The House Armed Services Committee just passed a defense appropriations bill filled with moral contradictions and illogical absurdities. Consider:
It removes some racist symbols in the military, but preserves Trump's ability to use the military against anti-racist demonstrators.
It abdicates Congress' responsibility to declare war, but prevents the executive branch from moving toward peace.
It was passed by elected officials, but gives a single general the ability to overrule an elected branch of government.
It requires officials to state definitively that removing troops won't harm security interests, but not to say whether keeping them there will -- despite the destabilizing and destructive impact of our troop presence to date in the Middle East.
It is supported by deficit hawks, but would result in 50 percent higher military spending than the last Cold War budget.
The Military and Racism
The Committee's version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the removal of Confederate names and flags from military bases. That is an unequivocally good and important thing. Most Americans now understand that the Confederacy was a brief and violent insurrection against lawful authority, conducted solely to help a few wealthy people keep holding other people in brutal bondage. Forcing Black servicemembers and civilians to live and work in the presence of these names and symbols was an extension of slavery culture.
But a number of House Democrats joined with Republicans to block restrictions on Trump's ability (or a future president's) to use the military against peaceful protestors, as Trump threatened to do against Black Lives Matter protesters in early June of this year. Another Republican, Sen. Tom Cotton (considered a potential presidential candidate) tweeted:
"...if necessary, (use) the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."
Cotton, a former military officer, understands that "no quarter" means refusing to accept the lawful surrender of an enemy. Cotton and Trump were talking about the Insurrection Act, a 213-year-old law which gives the president the power to use the military inside the country under certain circumstances. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) drafted an amendment in response to these threats, and to the misuse of paramilitary police forces against BLM demonstrators which would have limited that power. It was killed, however, with the help of Democrats on Committee like Reps. Kendra Horn (Okla.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Jared Golden (Maine), Elaine Luria (Va.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.) and Gil Cisneros (Calif.)
Some people point out that the Insurrection Act has been used for good, most notably when Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy used troops to protect brave Black children who were integrating Southern schools. But the Escobar amendment would not have prevented that. It would have merely required the president to certify that states were unwilling or unable to quell an unlawful disturbance or rebellion, and have given Congress the ability to terminate a president's use of the Act.
The result? Trump can still send troops to attack Black demonstrators, but they'll be deployed from bases with more politically correct names.
The Opposite of Authority
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