Saturday, January 30, 2010


In typical post-modernist fashion we've "moved on" past the events that once dominated our discussion on the predecessor of this place, Intel Dump. But Glenn Greenwald does us a favor by reminding us that we have never really addressed, never "truth-commissioned", never "De-Baathified" our moron-level criminality in southwest Asia.Of all of us here, only Charles had the clarity and vision to call the Mess-o-potamia what it was; a criminal act, an act of aggressive war of the very type that earned the losers the gallows at Nuremburg sixty years ago.
"By contrast, we treat it all as a pointless relic of the irrelevant and distant past, all because the people who did it have banded together to decree that the worst possible crime is not what they did, but instead, would be if the rest of us examined what they did and insisted on meaningful accountability."


  1. Chief,

    Just thought you should know that picture was taken by Michael Yon and he's very protective of it. There's a lawsuit pending against Michael Moore and Yon has taken legal action against others who've used the photo. Just thought I would let you know.

    BTW, here's the story behind the picture.

  2. Chief,
    I really don't like patting my own back, but we on RAW called bullshit on both invasions back when all the patriots were calling AFGH the good war.
    Both invasions were aggressive unjustified acts and still remain so.
    I used to use photos that were copy righted and there was a loophole for one time educational purposes.
    This photo of course is supposed to pull at our righteous heart strings , but that's not my reaction. As always i'll say again-get the hell out of both theaters, yesterday.
    And indeed Charlie called it right.

  3. I disagree here.

    First, the Afghan war was not "illegal" that is contra the UN Charter since it could be seen as a reprisal in response for 9/11. The US had widespread support for going into Afghanistan in 2001. The question imo is not one of legality, but of national policy and strategy. It simply would have been better for us to have not overthrown the Taliban regime and taken upon ourselves the very difficult and long-term task of establishing a "workable" (and friendly) Afghan state. In fact those attributes may be contradictory in the Afghan context.

    Iraq isn't as obvious as Charlie makes out imo. Bush and Blair were arguing that they in fact were fulfilling the UN Charter by overthrowing Saddam (in lue of all the UNSC resolutions). The General Secretary stated otherwise, but who is correct? That would be up to an international court to decide. Prof. David Kennedy describes the situation very well in his "Of War and Law", pp 158-166. I can think of a whole range of unintended and very damaging consequences to such a decision. I also find it hard to believe that those who argue this are willing to concede that French support in the UNSC would have legitimized the Iraq war.

    Basically law has become an operational level of war, as in Kennedy's concept of "law in war". Also making war contingent on UNSC legitimacy or "legitimacy" (in the case of Bush) limits the responses to humanitarian action, sanctions or conflict, when the actual options are more varied.

    Calling Iraq an "illegal war" (as in against the UN Charter which is also US law) also taints every US serviceperson who served there since they would have been legally bound to refuse deployment to what was essentially a criminal activity, or is my logic here faulty? Then of course there is also the question of indemnities for the victims . . .

    On the other hand, if we argued that Bush used possibly criminal methods to ensure that the war came about, that he was responsible for a whole range of possibly criminal actions not just limited to the war, but including the war, then the onus imo falls where it belongs. The politicians and their henchmen should be called to account and brought to trial in US court for their actions in connection with the war, not for the legality of the war itself.

    Finally, Charlie, if you are there, be gentle ;-)> since I'm not a lawyer.

  4. Good comments, especially Seydlitz, who brings up a number of good points.

    Here's the way I deconstruct things:

    There's a difference between what is legal to do, what is wise to do and what is moral to do. One can further deconstruct and separate the decision to invade from the actual conduct of the invasion and subsequent occupation. Obviously, those three areas (legal, wise, moral) are often at odds and are subjective to greater or lesser degrees. In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, I'll include the so-called "war on terror" (PWOT as Jim nicely calls it) as a third war.

    As far as legality goes, the only "law" that matters is the US Constitution. The UN charter or any treaty cannot trump Congress' authority to authorize war, and Congress did authorize both invasions and has yet to repeal or alter those authorizations. Congressional action was probably illegal under the UN charter for Iraq (though as Seydlitz notes, there are arguments both ways and international law is more like politics than an actual legal regime) but Congress can ignore the charter if it wants to thanks to the Constitution.

    Using my deconstruction above, here's a very simplistic breakout of where I stand with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight:

    - Invasion: Legal, wise, moral
    - Occupation: Legal, unwise, morally ambiguous

    - Invasion: Legal, unwise, immoral
    - Occupation: Legal, unwise, morally ambiguous

    War on Terror: partly legal, mostly unwise and mostly immoral.

    As I said, simplistic. Now I wait for Charles (and anyone else) to tear me a new asshole.

  5. Lurker here...I remember the days of Charles standing alone against almost everyone on Intel-Dump... particularly the obvious DOD shill MSR Roadkill...also remember all the pettifogging about "legality" as though that justifies anything.

