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Published March 27 2011

Nelson: US leads another illicit war

‘The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

So spoke candidate Barack Obama. Candidates Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden said much the same thing. Of course, once in power, their oaths to uphold the Constitution were quickly flushed down the same toilets their copies of the Constitution were first washed down even before they went to war with Libya.

Indeed, the main purpose of the Constitution nowadays seems to be wrapped around dowels in restrooms across the nation. It certainly serves little visible role otherwise. It goes without saying that now that a Democrat is president, many of the same Republicans who delighted in President George Bush making unilateral war across the Mideast and elsewhere are shocked – shocked! – to see President Obama carrying out the same policy.

Of course, our leaders assure us that our latest war is humanitarian. Secretary of State Clinton says it’s to avoid casualties Libyan dictator Gadhafi “could” inflict on civilians. Obama argues that it’s to stop any “potential atrocities” on the same. Note that both statements are conditional: Gadhafi hasn’t waged mass war against civilians and there’s no indication he might, but a future conditional is enough for Obama to bring current war against another country. Europe could have used the precise same rationale to make war with America a number of times.

No doubt civilians have been killed as “collateral damage” in this Libyan revolution, but who knows more about killing innocent civilians than America?

We faced a similar problem some 187 years ago when Greece revolted against Turkey. The Turks waged cruel war against their Greek subjects. Rep. Daniel Webster argued that the U.S. should at least send a note of support to the Greeks, and maybe a little more. He wasn’t alone in this thinking. But Rep. John Randolph of Roanoke wasn’t having any of it. To him, meddling in the wars and squabbles of other nations was pure foolishness and a path to imperial ambition. The ruin of the Constitution would inevitably follow.

Randolph remarked that “the sun never sets on ambition like this; they who have once felt its scorpion sting are never satisfied with a limit less than a circle of our planet …” And though he won the battle and squelched Webster’s proposal, his constitutionalist view eventually lost the war and his conclusion came true.

We now have presidencies that are king-like in their war-making powers. We have quite a string now of presidents who’ve lied us into needless war. America is always at war with somebody, and Americans love it. No other country, save North Korea, is so mindlessly militaristic, and the more people we kill and the more of our children come home in body bags, the greater our love for the power that requires our sacrifices.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and contributor to The Forum’s commentary page. Email r.cnelson@702com.net