News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: AG Gonzales: War Not Declared

Friday, February 10, 2006

AG Gonzales: War Not Declared

I noticed while watching US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales explicitly stated that the US is not at war. I commented on this on Glenn Greenwald’s live blogging from the Senate that day. [Glenn is a former litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges.]

I am not sure whether Glenn saw my comments or discerned it himself, but he notes this in a recent blog posting.

Here is Greenwald’s quotation of the Gonzales testimony:

GONZALES: There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaida or in Iraq. It was an authorization to use military force.

I only want to clarify that, because there are implications. Obviously, when you talk about a war declaration, you're possibly talking about affecting treaties, diplomatic relations. And so there is a distinction in law and in practice. And we're not talking about a war declaration. This is an authorization only to use military force. [Greenwald’s emphasis]
For Greenwald, this means that
The DoJ -- somewhere along the line and for strategic reasons that I confess I haven’t been able to figure out fully yet -- decided it was important for them to take the position that the AUMF is not a declaration of war. Thus, according to the DoJ, there has been no declaration of war from Congress as to any of these conflicts.
These observations, for me, are important for several reasons:
  • If we are not at war, then the President continues to deceive the American public and the world by talking in these terms. The only reason he does so is to instill fear into people for underhanded political reasons.
  • He and his followers use the background of war to argue that he has a right to exercise extraordinary powers that he could not otherwise do in time of peace. These powers include incarcerating people in military prisons and depriving them of rights, spying overseas and domestically, and bolstering his image as a war-time President.

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