We Will Always Be at War against Everyone

As Spencer reported yesterday, the incoming Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon wants to revisit and expand the 2001 AUMF authorizing our war against al Qaeda.

The objective wouldn’t the “drop a new Authorization to Use Military Force, but to reaffirm and strengthen the existing one,” says an aide to McKeon who requested anonymity, “recognizing that the enemy has changed geographically and evolved since 2001.”

I’m thoroughly unsurprised by this. As I pointed out the other day, if we’re going to hold Khalid Sheikh Mohammed solely using the justification of the AUMF, then we’re going to want to make sure that AUMF is designed to last forever; otherwise, KSM would be entitled to get out when–for example–we withdraw from Afghanistan. Frankly, I expect the Administration will be happy to be forced to accept another AUMF, because it’ll get them out of some really terrible arguments they’ve been making as they try to apply the AUMF to detention situations it clearly doesn’t apply to.

But there are two other aspects to a “reaffirmed and strengthened” AUMF. As McKeon’s aide notes, the enemy has changed geographically, moving to Yemen and Somalia. A new AUMF will make it easier to build the new bases in Yemen they’re planning.

The U.S. is preparing for an expanded campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, mobilizing military and intelligence resources to enable Yemeni and American strikes and drawing up a longer-term proposal to establish Yemeni bases in remote areas where militants operate.

And I would bet that the AUMF is drafted broadly enough to allow drone strikes anywhere the government decides it sees a terrorist.

Which brings us to the most insidious part of a call for a new AUMF: the “homeland.” The AUMF serves or has served as the basis for the government’s expanded powers in the US, to do things like wiretap Americans. Now that the Republicans know all the powers the government might want to use against US persons domestically, do you really think they will resist the opportunity to write those powers into an AUMF (whether through vagueness or specificity), so as to avoid the quadrennial review and debate over the PATRIOT Act (not to mention the oversight currently exercised by DOJ’s Inspector General)? The only matter of suspense, for me, is what role they specify for drones operating domestically…

Remember, John Yoo once wrote an OLC memo claiming that because of the nature of this war the military could operate in the US with no limitations by the Fourth Amendment. That memo remained in effect for seven years. We know where they want to go with this permanent war against terror.

  1. parsnip says:

    I get the impression that permanent war is somehow supposed to be the solution to the economic crisis. And all other crises. Its salience is supposed to make all other issues, like homelessness and hunger disappear into the shadows.

    Come to think of it, this is how the everywhere war is being waged on the US. No need for the drones. Our cities are crumbling out of neglect. People along the Gulf of Mexico have been assaulted with chemical weapons. Pennsylvania is in the sights for rape and toxic poisoning by the same folks directing the endless wars in the Middle East.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’d put it slightly differently. The permanent war on terror is our distraction from the fact that we have no real security where it counts: in our homes and our pocketbook.

      The banks can sow all manner of terror so long as we’re all talking about the big threat from boyscouts with bombs in their groin.

    • bobschacht says:

      Well, one other difference is that the V-2’s target was programed at launch, whereas a drone’s target can be adapted and changed in-flight. Another difference is that a drone can launch its own missiles, and return to base.

      But from a moral point of view, there may not be as much difference, unless being able to actually see your target before you fire the rocket is significant.

      Bob in AZ

      • Theater403 says:

        I was in DC not that long ago, in a cab, and on the radio there was a talk show discussing crime with the Chief of Police (a woman, I think, not that it matters to this, but it seemed wrong–ie, unexpected). A caller asked if the Chief could foresee using drones to combat street crime and gang violence. The host laughed loudly and answered for the Chief (though she also answered) that that question was crazy and if that were ever to happen the host would certainly be heading to a different land to pursue freedom. The Chief also said that would not happen, though she did take the question seriously.

        Now, I’ll admit that it did sound preposterous (but mostly because it was so specifically a use of force against a single demographic–“gangs”)…but I am absolutely no longer laughing about this possibility. All we need to do is continue the targeting of scary “Americans” overseas (Goldsteins all of them) and slowly move them from Muslim countries to European Xtian lands and we will find drones patrolling the night sky about our heads in Omaha.

      • tanbark says:

        Bob, can you imagine how infuriating it is, to be under the gun from these things?

        To be sitting down to eat with your family, in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and have to wonder if the fact that a visit 48 ours ago by a cousin who might or might not be involved with the Taliban, may have sealed your fate and that of your loved ones?

        No wonder they hate us.

  2. seaglass says:

    Are we still at War with Eastasia? It’s all pure Orwell isn’t it or better yet it’s like the 80’s kult classix “Brazil Brazil.” Permanent War is necessary now and it will soon be coming to a neighborhood near you!

    • tanbark says:

      “It’s all pure Orwell, isn’t it?”

