Archives For: Keepers

CIA Report

This is an outrage:

Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials. Kerry was not going rogue — his call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week, as Feinstein had been planning, could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.

First, the Obama administration set up a white-wash, in the form of the Durham investigation; then they sat back as the CIA tried to sabotage the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; then Obama’s chief of staff prevented the report’s publication for months, by insisting on redactions of the report to the point of it being near-unintelligible; and now, with mere days to go, the administration suddenly concludes that a factual accounting of this country’s descent into barbarism poses “an unacceptable risk” to US personnel abroad. Now, after this report has been stymied for two years; now, just days before its scheduled publication; now, because if the administration can prevent its publication this month, they know full well that the Republicans who will control the committee in January will bury the evidence of grotesque and widespread torture by the US for ever.

Of course this complicates relationships with foreign countries; of course it guts any remaining credibility on human rights the US has; of course the staggering brutality endorsed by the highest echelons in American government will inflame American enemies and provoke disbelief across the civilized world. But that’s not the fault of the report; it’s the fault of the torture regime and its architects, many of whom have continued to operate with total impunity under president Obama.

Make no mistake about it: if this report is buried, it will be this president who made that call, and this president who has allowed this vital and minimal piece of accountability to be slow-walked to death and burial, and backed the CIA every inch of the way. But notice also the way in which Kerry’s phone-call effectively cuts the report off at its knees. If it is released, Obama will be able to say he tried to stop it, and to prevent the purported damage to US interests and personnel abroad. He will have found a way to distance himself from the core task of releasing this essential accounting. And he will have ensured that the debate over it will be about whether the report is endangering Americans, just as the Republican talking points have spelled out, rather than a first step to come to terms with the appalling, devastating truth of what the American government has done.

I’m genuinely shocked by this last-minute attempt to bury the truth. Does anyone doubt that one agency in that inter-agency review is the CIA itself? And can anyone seriously believe that if this moment passes, we will ever know what happened? I have confidence in Senator Feinstein’s backbone on this. I wish I had confidence in the president’s.

So let me make one last appeal: Mr President, make the right call. Release the report. Let the facts be in the sunlight. It’s what you promised. And it’s the least this country deserves.

Update from a reader:

I think you may be interested in what Democratic Senator Mark Udall told Esquire in an interview conducted on November 21 and scheduled to run in the January 2015 issue. Esquire decided to release a portion of it today:

… obviously, if it’s not released, then I’m gonna use every power I have, because it’s too important. It’s too historic. And we can’t afford to repeat the mistakes to let this slide.

(Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)

Prepping For The Torture Report

Dec 3 2014 @ 1:56pm

CIA Report

I’m told we could finally have the definitive account (so far) of the Bush-Cheney torture program as soon as early next week. The Senators eventually had to cave to the Obama administration’s insistence on rendering large parts of the report unintelligible through redactions – or risk having the report buried for ever. That’s how hardball Obama was in protecting the war criminals he still employs. As a result, it will be very hard to follow how various CIA officials crafted, spun and lied about this barbarism over time. The result, ironically, is that the entire CIA is tarred with this brush, when so many in that agency did what they could to stop this brutal betrayal of this country’s core alleged values. But that is what Obama wanted: no actual accountability for any actual human being. When it comes to the gravest crimes, no perpetrator must be named, let alone punished. If you want one sign of how the CIA is a law unto itself, more powerful than any president, ponder Obama’s inaction over the last six years.

Dan Froomkin has a helpful guide today of what to look for in the report. I’d emphasize the following points.

It’s amazing that we managed even to get this. Obama has been determined, we now know, to protect the perpetrators of torture from the get-go, and to ensure that there was minimal transparency on such a vital issue. The Justice Department’s own investigation of some of the more astonishing acts of barbarity was, accordingly, a farce. The Durham report never interviewed a single victim of the torture, while finding that we should all move on, nothing to see here, etc. In fact, the only reason we have any transparency at all is because CIA honcho Jose Rodriguez destroyed the tapes of the waterboarding sessions in a brazen act of destroying potentially criminal evidence. When challenged on this, the CIA insisted that there was other evidence proving that the torture sessions were not, in fact, torture at all. And that’s how the Senate Committee started pulling at the threads.

