Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ISIS and the Politics of Congress

The Democracy Making War
A quick review of how it's done

When your Congressional district elects one of your neighbors to the US House of Representatives, your thoughts may be focused on matters such as tax rates and federal subsidies for pet projects. However, in the cold light of dawn, your neighbor has been elevated to a global position of significant power. When you and the other voters of your state elect your US Senator, a similar elevation has occurred.

Theoretically, these elections, your vote and the actions of those elected will be defined and limited, generally, by the Articles in the US Constitution. These comments will become more relevant as this post continues.

Separation of Powers [image]
In the most sanguine view possible this "elevation" places immense military power in the  hands of those inhabiting the Congressional bodies. The Representative you've just elected, acting in concert with the Senate and the President, Commander in Chief, has the power to attack any part of the 60% of the planet comprised of nations which are unable to resist. The "Triumvirate" of the Congress and the President is completed, at least theoretically, with the addition of the American electorate in the role of the "third party."

Further, the individual "roles and responsibilities" designated to the parties in democracy's "Triumvirate" are specifically detailed in the Constitution. In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the centuries of European inter-state military violence in the centuries preceding it, the Constitution's authors designed the process very thoughtfully. 

The Constitution constantly imposes this fundamentally limiting structure -- that is, all the time, not just in times of threat. We need to keep this Constitutional provision in mind as we consider the role of the US democracy as it anticipates attacking ISIS, and the US democracy IS now anticipating attacking ISIS -- or, at least, it is trying to do something similar while appearing to be Constitutional.

Right away, "the thistles take the lawn."

The most favored harangue issuing forth from the oligarchs' think tanks as of late is that the President is "over reaching" his authority. Hence, we "little people" hear this message from the Republican controlled Congress with very little proposed contradiction from the tatters of the Democratic minority. The irony emerges as we watch those same Congressmen who accuse the President of this "over reach" demand that he do precisely this, that is, "over reach" with respect to making war on ISIS, because they will -- quite intentionally -- do nothing.

This is raw politics. Any Congressional interest in national security or following the Constitution is left on the floor as an unwelcome wine stain from the night before.

["Wait," you might insist, "the Congress is split between Party control, isn't it?" Well, yes and no. The Republican/tea bag minority weaseled control of the House through electoral manipulation. While they may be "called" the House Majority, they are not -- and they will tell you this themselves. The Senate also finds itself under control by the minority. The Republican/tea bag Party -- called the "minority" in name only --  currently has complete control of the Senate and has accomplished this by utilizing centuries old "Senate Rules."]

The game for these miscreants now is to abandon the President to act in accord with his oath while at the same time re-imaging the domestic media picture to suggest that he's, well, "over reaching" his Presidential authority. No one in the GOP could possibly care a whit about the "threat" of ISIS. As usual, this issue of National Security was immediately transformed by them into "politics as usual," and it's not a pretty transformation.

If the oligarchs' think tanks can successfully nail Barack Obama to this cross, their dream of impeaching him will have inched significantly closer to reality.

Let's review what the US Constitution says about "War Powers:" Who's got them. Where they reside. How they are used.

War Powers Clause

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording: [The Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

A number of wars have been declared under the United States Constitution, although there is some controversy as to the exact number, as the Constitution does not specify the form of such a declaration.

History and usage

Five wars have been declared by Congress under their constitutional power to do so: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

In a message to Congress on May 11, 1846, President James K. Polk announced that Texas was about to become a state. Consequentially, Mexico then threatened to invade Texas, upon which the President amassed troops in the area of Corpus Christi. Texas then became a state, and US troops moved into an area in which the new international boundary was disputed. Mexican troops moved into the same area, and the two forces clashed. The President then stated "after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced and that the two nations are now at war." Some in Congress wondered if this were so, including Abraham Lincoln. He wrote in a letter to his law partner:

“Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is, that if it shall become necessary, to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country; and that whether such necessity exists in any given case, the President is to be the sole judge...But Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and allow him to make war at pleasure…. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you ‘be silent; I see it, if you don't.’

“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.”

[MeanMesa has commented on this topic before. If you are interested, you can read the post here:

The Congressional Cowards

[In the interest of simplicity in this post MeanMesa will use the more or less colloquial term "ISIS" to refer to the Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria rather than flit around furiously with all the other names that group has adopted.]

