Monday, March 28, 2011

Notes to a Friend on an Open Letter to the Left

A friend who is as passionately anti-war as I am -- and has been for the same, long time -- has engaged me in a friendly disagreement regarding the war in Libya.

As part of the dialogue he has sent me Juan Cole's recent internet posting, "An Open Letter to the Left on Libya."

Most of Cole's arguments are reasonable, his assessments of the situation sound, his sincerity indisputable.  The case he makes is essentially what weighed heavily on my mind as I considered what President Obama and his advisors finally decided to do in Libya.

Cole, however, fractures his own case for a reasoned, dispassionate discussion on the left with this paragraph:

If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.

Neither I nor Dennis Kucinich nor many others who share our views "acquiesce in Qaddafi's destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya's workers and poor."  Cole's accusation is baseless and insulting.

As for the rest of the paragraph, I compliment Mr. Cole on his ability to see into the future.  Perhaps some day he will help me pick a few stocks to invest in.

My concern about President Obama's action involves the United States Constitution.  It  placed the war-making power solely in the hands of Congress.  In 1973 the Congress itself muddied the waters with a War Powers Act that  presidents have used ever since to make war whenever they damn pleased.  Obama has done this in the case of Libya.

The United Nations Security Council cannot repeal the United States Constitution or any part thereof.  Even in the muddied water of the 1973 Act , President Obama overstepped his authority on this matter.

The humanitarian objectives of the United Nations resolutions could have been met in time to prevent  "destruction of a movement" for democracy in Libya by using the armed forces of those nations that endorsed the resolutions and were able to act immediately under their own laws and constitutions.

President Obama could have joined them in support of the anti-Qaddafi forces after consulting with Congress as required in the 1973 law.

I still have questions in my own mind about the initiative for the Arab League request to the U.N. that resulted in the Libya resolutions by the Security Council.  The fact that none of the Arab League members rushed to join the combat caused me to wonder if arms were twisted -- perhaps unethically, perhaps even illegally -- in the deep diplomatic background before the UN action.  My friend points out that Qatar recently joined the affray, which still to me smacks of the quasi-legitimacy of the Bush II "coalition" in the invasion of Iraq.

But the real concern is the addition of yet another precedent to support the notion that Presidents of the United States have war-making powers.  The framers clearly did not intend that he or she should have such power.  They vested it solely and absolutely in the Congress.

If that Constitutional mandate is outdated in today's world, there is a process for amending it.  The 1973 War Powers nonsense does not fulfill that process.  A constitutional amendment, with ratification by two-thirds of the states, is what it takes. 

Obviously that hasn't happened.  Instead, the door has been wedged open a bit further for this President and subsequent ones to bomb and otherwise make war upon any head of state who disagrees with U.S. policy.  This in turn tends to prolong the endless war policy of the United States corporatocracy that I, Cole and my anti-war friend all oppose with every fiber of our being.

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