  6. Andy/Seydlitz
    9/11 is the starting point. Interestingly we immediately id'd the bad guys ,but prior to the event did squat to stop it. Now to buy into the bullshit one must believe the official story on the perpetrators, which i do not.
    What do we really know except what has been handed to us ???
    Now accepting the official story what do we have? Nothing that justifies a war since our reactions are totally disproportional to the triggering event. Even accepting that the Taliban gave aid and comfort to the AQ is not imho a reason to start a 8+ year war nor does it give us the right to kill and wound disproportional bunches of poor rag ass people. This is a travesty and an embarrassment.
    The conduct of the campaign to punitively address the AQ threat is a cruel and comical joke on the world in general and the American people specifically. It lacks intellectual honesty.
    Did the atk of 9/11 rest in the Taliban arena or in the House of Saud? Where did the funding and operational assets originate?
    Next point is that it's actually an embarrassment to even voice the words that the Afgh people or the Taliban are a threat to the USA.Have we lost our minds or our balls? Do we even remember how to do real threat analysis? Now for Saddam- even if he had wmd then so what.?! How does this justify an invasion w/o overt atk v the US. We haven't unilaterally invaded China/NK or any other countries possessing wmd.
    Let's really think about the bullshit and separate out the emotion, myth and lies.
    Both AFGH and Irq were aggressive wars and all associated with that must be accepted.
    Xin loi.

  7. Jim,

    I'm not sure what you mean by "disproportionate." Isn't that always the case? The Japanese killed several thousand in Pearl Harbor and we reciprocated by killing millions. When has war ever been proportional to the event that instigated it?

    I still think invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do, but from about 2003 onward, our continued large military presence there doesn't make much sense.

  8. Andy: Not sure what is covered under "fair use" here. All the Yon photo does here is remind us that putting soldiers where children are part of their range fan is a bad idea for the children and a bad idea for the soldiers. Iraq - both the invasion and the occupation - seems to qualify. If Mike Yon wants to slap me with a "cease and desist" order I will happily take the photo doan - there are more than enough photos of dead kids from the Iraq misadventure.

    And as far as "legal, wise and moral", I defy you to find a sentence in the Constitution that reads "To declare Authorization To Use Military Force, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal". I would say that the very question of the legality of the war was compromised by Congress' refusal to openly declare war, but since that appears to be a feature now and not a bug we can pass this on to the actual question of the "grounds" for military invasion.

    We've either a part of the UN Charter or we're not. If we're not, the "grounds" you mention seydlitz are moot. If we are, then no tribunal on Earth would be able to refrain from laughing at the notion that invading Iraq was somehow in line with the UN - if the Secretary General and the UN says it wasn't, we'll, it wasn't.

    We've pretty much blown away all the smoke the people who ginned up the invasion blew up our asses. We invaded to replace Saddam with Chalabi. While you can argue that wasn't a non-starter as a foreign policy goal, you can't really argue that invading a nation that has not taken armed action against you is "legal".

    And if the grounds are that Saddam was not, in fact, legally the ruler of the country, what would have stopped the Canadians from invading after GWB fairly openly stole the election of 2000? That way madness lies.

    No, I would say that regardless of the morality, the very act was illegal. That's not trying to make us out to be the Butcher of Belsen - we've fought illegal wars before - the Mexican War is a pretty clearcut war of aggression, and while you can argue for or against the Spanish-American War the suppression of the Philippine Insurrection was and you can throw in some pretty nasty atrocities to that one, to boot.

    No, I think that the British have the right of it - not only were the movers - the politicians - criminal in their actions, but the entire enterprise was tainted from the beginning. The "unwiseness" and "immorality" blossom as fruit on the original poison tree.

    Afghanistan? Not my brief here, but my take on it was that it was going to happen, did serve the purpose of removing a hostile regime, was fatally flawed as well in that it failed to take into account the blowback from installing the Northern Alliance in Kabul and the ensuing tribal feuds we touched off.

    As far as it being the "right" thing to do, well, we like to say in medicine "First, do no harm." It's hard to say whether a Taliban sitting in Kabul today would be better or worse than what we have, but it is fairly obvious that what we have is pretty harmful, expensive and likely futile. So as far as that goes, I'd say that it was less than a crime but more than a mistake.

  9. Chief/Andy/Seydlitz,
    Let me fight in phaselines.
    Let's back up a bit re; wars of aggression. Forget the Mexican War b/c that was a long time ago in a different legal mode,unfortunately the Mexicans are winning phase two.
    Do we accept Grenada and Panama as legal/nonaggressive war?? Or were they just live fire exercises in foreign sovereign nations? Obviously we do not and this is a joke since they were pure aggresssive wars by any definition. We the people allowed and cheered these illegalities, so why sweat the small stuff-what me worry?!
    We have become slowly conditioned to accept bigger and better invasions and wars of regime change. Are we too fucking blind to see this?
    I believe that IRQ and AFGH are right out of the Poland 39 playbook.

  10. FDChief-

    "We've either a part of the UN Charter or we're not. If we're not, the "grounds" you mention seydlitz are moot. If we are, then no tribunal on Earth would be able to refrain from laughing at the notion that invading Iraq was somehow in line with the UN - if the Secretary General and the UN says it wasn't, we'll, it wasn't."

