Monday, May 16, 2011

War Powers on the Rise

President Barack Obama signing National Defense Authorization Act for FY10 (Reuters)
Remember checks and balances, and how a bill becomes a law? They probably taught this in your school in 5th and 8th and 11th grade. You may not have been paying much attention at the time -- I doubt I was -- but this knowledge and how to apply it comes home to roost in the 21st century dystopia of endless funding for endless wars.

Over the weekend the branch of government most supposed to represent the will of the people, the House of Representatives, achieved a major milestone on the journey of bill becoming law. The FY12 National Defense Authorization Act funds the Pentagon, and is how its many contractors and subcontractors get paid.  The House Armed Service Committee voted 60-1 to send the bill on to the House for a floor vote.

Among a plethora of toxic riders buried in the bill, Section 1034 stands out. It would:
"hand over to the President -- and all future presidents -- the authority that the Constitution gives to Congress to decide whether, where, and why the country will go to war. If this provision passes, there will be no more checks and balances on the use of the military in the fight against terrorism suspects." 
Quote is from the ACLU website -- you can sign their petition against this dangerous legislation here.

If you are like me, you are wondering what difference it would make if we render de jure the de facto powers being exercised by our executive branch of government daily. Iraq and Afghanistan are quagmires he inherited and continues to violently occupy, but Libya is all President Obama's. Here's a nugget from the Al Jazeera English twitter feed: "US estimates war in Libya costs at roughly $750 million."

If you are like me, you may also be wondering: at what point do I give up on holding those in power accountable as a waste of valuable time, and turn all my energy to effecting true change from the ground up.

For instance, one might examine continuing to lobby "progressive" Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. She speaks out against the war supplemental bills (side funding methods that are not included in the annual Defense Authorization) and votes "no" on them, yet for the second year in a row on the House Armed Services Committee she has voted "ought to pass" to send the Defense Authorization bill to the floor. Here from an item on her own website is the explanation of why she would do this, and why she expects the bill to ultimately pass:
Pingree was able to secure this funding by getting the Armed Services Committee to include money in a budget item that increases operations and maintenance funding for Navy military construction...Pingree intends to urge Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to make sure the additional funding goes to (Portsmouth Naval Shipyards)...The bill that passed the Armed Services Committee last night—the National Defense Authorization Act—is expected to pass the full House early this summer. The Senate will consider a similar bill in the weeks to come as well.
For those of you paying attention, if the House and then the Senate pass the bill, who needs to sign it in order for it to complete its journey to becoming a law? And who does the POTUS really work for?
Deciders watching footage of Navy Seals executing Osama Bin Laden.
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