By Doug Newman
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Posted at Daily Paul and Politics Forum.
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“… dictatorship means nothing else but this — Power without limit, resting directly upon force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestrained by rules.” – Lenin
On September 11, 2001, a horrific crime was committed.
On September 12, 2001, the American people became suspects. *
On September 14, 2001, the American president became a dictator. It was on this day that the House voted 420-1** and the Senate voted 98-0 to pass the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in response to the 9/11 attacks.
It is a very short document – 364 words. You can read it here. The most important paragraph is 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.”
This is not a declaration of war, but rather a grant of totalitarian power. To learn what constitutes a declaration of war and why one is constitutionally necessary, please click here.
“President” is not limited to GW Bush, but rather can apply to any president; “nations” is not limited to Afghanistan; “organizations” is not limited to Al-Qaeda; and “persons” is not limited to scary looking brown guys with names like Omar and Mahmoud or even to non-American citizens.
Under the AUMF, all the president has to do is “determine” that a nation, organization or person had a part in 9/11. He can then initiate force against them. If this is not enabling a dictatorship, then what is it?
If the president determines that you, reader, had a hand in 9/11, he can “use all necessary and appropriate force” against you. And he can do it in the name of “national security” of course. How secure do you feel now?
The AUMF cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution as its “specific statutory authorization”. Well, what about the Constitution, which requires that Congress declare war?
I hear the train a-coming:
- But they had to under the circumstances. It is exactly under circumstances such as 9/11 that we need the Constitution more than ever. It is exactly under such circumstances that governments want to take away liberty. And it is also under such circumstances that people are willing to panic and give up their liberty.
- But what would you have done if you had been president on 9/11? I would have asked Congress to issue a letter of Marque and Reprisal, which is a warrant to go after the specific perpetrators, i.e. those responsible for planning and financing the attacks. Otherwise, the president, constitutionally, can do nothing. Going to war is the gravest action a government can undertake. And if a president can take the nation to war unilaterally – like Obama did in Libya – then what can’t a president do? (There is only one power the president can exercise on his own: granting Pardons and Reprieves. Contrary to the AUMF, the presidents constitutional powers do not include preventing or detering terrorism or any other crime.)
- But we HAD to go after the terrorists. But who were the terrorists? It is always easy to say that your government should DO SOMETHING as long as they do it to someone else. Any of us could be a terrorist. 72 types of people are named in government documents as potential terrorists. (Indeed, the Pentagon won’t even say who the enemy is right now.)
- But I trusted Bush. That is all well and good. However, it has been said that you should never give any power to the government that you would not give to your worst enemy. Did it ever occur to you that all those unconstitutional powers with which you so implicitly trusted Bush would one day be inherited by someone like Obama?
- But we had to give up some liberty to have security. Since 9/11, the majority of the American people have accepted – in the name of “safety” and “security”: warrantless searches and spying, the suspension of habeas corpus, sexual assault as a condition of travel, rampant police brutality, indefinite detention without any semblance of due process, severe restrictions on peaceful protest, massive ammunition purchases by DHS, surveillance drones in our skies watching our every move, putting entire cities on lockdown and the NSA’s Prism program. Can predator drones be far behind?
We are much further down that road than most of us know. Indeed, just about every law that is necessary for a totalitarian society is already in place. We are just one event away from such a scenario. Will you, in that most awful moment, panic and relinquish what is left of your liberty? Or will you, in Kipling’s words, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”?
* These two lines are not entirely mine. I wish I knew who said them first.
** The sole dissenting vote was Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) In the words of Gordon Lightfoot, heroes often fail. Yes, Ron Paul voted in favor of this. Nobody is perfect, not even Ron Paul. Perhaps, he was caught up in the passions of the moment. Perhaps he was too trusting that Bush would only use the AUMF to go after Bin Laden. In either case, it is to his everlasting credit that he voted against just about everything that was done in the name of the AUMF, and did more than anyone else to educate the people about the evils of endless war and all the assaults on liberty that go with it.
Also, please know that I do not buy the official story on 9/11. Even if that story is true, however, the official response is still absolutely preposterous.
Doug, this was an excellent column. Thanks for writing it and making it available.
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