    My point isn't that Bush was arguing against the UN Charter, but rather that the US and UK (along with their supporters) claimed to be acting in accord with it. Does the UN General Secretary have the last say, or simply one say among various others? Could taking this to the World Court be an option? I don't know, but the result would be in essence making the UNSC the official world body in deciding legality pertaining to war . . . do you think that a good idea?

    Also are you arguing that a passed UNSC resolution for Bush's war against Iraq would have made it legal?

    And finally what would the effect of the Iraq war being deemed "illegal" have on the troops who served there? Would it be appropriate for the current US government to withhold veterans' benefits to Iraq war vets for having first obeyed an illegal order and second for having served a criminal cause?

    I think we are perhaps mixing up "legality" with "justice". They are not really the same, what is legal is not always just and what is just is not always legal. Legality attempts to operate towards an ideal form of justice, but failing in many individual instances, where the ideal does not satisfy the needs of the individual. Also powerful interests too often can gain legality through exploiting legal resources, leaving justice lying in the dust. To achieve justice requires political will and power, especially in using the legal system to achieve the aim of justice.

    Shouting "illegal war" in this case masks what is actually in play here: essentially highly incompatable political views, with one side or the other attempting to gain further legitimacy in what is a political conflict.

    Today, our side is losing the political struggle, so we attempt to redefine it as a legal one . . .

  11. Chief,

    To tag onto Seydlitz' excellent comment, I would just again point out that the power to use force as written in the Constitution cannot be trumped by the UN or by treaty or by anything else. So you could argue that the war was illegal under international law (but as Seydlitz notes, that is debatable) but was legal under the US Constitution at the same time. In that kind of disagreement, the Constitution wins.

    This is an imperfect analogy, but consider marijuana which is considered illegal by the fed but legal in some circumstances in California and elsewhere. Someone using medical marijuana is conducting a perfectly legal activity under state law, but is breaking federal law. Who trumps who in that case? That issue will be decided in the courts, but the difference between that situation and the UN is that international law cannot, in effect, alter the Constitution by restricting when Congress can declare war or otherwise authorize the President to use military force. When it comes to war, the Constitution is the only game in town.

    And on that score, there is nothing that requires that the words "declare war" must be used. The AUMF is completely consistent, in my view, with Congressional authority as defined in the Constitution. Keep in mind that the AUMF's were designed to allow the President to initiate hostilities on his terms - a pre-approved declaration of war if you will.

    There's also nothing in the Constitution that prevents the Congress from sanctioning a war of aggression. This gets back to Seydlitz' point about legality vs justice, or what I said earlier about legality vs morality.

  12. Andy,
    Disproportionate doesn't wash out well concerning the Jap War. This was a real war, declared by Congress and supported by the American people.
    Who did we or could we declare war upon in AFGH? The people? The Taliban? The govt? Any of these.
    War has a very real definition and it doesn't apply to AFGH War.Same can be said AFTER the Saddam regime was toppled.Were we fighting Sunnis/shias/loyalists/insurgents/militarists/terrorists/nationalists/criminals, non of which qualifies as a definition of war, regardless of how much you wish it to be otherwise.
    I agree with Chief in that Congress can declare War but there are no provisions for them declaring that the POTUS can use the military as a plaything.

  13. jim-

    "We have become slowly conditioned to accept bigger and better invasions and wars of regime change. Are we too fucking blind to see this?"

    I agree with this statement: the American people have been conditioned to see perpetual war as a normal condition, whereas the political elite has been sold the idea that war can be essentially the continuation of economic interests by other means. These are supported by the added assumptions that it only comes down to hitting the "bad guys" hard enough - reducing strategy to identifying target sets - and that our own power is infinite . . .

    But wouldn't such wars still be "wrong" even if they were offically legal? Does getting a UNSC vote for war make it "right"?

  14. Seydlitz,
    My starting point is that none of these little ventures are war-they are an illusion of war.
    None of them fit any conventional legal definition of war.
    Bad guys implies that were in a bad spaghetti western.
    Andy, I admire that you stay in there swinging.

  15. seydlitz, Andy: Of course, anything can legal and unjust - "The law, in its impartial majesty, forbids rich and poor alike to steal bread and sleep under bridges", remember?

    As Jim points out, we're quibbling about details. The foolishly illegality of invading something that had not done us a physical injury was just part and parcel of the conditioning we as a nation are receiving to see military force as the solution to all our problems, the Sham-Wow of foreign policy.

    The AUMF was not a declaration of war, 9/11 had nothing to do with Iraq, the smoking gun was not a mushroom cloud.

    The point behind dragging in the UN is the same reason the Constitution says that the Congress must "declare war" - as a republic our officially stated belief is that the will of the majority as enacted after open debate has the force of reasoned decision. If the majority can't be convinced, or if you have to lie and cheat to get your will, then that should be a hint that what you want probably isn't legal, moral, just, or even a good idea.

    And, yes, that certainly applies to the soldiers who planned and carried out this farrago. We should be ashamed of our gullibility, stupidity and credulousness.

