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Boardman writes: "Lawful authority to take the nation to war under the US Constitution has long been an unofficial joke, at least since the US led the 'police action' in Korea in 1950."

A woman hugs a child in Yemen. (photo: Abdul Jabbar Zeyad/Reuters)
A woman hugs a child in Yemen. (photo: Abdul Jabbar Zeyad/Reuters)

US Constitution Is Now Officially a Joke As Applied to War or Peace

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

15 May 19


A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.

Caption for S.J.Res.7, vetoed by President Trump April 16, 2019


Congress has the sole power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the United States Constitution.

– First finding of fact in S.J.Res.7


awful authority to take the nation to war under the US Constitution has long been an unofficial joke, at least since the US led the “police action” in Korea in 1950. The fighting ended with the armistice in 1953, but not the war. We’re still pretending it was constitutionally legitimate even though the Korean War sets a new record every day as America’s “longest war.” Congress has been ducking its constitutional responsibility ever since, through Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the other, less spectacular military sideshows it’s sidestepped around the world for the past sixty-plus years.

US military action in Yemen – boots on the ground – grew out of the War on Terror. From 2007 till 2014, US special forces units carried out drone operations against real or imagined terrorists (including at least one teenage American citizen), while the Yemeni government claimed responsibility. That government fell to the Arab Spring of 2014, followed by an internationally-imposed government and a civil war that sent it scurrying to Saudi Arabia, and sent US combat forces scurrying out of the combat zone. With the Houthis taking control of Yemen in early 2015, the Obama administration gave a green light and significant logistical support to Saudi Arabia and its allies to undertake an undeclared, genocidal air war against an opponent with no air force and little air defense (soon eliminated).

The US Congress paid no serious attention to any of this. Republican majorities in both houses were content to allow the Obama-supported carnage in Yemen to continue unimpeded and undiscussed. Minority Congressional dissent took years to emerge, as the Trump administration embraced the slaughter in Yemen.

The Joint Resolution to end US involvement in the illegal war on Yemen was introduced on January 30, 2019, by three senators: Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Republican Mike Lee of Utah, and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Another 16 senators signed on as co-sponsors during the next six weeks.

On March 13, the Senate passed S.J.Res.7 on a bi-partisan vote of 54-46 (all the nays were Republicans).

On April 4, the House passed S.J.Res.7 on a bi-partisan vote of 247-175 (all the nays were Republicans).

On April 16, President Trump vetoed S.J.Res.7. His veto message contained a number of falsehoods, including “apart from counterterrorism operations against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, the United States is not engaged in hostilities in or affecting Yemen.” Translated that means: OK, special forces go in and out of Yemen at will, I’m going to lie about supporting the air war (which I’ll admit later in this statement), and since no one else is talking about the US Navy taking part in the sea blockade of Yemen, neither will I, even though I’ve been told that the blockade is a direct act of war against Yemen.

Trump went on to defend the US “non-involvement” in the war on Yemen as a necessary act of patriotism: “it is our duty to protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries that have been subject to Houthi attacks from Yemen.” What countries? What attacks? He doesn’t say, other than the airport in Riyadh, which surely qualifies as a defensive act of war against the Saudi aggressor.

Trump asserted the obvious: “Peace in Yemen requires a negotiated settlement.” Then he preposterously blamed the Republican-controlled Senate for the failure of peace talks because “inaction by the Senate has left vacant key diplomatic positions, impeding our ability to engage regional partners in support of the United Nations-led peace process.” Who sets priorities in this administration? Why is fomenting war against Iran more important than peace in Yemen where half the country, fourteen million people, face famine in the world’s worst current humanitarian disaster?

And Trump got off a laugh line near the end: “great nations do not fight endless wars.”

He did not mention Korea, but he did pretend that US war-making was almost over in Afghanistan and Syria. And he got off one more joke: “we recently succeeded in eliminating 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate.”

On April 16, Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who has long protested over US involvement against Yemen, tweeted:

With Trump’s veto of @BernieSanders’ and my War Powers Resolution, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress, he is risking the lives of millions of Yemeni civilians to famine, deadly airstrikes, and the war crimes of the Saudi regime. We must override his veto.

On May 2, the Senate voted on the presidential veto of S.J.Res.7, which required 67 votes to overrride. The vote failed, 53-45.

In just over three months, the US Congress voted three times to end US involvement in the criminal war on Yemen. The cumulative Congressional vote total was 354 against US complicity in a crime against humanity, while 266 Republicans voted to let the famine and disease continue with US help. The majority in Congress, while not going so far as trying to end the war itself, at least made an effort to wash the blood off American hands.

Constitutionally, the country can’t even manage a pale imitation of Pontius Pilate. By a vote of 1-0, the president gets to thwart democratic government and to prolong destruction of the poorest country in the region for no decent reason. And it’s all constitutional, that’s the beauty part, because Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility over and over and over again since 1950. That’s the state of American constitutional democracy today. Congress can’t prevent war. Congress can’t end war. Congress can’t even end American complicity in war crimes.

So yes, the Senate vote of May 2 officially ratified the US Constitution as a meaningless joke insofar as it applies to the presidential ability to make war whenever and wherever he thinks he can get away with it. Constitutionally, Congress still has the “sole power to declare war.” The president has the power to make war without declaring it. Yemen is now Trump’s war, and he happily blames it on “Iran’s malignant activities,” unspecified.

