Continuous Presidential wars have stolen too much of our national genius and wealth, have diminished our image worldwide and have divided our country. The money spent on them has been at the expense of our infrastructure, our children’s economic future and that of our elderly population.
15 years of continuous wars has not made us safer and has left the Middle East in a shambles. We cannot fix the problems that the Middle East faces at the point of a gun. Most of their issues and conflicts began long before our country was born.
Since 9/11 and the passing of the AUMF, Government has been so focused on its wars in the middle East it has lost track of some of our greatest threats; the Security of our borders both real and cyber to prevent criminal and terrorist threats from invading the US; the securing of our national data systems, banking, infrastructure and defense, from malicious hacking; loss of manufacturing capability and a national debt that will cripple future generations.
We have 17 intelligence agencies that have the capability to eavesdrop on virtually any phone conversation or email in the world, yet when confronted by congress in hearings today, they said they have no contingency plan to respond to cyber attacks against us. That is unconscionable. Congress and recent administrations have been too busy playing rulers of the world and policemen of the world to do an effective job for their citizens. The peoples of the sovereign nations of the world have every right to expect to be left alone to conduct their affairs as they see fit. Just as citizens of the US have every right to expect their Congress to place the best interests of America and its citizens first. That’s why congress is referred to as the first branch.
The flood of jobs and wealth leaving for foreign countries puts our economy at great risk and deprives government of much needed revenue. We’ve seen 10 Million Manufacturing jobs leave the country in recent decades followed by the loss of 20 million support jobs. That’s 30 million sidelined workers who are not paying taxes or contributions into social security, Medicare or Medicaid which puts those programs at risk.
The dismal future for young people in the US where only 20% of HS grads can go on to college, get a degree and find a degree level job, while another 20% get a degree but no job to pay off the debt, or the 20% Who don’t make it all the way through but are still saddled with a measure of debt and then there is the 40% who were totally left out, they have no college debt, but are not prepared in the least to enter the work force and must now compete against college grads for the available jobs, is just another major fail of government’s lack of sound policy.
The list of failures by our distracted congress goes on and on, far too many examples to discuss tonight .
And what have these 9 wars gotten us in addition to the Congressional failures at home? Well for starters a less safe world, trillions of dollars in debt, hundreds of thousands dead around the world, millions injured and maimed and millions more displaced, many of whom are coming here. In our own country thousands of families have suffered and continue to do so over the loss of loved ones. Many are struggling with handicapped family members as a result of war. More than 20 veterans a day commit suicide as a side effect of PTSD resulting from their war service.
And then we have the moral question, you know it’s one thing for a religious leader to defend killing and maiming in the course of self defense but how can they reconcile it if it’s the result of Presidential wars that are not in self defense.
The Founders included the Declare Wars clause in the constitution as a means of ensuring that no one person would have the ability to take the country from a state of peace to a state of war, knowing full well what the dangers would be. The decision to go to war was so important that they vested that power in the legislature so that there would be a public debate and consensus by the citizen’s representatives.
Since the attacks of 9/11, congress has relied on the Authorization to Use Military Force which they continue to renew, as the president’s authorization to conduct war in lieu of a declaration of war. The problem is that the AUMF is very narrow in scope it applies only to those involved in the 9/11 attacks and those that support or harbor them. Congress has abdicated its authority and responsibility under the constitution, erroneously citing the AUMF as authority in the wars since Iraq, Afghanistan and Al Qaeda were authorized.
Indeed more power rests in the president’s hands today, than did in King George’s at the outset of the Revolution, with perhaps the exception of the Government quartering troops in our homes, at least for now. History has shown that when too much power rests in the hands of an individual the fortunes and safety of a nation become at risk.
President Eisenhower warned us about the danger we faced from pressure put on congress by the Military Industrial Complex to support the endless war state in exchange for support at reelection time.