    But beyond that, we should be ashamed that the Brits, who don't pretend to be much of a republic and whose "constitution" is a fiction supported by a sort of mass conk, are willing to even go as far as publicly grill the malefactors who got them stuck into the damn tarbaby.

    We won't even go that far. What the hell does that say about us?

    Or about the probability that we will avoid equally stupid, illegal, unjust and immoral military adventures in the future?

    One would like to think that we've become less ignorant since ventures like the Mexican War, but this mess goves pause.

  16. Chief,
    Since the Mex war seems to pluck your heart stings i'd like to suggest that it was exactly like Irq since it was based on lies and deception.Simply stated Polk wanted to steal some terrain.
    The only difference is that we got to steal a whole lot of land. And as wars go that makes it ginger peachy.
    I say this as a friend.
    You are going thru the same brain twister that we at RAW have been wrestling with since we came out against the PWOT.
    Basically how can you call the wars illegal and then say you support the troops.? A little Mobius strip we got here. Actually i feel like the Zuni bird flying up my own asshole. We keep skirting the key point-we should be tried in Nurnburg.
    Start with secret prisons , torture, renditions,open ended confinement,murders committed while questioning suspects.Baby steps.
    Why did we fight the Nazis?Would somebody refresh my memory?

  17. Chief,
    Historically when we are rushing to declared war the people who vote nay are usually villified.
    The tyranny of the majority pops to mind.

  18. Jim: 1846 = 2003. Yes. That's what I'm saying.

    The war we fought with Mexico was illegal in the post-1945 sense; it was a land-grab, pure and simple. If the Mexicans had somehow won, if there had been an international tribunal system in 1846 they would have been entirely justified in hauling Polk and his cronies up before the bar in, say, Cuernavaca, trying them, convicting them and hanging them.

    Am I hand-wringing about it now? No; it would be ridiculous to dig up Polk and his Cabinet, the Congress of the time and desecrate their bones a la the French Revolution. But let's recognize what it was, and what Iraq was - acts of greedy criminality of ambitious men. If they had been street crimes we'd have no hesitation in labelling the perpitrators as villians and criminals. But because these people were our "leaders" - and because we let them "lead" us into this vile misadventure - we cloe our eyes, whistle and look the other way.

    Meanwhile, the many problems those criminals have passed down to us continue to poison our polity to this day:

    So we can twitch and quibble about whether this fucking mess was "illegal" or just "unjust" or possible "immoral". But, for me, it fuels my suspicion that we are grooming ourselves to be the Hapsburg Spain of the 21st Century, pissing away what remains of our imperial treasury fighting ideological ghosts in the hustings as we send out our tax farmers and oligarchs to suck the vitality out of our own people.

    I hope not. But I don't have THAT much hope...

  19. FDChief & jim-

    I don't think ya'll understand my point. Congress did support the Iraq war, based if nothing else on false information supplied by Bush, which should be the point. Legality and questions of legality are a maze, simply a means of clouding what the actual issues are, which are all political.

    Tarring the troops as criminals is counter-productive and unjust, since they are the one constituency which really does have an issue with the political leadership.

    "The mask of legalism" is what our "constitutional law professor" prez has been able to hide behind, to use obtuse legal arguments to reinforce the abuses of the past, to avoid doing what he promised and was elected to do . . . bring about the "change" he promised. Instead his version of change consists of more black and brown faces pushing the levers of power, but for the same politico-economic elite and for the same corrupt political purposes: Empire established under a legal shroud.

  20. It is really important that nations get out of the habit of going to war whenever it pleases them. Given that disputes between nations will still happen, you need some form of international dispute resolving mechanism. That means the UN and international courts.

    Given that in a few short years the USA will be playing third fiddle to China and India, you would think that it is in America's best interest to strengthen international law while it is still the top dog.

  21. Jim, Chief,

    Does the Congress have the ultimate authority to authorize war in this country or not? I would say they do. What would you have me do? I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not the UN Charter. The Congress supported both these wars, specifically authorized the President to start these wars, supported these wars with funding, all of which the Congress and President continue to do. What would you have me do, tell them to fuck off? Consider the implications of what you're suggesting. If these wars are "illegal" then am I supposed to ignore my oath to the Constitution, don my uniform and go arrest the President and Congress?

  22. Andy,
    Yes indeed what does a good German do?

  23. Jim,

    As always I appreciate your comments.

    I think there is a big difference between state actions taken in a democratic republic and state actions taken in fascist dictatorship.

  24. Andy,
    I think that we're 1 grid square away from Fascism.

  25. Jim,

    Maybe so, but all the officials who enabled and continue to enable these wars were elected. They did and do so under clear Constitutional authority. Heck, I voted for President Obama knowing he planned on expanding the war in Afghanistan even though I disagree with that policy. As an American citizen, I guess that makes me an enabler and potential criminal too.

  26. Andy,
    Wasn't Hitler and Mussolini elected officials.
    The Reichstag?

  27. jim-

    All you're saying is that fascism is the failure of liberal democracy, but I think we've heard that all before. Orwell talked about that back in the 1930s.

