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Response to Letter from Senator Bill Nelson Concerning Independence Day

I received a holiday message from one of my senators with the customary admonishment about how grateful I should be to the government and its soldiers for my supposed freedom. I felt compelled to remind the senator that freedom is an inherent, inalienable right, bestowed by my creator and not by any government, and to refute this preposterous claim that invading third world countries is somehow making me freer. As one forced to pay for all of this, I find the claim particularly distasteful on the 4th of July. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I reprint his letter and my response here, so that the facts can be submitted to a candid world.

July 3, 2011

Dear Thomas,

I gave my Fourth of July message in the Senate this past week, and would like to share it with you. 

Some 235 years ago this weekend, John Adams proclaimed that July 2 would mark the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  It was on that day the Continental Congress declared the 13 colonies free and independent of Great Britain’s crown.  It was two days after that when Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was adopted.

And when did Americans first celebrate their independence?

Philadelphia is said to have thrown a big party on July 8, 1776, including a parade and the firing of guns.  George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the news on July 9 and celebrated then.  But in 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.  Ten years later, the young nation’s celebration was dubbed Independence Day.

This Independence Day, I hope every American will stop and think for just a minute about our freedoms – and just how much we owe those who came here long before us and mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.   And let us also remember the young men and women who have died in defense of those freedoms.

We traditionally observe the Fourth with fireworks and fanfare, pomp and parade.  But today we remain engaged in far-away struggles to promote and protect the rights of others who, like us, value freedom and independence.  Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are spending their Fourth in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of world.

I recently was reminded of the commitment and selfless sacrifice demonstrated by one of America’s World War II veterans, who lives in my state of Florida.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Rickel, of Boca Raton, served as a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress.  Sgt. Rickel survived the daring bombing campaign of Schweinfurt, Germany in October 1943, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism or extraordinary achievement.

Sgt. Rickel and all the military members and all their families knew the risks and sacrifices they were making were worth it.   As President Reagan once said, “Some things are worth dying for … democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

Indeed, our democracy is something to celebrate.  I wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July.


July 4, 2011

Senator Nelson,

The founders of our republic considered democracy “the most vile form of government” (James Madison). They did everything they could to try to limit the power that the majority had over the individual. That’s why they founded “a republic, if you can keep it” (Benjamin Franklin). Obviously, we have failed.

They also objected to the existence of standing armies during peacetime and would likely be taking up arms again if they were taxed by their government for anything other than defense of their own property. While I respect the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers, it is apparent that they are grossly misinformed. There is no cause-effect relationship between the wars that the United States has been involved in, at least since WWII, and what freedom we have left, which diminishes every day. I challenge anyone advancing this sophism to explain exactly how Americans would be less free if we had not invaded Korea, Viet Nam, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Of course any such explanation would be a list of non sequiturs and absurdities.

As a net taxpayer, I grow increasingly irritated by the ubiquitous exhortations by politicians and media figures to be “grateful to the troops for my freedom,” with the implicit accusation that I am not grateful enough. Even if one accepts the preposterous claim that these wars are making us freer, the gratitude should be directed at those who pay for all of this. I see no reason why I should be grateful to someone whose salary, expenses, education, and sometimes even retirement are all paid for by me – while I have to try to pay for all of those same expenses for myself and my family with what is left after the government’s rapacious taxation.

I for one will not be celebrating our democracy today. Rather, I will celebrate our lost republic in the hopes that it can one day be restored. I hope you will consider my thoughts on this matter and govern accordingly.

Best regards, 

Tom Mullen

Fighting For Our Freedom?

iraq warTo even question the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the now-institutionalized worldwide military empire being maintained by the U.S. government draws tourrettes-like attacks from all who identify themselves as conservatives.  Not only are critics of U.S. foreign policy accused of being unpatriotic or even traitorous, but conservatives routinely go so far as to label them ungrateful.  The argument goes that critics of the empire enjoy the freedom of speech with which they criticize the government only because the military has fought to defend that freedom.  Therefore, those who oppose the present wars or our military presence around the world should be ashamed of themselves for “biting the hand that feeds them.”