Congress has the power, theoretically, to defund any military action it doesn’t like. But first it would have to find one. It doesn’t have to look far. Now would be the time for a resolution against any military action against Iran without express Congressional approval. That would invite another presidential veto.

According to The Hill on May 10, Rep. Ro Khanna has been discussing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whether the House Democrats should appeal Trump’s veto to the Supreme Court. Khanna argues that it’s unsettled law whether the president has the last word on war and peace.

But after appealing this pro-war veto to the current Supreme Court, where would the country find itself?

The Constitution’s not in tatters, it’s just irrelevant. That’s a bipartisan achievement. And there’s little sign that most of the American people care, or even notice.

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William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+12 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-05-15 10:05
'The Constitution’s not in tatters, it’s just irrelevant.'

& so, therefore, is the Rule of Law. Welcome to the BarbarousStates of America.
+13 # DongiC 2019-05-15 10:21
America is in a mess which grows larger every day. It drifts toward war with Venezuela, Iran, and, even North Korea is not out of the picture. Trade wise, we are already mixing it up with China and American boots are on the ground in Yemen, Afghanistan and parts of Africa. Military costs continue to soar while infrastructure needs more and more money. And, the fight for Earth will take trillions. I think we need a change in priorities. A change in leadership will help also.
+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-15 13:43
DC -- "I think we need a change in priorities. A change in leadership will help also."

Americans voted for change with Obama -- "hope and change you can believe in." They got neither hope nor change. And they voted for change with Trump, an outsider and non-professiona l politician. They got the same old thing.

Whoever promises real change in 2020 will win. Americans are sick of war, investment bankers, oligarch, and corporations shipping jobs overseas. They want change.

Someday there may be change. The Green New Deal is about fundamental changes and as you say, it will take a very long time. I actually think it will be cost neutral. It will generate a lot of money in new green jobs and an end to the fossil fuel subsidies.
+4 # jmail 2019-05-15 10:32
I agree with most of William Boardman's editorial but disagree that the Korean War is a good comparison for undeclared wars. In that case, North Korea surprise-attack ed South Korea in June 1950 and came quite close to driving our forces into the sea. Only emergency reinforcements and a desperate air campaign prevented North Korea from completely wiping out the remnants of our troops who were trapped in a small pocket on the peninsula. Our soldiers had to defend themselves or die. There would be no respite until the enemy was driven back to North Korea. We neither started that war nor intervened in an existing conflict.

Also, with regard to "America's longest war," it's neither Afghanistan (as many people claim) nor Korea (as Boardman claims). Our longest war was against Native Americans, which began even before the United States existed. That war's last major battle was in 1890, but the aftermath is with us still.
+11 # dbrize 2019-05-15 12:01
Au contraire.

NK attacked ROK not the United States and Truman clearly violated existing legislation that Congress must approve anything other than the interjection of 1000 troop “observers” in UN conflicts. He also authorized on his own air and sea support for ROK forces BEFORE the UN formally requested aid.

You are welcome to the opinion that it was a necessary war, but Truman clearly engaged in an undeclared war.
+3 # economagic 2019-05-16 07:22
Another reply to jmail was posted yesterday by saluspopuli, expanding on the complexities of the beginning of that conflict, somewhat like those surrounding the Gulf of Tonkin Incident a decade and a half later. Later in the day it was deleted, along with my brief comment that I was familiar with the more nuanced version and believe it to be correct. Unfortunately I neglected to make copies of both.
-3 # jmail 2019-05-16 09:44
North Korea surprise-attack ed our troops in South Korea in June 1950. That it was a surprise is obvious from our unpreparedness. We came close to the worst defeat since the Japanese destroyed our army in the Philippines in 1942. For our troops, the choice was either surrender or die.

The Korean War was "undeclared" in the sense that North Korea didn't declare war on us before the invasion. Once it started, a formal declaration on our part would have been constitutionall y correct but moot. We were in the war, like it or not. The emergency couldn't wait for the UN to complete its formalities. If someone sets fire to my house, I won't wait for the fire department to arrive before grabbing an extinguisher and trying to put it out myself.
0 # punch 2019-05-16 10:36
North Korea attacked the US because the US had troops in South Korea? Are you serious? The fact that the US had troops there in the first place is the problem. That North Korean attack was towards South Korea. "If someone sets fire to your house"?? Dude, it was not your house! You were an intruder!
+1 # dbrize 2019-05-16 14:54
You are sorely misinformed on a factual basis. North Korea did not declare war on us because they were not attacking “us”. They attacked the ROK. “We” were not there until the Eighth Army under General Walker arrived in July.

As pointed out to you it was not “our house” and Truman continually described it, absurdly, as a “police action” rather than war, because he was in violation of previous agreements and the Constitution.
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-16 07:48
What the hell were US troops doing in Korea in the first place? Do you know? Have you read any histories of the US occupation of South Korea?

The US was involved in a ideological cleansing of South Korea. In 1945, most of Korea was very sympathetic to communism, in Korea's own version of it. The US soldiers were canvassing the entire south to find, torture, and murder anyone sympathetic to communism. The massacres were horrific. South Koreans were fleeing to the North where they could be protected from the US soldiers.

Both the North and the South were trying to drive the US occupiers out of Korea. The US was making cross border raids into the north regularly, bombing villages, railways, bridges, etc. Same with the North. It was crossing into the south. Why focus on the one event of June 1950. Why not focus on the larger context of the occupation and suppression of the Korean people.

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