"Bring the Guard
Home – It’s the Law!" is a national campaign, now
active in more than 20 states, that is raising a legal challenge
to the Federal Government’s use of our National Guard troops for
deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Wisconsin, the campaign
is promoting AB 203, a
bill in the Wisconsin state assembly which would give the Governor
the authority to examine the legality of any federal order for deployment
of the Wisconsin National Guard and to challenge in court any orders
determined to be unlawful. I’m excited about this campaign because
I see it as the beginning of a much larger national movement that
is asking the long-overdue question: "Who decides about war?"
This was the title of a recent
conference in Washington D.C. that brought together grassroots
peace activists and legal and constitutional scholars to ask one
of the most fundamental questions we can ask, as citizens of a nation
that claims to be a democracy.
Just take a look at our current situation: The United States exists
in a permanent
state of war, can even be said to be addicted
to war, and all decision-making about the question of war has
now been placed in the hands of one man: the President. Whatever
we think of the current occupant of that office, this is clearly
a dangerous, unhealthy and undemocratic state of affairs.
And yet who is pushing back against the idea of one-man rule on
questions of war and peace? Certainly not Congress. Here’s Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, after a recent meeting of Congressional
"leaders" with President Obama about Afghanistan:
"The one thing that I thought was interesting was that everyone,
Democrats and Republicans, said
whatever decision you make, we’ll support it basically,"
said Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader.
But that’s really just a continuation of Congress’ supine behavior
over the past eight years. Congress no longer even bothers to declare
war, even though it is the only body given authority by the
constitution to do that. Instead, it passes "Authorizations
for Use of Military Force" which are either based on blatant
falsehoods, like the Iraqi Authorization, or are an unconstitutional
abdication of Congressional war-making powers to the President,
as with the Afghanistan Authorization, which says, in effect, "You
go wherever you think you need to go, and for as long as you need
to, Mr. President, in pursuit of the people who did 9/11, and we’ll
just sit here and sign the checks."
If Congress is worse than useless, what other centers of power
in this country might be mobilized in opposition to the permanent-war
There is popular opposition, of course, and the peace movement
has proved remarkably successful in building public opposition in
the face of an almost complete blackout of pro-peace voices in the
corporate media. When you read, for example, that
57% of Americans now oppose the Afghanistan war, remember that
this shift in opinion happened even though Americans have never
seen a single person on their televisions calling for withdrawal
from Afghanistan. Clearly, the American people are capable of making
up their own minds even while they swim in a sea of government propaganda,
and the peace movement can take a large share of credit for that.
There is also opposition within the uniformed military. Iraq
Veterans Against the War has helped to amplify the voices of
antiwar vets like Camilo Mejia, and, as Dahr Jamail reports in his
new book, "The
Will to Resist," even soldiers who do not go public with
their opposition are engaging in lower-level resistance through
"search and avoid" missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, choosing
to park their vehicles and radio in reports of "patrols"
while avoiding contact with the resistance.