The White House and the Pentagon, with their totally illegal assassination of Iran’s leading general, Qassem Soleimani, have opened up a new era of confrontation that could plunge the Middle East into more war, suffering and devastation.
As the U.S. rushes thousands more troops to the area, the cost of war in both human lives and dollars for the Pentagon and its military contractors keeps mounting.
According to the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. This was reaffirmed by the War Powers Act of 1973, during the U.S. war in Vietnam.
The Democrats currently have a majority in the House while Republicans control the Senate, the more powerful of the two and long considered a millionaires’ club.
How are they responding to the recent usurpation of power by the executive branch of the government?
A few young, newly elected Democrats in the House like Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, as well as Bernie Sanders in the Senate, have strongly condemned Trump’s move and called for getting U.S. troops out. They reflect the fact that the prospect of more undeclared wars is deeply unpopular in this country.
The Democratic Party leaders, however, have a history of backing every imperialist war of the past. “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” was a favorite slogan of anti-war protesters during the Vietnam War — a thoroughly bipartisan disaster.
Will the Democratic Party leaders limit themselves to playing to public opinion and criticizing Trump where that gets them votes? What about taking a stand by demanding that Congress reassert its right under the Constitution as the sole body empowered to declare war?
The U.S. government, with bipartisan support, has waged wars around the world for generations – without ever declaring war.
The Korean War of 1950-53 — with its scorched-earth destruction inflicted on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — killed millions of Koreans and nearly 40,000 U.S. troops, according to official figures. Congress never declared war. The Pentagon called it a “police action.”
More than 3.4 million people died in the Vietnam War. The overwhelming majority were Vietnamese. Nearly 60,000 U.S. soldiers also died. Congress never declared war.
The U.S. has been bombing countries in the Middle East and sending young soldiers to their deaths there for decades. Congress has never declared war.
The Democratic Party has a majority in the House of Representatives. It could demand that the government live up to the Constitution and not attack other countries without a declaration of war.
Such a demand could be the opening wedge of a broader struggle NOT to go to war, declared or undeclared.
The undeclared war that devastated Vietnam became so unpopular that in 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Act, restating the requirement that a president get approval from Congress before committing the U.S. to an armed conflict.
However, as the New York Times pointed out on Jan. 7, “Congress’s control over decisions about going to war has been eroding for generations, and administrations of both parties have established precedents that undercut the resolution as a meaningful check on presidential war-making authority.”
For the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen, wars promoted by the U.S., whether declared or undeclared, are real. They have killed millions and reduced vast sections of these lands to rubble.
This area, which includes North Africa, had once been described in the West — the imperialist countries of Europe and North America — as the cradle of civilization. For centuries, these societies existed together in relative peace. Many shared a religion — Islam — as a buffer against the Christian Europeans.
But in the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain and France invaded these resource-rich areas and turned them into lucrative colonies. Germany tried to seize control over them in World War II, but lost.
After that war, the anti-colonial struggle liberated them from at least direct political control by the weakened colonial powers.
For decades since then, U.S. imperialism has been trying to recolonize them — in essence, if not in name. Its brazen assassination of Soleimani is part of that effort.
The only answer to this brutal history is to rebuild a united, working-class anti-war movement here, independent of both capitalist political parties. It will draw its strength instead from the millions in this country eager to fight exploitation, repression, racism, sexism, xenophobia, injustice and inequality, while building solidarity against imperialism and war.