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When Does "Support and Defend" the Constitution Become Enforceable?

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At what point does "support and defend" become enforceable law? The Oath of Office of congressmen, military officers, and the president, required by Article 6 of the Constitution and, in the case of military officers, by an Act of Congress 13 May 1884, says in substance:

 "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;...So help me God."

Notably absent is any mention of enemies of our territorial integrity, or support or defense of elected office holders, including the president.  By conspicuous absence it was made clear where primary loyalty must lie.  The intriguing possibility is that the Founders didn't really care what the territory consisted of, or who was nominally in charge of it.  America was to be a system of laws where citizens held, according to the Declaration of Independence which preceded the Constitution, certain "inalienable rights," i.e. rights seen as given by God which man could not take away:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it..."

That the right to a jury trial (and not just habaes corpus), recently eliminated by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, was seen by the Founders as one of the "inalienable rights" was expressed by Thomas Jefferson:

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

Remarkably, the Framers affirmed that the "securing" of these rights is not only just one reason for having a government, but the reason for its very existence:

"...that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it..."

That the Declaration of Independence is as important a founding document as the Constitution, perhaps more so, was expressed when the Supreme Court declared in 1897:

   The Constitution is the body and letter of which the Declaration of Independence is the thought and the spirit, and it is always safe to read the letter of the Constitution in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

    The Constitution itself connects itself to the Declaration of Independence by dating itself from the date of the Declaration of Independence, thereby showing clearly that it is the second great document in the government of these United States and is not to be understood without the first.

Therefore the question.  Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution declares:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

But unless we hold the oath the Founders required to be meaningless, an exercise in padding with extra words that the remarkably concise and pithy Framers were not known for, then "war" included the intrigues of "domestic enemies" against the primary object of nationhood which all office holders are required to defend, which is the US Constitution.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 constitutes a clear attack upon it, in its blatant abridgement of the Sixth Amendment Right to a Jury Trial:

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Now that we know NDAA clearly includes American citizens (addendum below because knowledge is power,) the question is, if the Oath to support and defend the Constitution has no meaning in practice, and is never to be enforced, should it, in the interest of avoiding rank hypocrisy and contradiction before the eyes of the world, be simply eliminated?  Should the oath-taker be spared the embarrassment and affront to honor of repeating words which have no meaning, each time an office holder or military officer raises his or her hand from this point forward?

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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