House Republicans like to talk — and talk, and talk — about their regard for the founders and the Constitution.
House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Tea Party, and their circle even attempted — in unsettlingly bumbling manner — to read the document into the Congressional Record at the opening of the current Congress.
Now, however, with a backdoor plan to commit the United States to a course of permanent warmaking, they are affronting the most basic premises of a Constitution that requires congressional declarations of all wars and direct and engaged oversight of military missions.
The House Republican leadership, working in conjunction with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, has included in the 2012 defense authorization bill language (borrowed from the sweeping Detainee Security Act) that would effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed and ill-defined foreign forces "associated" with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The means that, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which GOP leaders in the House have refused to officially recognize as a significant development), the Department of Defense will be authorized to maintain a permanent occupation of Afghanistan, a country bin Laden abandoned years ago, and a global war against what remains of bin Laden’s fragmented operation.
Instead of an explicit declaration of war with Afghanistan or the ill-defined global conflict, the GOP leaders has slipped language into the spending bill that simply announced theU.S. is "engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces" and that claims an old "Authorization for Use of Military Force necessarily includes the authority to address the continuing and evolving threat posed by these groups."
That’s about a wide-ranging as it gets, and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee argues that the language makes a mockery of the Constitutional requirement that Congress check and balance the executive branch and the Department of Defense when it comes to questions of extending wars.
(The language included in the spending bill) would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval," argues Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan. "Such authority must not be ceded to the President without careful deliberation from Congress."