Well, it certainly looks like everything has been pretty well set up by the Constitution and the oaths all the D.C. Folks took to uphold it, but...

First of all, we really need to obliterate one commonly used excuse that we have heard from the Congress before. "We didn't know we were supposed to do this."

Granted, although a good number of bellowing tea bags in the House may have never actually read the Constitution, we have to assume that the oily lawyers the oligarchs sent with them have. Further, although this same crowd of tea bags may not have understood the oath they were taking in 2013, they, again, almost certainly have "staffers" who are quite literate.

The exact way this has unfolded, as we might all expect, is another of the clumsy, tragically comical, famously unscripted "strateegeries" of the Boehner directed House "Republican" caucus. Being "died in the wool" fear mongers, a literal chorus of these hill billies instantly began screeching for US military intervention in the "ISIS crisis" from the first day that FOX, their exclusive "information" source, began spouting in unison its typical fact twisting repertoire.

Son of a gun. They all wanted war. More importantly, obviously caring nothing whatsoever about the country's security, the march was on to feverishly convert every tidbit of the matter directly into politics. Republicans disavow the existence of policy. They believe everything is politics.

Further, they weren't at all politically satisfied with the President's war making. They wanted BIG war making. Desperate, frantic war making. The owners of the Republican Party make money even faster when the United States acts like a drunken bully, and, with respect to war, they definitely don't care who wins or loses.

And, after all, these ISIS monsters ARE Muslims.

No problem. The official GOP party line would be one to maximize abject terror among their already rather frightened base. Absolutely anything that could be thrown into the soup to further horrify the hill billies! The scruffy Sunni rebels were glad to help, brutally slicing off the head of the US reporter on video -- and on FaceBook -- and on You Tube.

The whole drama suggests to MeanMesa that it was all quite similar to what must have gone on in Sunday School the week after Pope Urban II declared holy war on Islam 1095 and started the bloody Crusades. The god loving pastors of that day were charged with recruiting thousands of illiterate, rosy cheeked farm boys directly from those Sunday School classes for the march to Jerusalem.

And...so....what did all these bumbling, belching tea bag patriots do next?

They left town for a month long vacation.

Of course, the screeching didn't abate so much as a single decibel after they left town, either. The US corporate media made sure there were "drool proof" microphones waiting, ready for even more screeching, where ever they might travel. These patriotic tea bag Congressmen apparently never sleep when there's even a chance that they might further incite their education challenged base to an even higher state of frantic, Obama hating horror.

But, what these GOP tea bag patriots didn't do is also interesting.

They could have returned to Washington to debate US policy with ISIS. You know, something along the lines of what was laid out in the Constitution, [See above.] but they didn't.

The Media's Hilarious "Crucifixion"
of a "No Strategy" President
Good grief! What did he expect Congress to do?

Interestingly, the President told Congress what he expected from them. It was the same speech where the mindless media "reporters" latched on to the "terrifying no strategy" to further fuel the "incompetency" meme the media has invested so much promoting. The media was unable to "hear" the President's statement about what he expected for Congress to do in accordance with the Constitution and their oaths of office.

Just when the rest of the world was waiting for the American democracy to actually function, all we got was more Republican minority Party political maneuvering. 

This Reuters article is a prime sample of the brazenly biased, irrelevant "reporting" that has been flooding the media like wall paper.  MeanMesa has taken the liberty of highlighting some of the typical, glaring contradictions. MeanMesa doesn't particularly have a "bone to pick" with Reuters, but this article is typical of the media's relentlessly repeated "no strategy," lurching hopelessness seizure. The contradictions are embedded in the "green areas."