      It is. The least we can do in two years, is turn the main character in OUR novel out to some “centrist” think tank. Otherwise…no chance for a different ending.

  3. jo6pac says:

    And I would bet that the AUMF is drafted broadly enough to allow drone strikes anywhere the government decides it sees a terrorist. . .

    Yep, coming soon to our town in Amerika.

    • spanishinquisition says:

      “And I would bet that the AUMF is drafted broadly enough to allow drone strikes anywhere the government decides it sees a terrorist.”

      Actually that’s what Obama already claims now with the existing AUMF…and he doesn’t even feel that the Judiciary has a right to review what he’s doing.

      • emptywheel says:

        Which is why he’s going to be so happy to be forced to accept a new AUMF. Because his lawyers will not have to make such specious arguments in court anymore.

  4. BearCountry says:

    Now you all need to stop thinking your unspoken thoughts. The US is not now, and never will be, an empire with military outposts all over the known world and in space as soon a the funding is available. No, we are not an empire because those were evil thinking people opposed to democratic government, but intent on controlling the people of the world. The empires of the past wanted to control the resources held by the peoples the empires conquered. We, on the other hand, simply want to bring the blessings of liberty and democracy to all of these people – even if we have to kill them. After all, david petraeus was right to be upset with Pres. Karzai who asked that we stop the night raids that kill all of those people. The people, living and killed, will be grateful for our patience in dealing with them. And don’t worry, since the US is not an empire, it will neither fall apart from the inherent instability of being spread too thin, nor go totally bankrupt by all of the costs of continual war.

  5. tammanytiger says:

    A global war with neither definable goals nor a fixed ending date is a recipe for disaster. Obama and his successors will use the “long war” as an excuse to expand the commander-in-chief power into a black hole that will gobble up the rest of the Constitution.

  6. davidmizner says:

    That this stuff is going to be debated is a good thing. It’s the debate itself– the Obama-GOP alliance combined with the inevitable Democratic cave — that’s going to be horrific.

    What’s the over-under on how many Congresspeople are going to oppose perpetual war and the tyranny that comes with it? 40?

    • Mauimom says:

      I want to know where Rand Paul and all the Tea Partiers are going to come out on this.

      I’ve been wondering where their howls are over the TSA groping. They bitch and moan over imaginary insults [“take your hands off my Medicare”], but for a bunch of guys always waving the Constitution around, they appear to have read little of it.

  7. Theater403 says:

    I took this post and ran with it (or rant with it) on my blog, but the text goes something like this:

    AUMF? That means war, right?

    Now, seriously, who among you has NOT read 1984? Why not? You’d better get your hands on a copy from a used bookstore…just in case a new copy is a little bit different: soon enough I expect a revision of 1984 that changes it’s dystopia into a utopia. Winston and Julia live happily ever after when they realize not only is Big Brother a loving overseer but that their chocolate rations have gone up to 20 grams! All copies to be collected and replaced…probably not that hard to do. I think Amazon removed it from Readers not that long ago (in error, so they say).

    I have no fear of Al Qaeda (curious that the gmail dictionary wants me to replace that with Qaddafi): fear of internal terror is real though.

    And really, did you notice–building bases and using drones…how is this not sending off all sorts of warning lights in your head?

    Power ELITES are Authoritarian and there is no such thing as a Democrat or Republican in America. If you BELIEVE them…and that’s what you need, belief (and that’s why, sorry to say it dear lovers of divinities, religion and the totalitarian go hand in hand) then you are simply consigning your future to the memory hole of Minitrue. Folks, that means ALL of THEM…you Rand Paul Libertarians, he’s a part of it too.

    You are manipulated daily once you turn on your tv or read the newspaper.

    Glen Beck is perfect for this world–he rants and raves and rends his garments against the lies of Goldstien and you scream with him. You know Goldstein’s first name? Emmanuel. You know what that means: the child whose birth was foretold by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) and who in Christian tradition is identified with Jesus. Brilliant–Orwell creates as an object of hate the conflation of the Jew (the Christ-killer and The Elder of Zion), with the “left”, soft, Jesus. (Heck, you know those nice East Coast boys and girls that went down South to fight for Civil Rights and got beat and disappeared.)

    Yes, yes, Brave New World is “true”–this is the world of Soma; but our soma is laced with hate because we have an angry god running our giant world destroying country. Jesus might give us SOMA; but Yahweh is out to destroy–please actually read the Ten Commandments! This is Big Brother: “Thou shall have no other gods before me…” (not even Jesus!) in thunder! And that’s just the warm-up.


