U.S. Ground Forces Entering the Syrian Conflict

U.S. Ground Forces Entering the Syrian Conflict
by JBS President John F. McManus

The civil war to oust Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is now in its fourth year. No end is in sight.

American planes have bombed selected targets in Syria and nothing changed. President Obama has seven times insisted that he would not order U.S. ground forces into the fray. “No boots on the ground,” he repeatedly stated. But that just changed when he decided to send 50 of our nation’s Special Forces into the war-torn country. Will they be outfitted with sneakers instead of boots? We are told they are not supposed to participate in any battles, just play an advisory role. What happens when any of the 50 Special Forces get killed or wounded? The likely outcome of such a development would be sending in more U.S. troops.

Watch the press briefing discussing the Special Forces deployment below:

At least three factions are seeking to replace Assad. One is backed by Russia, another is allied with ISIS (already controlling a sizable portion of the country), and still another consists of Syrians fed up with Assad. American planes have already made at least a thousand bombing runs against factions not approved by our leaders. There could easily be an air war over the country if Russian planes and U.S. planes bomb the other’s favored group. Will the mess escalate into a conflict between the U.S. and Russia?

Meanwhile, the Obama promise to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan has been cancelled and 10,000 will remain. Elsewhere, our intervention in Libya has been a disaster. Also, U.S. drones have wreaked havoc in Yemen with nothing to show for the effort except death and destruction for Yemenis. And Iraq remains in turmoil after all the lies about weapons of mass destruction spurred President G.W. Bush to invade.

The American people ought to be asking why previous failed policies in several countries are being repeated in others. We can only hope that the Obama policies will become a serious debate topic during the current presidential race.

All of the actions noted above constitute war. But the U.S. Constitution clearly places sole power to have the U.S. at war in the hands of Congress, not the President. Yet UN authorization here and NATO (a UN subsidiary) direction elsewhere have been employed to have our forces go to war. Questions have to be asked: Is our nation’s military effort being dictated by the world body? Is Mr. Obama quietly seeking or receiving orders from the UN to dispatch U.S. forces in limited roles all over the Middle East?

One or more of the GOP candidates should be asking these questions. Let’s hope they do so.

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Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Does Obama Skirt the Constitution? Ask This Yale Professor

Does Obama Skirt the Constitution? Ask This Yale Professor
by JBS President John F. McManus

Americans across the country are finally awakening to the fact that the federal government does indeed operate outside of its limitations. A case in point is Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University. Because of President Obama starting a war with ISIS, he finally understands that the President has violated the U.S. Constitution.

The Yale professor rightly complains that the President’s decision to make war against ISIS amounts to a unilateral assumption of power. OK, but the professor then says that the President’s unilateral action “marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition,” adding that “nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.” Does this mean that Ackerman would go along with Mr. Obama’s decision if he had consulted with and received approval – not a declaration of war – from Congress for military action against the Islamist militants?

Curiously, the Obama team claimed that decision to go to war against ISIS was acceptable because Congress had authorized the use of military force against Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attack, and new approval for such action wasn’t needed. In other words, a past congressional stamp of approval for war that was not a formal declaration of war as required by the Constitution can serve as a legitimate go-ahead for whatever action is desired even a decade later.  And the new target of the military doesn’t even have to be the one named in the previous congressional authorization. If that’s the case, then any real or supposed enemy can be targeted by simply citing this past congressional action.

Let us point out to the professor that the Constitution states in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 that Congress has the power to “declare war.” Nowhere else in the document is such authority granted to any other portion of the government. Partisans who want the President to have such power point to the Constitution’s naming the occupier of the White House as “commander in chief of the Army and Navy.” This designation should never be considered the equal of the explicit grant of power solely to Congress to declare war. In other words, the nation’s military arm is not the President’s possession to use as he desires. The sole grant of war-making power to Congress completely outweighs the mere designation of who shall be the commander of forces once a war starts. One would think that a law professor would know this.

The last congressional use of its constitutional authority to declare war occurred immediately after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Formal declarations of war were approved by Congress against Japan, Germany, and Italy. And the U.S. won against each of those struggles. No declarations of war were approved regarding subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more. Can the U.S. claim victory in those contests, especially if we are still undergoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Numerous Presidents have sent small military detachments to rescue Americans in danger, reply swiftly to some outrage perpetrated against our nation, etc.  And few, if any, disapproved of these moves and insisted that formal congressional declarations were needed. But war is something else and, according to the Constitution, if there is to be one, it must be formally declared.

If prominently placed professors of law and political science, who should already understand the Constitution but don’t, are waking up, then we should use this as an opportunity to further engage them and others on obeying the Constitution, returning the federal government to its constitutional limitations, and stop policing the world with authorization supplied by the United Nations or its NATO subsidiary. A return to the Constitution’s easily understood passages regarding war is long overdue.