Of course, this argument rests upon an assumption.  The assumption is that if the U.S. had not fought any of its past or current wars or had not maintained its military presence around the world, that we would have lost some or all of our freedom.  This fundamental assumption is never questioned (or I suspect even considered) by supporters of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that it completely disintegrates under even superficial examination.

Let’s give conservatives WWII for now, Pat Buchanan’s interesting arguments notwithstanding.  Is there any credible argument to be made regarding any of the major wars that the United States has waged since 1945 wherein one could conclude that not fighting it would have resulted in a loss of freedom for Americans?  What chain of events can any reasonable person construct whereby U.S. citizens would have lost their freedom if not for the invasions of Korea, Viet  Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?

The first two post-WWII wars were justified for ostensibly the same reason.  We supposedly had to prevent the communist governments of North Korea and North Viet Nam from taking over South Korea and South Viet Nam, respectively, because if we did not, communism would spread like a virus throughout all of Asia and eventually the world.  This was the so-called “Domino Theory.”  While anyone with a globe that is more or less correctly scaled can see through the ridiculousness of the argument in terms of Korea, one need not even resort to conjecture to refute this argument regarding the Viet Nam war.  History has shown in its case that the domino theory was completely untrue.

North Viet Nam did take over South Viet Nam.  The U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat and the very outcome that the U.S. had spent 14 years, the lives of 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to prevent came to pass.  The communists took over all of Viet Nam.

Did American citizens lose any freedom as a result?  No.  In fact, as young men were no longer conscripted into the army to participate in this futile exercise, anti-war protestors were no longer being suppressed, and a huge chunk of government spending was eliminated (in theory, anyway), Americans were actually far freer once the war was lost than they were while it was being fought.

There is no argument to be made, no matter how far logic is stretched or how much disbelief is suspended, that Americans lost any freedom as a result of the loss of the Viet Nam war.  Therefore, the assertion that the troops fighting it were “fighting for our freedom” must be false.

Moreover, communism didn’t spread like wildfire beyond Viet Nam. After approximately 12 years, it imploded there just as it did in China at about the same time.  In the mid-1980’s, the Vietnamese began transitioning to a market economy, just as China did.  Today, both countries are arguably as capitalist as the United States, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

As for Korea, the most generous conclusion one could come to regarding the “fighting for our freedom” theory is that the jury is still out – sixty years later.  U.S. troops are still stationed at the 38th parallel, supposedly keeping the communist barbarians from taking over South Korea as a stepping stone to the rest of the world.  Here speculation is certainly necessary, but not random speculation.  While it certainly would not be a postive outcome for South Koreans, can anyone seriously argue that if North Korea took over South Korea tomorrow that American freedom would be lost or even noticeably diminished?  How?

Fast forward 25 years and consider the present war in Iraq.  That war was started based upon on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was preparing to use against its neighbors to destablize the Middle East.  Let’s pretend for a moment that this assertion was not proven completely false.  Exactly how would another war in the Middle East, which would presumably resemble Iraq’s ten-year war with Iran, jeapordize the freedom of American citizens?  What cause and effect relationship could possibly be established between Middle Eastern politics and American freedom?  This question has to be answered before the “fighting for our freedom” assertion can be proven.

There is only one answer: none.  The Middle East has been unstable for thousands of years, and freedom has come and gone for countless western nations regardless of political devleopments in the Middle East, with the exception of the actual invasions of Western Europe by Muslim nations in the Middle Ages.  Those were ultimately defeated.  Certainly today the Middle Eastern nations pose no military threat to Europe, much less the United States.  To assert that Afghanistan could possibly threaten American freedom borders upon the absurd.

Putting the active wars aside for the moment, any objective observer would be even harder pressed to conclude that the U.S. military presence in the other 135 countries in which the U.S. maintains troops is contributing anything toward American freedom.  Can anyone seriously argue that if the U.S. government were to remove the 56,000 troops presently stationed in Germany that American freedom would somehow be jeopardized?  How?  The same question applies to  the 33,000 troops in Japan, the 10,000 in Italy, and so on.  There is simply no reasonable argument to be made that Americans would be one iota less free if all of these troops were to come home.

