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When Congress Tests Authority, Military Brings Out Big Guns

Now that key senators have introduced measures that would end U.S.-aided hostilities in Yemen, we can expect that a coordinated backlash from the military establishment is imminent.

The multi-trillion-dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex (MICC) has a business model for scuttling legislation that would end or curtail the involvement of the United States in military operations overseas.This typically involves leaking classified falsehoods, i.e., a false statement that the executive branch has classified to prohibit disclosure to the general public on the theory that disclosure might damage the national security of the United States (Executive Order 13526). Typically they will purport to demonstrate catastrophic danger or damage to the United States if Congress ends a use of the United States Armed Forces (USAF) in a designated conflict. Leaks like these will tend to fall into the hands of favored columnists like David Ignatius of The Washington Post or Tom Friedman of The New York Times

On February 28, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced S.J. Res. 54 to terminate use of the USAF to support Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen’s Houthis. A vote is expected this week.

The Houthis are fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS in Yemen. They were uninvolved 9/11, and they have never threatened aggression against the United States. In sum, Yemen’s Houthis are no more relevant to the national security of the United States than was Fiume or Trieste in the aftermath of World War I.

But the classified falsehoods that the MICC will selectively leak in the forthcoming days to kill S.J. Res. 54 will argue the opposite. Among other things, they will assert in official language that if the Senate Resolution passes, the global credibility of the United States will be irreparably impaired. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban will be emboldened to attack the United States; and, our allies, including NATO members, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, will lose confidence in our willingness to defend them.

The same bogus credibility argument was made to justify the ill-conceived and ill-fated Vietnam War. After it ended in 1975, Communist China attacked Vietnam, but it did not attack any of America’s allies,  including Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan. And the Berlin Wall crumbled fourteen years later.

The MICC falsehoods will also maintain that Iran, which provides indeterminate military assistance to the Houthis, will be emboldened to seek restoration of the Persian Empire under Cyrus and Darius. It might initiate hostilities against Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. It might flout the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that restricts its nuclear ambitions, and augment its forces now assisting President Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. And these developments will jeopardize the United States because Iran is listed as a state-sponsor of terrorism.

But the national security nightmare that these falsehoods portend if S.J.Res. 54 passes vanishes upon close examination. Turkey, a NATO member, would never permit Iran to become a regional hegemon. Israel is willing and able to prevent Iranian domination of Lebanon or Syria. Iran would find itself in a Vietnam-style quagmire fighting Sunnis who would unite in opposition to a Shiite theocracy. The twin sects generally view each other as infidels. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are far from invincible. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein fought them to a standstill in the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War. Finally, upheaval or instability in the Middle East does not threaten the United States. The Arab Spring toppled dictators like tenpins without material repercussions for Americans. In actuality, a national security policy that spent billions on invincible self-defense but not one cent for racing abroad in search of monsters to destroy would make Americans the safest people world history.


Finally, if these classified falsehoods were credible, the MICC should be able to convince majorities in the House and Senate to introduce specific authorizations for continuing U.S. aid to the Saudi-led coalition now bombing and blockading Yemen. So far, the U.S. has aided the Saudis with mid-air refueling capabilities and aerial surveillance for their targeting bombing of Yemen with no authorization, which is a violation of the War Powers Act.

Simply put, the predictable attack on S.J.Res. 54 by the military through favored media figures that will be witnessed in the forthcoming days should be taken cum granis saltis, in other words, with a grain of salt.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and The Lichfield Group.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "When Congress Tests Authority, Military Brings Out Big Guns"

#1 Comment By William McQuaid On March 12, 2018 @ 12:05 am

The corrupt MICC rationale in Yemen reflects the exact same false preemptive rationale used in Iraq back in 2003. What were Mr. Fein’s comments then? I trust it was his “defensive”, not “preemptive strike” posture.

North Korea (after its first nuclear test success) in 2002 was caught shipping missiles to Yemen. Nukes in that region are a national security threat. As Yemen was a haven for Al Qaeda, why were there no actions taken on North Korea or Yemen then? Iraq.
Today Yemen is seen as a security threat when it’s now weaker than ever. And somehow we’ve found North Korea is a very convenient and powerful distraction.
The MICC is definitely on its game.

#2 Comment By Dietrich Klose On March 12, 2018 @ 12:18 am

Thank you, it’s important to clearly tell this.
But please, use Latin correctly or leave it:
cum grano salis

#3 Comment By Realist On March 12, 2018 @ 1:48 am

Damn few in our government are trying stop war.

#4 Comment By Donald On March 12, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

I suspect an even more effective approach will be to have Tge issue largely ignored by the msm. That has worked so far, the leftwing group FAIR released a study a month or two back showing that MSNBC had talked about Russiagate an enormous amount ( they had numbers, but I don’t recall them) and barely mentioned Yemen at all through 2017. Tge irony is that here you have a clear cut example of Trump collaborating with a foreign power, the Saudis, in committing crimes against humanity and they ignore it. Of course the problem is the policy began under Obama and Tge Saudis collaborate with both political parties.