    Still, the fascists of yore were very much in to mobilizing and stimulating the people, whereas today the idea seems to be to put them to sleep . . . is it really fascism, or at least what we understand as fascism, or something else?


  28. "Congress did support the Iraq war, based if nothing else on false information supplied by Bush, which should be the point."

    If you lie to me to convince me to murder someone, who is guilty of the crime; you, who spun the lies, or me, who pulled the trigger?

    This is not "just politics", but simple black and white. It has become clear that there was no "justification" for Iraq other than the same "justification" we had in 1846 - we wanted it. While persuasive for a first-grader, I can't believe that this should be enshrined as a governing principle among nations, or our nation. Yes, nations have always done it. No, it is not moral, not really "legal" (any more than murder is legal if committed in a wasteland where the writ of law doesn't run - it's merely unpunished and unpunishable) and often not sensible, in the long run.

    And more to the point - how will we stop a repetition of the crime if neither one of us pays any price for it?

    Andy: You have the same option any man or woman has. You can refuse to take part in what in your view is an illegal or immoral act. You will, of course, pay the price - whether it be prison, degradation, humiliation or abuse. But you will be able to walk head-up knowing you refused to take the good German's way out and simply march ahead looking neither left nor right.

    Sadly, we have chosen to vilify those who pointed out the stupidity, criminality and venality of the Mess-o-potamia. The liars, crooks and their stooges foregather on the Sunday talk shows, while those we warned that we were being lied into knocking the cork off a bottle full of unstable and volitile contents are still considered radical hippies and crazy, irresponsible peaceniks.

    Charles has to live on a pittance while Cheney lolls about his mansion fleering and mocking us.

    What we did as an Army in Mexico was wrong in 1846. What we did to the Souix and Cheyenne in 1876 was wrong. What we did to the Filipinos in 1900 was wrong. What we did to the Chinese in 1900, the Haitians in 1915 and the Nicaraguans in 1930 was wrong. Thousands of soldiers went along and did those things.

    Does it make them wrongdoers?

    Yes. And we should accept them as such, while not pretending that we didn't applaud the wrongs, and profit by them then and today. My Army did wrong at those times and inthose places, because my country told it to do the wrong and it feared disobedience more than dishonor.

    Righting the wrongs of the past is immaterial except to the shades of and the descendants of the dead. But if we can't use our understanding of those wrongs to prevent doing more wrongs in the future?

    Then, as Jim points out, we lose any and all hope of ever being more than a Rome; great, powerful, but founded on the slavery and deaths of all we can drive under.

  29. "My Army did wrong at those times and inthose places, because my country told it to do the wrong and it feared disobedience more than dishonor."

    And, yes, I understand that as an Army of a republic we have the responsibility of obedience to the dictates of the people.

    But the corrolary is that if the people persist - or allow their rulers to indulge - in dishonor, we share it with them. Serving knaves and fools honestly does not make us honest men. It makes us the tools of knaves and fools.

    There comes a time when the von Rundstedt has to shout "Make PEACE, you fools!" and accept that his response may be disgrace at best or a bullet at worst. To remain silent in the face of ill intent is to sanction it - "Qui tacet consentit" - the ancient Roman law that held that silence in the presence of a criminal act gave implicit consent to it.

  30. Neofeudalism?

    No, I'd call it "corporatism" - the merger of government with large commercial and personal interests.

    Of course, Mussolini would say that takes you right back to fascism, which he defined as the union of government and corporate power.

    Either way, recall that the "mobilization" of the masses in fascist states - or communist states - wasn't to take action against the real authors of their misery, but to bullyrag Jews or qypsies or homos or liberals or whoever the government made the fiend-du-jour.

    Look at the poor simple teabaggers, being led to fulminate against godless liberals and welfare mothers, scary brown immigrants and eeeeevil Islamic boogeymen as their new corporate masters offshore their jobs, evade their taxes and fill their lives with cheap disposable plastic crap they're told they need and their minds with the lunatic rantings of Glenn Beck and the bile of Rush Limbaugh.

  31. Hey Chief!

    That was a killer fucking last paragraph.

  32. FDChief-

    "But the corrolary is that if the people persist - or allow their rulers to indulge - in dishonor, we share it with them. Serving knaves and fools honestly does not make us honest men. It makes us the tools of knaves and fools."

    These are political questions, not legal ones, since the system can operate legally and we still end up as "knaves and fools", which is my point.

    "Either way, recall that the "mobilization" of the masses in fascist states - or communist states - wasn't to take action against the real authors of their misery, but to bullyrag Jews or qypsies or homos or liberals or whoever the government made the fiend-du-jour."

    Only initially, since the real mobilization was for war which would require regimented and enthusiastic masses . . . compare that to Bush's War on Terror which requires us to keep shopping and not worry about the specifics, relatively little if any sacrifice, which is the opposite required by classic fascism . . .

  33. Chief,

    You guys seem to have deconstructed this issue to a simplistic either-or calculation: Either one is a "good German" or one must oppose Constitutionality and civilian control of the military. I don't agree with that framing at all.

