Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, July 09, 2010

Didier: Afghanistan Not a War, U.S. Should Not Have Gone in After 9/11

Speaking of Michael Steele and Afghanistan, the Democratic National Committee stated:
It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences
It’s also unconscionable that Washington U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier would undermine the morale of our troops by saying that Afghanistan is not a war, but merely a "conflict," and that the U.S. should not have gone into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

But that’s exactly what he did yesterday afternoon on KUOW’s “The Conversation” with Ross Reynolds:
Caller:  I wanted to ask you about your position on going to war. If you had been in the Senate, would you have supported that war and… 
Ross Reynolds:  “That war” meaning the Iraq War?

Caller:  Iraq and Afghanistan.

Clint Didier:  Well let’s just say this first of all. You know, our Founding Fathers gave us a game plan. In that game plan, the only institution that can declare war is the Congress. And that is the House of Representatives and the Senate. They did not declare war. So we can’t even call this a war. It’s a conflict. Now in that same…our Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, there’s letters of marque and reprisal. Now, we don’t have a country to declare war against, because we don’t even know where these terrorists are coming from. So we put a bounty on their head through letters of marque and reprisal, it’s in our Constitution, and then we get them that way. The brave people who want to go capture them can or countries can just hand them over. If we could have put a $1 billion bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head, then we would have been way ahead in this game.

Caller:  Do you think we overstepped in terms of going into those countries?

Clint Didier:  Yes.

Ross Reynolds:  Should we have not gone into Afghanistan following 9/11?

Clint Didier:  No, unless we declared war. We gotta follow the playbook. We gotta declare war before we go to war. You know the last time we declared war?
But Didier is way off base. On September 18, 2001, Public Law 107-40 was approved by both the Senate and the House with only one “Nay” vote (Rep. Barbara Lee D-CA.)  It authorized the use of the United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks. Saying this wasn’t a formal declaration of war is just parsing words. Public Law 107-40 passed by the same margin as the declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941 (with Rep .Jeannette Rankin famously voting "nay.") Congress approved the use of force as required by the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say exactly what form a declaration of war must take.

By Didier’s standards, his foreign policy idol Thomas Jefferson waged an unconstitutional war against the Barbary Pirates between 1801 and 1805. In that case, Congress also authorized the use of force without actually using the words “we declare war.”

Didier is also wrong that the U.S. didn’t know where the 9/11 terrorists came from. The government knew exactly where they had originated: training camps in Afghanistan run by al-Qaeda and supported by the Taliban. We had known for years. Bill Clinton swatted at them half-heartedly with cruise missiles in 1998. To say that we shouldn’t have gone into Afghanistan to prevent future attacks such as the one that killed 2,976 Americans on 9/11 is unimaginable.

And Didier has no understanding of the minds of Islamic jihadists if he thinks a billion dollar bounty would have brought bin Laden to justice. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was one of the sillier aspects of Bush’s Global War on Terror.

But it’s not surprising Didier would say what he did about Afghanistan and advocate the 18th century policy of legalized piracy and bounty hunting to deal with 21st century terrorism. Those words parrot Didier’s hero, Ron Paul. Paul, who just endorsed Didier today and who thinks America is an “empire,” congratulated Steele on his statement implying that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.

Try telling the 1,032 U.S service members who have died and 5,725 who have been wounded that Afghanistan is not a war, but merely a "conflict."


KingstonJW on Twitter said...

There are reasonable and legitimate arguments on what may technically constitute a war and so we shouldn't hold such civil parsing against Clint Didier. History has used a variety of terms to sanction informal declarations, including police action and conflict so the discussions about that can be interesting. What may be more relevant is that to my knowledge we still do not have a clear and transparent structure to declare war on a terrorist organization, and how to combat their sovereign state conspirators.

For Mr. Didier, my more pressing concern is that he may not have supported reprisals against the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9-11, not because it wasn't the right thing to do but because he didn't already have a clear game plan that allowed for it. This implies to me a degree of inflexibility during a time of crisis.

SamW said...

"Didier's hero, Ron Paul" (as you put it) voted in favor of Public Law 107-40. 107-40 had NOTHING to do with invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. It only authorized the use of force against THOSE SPECIFIC nations, organizations, or persons, that had been involved in the planning, execution, or support of the events of 9/11. The mark of a good journalist is studying sources before quoting them. You should take the time to try it.

Tom Forbes said...

So by "studying," you contend that Afghanistan, which at that time was ruled by the Mullah Omar and the Taliban, was not a SPECIFIC nation that housed Mohammed Atta and the other hijackers prior to 9/11, not to mention Osama bin Laden and the leadership of al-Qaeda?

Wow. Keep on drinking that "liberty" Kool-Aid.

Nate said...

Section 2(a) of the AUMF provides in relevant part as follows:

"That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

In light of the above language, it could be argued that the AUMF was an unlawful and extra-constitutional delegation to the Executive branch of legislative functions. The AUMF purports to give the president unilateral discretion to determine who was responsible for 9/11, who should be attacked, when the attack should occur, the duration of the engagements, the amount of monies to be expended, etc.
It is quite troubling that Congress abrogated their legislative duties to one man, while also insulating themselves from any responsibility for making an independent judgments about the appropriateness of engaging in a particular conflict. I recently read an excellent book on this subject by Gene Healey entitled
"The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power".


Nate said...

Also, it should be patently obvious that the question of whether someone "supports the troops" in a particular military conflict has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the separate and unrelated questions of whether you believe the conflict was legally initiated or whether the U.S. should government be involved in said conflict in the first instance.
Obviously, the soldiers have no choice in the matter, they are operating under the direction of the executive branch.

By way of analogy, the fact that I don't support various provisions of the so-called "patriot act" does not mean I am unpatriotic, only that I have serious objections to the FBI issuing secret national security letters to librarians demanding customer records without a warrant...