The United Nations War Machine

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"There are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events, by time," insisted the late Rep. Henry Hyde in 2002, as the regime of Bush the Lesser prepared to invade and occupy Iraq. "Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relevant to modern society. Why declare war if you don't have to? We are saying to the president, ‘Use your judgment.’" Having Congress declare war, Hyde concluded, would be "inappropriate, anachronistic — it isn't done anymore.”

Were Hyde still alive, it would be interesting to ask him this question: Is it more appropriate and up-to-date for the United States to be committed to a war completely unrelated to our national interest by a synod of foreign diplomats meeting in a room on the banks of the East River in New York? That is what happened today when the UN Security Council, acting in a role equivalent to the Mafia “Commission” granting permission for an inter-mob hit, voted to “authorize” war in Libya. This was done in a fashion entirely uncontaminated by the congressional interference that militarist conservatives like Hyde found so disagreeable.

Like most modern conservatives, Hyde’s conspicuous reverence for the U.S. Constitution did not extend to the document’s unambiguous provision that Congress alone has the power to commit the U.S. Government to war by way of a formal, explicit declaration. Conservatives of his type are stridently committed to strict construction of the Constitution regarding every function of the federal government, save only the costliest and most destructive one.

Regarding the war-making power — which Madison described as the greatest of all “enemies of public freedom” — conservatives sound a great deal like FDR, who dismissed constitutional limitations on federal power as the archaic residue of “horse-and-buggy thinking.”

Warfare “encompasses and develops the germ” of every variety of domestic tyranny, Madison warned. It breeds “armies, and debts, and taxes,” which are “the known instruments for bringing the many under the dominion of the few”; this is why “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continued warfare.” Madison’s indictment, while sound, neglects one aspect of perpetual war’s full-spectrum malignity: Continual warfare is, at best, a program for the incremental destruction of a nation’s independence.

The impending war with Libya is now added to the list of undeclared wars being conducted by the Regime in Washington. The Obama administration, emulating the diplomacy of the first Bush administration, circumvented Congress entirely, building an international “coalition” for a UN declaration of war. It did so in stupendously cynical fashion.

Several days ago, the Arab League, by unrecorded voice vote, petitioned the UN to enact a “no-fly zone” over Libya. The League’s resolution was brought about, in large measure, through a covert deal between Washington and Riyadh allowing the Saudis to dispatch an expeditionary force to Bahrain to help the Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy put down an uprising on the part of its suppressed and persecuted Shiite minority.

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