Robert Marquand of the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ reports on something that has probably escaped Our recall; it probably escaped Our attention when it happened.
In 2002 – under the urging of Jesse Helms – Congress passed a law “enabling United States forces to unilaterally storm into peaceful Holland to liberate American soldiers held for war crimes”.
Think about this for a minute.
A law authorizing the unilateral invasion of another country is a law authorizing an act of war. Congress, on top of everything else – the Patriot Act, the Authorization to Use Military Force – legislated approval for an act of war against … Holland.
And, as is now standard procedure in Congressional skullduggery these days, the Bill is actually given a 'sensitive' title: the "American Service Members Protection Act". They might has well have gone the whole way and named it - as in sex offense legislation - after somebody: the Joe Smith Protection Act or the GI Joe Protection Act. Whatever. It is a sleazy way of sliding this poison blade into the public law and the public consciousness. And wasn't one of Hitler's first Acts entitled "An Emergency Act for the Protection of the German People and Nation"? What was not to like?
And what would Holland have had to do to merit this invasion? The International Criminal Court (ICC), sitting at the Hague, would have to detain US troops for war crimes. That is something that happens to other countries, the ones whose troops commit war crimes for bad reasons.
Of course at that time the ICC wasn’t actually set up, and it would only have jurisdiction over signatories’ forces.
But amazingly, that didn’t stop Congress from legislating the first war in America’s history to be started because an International Court might possibly have the temerity to prosecute war crimes.
There are two possibilities: Congress knew that they were passing such a bizarre law even though the triggering-situation was impossible. Or Congress did not know that the triggering-situation was impossible.
If Congress did not know that the triggering situation was impossible, then they were treacherously negligent in the amount of ignorance into which they allowed themselves to fall. With staffs and ‘experts’ numbering in the thousands, hired precisely to advise them, the Congresspersons would have absolutely no excuse for not-knowing that the scenario that Helms presented to them was impossible.
If, on the other hand, Congress knew that they were passing a bill authorizing war despite knowing that the triggering-situation they chose could never happen … then I would say that such behavior is cause for Our profound concern.
Did they know that war crimes were going to be committed? That the whole war itself might be construed as a war crime? Did they assume that war crimes would be committed by Our troops? Torture? Did Cheney tell Helms to get this passed as a pre-emptive 'solution' to war crimes because he intended that war crimes would be committed? Why else would a country do something as historically weird as legislatively authorize a war against international justice-keepers before engaging on its chosen war? Not even the Soviets went this far.
I had mentioned in recent Posts that this country and its citizenry over the past few decades have lost their capacity for ‘seriousness’ and had no justification for considering themselves as ‘serious’ about discharging their responsibilities. We have lost not only the appearance of ‘gravitas’ and the reputation for ‘gravitas’, but We have lost the actual capacity for it.
Here is the United States Congress knowingly passing a ‘fake’ law – making a ‘fake’ threat of war against an allied nation – and thereby committing the full faith and credit of the United States of America to what is in effect a publicity stunt.
Had they no concept of how serious a matter ‘war’ is for a nation? For this nation?
Had they no awareness of what a monstrous ‘message’ they were sending to the rest of the world and its governments?
Had they no concern for the precedent they were setting, not only in national legislation but in international law and in the legislative agendas of other nations around the world?
Has legislation descended to this? To some sort of ‘show’?
Yes, I think it has. And I think that what has been going on in this country for 40 years has brought it about. In their brandishing of ‘deconstruction’ in the service of winning political space and ultimate power for their ‘revolution’, the Second Wave Feminists led the way for Identity Politics to disregard the validity and legitimacy of any laws or principles that stood in the way of their demands; that stood in the way of their ultimate visions of revenge and political supremacy. ‘Law’ and ‘Justice’ were derided as tools of ‘oppression’ and as nothing but the phony ‘abstractions’ used by the ‘oppressors’ to 'oppress' ‘the oppressed’.
Although Congress would never willingly part with its ‘authority’, it began to debase itself bit by bit, as it deferred time after time with a straight or ‘sensitive’ face to assorted rants and demands. ‘Laws’ were passed without thought or foresight or even deliberation, simply to placate or pander to this or that ‘Identity’, this or that part of ‘the base’.
And since the revolutionary mindset of deconstruction saw all law-making as merely a form of oppressors’ charade, as play-acting, the pols began to accept that toxic position themselves. And of course, if the law-making was a ‘charade’, then so were the law-makers. Debasement was underway.
And the theory of revolutionary agitprop, taken straight from the playbooks of Communist and Nazi political agitation, held that the only use of ‘law’ was to ‘send a message’. Rationality, justice, fairness, proportion, precedent, consequences … none of these were allowed to influence the passage of laws that were sending the Politically Correct ‘message’.
This had taken root long before 9-11. As early as 1994 Joe Biden defended his Violence Against Women legislation by admitting that “it may be a bad law, but it sends a great message” (parts of the law were later found unconstitutional). Even now, Senator Leahy’s Judiciary Committee has said that it will re-consider aspects of sex-offender legislation that are incoherent, conflicting, unworkable, greatly vulnerable to effective constitutional challenge, and– even in the eyes of law enforcement and public safety officials – largely incapable of achieving their stated legislative aim of increasing the safety of children. In addition, by the by, to introducing eerily Soviet concepts of law and jurisprudence into the heart of American practice.
These laws were passed by Congress with substantial majorities – although, probably, with very little serious thought, let alone deliberation.
I’m thinking that the one large reason Congressional Democrats went along with the stunning legislation of the Bush-era Unitary Executive was that they were by then known to their Republican colleagues as having passed large numbers of verrrry iffy laws simply to ‘send a message’. When the Bush-era legislation was slapped onto their desks, they were already in the habit of ‘sending messages’ and really didn’t have a solid ground on which to refuse the Republican ‘message’ in the service of a Unitary Executive’s increasing grab for power.
And by 9-11, large swaths of the public were used to it all, and even thought that it was a good idea. And this was in addition to large swaths of the public who still might entertain the ‘quaint’ belief that Congress doesn’t pass laws unless it has carefully considered them.
Careful and deliberate consideration ‘went away’ a long time before. Indeed, Brown v. Board of Education probably had the lethal if unintended consequence of validating what the ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’ politics of the later Sixties would bray: that ‘deliberation’ and ‘deliberateness’ were merely ploys to keep the ‘oppressed’ in a state of ‘oppression’ by the ‘oppressors’. Easier to demand with the French Revolution: Ecrasez les infames. No wonder We’ve fallen so far from the ideals of the Framers.
So to 2002. A United States Congress passes a law that it either knows is unnecessary or doesn’t realize is unnecessary: Authorizing an act of invasive war against an allied nation.
But what the hey? That’s what they thought there in the Beltway. It’s just for ‘looks’. It’s just a play ‘to the gallery’, to give the folks back home, the ‘voters’, a sense that their elected representatives were on the job and earning their pay and perks. Oy. Ach.
It’s not about ‘war’. It’s just about ‘the message’. Nobody’s supposed to take it seriously.
Well … so much isn’t taken seriously anymore.
And the consequences are serious. And will get more serious.