Warfare conducted for any purpose other than defending the borders of the nation does not make Americans freer.  On the contrary, it destroys freedom without exception.  More of Americans’ property is confiscated in taxes to support warfare.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Opponents of the war are rounded up and imprisoned or exiled.  Privacy is destroyed by the government in search of enemy spies or saboteurs.  These destructions of freedom have occurred during every war that the United States has ever fought, including all of the wars of the past 60 years.

Furthermore, America’s vast military presence in countries where no active war is being fought also results in less freedom for Americans.  Regardless of the public relations efforts of the U.S. military establishment, foreign troops are universally regarded the same way by the citizens of countries where they are stationed: they are resented.  This resentment breeds terrorism in some countries and other forms of protest in others.  Americans traveling abroad are much less free in what they can do, where they can safely go, and where they are welcome because of resentment born of U.S. troops stationed in foreign nations.

As Randolph Bourne famously observed, “war is the health of the state,” and the state is the enemy of freedom.  America was founded upon the idea that the state was “at best a necessary evil” and that there was an inverse relationship between war and liberty.  James Madison wrote that if “tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. No Nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  History has proven him correct.  In the post-WWII era, the wars have become more numerous and longer and government has grown exponentionally.  With the expansion of war and the state, freedom has diminished.

This is not an argument for pacifisim or against the actual soldiers.  We live in a world with other nations that pose a threat to our lives and liberty and there must be some means to defend ourselves against an aggressor nation.  Whatever their reasons for joining, the men and women who serve in our miltary do make a huge sacrifice.  The overwhelming majority of them serve honorably both on the battlefield and off.  They join believing that they are defending our nation and freedom and the blame for our foreign policy does not rest with them.  A military force cannot function with each of its members questioning every order before carrying it out.  They have an obligation to disobey an order which is obviously immoral, such as shooting a non-combatant or torturing a prisoner, but beyond situations like those they must carry out their orders without question.  They place a sacred trust in their civilian leaders to deploy them only when it is absolutely necessary.

It is those civilian leaders who have violated that trust over and over again for the past sixty years.  It is they who have not supported our troops, spending their lives like so much loose change in wars that have been fought for everything but freedom.  They have sent them to countries that pose no military threat to the United States whatsoever and then tied their hands with rules of engagement that, whether intentionally or not, have prolonged those wars for years and even decades.  There can be no greater insult to the honor of brave soldiers than to exhort them to give their lives defending freedom when in fact freedom is not at issue in the war.

The United States government is broke.  It has accumulated a debt that can never legitimately be repaid.  While entitlement programs are ultimately far more economically destructive, costing over twice as much as U.S. military adventures, the $700 billion annual military budget is the next largest contributor to the deficits.  Of that $700 billion, less than $200 billion is spent fighting the two current active wars.  An active war should represent the high water mark of government spending, yet most of our military expenditures go to support standing armies in places like Germany and Japan.

It is evident that the military could be downsized by orders of magnitude without jeapordizing U.S. security in the least.  In fact, the U.S. would be far more secure without troops in 135 countries inspiring resentment against Americans and fighting wars against nations that could not launch a military attack against the United States in anyone’s wildest dreams.  Most importantly, the lives of hundreds of thousands of our troops, their opponents, and the innocent civilians in the countries that they fight in would be spared.

The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.  This assertion is at best a destructive delusion and at worst an insidious lie, told by people who care nothing for our troops or the civilians they defend.  It is time to stop believing the lie and to truly support our troops.  Bring them home.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why Must We Declare War?

Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1In May of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without a formal declaration of war. While there has been spirited debate about the justification for the war, there has been relatively little discussion about the lack of a formal declaration of war by Congress. When it has been brought up by libertarians and strict constitutionalists, the general argument against concern over this “formality” has been to point out H.J. Res. 114 (October 16, 2002), wherein Congress authorized the use of military force. The substance of the argument boils down to, “Congress authorized the president to use military force, so what is the difference between that and a declaration of war?

As we will see, there is a fundamental difference between a declaration of war and an authorization to use force. In fact, it is a distinction of enormous importance, for the former is the rightful defense of liberty by a free people, and the latter the unjustified initiation of aggression by an autocratic state. The implications reach to the very heart of our republic, calling into question our morality, our freedom, and our national sovereignty.