We owe John McCain and Lindsay Graham some sincere thanks. I’ve had plenty to say about their unreconstructed neocon view of foreign policy, but on this core question of the rule of law and basic American principles, they have not wavered. They will give this report the bipartisan cover it needs, and which much of the GOP wants to deny it.

The report is very limited. What it details is drawn entirely from internal CIA documents, and nothing else. No one was interviewed – either torture victims or torturers or their enablers. GTMO is not in the report; the broader military is not in the report; only the CIA’s torture sessions in its own black sites are in the report – a tiny fraction of the vast apparatus of prisoner abuse that was set in motion by president Bush’s early and fateful decision to waive Geneva protections for terror suspects. So what we will read was just one small aspect of the barbarism this country inflicted on so many in its custody.

The report doesn’t assign any blame either. It does not prove who in the political branch authorized this or who should be held responsible for it. It will therefore disappoint many who want to see proof of, say, Cheney’s or Addington’s direct responsibility – or any form of actual accountability. What it will show, rather, is far more shocking evidence of far worse torture than we have previously been aware of (so I am told), and proof that the CIA knew that the program was ineffective.

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The CDC vs Penises

Dec 3 2014 @ 12:51pm

The latest federal medical guidelines for circumcision are now out, and they emphatically want to return to the era in which infant boys are routinely subjected to the surgical removal of their foreskins – and even adolescent and adult men encouraged to cut their penises. A couple of things need to be emphasized, it seems to me. The core argument is about lowering the risk of HIV infection:

“The first thing it’s important to know is that male circumcision has been associated with a 50 to 60 percent reduction of H.I.V. transmission, as well as a reduction in sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, bacterial vaginosis and the human papilloma virus (H.P.V.), which causes penile and cervical cancer,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, told The New York Times.

The evidence for this is entirely with respect to heterosexual sex, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where, unlike in the US, heterosexual sex accounts for the vast majority of HIV infections. It refers, moreover, only to those cases where men are infected by HIV-positive women – a small fraction of the total HIV cases in the US. You wouldn’t know this from Mermin’s statement – which seems to me designed to scare parents with the HIV boogeyman, rather than present them with a clear sense of the tiny potential health benefits involved. (There’s no evidence that circumcision can reduce the chances of HIV infection in gay sex, which accounts for the big majority of US HIV infections.)

To flesh out its case, the CDC cites a statistic that estimates that 10 percent of HIV infections in men can be attributed to female-to-male transmission in the US. It’s worth reiterating that these statistics are estimates, not actual numbers. And the actual number of men estimated to be at risk from this kind of infection is a mere 4,000 a year. Around 2 million boys are born in the US every year. So the future risk of an infant boy getting infected with HIV by a woman, using the CDC’s own argument, is 0.2 percent, or two in a thousand baby boys. And remember, we cannot know that these men were infected by women – it’s an inference – and self-reporting on the matter is extremely unreliable.

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President Obama Departs White House En Route To Colorado

Cast your mind back, if you can bear it, to the frenetic last days of the campaign in the mid-terms. The world, the GOP kept insisting, was coming undone – and everything was Obama’s fault. Somehow, Obama had fumbled the response to Ebola, letting infected people into the country, and risking a huge and fatal pandemic. At the same time, ISIS represented a grave threat to American security, was expanding with no limits in sight, proving that Obama had lost Iraq or thrown “victory” away in an act of reckless disengagement. And for good measure, Russia’s Putin was running rings around the president, creating a new world order in the Caucasus, while Obama fecklessly wrung his hands.

As a piece of political performance art, you have to hand it to the Republicans. They rolled up so many base-tingling themes into one hellish, end-times scenario: Obama as Carter, unable to stand up to the Soviets Russians; Obama as secret Muslim terrorist, standing by as Islamists terrorized Iraq and Syria; Obama as a dangerous import from Africa, which is why, we were told, the “O” in Ebola stood for Obama.