Use today (Constitution Day) as a good excuse to learn more about the American system of government in Overview of America.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

The Mushrooming Trend to Skirt the Constitution

The Mushrooming Trend to Skirt the Constitution
by JBS President John F. McManus

Claims about global warming have been countered so effectively by a growing number of scientific skeptics that promoters of the flawed theory have abandoned use of the global warming term. They now refer only to climate change. But their goal remains the same: propagandize the public with predictions of calamites, and force a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions which they insist are heating the globe, melting polar icecaps, raising sea levels, causing weather-related catastrophes, creating droughts, and even impacting food production.

Above: William Jasper (right), from The New American, interviews Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, on climate change realism.

Carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from coal-fired power plants and automobiles, were targeted by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations agreement that the United States wisely refused to endorse. At Copenhagen in 2009, environmentalists hoped that the U.S. and other nations would sign on to a similar pact, but that gathering likewise produced nothing. Now, another UN-led try to force drastic cutbacks in carbon emissions will be held in Paris in mid-2015.

Not waiting for the Paris meeting, the Obama administration plans to add new requirements to an already existing 1992 treaty as a way to counter climate change. These will greatly stifle coal-fired energy production. Also, the Obama team will employ what is known as “reflexive law,” which is not a law in the full sense of the term but the use of pressure to force acceptance of some attitude or requirement that could not be gained legally.

Environmentalists have the ear of most journalists. Their impact on the public’s attitude regarding something as questionable as climate change can be considerable. It can lead to achievement of the desired goals by “naming and shaming” opponents, essentially browbeating them into compliance. The result would not be a law in the traditional sense but something called “soft law,” a combination of pressure and inevitability directed at opponents. If resistance persists, far more onerous government-imposed regulations – also unconstitutional – would be forthcoming.

Obama administration personnel plan to add their “soft law” gains to an existing 1992 treaty. Changes in a treaty, of course, should require approval by two-thirds of the Senate. A New York Times article entitled “Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of a Treaty” quoted Jake Schmidt, a National Resources Council expert, who noted that promoters of new regulations “are trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the two-thirds threshold” required by the Senate. Will the senators allow this?

President Obama has already boldly indicated that he will unconstitutionally use his pen to create law by Executive Order. Now, his administration intends to skirt the Constitution via “reflexive law” or “soft law.” He obviously doesn’t like the constitutional restrictions placed on a President. Will Congress allow such conduct to continue? Will the American people continue to elect members of Congress who won’t stop the drive toward total government?

Mr. Obama and his merry band of dictatorship builders have to be stopped. Blocking the plans noted above would be a good way to begin.

Contact your Senators and let them know you’re opposed to reflexive law.

Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.

Leaving Afghanistan After Its Enormous Costs

Leaving Afghanistan After Its Enormous Costs
By JBS President John F. McManus

President Obama’s announcement that U.S. forces will be pulled out of Afghanistan must have stimulated many somber memories among the families and friends of the 2,300 Americans who died there and the 19,770 who brought home wounds. Same for British families whose losses included 1,100 dead along with a smaller number from Germany and Italy. The U.S. sent forces into this war-torn country in November 2001, only two months after the 9/11 terrorist attack. At the peak of our nation’s commitment, 100,000 were on duty and 32,000 remain today. It is the longest war ever fought by our nation’s forces.

The president’s new plan calls for withdrawing half of the 32,000 by the end of 2014, drawing down to 9,800 by the end of 2015, and removing all but enough to guard our embassy by the end of 2016. Why not bring all but the embassy detail home immediately is a question few seem willing to ask.

The Obama timetable will allow the president to keep his promise to end the war by the time he leaves office in January 2017. If that’s his goal, he deserves utter contempt for having a personal political goal while continuing to jeopardize the lives of those still on station. If, instead, national security interests form his motivation, the slow withdrawal makes no sense because whatever threat remains will still be there for several additional years. His announced plan also counters sound military doctrine which has always held that a combatant should never signal an exit date to his enemy.

Unaddressed by the president, members of Congress, and our nation’s media is the role NATO has played in the decision to withdraw. The overall direction of the military effort in Afghanistan has been the prerogative of NATO for many years, and NATO is a United Nations subsidiary. The UN Charter mandates that all actions taken by NATO must be cleared by the UN.

Will pulling out from Afghanistan lead to the same type of chaos that Iraq has experienced since troops were withdrawn from that nation? Will the plan to continue training Afghan forces during the next two years lead to more trainees turning on their trainers, with deadly results for our troops? Why do forces from America and other nations have to spend lives and treasure keeping peace among the Afghans who have long been mired in tribal or religious wars? Will the overall mission change again as it has so often during the past 13 years – from chasing Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, to pacification of villages, to destroying poppy fields, to combatting the Taliban?

Immediately after 9/11, Congressman Ron Paul recommended that Congress use its constitutionally authorized power to issue letters of marque (seize) and reprisal (destroy) aimed at those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks. But President George W. Bush decided instead to go to war without the required congressional declaration of war – and Congress allowed him to proceed.

Now that the end of the Afghan tragedy is in sight, it would be comforting to see that those who arranged such a fiasco might be brought to account for what has long been a monumental tragedy.