To understand this requires an understanding of what the founding fathers meant when they granted war powers to Congress. The founders based their ideas on government firmly upon the Enlightenment philosophers, who gave us our traditions of liberty. While war is popularly thought of as the active use of military force – the battles, skirmishes, airstrikes, invasions, etc. – these, properly understood, are not war. Rather, there is a state of war, separate from the actual fighting, that was clearly defined by the Enlightenment philosophers. This “state of war” must exist before military force is justified.

John Locke devotes an entire chapter to The State of War in his Second Treatise on Civil Government. In it, he writes,

“Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho’ he be in society and a fellow subject.”[1]

So, according to Locke, the state of war can arise by either an aggressor using force, or declaring the intention to use force. In either case, the relationship between the two parties has changed from a state of nature, or a state of civil society (depending upon whether or not they live under a civil government), to a state of war. Thus, the state of war begins not with the first pitched battle or airstrike, but can begin merely by the aggressor declaring his intent to initiate force. War is a state, or a relationship, that exists totally apart from the physical act of fighting. Fighting or military action is actually a result of, or a response to, the state of war. The use of force is only justified in defense, when a state of war exists. He also writes,

“This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away everything else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it.”[2]

While Locke is arguably the most direct philosophical influence on the founding fathers, other Enlightenment writers also view the state of war as a condition, or a relationship separate from any tangible use of force. Thomas Hobbes writes,

“For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.”[3]

While making an argument concerning conquests, Rousseau also recognizes that the state of war is a condition or relationship between two parties that exists outside of the actual fighting,

“First: because, in the first case, the right of conquest, being no right in itself, could not serve as a foundation on which to build any other; the victor and the vanquished people still remained with respect to each other in the state of war, unless the vanquished, restored to the full possession of their liberty, voluntarily made choice of the victor for their chief.”[4]

Interestingly, Rousseau argues here that the state of war can continue after the fighting has ceased, as in his example of a conquered people still under the power of their conqueror.

Clearly, the Enlightenment philosophers recognized that the state of war was a condition or a relationship between two parties, separate and distinct from the martial actions that the parties take as a result. The state of war begins with the use of force or the declared intention to use force by an aggressor, and gives the other party the right to use lethal force to defend itself. Thus, in the tradition of liberty, the use of force is justified in defense when a man or a nation recognizes that an aggressor has put itself in a state of war with that man or nation.[5] The state of war can also persist after the fighting ceases if the conditions which created it still exist.

This was the context in which the founding fathers gave power to Congress to declare war. It was not the power to initiate a war, which is never justified, but the power to officially recognize that a state of war already exists, and that force is therefore justified. This interpretation is supported by every request by a United States President for Congress to declare war, and every resolution of Congress to do so. James Madison was the first U.S. President to request that Congress declare war – against Great Britain in 1812. In his request, he said,

“We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.”[6]

When Congress declared war upon Great Britain in 1812, the resolution reads,

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That war be and the same is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their territories; and that the President of the United States is hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect, and to issue private armed vessels of the United States commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the subjects thereof.”[7]

Here we find a clear distinction between the state of war, which Madison argues already exists, and the commencement of the use of military force. Similarly, when James Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico in 1846, he said,

“But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.
As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country. . . .
In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace.”[8]

The official declaration reads,

“Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That for the purpose of enabling the government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination…”[9]

Both presidential requests and subsequent official declarations of war by Congress support that a state of war existed before the United States commenced planned military operations. In each case, the president makes his case for why the enemy nation has been the aggressor, and why he believes a state of war already exists, and requests that Congress formally declare it. In requesting a declaration of war with Spain, President McKinley states,

“I now recommend the adoption of a joint resolution declaring that a state of war exists between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain, that the definition of the international status of the United States as a belligerent power may be made known and the assertion of all its rights in the conduct of a public war may be assured.”[10]

Congress’ official declaration not only recognizes that the war already exists, but actually specifies the date on which the state of war commenced,

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, First. That war be, and the same is hereby declared to exist, and that war has existed since the twenty-first day of April, anno Domini eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, including said day, between the United States of American and the Kingdom of Spain.”[11]

Here, not only does Congress recognize that a state of war already exists, before the onset of planned military operations, but actually indicates the exact day on which the state of war began, taking the time to specify “including said day,” so that no mistake can be made about when the two nations entered a state of war.

