15 April 2018   Leave a comment

A bipartisan group of US Congresspeople sent a letter to President Trump asking for the legal justification for his two military strikes on Syria (one in 2017 and one a few days ago).  Many of these legislators believe that only Congress has the right to declare war and that a military strike in response to a chemical attack is not covered by Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) which was passed right after the attacks on American soil on 11 September 2001.  That AUMF and its update only authorize attacks against groups associated with those attacks and the is no evidence that the Syrian government was involved at all in those attacks.  President Trump, like previous US Presidents argues that the authority stems from Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution which simply reads: “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States”.  Thanks to a tip from my younger son, Zachary, I learned of an interesting article in The Intercept.  In The Intercept, Jon Schwarz argues that the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice defends the President’s use of force in a memo which has been classified as secret and has been seen by no one outside of a special group of people which does not include the Congress.  According to Schwarz:

“What makes Trump’s actions new, according to several legal experts I spoke with, is that previous presidents appear to have always made public their legal justification for any overt military action on a significant scale. No matter how shoddy their explanations were, this at least made debate possible.

“The only reason the existence of the 2017 OLC memo on Syria is public knowledge is because the organization Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit to compel the Justice Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request that the OLC provide “the President’s legal authority to launch such a strike.”

“The OLC refused — but did produce an index of relevant documents. The first on the list is key: As described by the OLC, it is a ‘Legal Memo’ that ‘is currently classified TOP SECRET.’”

“Soon after the 2017 strikes, two prominent Democrats, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff from California, wrote to Trump and requested ‘a detailed analysis of the legal precedents and authorities supporting the action in Syria.’ They have not received any response.”

It seems as if that memo will never see the light of day.


One point should be kept in  mind as the world debates the utility or legality of the recent military strikes against Syria:  more people have been killed in chemical weapons attacks in Syria this year than have been granted refugee status in the US.  According to The Guardian:  “America resettled 15,479 Syrian refugees in 2016. Under Trump, only 3,024 Syrians were allowed in during 2017 and only 11 so far in 2018.”  About 40 Syrians were killed in the chemical attack against Douma last week, but there have been many hundreds of Syrians killed so far in the civil war and over 500,000 since 2011.  And there are 12 million Syrian refugees.


Robert Kuttner has published a new book entitled Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?  He is interviewed on National Public Radio by Terry Gross and he links the process of globalization to changes in the conduct of capitalists and how that change affected the politics of liberal societies:

“I think you have to go back to what happened after World War II, which was a quite remarkable moment in history when laissez faire capitalism, which brought us the Great Depression, had obviously failed. And the capitalism that was prevalent in the 1920s did not just produce the Great Depression, it produced Hitler because unemployment rates were so high and austerity policies were so perverse that people turned to fascists because they were desperate. It’s very hard for democracies to survive 20 and 30 percent unemployment.

“So the people after World War II who founded the post-war system said, we are never going to let this happen again. And so they built a global system that was compatible with a system of managed capitalism domestically so that prosperity would be broadly distributed. Now, globalization, beginning in the ’70s and the ’80s, overturned that system to the point where economic insecurity increased to the point where ordinary people lost confidence in elites to the point where, in country after country after country, the far-right fill that vacuum very much the way it did in the 1920s.”

I suspect that it is not just high rates of unemployment that lead ordinary citizens to lose faith.  It also occurs when they believe that the system as a whole is rigged against their interests, no matter what the unemployment rate may be.

Posted April 15, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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