    I think you really need to think through the implications of what you're suggesting, which is that the military should ignore or overrule the people when they are "fools and knaves." Well, who gets to decide when they are fools and knaves and when they are not? Once you allow the military to overrule the people then you have a military dictatorship.

  34. To all,
    We talk about WARS , but there is no war.
    Wars are quantifiable , with distinct achievable goals. In addition one can win or lose a war. There is nothing for the us to win or lose in shithole countries that pose anything but a laughable threat to the HOMELAND.
    Just saying HOMELAND makes my old pecker stand tall.

  35. Andy,
    Nobody fears anything resembling a military dictatorship in the USA, b/c where would we find a GO with enuf balls to stand up and take charge.? Hell, the best we'd see is a staff study on the topic.
    It's the imperial presidency that I fear. It hasn't diminished under Commandante O.

  36. Andy-

    Too bad Charlie's not around.

  37. Seydlitz,

    I agree even though I don't care for Charlie's detours into ad hominem.


    Well, I worry about an imperial Presidency too and one of the themes I've talked about here and on the old Intel Dump is that I think the problem on that score resides with Congress. Providing the President with a pre-authorized blank check in Iraq and Afghanistan was ill-advised, IMO, which I think events have proven. But that gets back to my point which is that what Congress did was legal under the Constitution but unwise. Our system depends on an adversarial relationship between the three branches of government and too often I think the Congress is deferential either because of partisanship or because they are mostly interested in bringing home some federal bacon to their constituents. For example, now that "their guy" is in office, Congressional Democrats seem to have lost their interest in amending the AUMF's or putting legislative conditions on the President's conduct of these wars.

    Furthermore, I think many Americans are conditioned to think the President can "solve problems" or "fix the economy" etc. when in fact the powers of that office are rather limited. Congress is all too willing to support that meme. You hear calls about the "Bush Tax Cuts" and "Obamacare" and Clinton surpluses, but the reality is that Congress is more responsible for those things than the President is. In short, a weak Congress means the office of the President will wield more power. Not a good thing IMO.

  38. Andy,
    Congress cannot legally authorize an illegal aggressive war. Why can't you get that?
    Do I have to attack you personally for you to get it?

  39. Jim,

    Let me assure you that personal attacks will not induce me to "get it."

    I think I've explained my position almost to the best of my ability, but let me try putting it a slightly different way:

    Congress is the body that writes law - in other words, they determine what is legal and what is not. Anything passed by Congress (and signed by the President) therefore can't be illegal. Congress can pass a law making something illegal and then turn right around and pass another law making it legal again (again, assuming the President concurs). That's what legislative bodies do - define what's legal and what isn't.

    Therefore, laws passed by Congress can only be found unconstitutional, not illegal. And on that basis, there's nothing in the Constitution prohibiting aggressive war or requiring the Congress to adhere to the limits of an international legal regime when exercising its Constitutional authority. I think if you look at history you'll see this is so - Congress has authorized a number of reprehensible actions. Congress gave those actions legal sanction and, like it or not, Congress is given that authority by the Constitution. You shouldn't mistake that statement of fact with advocacy. You should not mistake an argument for what is technically legal for an argument about what is right or moral or just or wise.

    So all I'm saying is that Congress had the clear authority under the Constitution to authorize the President to go to war against Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not cheerleading their decision to do so. If you want me to change my mind you'll need to explain exactly what limits Congressional authority in this area and why.

  40. My vote is for Seydlitz and Andy.

    Didn't know we had so many constitutional scholars resident here. I have a little background in this area and I, along with Andy, am wondering just where it is in the Constitution that denies the Congress the right to authorize a war at any time and in any place. If they want to declare war against Canada tomorrow, they can do it. And if the president signs up for it, well, we're at war with Canada.

    And I'm also a little mystified at suggestions that U.S. military personnel should have taken their very own individual copy of the UN charter out of their rucks and have used it to support any refusal of orders to invade Iraq or Afghanistan. I also have a little grounding in Title 18, US Code, and the UCMJ, and I've got to say that any trial or court martial would be a no brainer. Despite my feelings about the wisdom of these stupid wars, if I'm on the court, the vote is "guilty" for any GI stupid enough to cite the UN charter.

    "Congress cannot legally authorize an illegal aggressive war. Why can't you get that?" Ranger, I hate to tell you this, but Congress can do anything it wants, "illegal" or not. The wars meet the Constitutional test. Congress doesn't deal in "legal" or "illegal." What it does is always presumed to be "legal," unless and until it's found to be unconstitutional.

    Congress doesn't give a shit about the UN. And if we're honest about, there's no real reason to do so. Those folks who put the UN together were very smart in devising a "Security Council," where the permanent members can veto anything. The "big guy" provision. Why is this good? Well, because if anyone ever took the UN General Assembly seriously, we'd spend all of our time defending ourselves against third-world states that hate us. Fuck them. Anybody want our nation to be seriously affected by the opinions of those humanitarians who run Somalia?