    • onitgoes says:

      Good rant. You blogged about soma, whilst I blogged about citizens being soothed to sleep by the PTB. Agree with you completely. Who’s afraid of Al Qaeda when we’ve got our own home-grown “terrorists” taking over all of our lives? As Gill Scott Herron used to croon: Wake up… before we’re all through…

      • Theater403 says:

        Thanks. I will admit that I have honestly become somewhat afraid of this. Soma would be preferable…I’d prefer the idyllic genetic manipulations of Huxley to the horrifying war machine of deprivation that is Orwell’s nightmarish dystopian crystal ball.

        • onitgoes says:

          I know. I think many of us blogging here have the same concerns of you. It’s very real. Citizens are only too willing to give up their freedom and rights to privacy with very little questioning at all. It is worth being concerned about it, albeit I’m not sure how to go from here.

  8. onitgoes says:

    Too bad most citizens are totally asleep and don’t give a f*ck anymore about endless warz. When NeoCon W was in the Whitehouse, it was all “rah rah” for the warz; at least citizens were aware that war was ongoing. With NeoCon Obama in the Whitehouse, everyone’s been soothed to sleep: no need to worry kidz, just go shopping…

    • tanbark says:

      “Too bad most citizens are totally asleep…”

      True, but it’s hard to stay awake, when all we get are a bunch of BushCo-produced corporatist re-runs to watch.

    • Mason says:

      With NeoCon Obama in the Whitehouse, everyone’s been soothed to sleep: no need to worry kidz, just go shopping…

      Heh. I recognize snark when I see it, but it still moved me to make the following observation.

      Over 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed, or have given up trying to find a job, and 59.1 million people have no health insurance because they cannot afford it. Unemployment compensation for up to 73 weeks for people beyond the initial 26-week period paid for by the states is set to expire on November 30th and Congress is unlikely to renew it. This will leave millions of unemployed people without any income or ability to pay for housing and food during the holidays, much less go shopping.

      And then there are the continuing real estate forfeitures; yet, this Buck McKeon excuse for a piece of shit wants to legitimize more slaughtering of innocents, which no doubt includes Quakers, war protesters, and dirty hippies in the United States.

      No one should be surprised to see lots of retail businesses shuttering down instead of hiring temporary employees for the “holiday” season.

      Revolution, if only to survive, is right around Auld Lang Syne’s corner.

      • Mauimom says:

        No one should be surprised to see lots of retail businesses shuttering down instead of hiring temporary employees for the “holiday” season.

        While I recognize it would also have the adverse effect of harming “local” businesses, I’d really like to see people “go on strike” re buying ANYTHING for the “holidays.”

        Many of us can’t afford to anyway, but I’d really like to see more folks NOT take advantage of Wal-Mart’s “special Black Friday deals” and offers of free shipping.

        Why not give folks on your gift list a present of a donation to, say, the Association of Free Clinics, or your local animal shelter, or the library, or the food bank. Give in a way that HELPS, and that also keeps $$$ out of the retail hands. Let the fucking figures for “retails sales” sink to the cellar.

    • ottogrendel says:

      Indeed. Supposed Muslim Findamentalists are not my enemy. The authoritarian control addicts with power and money in the US who circumscribe my freedom and our collective quality of life at every turn on a daily basis are.

  9. workingclass says:

    The Empire is in it’s last throws. I only hope it collapses (dies) before it begins vaporizing entire cities.

    • Theater403 says:

      Ah, it is not, it is just creating fresh hell. We (US) once enjoyed the fruits of this Empire…now, the Empire is global and the money is united against the global citizenry–shanty-town USA will be every town.

  10. Kassandra says:

    Some idiots point out that WWII saved the economy and everybody, including Krugman are still blatting away about it.

    Might help If we made the weapons here, but we don’t even do that anymore.

    Expect the first drone strikes on the southern border…just to get people softened up to the idea, then, it will move inland when the Christains start fighting for who will run the theocratic state. Or, perhaps, anyone who resists giving up their homes to the banksters. the possibilities are endless.

    Big question: why do the “terrorists” always move to oil rich regions…..seems self defeating to me.

  11. tanbark says:

    Re: Drone strikes;

    Since Barack Obama has jacked them up, I’m sure the republicans whom he’s so diligently re-empowered will gratefully take advantage of his laying the groundwork for even more of them.

    • Kassandra says:

      He really has, hasn’t he/ all we see on the TEEVEE is Mitch McConnell, who, as I understand it is STILL the minority leader.
      Cognitive dissonance

      • onitgoes says:

        Indeed. The very same Mitch McConnell who told Bush to pull back from Iraq in order to get votes in 2006, but now rants that pulling out of Afghanistan is all a liberal plot. And evil old man, McConnell, but I’m sure he’s ever so grateful to NeoCon Obama who paved the way for the drones… no doubt…

      • tanbark says:

        Kassandra; what’s depressing is all of the Obama loyalists who believe that what happened two weeks ago is going to bring out the “fighter” in our strange, conflicted, president. (If, in fact, he IS conflicted…)

        That somehow, getting the living shit kicked out of him, is going to put him in touch with his inner progressive instincts.

