by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
May 23, 2013
ENDING AN ENDLESS WAR IS GETTING HARDER TO DO
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- While Republicans and assorted spineless Democrats are getting all worked up over teapot tempests such as Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service, we learned last week, quietly, that the Pentagon has essentially rewritten the Constitution.
The Pentagon has claimed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), hastily passed by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, gives them the authority to send troops to Syria, Yemen and the Congo without new congressional authorization.
And, unless Congress takes steps to either rewrite or repeal the AUMF, the so-called global war on terror will continue indefinitely.
The AUMF gave President George W. Bush the right "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
While President Obama and his Administration no longer uses the phrase "global war on terror" to describe the hostilities that have been going on for nearly a dozen years, the Obama Administration still invokes the AUMF as justification to continue the rendition, transfer and indefinite detention of terrorism "suspects," as well as the ongoing drone war and the authority to kill anyone - including recently four Americans in Yemen - anywhere and anytime if they are deemed to be a "terrorist" and a threat to the United States.
Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said that if a terrorist organization outside of al-Qaida, the Taliban or any other "associated forces" began to threaten the United States, "then we might have to look at different authorities or extended authority or adjustment of authority to go after that organization."
In short, the AUMF has made the entire world a battlefield, and Congress - and by extension, the American people - have nothing to say about it.
Sheehan added that "when hostilities with al-Qaida end, the AUMF will no longer be in force."
When asked how long the war on terrorism will last, gave this answer: "At least 10 to 20 years."
And that's not including the nearly 12 years that this war has already gone on.
An Army spokeswoman, Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified after the hearing that Sheehan meant that the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today.
"This is the most astounding and astoundingly disturbing hearing I have been to since I have been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today," said U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, at a hearing on the AUMF before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 16. "You guys have invented this term, associated forces, that's nowhere in this document. It's the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void."
Never mind Benghazi, the IRS, or spying on the Associated Press. This is the real scandal of the Obama Administration. It is now openly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade, and the next President, whomever he or she may be, will be just as reluctant to end this endless war as President Obama is now.
As constitutional law scholar Glenn Greenwald wrote recently, "the 'war on terror' cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: first, it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the U.S. (the operational definition of 'terrorism'); and, second, the nation's most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation."
After more than a decade, the idea of endless war become normalized - merely background noise in American life. Unless you are part of the the 1 percent of America serving in the military, the "war on terror" is an abstraction.
And being numb to the war makes us numb to the erosions of our civil liberties that we've seen over the past 12 years. Secrecy, indefinite detention, universal surveillance, and extra-judicial assassination have become entrenched in our society.
This is a scandal bigger than Benghazi, but few in Congress will speak about it. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the California Democrat that cast the only vote against the AUMF in 2001, looks like a prophet. She was the only member of the House or Senate with the guts to point out that giving the Executive Branch a blank check for war is never a good idea, no matter what the circumstances.
All the enablers of endless war - Congress, the judiciary, the Establishment press, the wealthy and corporations - won't speak up either.
So who is going to stop this drive to make permanent the mistake that was made in 2001, a mistake we are paying dearly for now, and will continue to pay dearly for as long as it continues?
One day, Americans are going to realize that cost - in blood, in treasure, in the degradation of our democracy - and demand an end to this endless war.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.