Funny, isn’t it, that almost all these themes evaporated after the election. And we now, moreover, have more time and evidence to judge how the president has responded to these different, emergent challenges. There have been no new Ebola cases in the US since the election; and the demon doctor who went bowling is now cured. Today, Obama touted some other measures of progress:

The administration announced Tuesday that it has set up a network of 35 roadrunnerhospitals across the country to deal with Ebola patients. It also said that the number of labs that can test for Ebola has increased from 13 in 13 states in August to 42 labs in 36 states. The White House said the administration has also increased the deployment of civilians and military personnel in West Africa, bumping the U.S. presence to about 200 civilians and 3,000 troops. It said the U.S. has opened three Ebola treatment units and a hospital in Liberia …

NIH researchers last week reported that the first safety study of an Ebola vaccine candidate found no serious side effects, and that it triggered signs of immune protection in 20 volunteers. U.S. health officials are planning much larger studies in West Africa – starting in Liberia in early January – to try to determine if the shots really work.

The downside? The GOP is unlikely to apportion enough money to keep the progress up. Concern about Ebola seems to be acutely timed to election campaigns. Afterwards? No longer that worried.

Then the campaign against ISIS. I’m still opposed to what the administration has done. But it behooves me to note today’s key measure of real progress – the new Iraqi prime minister’s deal with the Kurds on oil revenues:

In reaching a deal, Mr. Abadi, who has been prime minister for less than three months, has further distanced his government from a legacy of bitter sectarian and ethnic division under his predecessor, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. As prime minister, Mr. Maliki deeply alienated the Kurds and enraged Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority with his confrontational personality and policies that were seen as both exclusive and abusive. “The new team, under Abadi, is a cooperative team, a positive team,” said Mr. Zebari, a Kurdish politician who was also Iraq’s foreign minister in the Maliki government.

This is the easy part, compared with an attempt to include the currently revolting Sunnis into a genuinely multi-sectarian government, and to roll back the territorial gains of the Islamic State. But it’s a start. My own skepticism about whether Abadi was truly a unifying figure deserves provisional retirement. And the IS has been rolled back in several key areas. And Kobani has not fallen. If you take Obama’s posture at face value – that he was trying to prevent much worse happening in Iraq and laying out a years-long strategy to nudge Iraq’s democracy along – I can’t see clear evidence that he has failed. Within the very limited goals he set, he has so far succeeded.

Then Putin.

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The Schumer Consensus

Dec 2 2014 @ 12:32pm

Sen. Chuck Schumer

You can barely click on a link these days without reading someone arguing that Obama’s decision to pursue healthcare reform in 2009 – 2010 was the fatal flaw of his administration. As Chuck Schumer put it, putting healthcare before economic recovery sent the wrong message to working-class whites, who have been fleeing the party in droves ever since. Today, Charlie Cook offers up the same message about white flight:

An argument can be made that it is because Democrats have subordinated their traditional focus on helping lower- and working-class Americans move up the economic ladder in favor of other noble priorities, such as health care, the environment, and civil rights.

I’ve heard this a million times now and I simply don’t understand it. In terms of chronology, Obama did put the economy first. With TARP and the stimulus and the auto-bailout, the key measures to shore up a flat-lining economy were taken in short order. You could plausibly argue, I think, that in retrospect, Obama should have gone bigger, and produced a much more ambitious stimulus. But, as someone who observed this close-up and in real time, the odds of that actually happening were close to zero. And if it had happened, the stimulus would have been even less popular – and more easily demagogued – than it actually was. The problem was not the timing or the seriousness of the response; it was the seriousness of the problem. When an economy has a near-death experience, on top of huge public and private debt, the recovery will tend to be exactly what this recovery was: long, sad at first, and later … well, we don’t know yet, do we?

More to the point, healthcare was itself a response to the wounded economy. Here’s why. It’s very hard to see how the white working classes can ever see the kind of income gains they enjoyed for much of the mid-twentieth century in the new global economy. Tax redistribution can only do so much to counteract the enormous forces depressing those wages. But one way in which the working poor can tangibly be helped is by providing access to health insurance, something everyone needs, and something that costs a huge amount for a struggling blue-collar worker. You could argue – and I would – that universal health insurance in America – is actually the most effective measure available to counteract soaring social and economic inequality. Far from being a distraction from the core Democratic task of helping the working family, it’s one of the most effective policies for that goal that’s available.