To learn more about how terrorism is used as a tool to grow the federal government and the security state, visit our Terrorism issues page.

North American Leaders Meeting Today to Discuss Job-Killing Trade Agreement

North American Leaders Meeting Today to Discuss Job-Killing Trade Agreement
by JBS President John F. McManus

President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Harper, and Mexico’s President Pena Nieto met in Toluca, Mexico, on February 20. The most they could agree upon was the need to protect Monarch butterflies whose winter habitat happens to be losing its milkweed food source. But each of the three “amigos” (they enjoy using the term) wants to sink the three countries into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement involving twelve Pacific-rim nations – all the way from North America to Chile, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to North American business, civil society, and education leaders during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014 (official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon, some rights reserved).

Hoping to build on the 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the three leaders continued to claim that NAFTA was a huge success. Mr. Obama could have pointed instead to the loss of thousands of jobs, the creation of legal tribunals whose decisions trump U.S. law, even a more widely open border for illegal immigrants to stream into the U.S. But these consequences of NAFTA were never mentioned. One can only conclude that similar results will impact America if the TPP negotiations are completed and approved by Congress.

Right now, President Obama is seeking “fast track authority” that allows him to bypass congressional intervention on the way to an up or down TPP vote by Congress with no amendments. He told reporters at the meeting in Mexico, “We’ll get this passed if it’s a good agreement,” and he has already indicated that, for him, it is good. If Congress concurs, they will have ceded more of their constitutional authority to the ever-growing power of the Executive Branch.

Asked by his fellow amigos about progress toward enactment of TPP, Obama acknowledged twin difficulties, first with gaining fast-track authority and then with hammering out details that include immigration legislation, labor rules, and environmental regulations. He thereby confirmed that this newly desired trade pact deals with far more than just trade.

Customarily reliable congressional Democrats including Senate leader Harry Reid have expressed reluctance to approve the president’s fast-track request. But trusting Harry Reid to do what’s right for America is a risky proposition. Other members of Congress are voicing objections to the pact because of the results of NAFTA. They seem likely to turn thumbs down not only on TPP but also on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union scheduled for consideration in 2015.

America doesn’t need more “free trade” agreements that are never free and have lots more than trade in their hundreds of pages. Members of Congress can stop plans to plunge our country into such pacts and thereby avoid more job losses, more dilution of sovereignty, and more unneeded illegal immigration. History shows that supposed “free trade” agreements means economic union. And economic union is regularly followed by political union – as the 28 nations now caught in the European Union have discovered. They were told that they were joining a mere trade group that would enhance commerce. But they have discovered that they no longer control their own destiny.

Congress can stop these entanglements. It’s an election year when members listen more intently to constituents. Stopping TPP and TTIP should be the goal.

Learn more about how you can help by visiting Choose Freedom–Stop the Free Trade Agenda.

Making Law Through Executive Orders Is Unconstitutional

Making Law Through Executive Orders Is Unconstitutional
by JBS President John F. McManus

In his 2014 State of the Union Speech, President Barack Obama asserted that he would “take steps without legislation” to accomplish his goals. He had earlier mentioned using his “pen” to force his will on the American people. He referred, of course, to the practice of making law by decree in the form of presidential executive orders.

Obama would hardly be the first to force his will on our nation. George Washington thought he could do so when, in 1793, he proclaimed neutrality in the war between France and England. In doing so, he usurped authority belonging to Congress. Madison and Jefferson vehemently protested because the president’s order bound every American, not just government workers. They knew that it would be proper for a president, acting much the same as a corporation leader would act, to issue an order binding workers under his command. But he could not legally bind the hands of all Americans with an executive order.

When a citizen violated Washington’s neutrality executive order, he was arrested and tried for his action. But a federal court acquitted him on the grounds that a presidential decree aimed at all Americans was an invalid exercise of authority. (Would that we had federal justices who would similarly view presidential wrong-doing!) A chastened Washington then asked Congress to replace his order with its own legislation accomplishing the goal in a constitutional manner, and Congress did as requested. Washington issued no further executive orders aimed at the people.

But many future presidents have employed executive orders – all with no constitutional authority. Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued more than a thousand. Yet, Article I, Section 1, Sentence 1 of the Constitution states that “All legislative power” resides in Congress. Law-making by the Executive Branch violates that very clear mandate.

During the Clinton presidency, aide Paul Begala praised his boss’s reliance on the practice. He actually stated, “Stroke of the pen; law of the land, kinda cool.” But Democrats are not alone in employing this violation of the Constitution. In 1970, President Nixon used his pen to issue an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Every president during the 20th century engaged in the practice.

It can’t be stated too often that law-making is the sole prerogative of the Legislative Branch. But when that branch allows the executive-order practice to continue, it even escalates. As long as congressional failure to assert its sole authorized power is allowed to continue, executive orders will continue to saddle the American people with rules and regulations that might never have arisen had the Constitution’s very first sentence (after the Preamble) been obeyed.

Next time you meet with your congressman or senator, ask why he or she allows this clear violation of the Constitution.