        I think we’re going to see a cave-in of historic proportions.

        He’s going to be practically indistinguishable from the republicans. Of course, that distinction hasn’t been all that evident, in the first half of what I devoutly hope is his only term in office.

  12. ottogrendel says:

    From a recent Tomdispatch post:

    “According to Chris Nelson of the invaluable Washington insider newsletter, the Nelson Report, “The likely new chair of House Armed Services, ‘Buck’ McKeon (R-Ca.), is a big supporter of Missile Defense and the Navy, while the Armed Services appropriations subcommittee will likely be chaired by Bill Young (R-Fla.), and between his and McKeon’s districts, there are very few ‘missing’ major space and defense contractors.” McKeon has already made it crystal clear that he’s in favor of “boosting” the already bloated Pentagon budget.”


  13. Knut says:

    This will finally end, and not too soon, with the financial bankruptcy of the United States. We’ve already suffered moral bankruptcy.

    • ottogrendel says:

      Yup. I just don’t see how the murder and robbery of perpetual war is going to stop until the myth of American Exceptionalism is debunked and the US Military Industrial Complex is bankrupt. There are no serious indications that anything else is going to stop this “strange torpedo.” Perhaps the best one can hope for is that it will run out of steam and sink instead of exploding.

      • bobschacht says:

        American Exceptionalism used to be well-founded. The unique American combination of Federalism, balance of powers, and human rights was truly path-breaking. However, our model has been in practice long enough that other countries have copied from it, and are now using our model of governance better than we are. Furthermore, since we no longer see fit to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” we have drifted away from that which made us exceptional, and have instead resorted to tattered old patterns of statecraft that prevailed for centuries before our Revolution.

        The way to reify American Exceptionalism is to go back to what made us great: begin once again to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and restore the balance of powers among the three branches of government, as intended by our founding fathers. And de-politicize the Department of Justice, restoring blind justice and equal treatment under the law, and enforcing the law regardless of rank or station, rather than sweeping massive bank fraud and war crimes under the rug.

        As it is, we are rapidly descending into becoming just another Banana Republic.

        Bob in AZ

        • ottogrendel says:

          Yup. Thanks. I suspect the nut of it is the balance of power (and the current lack of it in the US). Most problems, whether political or otherwise, arise from an imbalance of power. After time, the holder of the dominant proportion of power typically becomes blind to the reality that is often crystal clear to those on the short end of the stick.

          Have you read Andrew Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism”?

        • Knut says:

          It took a long time, but the corporations finally figured out how to game the system, and now they own it. And there isn’t much we can do about it. Forget non-violent demonstrations. They have tasers, now, and will not be afraid to use them. That’s the lesson they learned from Civil Rights and the Anti-Vietnam movements. Squelch opposition immediately, and mercilessly. Character assassinate any potential leadership of the resistance; in the last resort, just plain vanilla assassinate.

          I’m sure we’ll find away around this some day, but it might just end up like the old Soviet Union, and collapse.

  14. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    One hundred and twelve years of US wars in the third world, to steal natural resources and enslave the people to US corporate run. Since 1898.

  15. tanbark says:

    I mean, Obama has a large ego. Is he really OK with the fact that what happened two weeks ago practically ensures that he’s now the poster-boy for a miserably failed president?

    That’s hard to believe.

  16. lysias says:

    Didn’t the opinion of the court in Hamdi contain a suggestion that, if the “war” went on too long, the Supreme Court would eventually order a release of the detainees?

  17. lysias says:

    John Gray in the Oct. 21 London Review of Books calls the U.S. system of government “archaic and dysfunctional”.

  18. nonpartisanliberal says:

    International terrorism against the USA would disappear if “our” government closed down its foreign military bases and quit interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. That would better serve the interests of the American people besides. However, it won’t happen because it does not serve the power lust of the politicians.

    Perpetual war is one of the core tenets of fascism. The politicians hate our freedom (what’s left of it). Foreign policy is being used as an excuse to take power away from the people in this country. We have to say no.

  19. brutaltruth says:

    ” the incoming Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon wants to revisit and expand the 2001 AUMF authorizing our war against al Qaeda”

    How about instead revisiting and investigating the blatant false flag attack that is constantly used as the justification for all this horror? And while they’re at it how about investigating the made-in-Fort Detrick anthrax attacks that targeted the two senators who were outspoken in their opposition to the Patriot Act and the tabloid photo editor whose tabloid had recently beforehand published embarrassing photos of Jenna Bush falling down drunk? Gee, I wonder who could have been behind that.

    Just kidding, I realize that the powers that be whether in Congress or in the White House have no intention whatsoever of investigating the war criminals of the previous administration.