I suspect that what is really going on is a matter of perception – which, of course, does matter in politics.

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Listening

Dec 1 2014 @ 12:20pm

I haven’t come across any new, dispositive facts to change my mind about the complicated specifics in the Michael Brown tragedy. But there is one dispositive fact that is hard to miss and that keeps impressing itself upon me every time I read about Ferguson and its meaning. There is a near-universal consensus among African-American men that there is a crisis about their role in American society, and particularly about their interaction with the police. You can cavil, or criticize or feign shock or refer back to the specifics of the Ferguson case. But it’s there and it’s real and any crisis between any segment of the population with respect to law enforcement is a crisis for the entire society.

Here’s what strikes me – the range of black voices telling us that this is a moment for despair. The rhetoric has gone to eleven. TNC:

Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers. For a creedal country like America, this poses a problem—in nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country’s nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, “You wear the mask.”

Here’s Colbert King, one of the sharpest columnists at the Washington Post, with long credentials in the civil rights movement:

We are in a bad place. My 20-year-old grandson, Will, the most gentle and respectful young man you would ever want to meet, posted this on his Facebook page:

“Regarding the recent events in Ferguson: I’ve always wanted to believe my country was free. But today’s grand jury decision tells me this cannot be the case. No country that refuses to hold the police, those so-called ‘defenders of the law,’ accountable for its unjust brutality — and yes, it is often very brutal — can be free. When the grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson for his actions, what kind of a message does that send? . . . It doesn’t seem fair that police can commit brutal acts against innocent people and get away with it.”

It’s not, Will. Not today. Not in your great-grandmother’s day when that Mississippi grand jury let that white farmer get away with murder. Not ever.

John McWhorter shares my view of the murkiness of the actual incident, but is emphatic nonetheless about the broader problem:

The right-wing take on Brown, that he was simply a “thug,” is a know-nothing position. The question we must ask is: What is the situation that makes two young black men comfortable dismissing a police officer’s request to step aside?

These men were expressing a community-wide sense that the official keepers of order are morally bankrupt. What America owes communities like Ferguson — and black America in general — is a sincere grappling with that take on law enforcement that is so endemic in black communities nationwide. As Northwestern philosopher Charles Mills has put it, “Black citizens are still differentially vulnerable to police violence, thereby illustrating their second class citizenship.”

This is true. It is most of what makes so many black people of all classes sense racism as a key element of black life, and even identity.

What we’re talking about here is not prejudice exhibited by other members of civil society – the kind of prejudice you can argue should be ignored or proven wrong. It is prejudice exhibited by the representatives of the entire system – the police – and its expression is too often violence, even fatal violence. At first, I simply wondered how so many people I respect see no progress at all since the 1930s or earlier. But it is perfectly possible, it now seems clear, for there to be considerable social progress and integration even as police forces – especially in poor, urban areas – come to associate criminality with black men, and treat them as a different class of people – guilty until proven innocent, violent unless proven peaceful.

I can see why this happens, can’t you? Cops are not superhuman. High rates of violence and crime in neighborhoods with large numbers of young black men make a certain kind of prejudice almost impossible to avoid for a fallible human cop – but that makes training to counteract these impulses all the more important to enforce. A cop like Wilson, with clearly minimal finesse in these matters, come across as afraid, unprofessional, and reckless. Ditto this jumpy fool in a much clearer case:

I cannot imagine that happening to a white man. Period. The officer in that case has been fired and charged with assault. But what are the odds that would have happened without a dash-cam video?

The truth is: there are too many eerie parallels between today’s world and yesterday’s.

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Thoughts On Affirmative Action

Nov 28 2014 @ 12:59pm

Freddie has a long post, in which he expresses exasperation at my opposition to racial discrimination against Asian-American students in the Ivy League. His core point is that without affirmative action, and the punishment of Asian-Americans for their race, there would be far lower proportions of black and Latino students in college, and that therefore ending it is grotesquely irresponsible if you care about “racial economic equality” in America. Above all, I am talking in “abstractions”, while I seem oblivious to the human tragedy of black and Latino students being shut out of college.