    The UN is fine, but let's keep it in perspective.

    We can be shit-house lawyers all we want, but let's not rag on the troops. The troops have done what they're constitutionally and legally bound to do. If they haven't individually violated the laws of war, they're on solid ground. This is the Nuernberg precedent.

    And that leads us to the possibility that GW Bush might be put in the dock at some international tribunal on charges of waging aggressive war. Great fantasy, but we all know it'll never happen. Our political leaders, no matter what party, will never surrender him, and there's no one out there who can come and get him. And we don't really want this to happen no matter how much we despise the man. We still have a tribal world—nowhere near that one-world dream—and no tribe, esp. a strong one, gives up its own to another tribe. Bush is ours and he's ours to deal with. Of course, we'll never deal with him. Or with Cheney and the rest of the criminals.

    The way it works is that the politician who really screws the pooch has to live with the opprobrium of his fellow citizens. Unfortunately, we are a very forgiving nation. Nixon actually was an outcast for years, but he was eventually rehabilitated. The Bush crowd won't ever even have to spend any time in the wilderness.

    And that, my friends, is our real shame as a nation. It's probably a good thing we're so broke, because otherwise, we'd almost certainly do some more stupid and "illegal" wars. Might even do so anyway. How we have fallen.

  41. Note that popular sentiment toward the 'wars' in Iraq and Afghanistan rode high, especially in the days after 9/11. All the dumbass mooks wanted to blast the s**t out of the 'terrorists'. Akin to what Arnold and his buddies did to the jungle in 'Predator'. There was no sane voice that spoke loudly over that din. I know because I argued against the 'wars' with my co-workers. No one wanted to listen.

    The one person who should have dealt with it in a calm orderly fashion, our president, was too hellbent to take revenge for a failed hit on his daddy. He rode this wave of anger and emotion for all it was worth.

    We are now all the weaker for having expended all our energy swinging wildly.

    GW and Cheney should have been impeached. It should have happened as soon as we realized there were no WMD's, that Osama had slipped away, that a screwed up field manual allowed our soldiers torture Iraqi's, and on, and on...

    Where does the buck stop? How many crimes do they have to commit before we decide that we need to hold them responsible?

    I think, at this point, now that GW, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove are out of the spotlight, the GOP has demonized Obama. They've found their whippin' boy. Now to make everyone blame him for all our woes. It takes the heat off of those four 'heroes' of 9/11, of the GWOT.

    Lord, help us, WASF.

    Godspeed Charles, and may your efforts yield fruit!

  42. Wourm,
    The Army FM's did not condone torture.
    It's quite the opposite, but they were ignored and idiots drove the train.

    If what you say is correct, then we are not a nation of laws, but rather a nation pretending to be a lawful nation.The 2 are not the same.

    I was just funnin about the personal atk.

  43. Publius: While what you say may be literally true, I would consider deeply the implications of what you're saying. If the only constrain on our making was is the Constitutional warmaking power of Congress, then in what way are we better than any of the other Great Powers in history? And, more to the point - forget fucking Somalia - why should we feel secure that any other power might not feel the need to take a whack at us, any time, simply to prevent us from getting our licks in?

    Wasn't the lesson of Saddam vs. Kim Jong-Il that if you are worried about the Yankees, you gotta nuke up? Get strapped or get stripped, muthafucka?

    Is THAT how we want to play it - the Law of the Hood?

    And - while I don't expect every trooper to be his or her own Smedley Butler - if that's the deal, when does the Arsenal of Democracy become just another fucking pimp, smackin' his ho's and capping his rivals to take what he wants? When does the imperial trooper start to regret his becoming the pimp's muscle?

    Hey, business is business, I realiaze that. And heaven forfend that we should start worrying about whether we're Doing Good or Doing Well. I just thought that we might reflect that the past years might not have been well spent, militarily, and wonder why this is so?

    Perhaps the failure to prosecute those who led their country into aggressive war might have something to do with it?


  44. FD Chief: "While what you say may be literally true, I would consider deeply the implications of what you're saying."

    It is literally true and I am fully aware of the implications.

    More FDChief: "If the only constrain (sic) on our making was (sic) is the Constitutional warmaking power of Congress, then in what way are we better than any of the other Great Powers in history?

    We're not.

    More FDChief: "....when does the Arsenal of Democracy become just another fucking pimp, smackin' his ho's and capping his rivals to take what he wants? When does the imperial trooper start to regret his becoming the pimp's muscle?

    I think we know the answer to these questions. It also seems most imperial troopers don't often reflect much on what they're doing in the service of the state. In fact, one wonders if that's ever been the case. If they're good, imperial troopers execute their orders well and accomplish the mission. If they're bad, well..Imperial troopers aren't paid to reflect on matters of state.

    Ranger Jim: "If what you say is correct, then we are not a nation of laws, but rather a nation pretending to be a lawful nation.The 2 are not the same."