During the 2016 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both struck a nerve with the citizens, both agreeing that the system is rigged, the corruption in DC had to end and the enormous costs of endless war were crippling. The people showed that they were not only paying attention but wanted genuine change.
This was reminiscent of other citizen uprisings in recent years, namely Tea Party, Coffee Party, Occupy Wall Street and others. Members of our board questioned if this energy could somehow be harnessed to solve this problem of ending the Presidential wars that were destroying the country. After much discussion John and Bruce came up with the idea for the Pledge and the Resolution, the board weighed in and after several tweaks and revisions we were ready for prime time.
The Pledge to be signed by congressional members says I will do my sworn duty under the constitution to uphold the war powers clause and will support articles of impeachment if a president were to prosecute a war without getting a declaration from congress beforehand.
The Resolution cuts through the fog of what constitutes war and offers a definition which has been lacking since the framing of the constitution. It also defines belligerencies which are acts of material support to others engaged in war. This is historic in itself, to our knowledge it has never been done before. But in a climate where the congress regularly abdicates its authority and yields power to the executive thus eroding the separation of powers, a finite definition is needed to ensure they accept their responsibility and preserve the balance of powers which is one of the most crucial elements that allowed our fledgling republic to grow to become the world’s greatest power.
The website provides in depth discussion about the need for the resolution and the pledge in addition to insights into the founders original discussions and intent. It also features some constitutionally relevant writings. There is a place for citizens to sign up and show their support for ending presidential wars to their congressmen.
We also have a place to list links to associate organizations that support ending presidential wars and restoring the balance envisioned by the constitution. We encourage anyone hear that has or belongs to an organization which shares our sentiments to contact John Henry about becoming an associate.
We are also going to post articles about the Pledge and Resolution online with links to the webpage.
We will be taking this effort not only to Congressmen and women directly but also to the people they serve. Initially we will be reaching out to activists in Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. We have identified several groups of people that have in some ways been more adversely affected by the government’s preoccupation with presidential wars and neglect of their duties at home, whether it is a result of distraction or a lack of money.
Among these groups are: Young people and students who have had their future prospects greatly diminished; Black community in the inner cities who have seen their jobs and opportunities disappear and their safety become increasingly more at risk; Activist groups that represent the silent majority, the working middle class, to name a few Tea Party, Coffee Party and Occupy Wall Street to the extent they are still active, Church groups and associations who have a vested interest in ending needless wars, Veterans and their Families affected by the ravages of war and problems in getting care and support, Women who traditionally bear the brunt of family care and are faced with the death or handicap of a family member as a result of war, Immigrants who came here in search of a job or a new future in America the great shining light, the land of opportunity and found something quite else.
I would now like to turn things over to Del Spurlock to explain how the outreach to a few of these groups will work.
I am Molly Sinclair McCartney, a former Washington Post journalist and the co-author with James McCartney of a book that documents the expansion of the military-industrial complex and our ongoing wars in the Middle East.
The book – America’s War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts -- is based on the lifetime work of James McCartney, my husband, who spent his career writing about national security issues. Jim McCartney learned about war as a teenage soldier on the front lines in France and Germany in World War II. His sense of outrage about presidential wars since then hit new highs in 2003 when President George W. Bush sent the military to invade Iraq. Friends urged Jim to write a book explaining how this could have happened, and that is what he was working on when he died in 2011.
I did the reporting, interviews and research to complete his draft manuscript and get it published because I believed in the same ideas.
After the book came out in October 2015, I reached out to people who might feel as passionately about these issues as Jim and I did. A friend at the Cato Institute referred me to John Henry, and I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Committee’s salon in April last year. Now I am pleased to be joining the committee’s board and supporting this initiative to end presidential wars.
Finally a short personal comment about men and women and war. My older brother was drafted and sent to Korea at the height of that war. My younger brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam where his tank hit a landmine and killed everyone inside. My brother survived because he was riding in the open top and blown out by the blast. Needless to say my mother was anti-war for as long as I can remember.