Obama says does not yet have broad strategy for Islamic State

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 28, 2014 

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014.U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room ahead of a meeting with his national security council in Washington, August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he has not yet developed a broad strategy for confronting Islamic State in an acknowledgement that he has not decided whether to launch air strikes against the militant group in Syria.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Obama told a White House news conference ahead of meeting top national security advisers in the Situation Room about how to proceed against Islamic State.
Obama's decision to begin U.S. surveillance flights over Syria earlier this week prompted speculation that he was on the brink of expanding the fight against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria, prompting criticism from some lawmakers who worry they have not been properly consulted.
There has been a growing call from both Republicans and Obama's fellow Democrats in Congress for lawmakers to vote on whether the United States should broaden its action against the Islamic State.
Obama, who shied away from launching airstrikes in Syria a year ago to punish Syrian President Bashir al-Assad for use of chemical weapons against his own people [Ooops. The President threatened al-Assad with air strikes if he refused to turn over the chemical weapons for destruction in US and NATO ships in the Mediterranean. The weapons were delivered and destroyed. This is not the same as "threatening to punish al-Assad" for using the weapons.], has been reticent about getting involved in Syria's civil war, where he believes there are few good options for the United States to pursue.
Public anger at the beheading of American journalist James Foley, however, has led him to consider hitting Islamic State targets in Syria. So far the U.S. campaign against the group has been limited to striking the group's forces in Iraq but not taking on Islamic State's primary stronghold in Syria.
Obama said he has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to prepare options for confronting Islamic State and said Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the region to help put together an anti-Islamic State coalition.[This is what the Republicans and their press have conveniently characterized as "no strategy."]
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said after the news conference that when Obama said "we don't have a strategy yet" for Islamic State he was referring to military options still being developed for Syria.[This was actually presented later, after the corporate media had become transfixed on the incompetent "no strategy" line. It is not particularly true because the DOD planning will include military action against ISIS both in Syria and in Iraq. The President's point -- the one completely ignored by the media --is that the "strategy" needs to be compiled to match the military options with the results of the Congressional debate, but there hasn't been a debate yet. Congress is on vacation.]
Obama wants a comprehensive strategy for Islamic State that is not limited to military action but also includes encouraging a unity government in Baghdad between Shi'ites and Sunnis who have engaged in sectarian battles and supporting moderate Sunni rebels in Syria.
"My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL (Islamic State) made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself," he said.
He said the options he had requested from military planners at the Pentagon focused primarily on making sure that Islamic State is "not overrunning Iraq." [The President has said repeatedly that he will not order the US military to fight ISIS acting in the role of "servant mercenaries" to the corrupt Iraq government. If Iraq intends to avoid being "over run" by ISIS, its government will have to start acting responsibly. Obama is currently willing to deploy US military power as air strikes to give Baghdad a "window of opportunity" to get organized and recapture Iraq.]
Congressional concerns have been increasing about a potential military strike in Syria.
In the House of Representatives, three members – Democrats James McGovern of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California as well as Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina - asked Speaker John Boehner in a letter that Congress debate and vote on any authorization to use military force when the House is in session during the week of Sept. 8.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said he thought Obama would have “significant congressional support” [Think for a minute about the precise meaning of "significant Congressional support." The Congress -- both the House and the Senate -- is supposed to debate military action against ISIS. At the close of that debate, those bodies are supposed to vote and reach a decision. That decision will not be "significant support." That decision will be a statement of what Congress has decided the country will do.] if he provides a strategic plan to protect the United States and its allies from the Sunni militants.
Obama promised he would consult with Congress, but unlike a year ago when strikes were considered against Syria, he did not vow to seek a specific congressional authorization.[This is media "fact twisting" of the first order. Obama doesn't need to "promise" to consult Congress. The US Constitution requires that Congress debate this issue, make a decision and then tell the President what it is -- that is not "consulting." Obama has very clearly stated that he expects Congress crawl out from under their beds and do the job they swore they would do when they took their oath.]
"I don't want to put the cart before the horse," he said. He said news reports have suggested he is on the brink of an elaborate strategy for defeating the group without consulting Congress.
"That's not what's going to happen," he said.
A Few Words About the Difference
 Between Strategy and No Strategy
Gosh. The words seem to just roll right off my tongue.

Okay. When we "put out panties back on" and start to look at what's going on in Washington with the eyes of adults, it's not too difficult to rough out pretty much what has been going on in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. Dozens of folks -- who work for us, by the way -- have been pouring over intelligence, photographs and other statistics. They have been soliciting opinions from other people who actually know something about this -- about the players, about the region, about the possibilities, and so on.

