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Why You must save democracy
by Oren Weinrib
Email: pliny2k (nospam) yahoo.com
15 Sep 2001
The Congress has given the White House a green light to basically start a war with whomever it sees fit. So doing, they undercut the Constitutional protections put in place because war is a grave and deadly enterprise. Such a decision requires public debate, but their decision was given less thought than farm subsidies.
Why YOU need to save democracy
On Friday, the Senate approved a revised form of legislation proposed by the White House two days earlier. It resolves "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..."
In so doing, Congress effectively yielded to President Bush the authority to wage war against whatever foreign nations he deems appropriate. Yet when the framers of the Constitution entrusted Congress with the authority to declare war, that responsibility was not given lightly. War is a catastrophic undertaking that inevitably results in the deaths of thousands or even millions of innocent civilians; we know now, more than ever, what the death of innocent civilians means. The discretion to so commit the destructive fury of this nation should never be entrusted to one person, duly elected or not.
Equally troubling is the resolution's presumption that force is the best and only way to reduce the threat of terrorism. Even the most autocratic regimes, which use force indiscriminately, have long suffered from terrorism and violence. Take for example Egypt and Algeria, Arab states in which thousands upon thousands have died due to struggles between the autocratic government and fundamentalist Islamic groups.
There is no shortage of examples that violence feeds upon itself. Israel has eliminated key Palestinian militants and struck with violent force at the Palestinian Authority. This has not brought an end to the suicide bombings and roadside shootings.
Is this cycle of violence President Bush's vision for America?
The White House has become locked into a dangerously one-tracked line of thinking. This is revealed most clearly by the resolution that it originally proposed to Congress. Clause "b" requested "the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force to deter and prevent any future acts of terrorism against the United States."
What force might President Bush have deemed necessary to prevent such acts? The permanent military occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya? Is Vietnam so soon forgot? That President Bush would even ask for such unbridled authority reveals a dangerous disregard for democracy. He may as well have added a clause "c) suspend the Constitution and give yourselves some hard-earned time off."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the Bush administration was seeking the legislation "as a real show of unity by the United States Congress." Since when is "a real show of unity" the hallmark of a democratic state? Shows of unity are a characteristic of dictatorship (ala show trials and elections for show). The strength of democracy is discourse and dissent. If there were open contention about the appropriate use of force and the best course of action, and that contention was resolved through democratic debate, would that not reveal the underlying strength of democracy and our nation?
The complicity in recent history between the Congress and the executive to engage in de facto wars without formal declarations is an undemocratic means of sheltering momentous decisions from public debate. How much time was spent discussing less critical issues such as school vouchers? How many experts were called to testify on farm subsidies? How long did it take the Senate to abrogate its Constitutional and moral duty today?
We stand at a treacherous juncture. We are faced with a problem that should be investigated with all the ingenuity of the American people. We can throw open the doors of the Congress and examine the US's role in the world. We could explore how to reduce violence worldwide. US trade policy helps perpetuate a vast economic divide between the North and South. Does this sow the seeds of fundamentalism? The US is the largest exporter of arms and weaponry in the world and blocked international restrictions on the small arms trade. Does this increase peace and security?
Perhaps addressing these questions would reveal nonviolent ways to erode the popular support that makes terrorist networks possible. Perhaps we would conclude that military action was necessary. How much courage is required to send other people's children to war? How much courage is required to tell one's angry and grieving constituents, "We shall seek justice and peace, but not revenge." War is not the only answer, yet there stands President Bush, eager to take the reins that were so quickly handed him and lead us down a dark and bloody path. If we allow him to proceed, the terrorists will be the only true victors.
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You've been asked to speak up before, but we are now on the brink of very dark times. Calling your senators and congressperson, and firing a short e-mail off to the president takes all of 15 minutes. I know, I did it
this morning. Mailing an actual letter can be even more effective. It's only a first step, but it's a damn easy one. Who knows, the life you save may be your own.
To find your representative: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
To find your senator: http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm
The White House: president (at) whitehouse.gov
vice.president (at) whitehouse.gov