I'd like to see Congress show some chutzpah and actually deal with the elephant that has been in the room ever since they sanctioned GWB's invasion of Iraq. (Congress issued an Authorization of the Use of Military Force to attack Iraq). In order to develop a strategy for putting an end to conflict you have to clearly define the nature of the conflict. It appears that President Obama is recognizing that our current engagements of force do not fit the rules of war and that the acts of terrorism are criminal acts, appropriately tried in civilian criminal courts. This quasi war status created by the previous administration lends itself to abuses of power that undermine the very principles of the Bill of Rights. Already, the fourth amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure have been laid on the sacrificial altar of the Patriot Act.

How do we ever end a war that is not a war, against an enemy that is an ideology, and on battlefields that have no clearly defined enemy lines? The United States' longest undeclared war was fought between approximately 1840 and 1886 against the Apache Nation. During that entire 46-year period, there were never more than 90 days of "peace."


Anonymous said...

Personally, when I was at war I wanted Peace, but when I had a little Peace(or was getting closer to the feeling at times), I seemed to have created war. I think that is what is going on here on a much larger scale, with much bigger 'toys'.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I despise Joe Lieberman. He is an attention whore and a traitor, as far as I'm concerned.

Love you Sheria. Happy New Year!

Mark said...

The right is so ridiculous about this. The Nigerian tried EXACTLY what Richard Reid, "the shoe bomber," attempted. Under Bush, Reid was tried in Federal Court, and is in prison in Colorado.
There is NO reason this act should be treated any different. Lieberman is a warmonger because he feels so inadequate as a man. He wishes he was goodlooking and macho, and he's a wimp with a nasal voice. So bombing a new country makes him feel like a has a large penis.
Nothing is uglier than vanity in a man who had no qualities to justify it.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It has been dismaying how the almost tragic incident is being used for political gain. The perpetrator is going to be prosecuted, and that is that. All the other blustering is just that. I am wondering if our country can become united again.

Nance said...

The Independent Republic of Lieberman has declared war on Yemen. Sheria, I am coming to rely on your analyses.

Beth said...

I was also irritated to hear of Giuliani bitching about how Obama won't use the phrase "war on terror." It's all just semantics, and their fixation on that particular phrase is ridiculous, for exactly the reasons you have pointed out. Oh, Rudy also apparently forgot about a particular day in September...he said there were no acts of terror under Bush's watch. Huh?