    I'd say let's not misunderstand this whole nation of laws business. Congress is different than you and me. In fact, Congress is the unique part of the system. It is literally above the law until it writes a law, a law that must be tied in some respect to a constitutional provision. Only Congress can do initial interpretations of the Constitution. Only Congress can write a law to enforce the Constitution. Then the president must agree. Both parties, along with the rest of us are then required to abide by that law. That's a critical nuance and understanding it is key to understanding our system.

    There are no laws extant that forbid Congress from approving the use of military force anywhere in the world, so long as it's outside our borders. Even if there were such a law, it would be unconstitutional. The warmaking power is absolute. It presumes defense of the nation. If the nation is not in peril and if a war is therefore illegitimate, IMO the only feasible remedies are constitutional.

    Note that specified war crimes fit into a different box. Frankly, I don't think it's possible to employ criminal sanctions against a president for engaging in an aggressive, stupid war, UN charter or not. If it were, you would also have to have the other two branches in the dock as well. If you push these things to the logical conclusion, you would end up without a government at all—specifically because in our system, all three branches are complicit in such things as stupid wars.

    "Is THAT how we want to play it - the Law of the Hood?"

    Isn't that how the game's always been played? by all nations? Since well before this nation's founding?

  45. Publius,
    I'm still confused.
    Why did both of our Fathers fight the Nazis?
    I seem to be hazy on that one.

  46. Very interesting how this discussion has developed. Doesn't it basically come down to the notion of American exceptionalism? That the normal rules of politics and power do not apply to America since we are somehow quite different from all the rest? Only fight "just" or "legal" wars?

    World War II as the "good war" although 50+ million died, and the material results were the devastation of most of Europe and Japan, but very good for the US. Well, today we could say, "except for the following Cold War which turned this country in a very different direction" which influences us and our policies to this day. Maybe what made us "exceptional" was our isolation, which is long past.

    Also back then we were dealing with hegemonic powers and resisting them was seen almost universally as good, whereas today we are the hegemon . . .

    The connection between politics and war hasn't really changed, whereas the character of our national politics has, what we define as US "interests" . . . which are not hard to see considering the level of corporate interest and $$$ in our election process . . .

  47. Publius,
    The way you describe the state of the union what we need is a Pope rather than a Prez. When we can quibble about words like
    legal/constitutional/immoral/illegal etc.. and then conclude that Congress and the POTUS can do anything they want ,then it's time to
    realize how far we've fallen.

  48. Publius: I am shamed and made (sic) by all the typos. I really need to proofread my comments better. Yikes.

    As far as the comments're obviously right that we have always been like every other nation, taking what we wanted while mouthing virtuous lies about freedom and democracy. I would like to think that now that we have hung around for 200 years or more we'd have become a little more introspective about our gangsta habits. It does not seem to be the case.

    My only thought would be that here we have as clearcut a case as we ever will have; we were lied into a war that had no real benefit for the American people or the nation as a whole. And even the special interests that hoped to profit have and largely will not - we exchanged a criminal kleptocracy for a quasi-religious theocracy and a failing state.

    So not only were the motives criminal and the execution inept, the results are likely to be unpromising at best and harmful at worst.

    So here we are, looking at the wreckage. If we cannot now, with the smoking crater in front of us, punish the pilots that steered us into the disaster we can never do this. We have given up even the pretense of competence, and have handed our polity to the knaves and fools mentioned above. While venality and greed may have been our watchword, there does seem to have been an interest in minimal competence, if only for partisan gain. So we once had Pearl Harbor investigations, witch hunts to figure out who lost China, generals who failed were fired, politicians who lost wars were disgraced.

    For Iraq, no such thing. So while the connection that seydlitz draws between politics and war may not have changed, our concern for successful war and intelligent politics appears to have vanished, if it was ever really there.

  49. And let me add; I think what's getting to me about this is that it is saying something very unpleasant to me about the sort of nation we have become.

    I agree that Andy and seydlitz and Publius are right about the "legalities" of the war. There is nothing statutory that covers the overall malfeasance of those who led - and the shortsightedness and stupidity of those who followed - into this mess.

    But the thing that seems truly harmful for us as individuals and as a nation is the degree to which we are all sitting complacently behind this "legality".

    Fortunately for us Iraq really was small change. The blood and treasure spilt were really negligible. But we seem unwilling or unable to address the pathologies that got us in there and have made it so difficult to get out (and out of A-stan as well).

    It implies that we have become - in a way I don't remember in this country - slaves to the outward form and legal fiction of things. We seem unwilling to think outside the box; as long as everything's "legal", why bother trying to think out ways to prevent this happening again.

    I'm not saying we need to abandon the rule of law, that the military needs to refuse to obey orders, that the nation needs to place expedience over legality.

    But I am concerned that we seem to fear partisan infighting and embarassing our elites more than we want competent and accountable governance

  50. Chief,
    I'm sorry but i will never agree that the wars of invasion and aggression were legal , in any sense of the word.
    The punitive invasion of AFGH may possibly be legal, if one stretches the point, but it failed the litmus test when we ignored AQ targets and obviously allowed their assets to escape US forces. Anything beyond the campaign to destroy AQ is a COIN induced fantasy and lacks legitimacy at all levels.