Washington D.C. (GPA) – “War. What is it good for?” asked Norman Whitfield in 1969. Thousands of cover versions later, we finally have an answer: It’s one of the most heartbreaking things you’ll ever learn about human civilization.
The supposed social benefits of war are one of the very few points on which Democrats and Republicans in Congress stand united. This is most likely because both parties regularly receive vast sums of money from privately owned defense contractors. The political campaign cycle in 2012 alone saw $16.4 million and $11 million in donations to GOP and DNC candidates, respectively.
With this vast and outrageous conflict of interest fully understood, let’s turn our attention to the American Senate’s most recent proposal for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF — along with who really stands to benefit.
What Is an AUMF?
Authorizations for the Use of Military Force are issued every four years by whichever administration is presently in power. When a sitting president wishes to add — or, more rarely, remove — a theater of war or a group of enemy combatants to or from the authorization, a new report must be issued to Congress to secure permission. This precedent can be traced to the post-Vietnam War Powers Resolution of 1973 and has been standard practice ever since.
A Democrat and a Republican spearheaded this new AUMF. The Democrat is the man who almost became vice-president, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, and the Republican is U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. You will recall that during their time together, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine ran on a foreign policy in Syria that many independent thinktanks worried would actively make a volatile situation worse. Beyond the thinktanks, even Donald Trump has spent time speaking out against American interventionism.
However, the more vocal actors in the GOP and DNC, having identified Trump as somebody who either lies or changes his mind a dozen times in an average hour, have helped Trump make himself a hypocrite yet again by turning him into another mouthpiece for perpetual warfare.
It’s perpetual warfare this latest AUMF will deliver.
More by Kate Harveston: Financing Terrorism: US Must Look at Relationship with Saudi Arabia
Get It in Writing
We have already glimpsed the direction things are headed. To most folks who understand Constitutional Law, Trump’s decisions to bomb Syria repeatedly were all illegal. However, on several occasions, the Republican-led Congress failed to use its Constitutional power to check, halt or even call into question the president’s desire to escalate conflicts elsewhere in the world.
On this issue, Nancy Pelosi is correct: Trump must not be allowed to escalate America’s military presence in Syria without an updated AUMF.
Unfortunately, the gaping plot holes in the 2018 AUMF will only make matters worse. It does not outline any prescribed actions for when a president is unilaterally ordering missile strikes on sovereign nations. It also adds Yemen as a theater of war — a country America has helped Saudi Arabia destroy and plunder in secret for years. Now, U.S. presence there is legal.
It also stands a chance of irreparably changing the balance of power in U.S. government where war is concerned. According to Rand Paul — a less hawkish Republican than the garden variety — it will result in as many as 15 countries being added to U.S. theaters of war as well as up to seven groups of enemy combatants. It grants political cover to the executive branch: both retroactively and preemptively. Congress will not be able to check Trump’s war cabinet — most recently bolstered by the terrifying John Bolton — when it ends the Iran nuclear deal and graciously steps in to plant the Seeds of Democracy® all over that fertile land.
If “endless war” is light hyperbole, then the proposals in this AUMF are as close to becoming as literally endless as it can possibly get.
You’ll remember, too, the single voice of dissent when the Bush administration updated its AUMF to seize upon the World Trade Center attacks to justify war all over the world. Representative Barbara Lee was the only nay vote on the 2001 AUMF — which has turned out to be one of the worst moral lapses in the history of this country. Everything about it will be made worse by this latest version.
Over the years, we’ve seen the increasingly hawkish U.S. Congress abdicate more and more of its responsibility to check the executive branch’s ambitions to declare, prolong and escalate wars in sovereign nations.
You’ve heard the phrase “Get it in writing?” That’s what’s happened here. Virtually all of America’s modern wars have been illegal. While our backs were turned, they gradually changed laws and precedent to reverse-engineer political cover and after-the-fact justification for the thousands of human lives lost along the way.
When Wolf Blitzer proposes on live television that American jobs are worth the heaps of dead bodies the War on Terror has produced, you know we’re slipping into a moral quagmire we — and the world — may never emerge from.
War. Who’s It Good For?
We accounted above for the roughly $27 million the defense industry used to elect its favorite partisan warhawks in 2012. What, specifically are we talking about here? Which companies? It’s names like these:
- Northrop Grumman
- Lockheed Martin
- General Dynamics
- United Technologies
- Raytheon Co.
Are these political bodies? Are they charitable groups? Do they sponsor missionary trips? Do they bring food and education to the forgotten corners of the globe?
No. Judging by the distribution of their earnings, these entities are mostly fabulously rich and white Americans whose companies manufacture products that kill people. They buy fearful, hawkish senators by the dozen because those are the people who will make sure the profits keep streaming in.
Speaking of profits, you could buy stocks in each of these companies today — if you wanted. In fact, there’s probably never been a better time.
Kate Harveston is a political writer dealing mainly in issues related to politics and human rights. She has also written on a range of other topics, including technology and health. If you like her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.