#5 Comment By Donald On March 12, 2018 @ 12:22 pm

“ the issue” , not Tge issue. I think my iPad might actually think Tge is a word, because I see it a lot in my posts and I am not capitalizing the letter t in the middle of sentences.

#6 Comment By Donald On March 12, 2018 @ 12:27 pm

Here is the FAIR report on MSNBC, Yemen, and Russia


#7 Comment By Michael Kenny On March 12, 2018 @ 12:42 pm

The advantage of ending US participation in Yemen (as in Afghanistan) and of a settlement with North Korea is that they concentrate US attention on the real enemy: Putin. The global credibility of the United States was already irreparably impaired by Obama’s failure to stand up firmly to Putin in Ukraine. Thus, whatever military “backlash” there might be will probably be concentrated on upping the ante in Ukraine and Syria. Putin is hopelessly bogged down in Syria and is a sitting duck. He can’t abandon Assad and the US can re-launch the war at any time, and in any way, it wants. There’s almost no sympathy for Putin in Congress and for the general public, “Russia” has a familiar cold war ring to it, reinforced, of course, by Putin’s American supporters’ habit of assimilating the Russian Federation to the Soviet Union.
By the way, Fiume and Trieste were actually highly relevant to the national security of the United States. It’s just that few Americans realised it. Under the original Versailles system, the US was to be the guarantor of the post-WWI settlement. When it refused to do that, it opened the door to revisionists of all sorts, most notably Mussolini and Hitler. Getting rid of them cost 177 000 American lives. After WWII, the US did act as guarantor of the post war settlement. That led to the Cold War but the settlement was upheld despite several Soviet attempts to overturn it. What has destroyed US credibility is its failure to uphold the post-cold war settlement and the only way to restore that credibility is to get Putin out of Ukraine. That very obvious route will certainly be the one any military “backlash” takes.

#8 Comment By b. On March 12, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

*Congressional*-military-industrial-counterterrorism-surveillance-defense-security-consulting complex.

Eisenhower did precious little to fight what was normalized under his watch, and he even redacted his own words, but any full description of the self-gratifying feedback loop that is the public-private profit extraction blood mill of the “national securities” con has to begin with Congress. Anything else is just another con in its on right – just like Eisenhower’s incomplete Farewell Address.

#9 Comment By Donald On March 12, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

Kenny’s posts are useful because you can see in one commenter the mindset that drives our interventions. It has nothing to do with humanitarian motives or moral consistency. We and our Arab allies poured billions into arming Syrian Rebels and the war has dragged on for years, killing hundreds of thousands. This was a plus for some in our national security state as they hoped Syria would be Putin’s Afghanistan. Kenny, echoing them, sees a golden opportunity to keep Russia bogged down by keeping the war going. And then, no doubt, we can condemn Assad for his indiscriminate bombing and killing of civilians as Syria descends yet further into sectarian bloodletting.

Foreign policy has a way of turning people into psychopaths.

#10 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 12, 2018 @ 8:22 pm

WPA to AUMF, PA . . .

In the nebulous meaning of those policies terrorists are whoever the intended targets are.

Unless the Saudis put boots on the ground . . . this is bound to be a messy no end in sight or intended endeavour. I think the Suadi government has a myriad of tools at their disposal to once again have a successful relationship with the Houthis. I think if they are genuinely concerned about Houthi-Iranian cooperation, it’s probably a bad idea to further destabilize Yemen in which any number of parties can engage in nefarious behavior covered by the chaos — sounds an unwise policy.

Even though, I understand supplying the Saudis, it seems a careless relations that asks or fails to press for a description of the endgame – why and how. In the end the Houthis won the day in a fight they should have lost as the weaker party, and all sides be best to deal with as adults.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 12, 2018 @ 8:42 pm

“The global credibility of the United States was already irreparably impaired by Obama’s failure to stand up firmly to Putin in Ukraine. Thus, whatever military “backlash” there might be will probably be concentrated on upping the ante in Ukraine and Syria.”

The credibility of the US, for those of us that think credibility is an essential tool in foreign policy — hit the skids by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. It was further damaged by our occupation failures and or ineptitude. That credibility already in trouble was further sunk by encouraging a needless violent revolution in the Ukraine, Syria and Libya. We made it easy for Pres. Putin to appear the elder wise and peace loving diplomat by our lack of any diplomacy at all.

It’s a tough haul to listen to anyone who supported invading Iraq as a credible strategically wise choice.

#12 Comment By Truthful James On March 12, 2018 @ 10:05 pm

You all ignoring the root c a use which allow the inefficiencies of the military contractor Congressional Complex — hiding the mess from the citizens.

The solution: ,ring back the draft. We are a Republic. Let the electees respond to their Citizens.

#13 Comment By Alex Ingrum On March 13, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

Why isn’t Bernie Sanders our President?
He is one of the few men or women in Congress with any moral and ethical backbone. I may not agree with all of his policy prescriptions, but this man stands up for justice and fairness like no other politician in my lifetime (a short 40 years).