My point is that women have as much to lose as men in these never-ending wars.
Our Presidents – all men from the beginning of the Republic – have repeatedly used the military to manage American foreign policy. Congress has gone along with this system. It’s time to stop this and women can help. One step in that direction is for all of us to support the Committee’s No-Presidential War Pledge
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
I’m Chas Freeman. In 2003, I helped found what became the Committee for the Republic, which I continue to chair. The founders of this group were of disparate political persuasions. But we shared a fear that the excessive militarization of American foreign policy would threaten constitutional government in our country. Exploration of the impact of promiscuous interventionism on the traditions and civil liberties of our republic has remained the Committee’s core function.
I am proud that participation in the Committee has grown as it has. I am prouder still that our participants have retained our political diversity. The Committee has become one of the very few institutions – sadly, now maybe the only one -- in Washington with a firm claim to trans-partisanship. I congratulate all present on this.
Among us there are members of the far left and the far right and everything in between. There are fervent internationalists and isolationists, supporters of both major and most minor political parties, proponents of industrial policies and of laissez-faire, veterans and citizens who declined to serve, free traders and protectionists, proponents and opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, boosters and detractors of the president-elect, and so forth.
But we all believe in civil discourse. We meet in dignified dispute. We are united in our belief that the root of our country’s greatness is our tradition of respect for our Constitution, its checks and balances, its Bill of Rights, and its insistence on the rule of law and due process.
The Committee’s members have watched with horror as our political system has evolved to facilitate legislative evasion of accountability for wars and other belligerent activities launched by successive presidents on their own. These wars have killed, maimed, and orphaned many thousands of Americans. They have murdered millions of foreigners and generated increasingly savage blowback against us and our allies and friends. They have burdened our posterity with previously unimaginable levels of debt. They have built a turnkey garrison state and handed the key to an Executive that asserts powers beyond those assigned it by the Constitution and the laws.
Our president and members of the House and Senate have all sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution and the laws. We believe they must finally be held to their oaths. Tonight we ask all present to help us organize to re-empower accountable government in the United States. We urge you to insist that members of Congress force the president to comply with our Constitution by living up to their own responsibilities under it.
Arguments about who is to blame for the demise of accountable government in the United States just enable continuing partisan rancor and political inaction. They divide rather than unite Americans. We all have our views on what happened, why it happened, and how, but if we are to fix government in America we must set these aside, look forward, not back, and work together to end this most consequential of all aspects of dysfunctional government. We must ensure that future wars are not launched by secret councils in the Sit Room, that the purposes, costs, and potential benefits of using American military power are forthrightly debated in Congress, and that the people's representatives in that body can no longer hide behind the president and evade their constitutional responsibility to authorize or veto proposals to take Americans to war with other states and peoples.
The existential threats of the Cold War and the imperial temptations of the post-Cold War “unipolar moment” are both blessedly behind us. But the politics of expediency that both engendered live on. The collusive evasion of responsibility by the legislative and executive branches of our government must now end. To preserve our liberties, we must restore constitutional order to the United States, beginning with the restoration of the war power to the Congress, where the Constitution wisely assigns it.
January 5, 2017
Fix your eyes on Richmond, Virginia 242 years ago. The liberty of a continent then and there hung in the balance. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry was speaking at St. John’s Church. The British Crown was tyrannizing American colonists with, among other things, Writs of Assistance, precursor to our NSA’s dragnet surveillance. The Declaratory Act had decreed that British powers over the colonists were limitless. With words that thundered like a hammer striking an anvil Mr. Henry awakened the audience to its duty. “Is life so dear,” he asked, “or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”
The crisis confronted by our Republic today again comes from government, but now the tyranny is exercised inside rather than outside America. We have met the enemy, and we are they.
The Committee for the Republic recognizes that our undertaking to end presidential wars and to repudiate global domination for its own sake is unprecedented. Never before has opposition been seriously mounted inside an empire to tame the beast of power. For 3,000 years, empires craving domination have self-destructed.