Some of our disagreements are structural. Freddie, for example, writes:

This whole debate depends on a flatly bogus notion of what college is, or what our country is. There is no such thing as meritocracy. There has never been anything resembling meritocracy.

In contrast, I think that the establishment of standardized testing in the post-war years – together with the GI bill – was a huge step forward for meritocracy in America. Millions of people who previously were unable to go to college had sudden access to education for the first time in American history. The SAT liberated millions from the grueling fates of their parents. The huge increase in the numbers of women in colleges and the workforce also powered more meritocracy – as more competition in a labor force will tend to do. Both of these changes were huge gains for meritocracy in America. Is this a perfect system? Of course not. It’s increasingly compromised by extreme economic inequality and all the corruptions it entails. Nepotism, racism, and sexism also play a big part, as they will in every human society, in frustrating the goal of equal opportunity. We have a flawed and imperfect meritocracy (when in history has there ever been anything else?). But the idea that there “has never been anything resembling meritocracy” in America is hyperbole.

Freddie says I operate in abstractions, rather than human beings. But I am defending real human beings who often come from poor immigrant families and who have worked hard and scored high grades and are then denied a place at college solely because of the color of their skin. That human experience is a terrible one to inflict in a meritocracy. I’m baffled why many are so comfortable with this ugly fact or feel no sympathy for the plight of those treated by Harvard today the way Jews were in the 1920s. Freddie argues that this is defensible because it is a benign and well-meaning form of racism. But racism has always been defended as benign and well-meant, hasn’t it? Shouldn’t we be a teensy bit skeptical about such claims?

But if I oppose affirmative action, what would I do to mitigate racial economic inequality? Plenty of things, actually – and none of them requiring race discrimination.

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What To Make Of Ferguson?

Nov 25 2014 @ 11:49am

I was on break when the killing of Michael Brown – and the subsequent uproar – took place. And so I’m both unqualified and qualified to offer my two cents on the case. I’m unqualified because I didn’t go through the collective experience of others as this unfolded; I’m qualified because perhaps for the same reason: I can look at the case with a little more distance and a little less emotion. And the best piece I have read on this remains Radley Balko’s report from Saint Louis, where he describes in great and persuasive detail how racial dynamics and a police force financing itself from petty fines from the poor make any idea of equal justice in that area a pipe dream:

Locals say the cops and court officers often come not only from different zip codes, but from completely different cultures and lifestyles than the people whose fines and court fees fund their paychecks. “It was always apparent that police don’t usually have a lot in common with the towns where they work,” says Javad Khazaeli, whose firm Khazaeli Wyrsch represents municipal court clients pro bono. (Disclosure: Khazaeli is also a personal friend.) “But I think Ferguson really showed just how much that can be a problem.”

A recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch survey of the 31 St. Louis County municipalities where blacks made up 10 percent or more of the population found just one town where black representation on the police force was equal or greater than the black presence in the town itself. Some towns were shockingly disparate. In Velda City, for example, blacks make up 95 percent of the town, but just 20 percent of the police. In Flordell Hills, it’s 91 percent and 25 percent respectively. In Normandy, 71 and 14. In Bellefontaine Neighbors, 73 and 3. In Riverview, 70 and 0.

Residents of these towns feel as if their governments see them as little more than sources of revenue. To many residents, the cops and court officers are just outsiders who are paid to come to their towns and make their lives miserable. There’s also a widely held sentiment that the police spend far more time looking for petty offenses that produce fines than they do keeping these communities safe.

Another critical piece of context:

Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

Not a great deal makes sense until you have absorbed that context – and know that Michael Brown was unarmed when he was shot multiple times and killed. He became a symbol of something real – even though the exact details of the altercation between him and a cop were as yet unknown. As to the case itself, I found the prosecutor’s press conference almost laughably tone-deaf, as the man seemed to be more concerned with impugning social media than indicting an accused murderer. It was a small sign of a vast cultural and social disconnect.