While the corporate media has been frantically painting the picture of a befuddled black man, "in" way over his head, politically frightened [even though he is NOT running in the 2016 election...] and desperately paralyzing all the normal processes of government, the picture MeanMesa sees is quite different.

Things in Washington are proceeding in a pretty much normal process -- especially when we remember that this President is not only cautious, but historically effective in matters such as these. Still skeptical? For starters, let's just count the number of endless ground wars he has started since he was first Inaugurated.

The right wingers have fabricated a picture where the "ISIS strategy" has been doodled on a soiled scrap of paper which is being toyed with by an incompetent megalomaniac in the Oval Office. Well, relax. Take a deep breath. The vestigial "ISIS strategy" is currently comprised of dozens or hundreds of files, memoranda, research, intelligence and diplomatic estimations of all sorts. If all the classified parts were declassified and the entire pile were handed to Louie Gohmert with a ribbon, MeanMesa doubts that the Texan would be the least bit placated by the gift.

Louie and his ilk are not famous for being readers.

However, MeanMesa doesn't like to "penetrate" such pregnant issues without offering some sort of solution to the President -- at a "blog level," of course. In other words, when some strangely diffident passer-by asks MeanMesa "So, smarty pants, what would YOU do?" it's always more fun to have an answer ready.

MeanMesa's Solution: Fighting ISIS
How about the USAF as "repo man?"

First, let's go directly to MeanMesa's "ISIS strategy."

Begin by allowing the current sporadic frequency of US air strikes to "mellow out" for a week or so. This will provide the crazies in charge of the rebels time to grow "just a wee bit" more comfortable with the idea of daylight transport columns scrambling around the vast wasteland which is presently considered to be the "caliphate."

Once "traffic" has increased to a level deemed by those in the Pentagon to constitute a "target rich environment," unleash a cluster of armed drones that looks like a flock of swallows in springtime. Fly drones all over all the parts of Iraq currently held by ISIS and bomb every piece of "ex-American" military equipment which can be detected from aerial intelligence.

Drones are great at this kind of stuff!

By "ex-American" military equipment, MeanMesa refers to all the tanks, guns, trucks and jeeps the Iraqi army abandoned when it retreated frantically a few months back. All this stuff was previously handed over to the Iraqi government when the Americans left with the idea that, just maybe, that government might use it to maintain the autonomy of Iraq after we were gone.

This approach offers a couple of quite desirable military advantages.

1. ISIS has taken control of Mosul and a few other population centers in its advance into Iraq. In these areas the rebels enjoy the "protection" of being sequestered among large numbers of Iraqi civilians, making aggressive bombing far less effective, "hearts and minds-wise." Drones, on the other hand, could still select isolated targets even in these urban areas.

Out in the hinterlands of the Western Iraqi country side, this sudden "surge" could be even far more devastating to the bad guys. The survivors would either be walking or riding camels the next day.

2. The very idea of a strategic "surge" would play very favorably with the domestic electorate -- especially one that really, actually, worked. Grampy McCain would literally "cream his jeans."

3. These consolidated attacks could be executed a week or two before the President's 60 day time limit expired. The schedule should probably include several days during which they could be conducted repeatedly -- always un-announced. Should the Congress ever gather up enough gumption to actually ever debate US involvement in the regional conflict, the discourse might possibly be more constructive if there were a recent "victory" to lubricate the poll addicted miscreants currently seated in the pathologically risk averse House and Senate.

4. While the wing nuts' blustering demands for the unilateral "defeat of ISIS" would hardly emerge from the drone attacks, the rebels would suddenly be tactically "de-capacitated." Further, that development might open a "window of opportunity" for the Iraqi military -- or, at least, for our strong allies, the Kurds -- to retake significant territory and hold it.

The loud mouthed right wing McCain - Graham "chicken hawk" crowd are salivating over the prospect of the US bombing Syria uninvited, but what they really want is to lure President Obama into a show down with their very most favorite macho bully, Vladimir Putin. The righties have never had a moment's hesitation as they glorified Putin's "strong manly will" while they "compared" him to Obama.

If this Russian-US show down were to transpire in the manner of these war mongers' dreams, the cowardly, terrified Congress would pose even more of a national security threat to the country than it is now. Screeching, uber-political chicken hawks suck at fighting real wars.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

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