For three generations, the Democratic and Republican parties have relentlessly compromised the Constitution’s separation of powers—a structural bill of rights against tyranny—in favor of one-branch government. The White House exercises more power over American citizens than King George III did over American colonists. They include not only waging multi-trillion dollar wars on the President’s say-so alone--turning children into orphans and wives into widows. But also playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill any American citizen the President decrees is an imminent national security threat based on secret, unsubstantiated information.
The American colonists revolted against a lesser tyranny. We have acquiesced in a greater.
The remedy for the decay is simple: honor rather than vandalize the Constitution-- “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
It entrusts the war power to the branch of government with no predisposition to abuse it: the legislative branch—a talking shop. The Constitution’s authors knew what all of human history verifies—that the executive personality is eager for gratuitous warfare to aggrandize power, to evade accountability, and to be memorialized with monuments and obelisks.
I believe our No Presidential Wars Project is not an option but a duty.
I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My childhood was filled with Paul Revere’s Ride, Concord Hymn, Lexington Green, Old North Bridge and Bunker Hill. I can still remember, “By the rude bridge that arched the flood their flag to April’s breeze unfurled. Here once the embattled farmer’s stood and fired the shot heard round the world.”
I grew up grateful to those who risked and the many who gave their lives or fortunes to create a liberty-centered universe unalterably opposed to limitless power in all its imperious moods and tenses.
At the Department of Justice, I had a bird’s eye seat for 18 months in the forced resignation of Richard Nixon in the face of certain impeachment and conviction. The nation repudiated Nixon’s assertion that when the President does it, it’s legal. Impeachment proved our institutions are stronger and more important than their occupants. Nixon’s removal from office marked the Constitution’s finest hour and the high water mark of self-government. It set a standard to which we should repair.
At present, we are engaged in nine known unconstitutional presidential wars: Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and against Al Qaeda and ISIS. The CIA may be fighting other secret wars.
David had his Goliath. We confront a multi-trillion dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex which will seek to crush us.
But let it never be said of our generation what Tacitus said of Rome in explaining the death of the Republic: “The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more, and tolerated by all.”
Let me explain why I’m here. When I met my wife, we talked a lot about our life experiences: How being a woman shaped Ann’s choices (strong women are Texas’ biggest export) and how the Vietnam war changed my view of government. The war was crazy, but the strength of my view didn’t persuade me to occupy the Harvard administration building along with SDS classmates who subscribed to a different theory of man. And my lottery number let me dodge the bullet when I certainly would have fought in the American revolution and probably in the Civil War. My solution was to hold a series of salons with speakers (sound familiar?) at the Kennedy Institute and to spend several years working for Senators Fulbright and Church on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
My entrepreneurial business enterprises have dominated my life, but somehow America’s thirst for war just won’t leave me alone. The 2003 Iraq war blew me up. Ann said she wouldn’t have any more dinner parties until I quieted down. So Chas, Bill, Boyden and I founded the Committee to talk about a war nobody wanted to talk about.
Five generations of Old Testament chosen people foreign policy have produced three generations of presidential wars. The Democratic and Republican parties have bent our Constitution so out of shape that our framers wouldn’t recognize it. Both parties have expanded the power of the executive until we now have an imperial presidency and elective monarchy.
Tonight we must begin the painful process of shrinking the powers of the Presidency and restoring Congress to its 19th century glory as the greatest legislative body in the history of the world. The House of Representatives & the Senate must once again be the place where our great national debates take place, where their approval ratings are sky high, where Presidents yearn to go when they leave office.
Now there are those who say this can’t be done. That we’re quixotic to make Congress accountable for war. Congress is corrupt to the core. And there are those who will support us but don’t believe we have a prayer. I care not that others see things as they are. I see a Congress that was once great and demand that it be great again!