But do I believe the Grand Jury was out to lunch? I don’t fully know without having attended the trial and absorbed every piece of evidence now released. But the autopsy confirms at least part of the cop’s testimony – that there was a scuffle inside the car, in which the cop’s gun was fired. And when a person attempts to grab a cop’s gun away from him, or reach into a cop car in order to physically intimidate the cop, we’re not talking about an innocent bystander. We’re talking about an assault on a police officer by someone who had recently stolen from a convenience store. This is not a 12-year-old shot dead for waving a BB gun around. He’s a person who – as the video from the convenience store reveals – can use his weight and size to intimidate and physically threaten those trying to stop him from stealing.

The proximate question, of course, is why Brown was shot multiple times after the altercation in the car.

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GERMANY-VOTE-MEDIA

I’ve long been fascinated by Angela Merkel, and not entirely sure why. She’s been German Chancellor for nine years now, is the most powerful politician on the continent, and has approval ratings of over 70 percent. And yet she somehow eludes easy characterization and her studied affect of dullness deflects any serious scrutiny. And so she has hovered around the edges of my brain – a Thatcher who is also an un-Thatcher, a woman in power for a decade who somehow doesn’t prompt the polarization and drama of the Iron Lady.

George Packer’s long but rich profile manages to crack this puzzle a little. Merkel’s strain of tedium is mostly of the good kind. She’s so thoroughly a pragmatist that she has largely overcome the left-right ideological battle in Germany. And, partly because she was in East Germany at the time, she missed the culture war battles of the late 1960s and 1970s. And so she has risen above the fray – while never veering very much from the dead center of German politics. And yet, she is also a brilliant, revenge-seeking pole-climber of the first order (and I mean that very much as a compliment). This story is eye-opening:

Angela was physically clumsy—she later called herself “a little movement idiot.” At the age of five, she could barely walk downhill without falling. “What a normal person knows automatically I had to first figure out mentally, followed by exhausting exercise,” she has said. According to Benn, as a teen-ager Merkel was never “bitchy” or flirtatious; she was uninterested in clothes, “always colorless,” and “her haircut was impossible—it looked like a pot over her head.”

A former schoolmate once labelled her a member of the Club of the Unkissed. (The schoolmate, who became Templin’s police chief, nearly lost his job when the comment was published.) But Merkel was a brilliant, ferociously motivated student. A longtime political associate of Merkel’s traces her drive to those early years in Templin. “She decided, ‘O.K., you don’t fuck me? I will fuck you with my weapons,’ ” the political associate told me. “And those weapons were intelligence and will and power.”

She bided her time but delivered a ballsy coup de grace to her party leader Helmut Kohl. And I loved this story of how she actually won the Chancellorship after a close election which her main rival, Gerhard Shröder, assumed guaranteed his victory over the schlubby, gray woman seated next to him:

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A Declaration Of War

Nov 24 2014 @ 12:14pm

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senator Rand Paul has just opened up a new vista in American foreign policy. He is attempting to re-impose constitutional norms on war-making powers – powers so rankly abused by president Obama so many times. His resolution for the declaration of war against ISIS has some classic lines from the past, reminding us how far we have drifted from what the Founders intended:

Whereas Article I, section 8, of the United States Constitution provides, ‘‘The Congress shall have the Power to . . . declare war’’;

Whereas President George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, lectured: ‘‘The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress. Therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.’’;

Whereas James Madison, father of the Constitution, elaborated in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: ‘‘The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.’’;

Whereas James Madison wrote in his Letters of Helvidius: ‘‘In this case, the constitution has decided what shall not be deemed an executive authority; though it may not have clearly decided in every case what shall be so deemed. The declaring of war is expressly made a legislative function.’’

Even better, his resolution carefully delimits what the US can do in Iraq and Syria – defending US property and personnel; sunsetting the war to one year; and keeping ground forces to a few limited functions (and avoiding the fiction that there are not boots on the ground already in Iraq). The benefit of such a debate is precisely to insist that, especially in an age of a volunteer military, we need to be reminded of the moral gravity of war-making, and never rush or drift into war without lengthy, deliberate, advance consideration of unintended consequences.

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