portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary global

human & civil rights | imperialism & war

The Troops Don't Support the Constitution

Every U.S. soldier takes an express and solemn oath to "support and defend the Constitution."
 link to www.populistamerica.com

Every U.S. soldier takes an express and solemn oath to "support and defend the Constitution." That oath, however, is a sham because the troops do not support or defend the Constitution. Instead, when it comes to war the troops follow another oath they take - to obey the orders of the president, and they do this without regard to whether such orders violate the Constitution.

A textbook example involves President Bush's war on Iraq.

The Constitution prohibits the president from waging war without first securing a declaration of war from Congress. By waging war on Iraq without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, the president violated the Constitution.

Some people pooh-pooh the violation, perceiving the Constitution as simply a technical document that can be violated whenever the president feels that "national security" - or even the welfare of foreigners - necessitates it.

Some also make the claim that when Congress delegated its power to declare war on Iraq to the president (on the eve of the 2002 congressional elections), that delegation served as an adequate substitute for an actual declaration of war on Iraq.

They are wrong.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land that we the people of the United States have imposed on our federal officials. Like it or not, U.S. officials are supposed to comply with its restrictions on power. If U.S. officials don't like a particular constitutional provision or if they feel that it is outdated, the proper remedy is to seek a constitutional amendment, not ignore the provision.

Moreover, the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of constitutional interpretation under our system of government, has long held that no branch of the federal government can lawfully delegate its constitutional powers to another branch of government. Only the Congress, not the president, is authorized to declare war, and without that declaration the president cannot lawfully wage war on another nation.

We should bear in mind that had the president complied with the declaration-of-war requirement, the Congress might well have discovered in the process that the president's WMD claims were defective. The Congress might also have concluded that invading a sovereign and independent country for the purpose of "spreading democracy" - a war in which tens of thousands of innocent people would be killed and maimed - could not be justified under moral principles.

"But we can't refuse orders of the president. He's our commander in chief," say the troops. "It's not our job to determine what is constitutional or not. We deployed to Iraq, like it or not, because the president ordered us to do so."

Setting aside the moral implications of that position, doesn't that mindset reflect that the oath that the troops take to support and defend the Constitution is in fact a sham? The troops know - or should know - that the Constitution prohibits the president from waging war without a congressional declaration of war. They also know that the Congress never declared war on Iraq. Nevertheless, they obeyed the president's orders to attack Iraq.

The president's war on Iraq reflects why our nation's Founding Fathers opposed standing armies. Members of a professional army, who have vowed to obey the orders of the president, are unlikely to say no when the president orders them to attack another country.

On the other hand, a nation that relies instead on well-trained citizens (i.e., citizen-soldiers) to defend itself from a foreign attack would stand in a different position. Citizen-soldiers, while willing and prepared to rally to the defense of their own country in the event of an invasion, would be much less likely to answer the president's call to leave their families and give up their jobs to attack a country thousands of miles away from American shores.

Isn't it ironic that, even as the troops waging war in Iraq exhort the American people to support them, the troops, by invading Iraq without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, have failed to support the Constitution?

homepage: homepage: http://www.populistamerica.com

The least patriotic amongst us are those wave the flags. 15.Oct.2005 15:34


I too took that oath. I was once employed by the Department of Defense as a computer scientist. When I stood up against Bush's illegal and unconstitutional policies and actions, it was the military that harassed me, sent me death threats, published black propaganda in my name, followed me around photographing me, threatened my family, sent me entrapment emails which I was too intelligent to fall for, and on and on. The US Military is an enemy of the United States and should be dealt with as such.

Congress's failure 18.Oct.2005 16:31

Bison Boy

Through the War Powers Act congress has pretty much delegated its authority to the executive branch. This is very likely against the founders' intent, I agree. But it practical terms, it's hard to reverse. There are four constitutional ways:

1) The Executive brance could restrain itself from using the power Congress abandoned to it. That'll happen somewhat after pigs fly to Hell for an outdoor ice hockey tournament.

2) Congress could rescind or replace the War Powers Act; they'll probably have to overcome a presidential veto, to do so. It's almost certain that this congress will not do that, although some hypothetical future congress might.

3) The Supreme Court declares the War Powers Act unconstitutional and void. Theoretically this could happen, if someone can manage to get a test case to them.

4) The people can remove the current congressional members at the ballot and replace them with members who will accomplish #2.

Another, far more risky way would be for the military to refuse to fight without a declaration of war. Such a breakage of civillian control over the military would be extremely frightening and risky, though... it could easily turn into a coup or civil war. Not my favorite plan.

Sucks, huh?