Tuesday, May 17, 2011
While the blogosphere obsesses over such foolishness as Newt Gingrich’s ridiculous campaign for president and Bristol Palin’s plastic surgery, a much more serious matter is unfolding on Capitol Hill.
Congress may soon vote on a new declaration of worldwide war without end, and without clear enemies. A “sleeper provision” deep inside defense bills pending before Congress could become the single largest gift of unchecked war authority from Congress to the executive branch in modern American history.
The new legislation that would grant the president and all presidents after him, sweeping new powers to wage war anywhere and everywhere. Unlike previous grants of authority for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the proposed legislation would allow a president to use military force wherever suspected terrorists are present in the world, regardless of whether they represent risk to U.S. citizens, or any attack on the United States is imminent.
Details of Section 1034 can be read here: [PDF].
So broad and far reaching is the legislation, that it will permit a president to use military force within the United States and even against American citizens — a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The legislation contains no criteria to determine when a president’s authority to use military force would end or expire.
The bill, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, would allow the president to detain “belligerents” until the “termination of hostilities,” presumably at a camp like the one at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It also raises the possibility of endless detention for anyone who gets on the wrong side of a future administration, and would make the war on terror a permanent and limitless aspect of life on earth.
President Obama has not sought the new war authority. His administration has made clear that it believes it already has all of the authority that is needed to fight terrorism although, unfortunately, the Obama administration has used a similar definition of the “enemy” in legal papers.
If this draconian bill passes, I strongly urge President Obama to veto it.