President Wilson, in requesting a declaration of war with Germany in 1917, stated,

“…I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it; and that it take immediate steps, not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.”[12]

The official declaration reads,

“Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces…”[13]

Here, Congress emphasizes that not only does the state of war exist, but that it has been “thrust upon” the United States by the acts of war committed by Germany. Thus, the official declaration not only recognizes the existence of the war but takes pains to officially identify Germany as the aggressor.

Finally, in President Roosevelt’s request for a declaration of war on Japan, he says,

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”[14]

In response, Congress resolves,

“Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”[15]

After the United States declared war on Japan, Germany declared war on the United States, and the United States subsequently declared war on Germany, consistent with Locke’s premise that a state of war exists once an aggressor declares his intent to initiate force.

I have devoted the space to include each of these passages to demonstrate the consistency with which past requests and declarations of war have demonstrated the principle that a state of war must exist before planned military action is justified.

In the interest of brevity I have included in the passages from the presidential requests only the language where they specifically ask for Congress to declare war. It is equally important to note that in each case where a president requested a declaration of war, he preceded his request with a statement of the overt acts or the formal declarations of the aggressor nation that supported his belief that a state of war existed. This can be verified by simply going back and reviewing the entire text of each request for a declaration.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this evidence, and what relevance does this have to the invasion of Iraq and other military operations that the United States has undertaken without a declaration of war?

First, there is the moral question. Was the invasion of Iraq justified? In the five wars that the United States fought under a formal declaration of war, the justification rested upon a president “making a case” that a state of war already existed between the United States and the nation in question. The president presented evidence, in the form of a list of overt acts or a declaration by the aggressor nation, supporting his claim that a state of war existed. Congress then deliberated on the evidence, and cast a vote that supported a formal declaration that, in fact, the United States was already at war. Certainly, there have been arguments made in the cases of each of the five declared wars that either the state of war did not truly exist or that it was instigated by the United States. However, the fact remains that both the executive and legislative branches followed a constitutional process that was far more than a formality or vestige left over from earlier, courtlier ages.

However, in the case of the war with Iraq, as in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, that process did not occur. Specifically in the case of Iraq, the dialogue was shifted away from whether or not a state of war existed to a debate about whether or not Iraq posed a threat to the security of the United States. That debate still rages today. However, in the context of the previous declared wars and the meaning behind the declarative powers granted to Congress, this debate is irrelevant. No interpretation of the Enlightenment philosophy or of the U.S. Constitution justifies military action merely on the basis of another nation representing a threat. As they did in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, the United States used military force when no state of war existed, thereby becoming, by definition, the aggressor.

Why is a declaration of war a fundamentally crucial issue? Obviously, President Bush would not have been able to request a declaration of war with Iraq. There were no overt acts of aggression by Iraq against the United States for him to cite as his evidence of a state of war. Neither was there a declaration by Iraq of their intention to use force against the United States. Quite the contrary, Saddam Hussein repeatedly denied his country’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and even invited President Bush to a conference in an attempt to avoid military conflict (President Bush declined). Hussein all but declared a state of “non-war” with the United States, so there was no case to be made for a state of war based upon a declaration of intent by an aggressor. Had the United States government held itself to the standard set by the Constitution and close to two hundred years of precedent, no war with Iraq could have occurred. Equally valid arguments can be made for the Korean War, the Viet Nam war, Grenada, Bosnia, Somalia, etc.

The moral case is even more damning when considering the “insurgency” which is still raging in Iraq, especially in the context of the Rousseau passage above. According to Rousseau, a state of war exists even after the cessation of fighting until “the vanquished, restored to the full possession of their liberty, voluntarily made choice of the victor for their chief.” Philosophically, the Iraqi insurgents have every right to go on killing Americans, their conqueror, until they are both restored to full possession of their liberty and have voluntarily chosen the United States, or the government that the United States installs, as their rightful government. Thus, the United States finds itself entangled in a war in which it is the aggressor and which can only end at the discretion of the people of Iraq, including the “insurgents.” We have seen similar results in two previous, undeclared wars. In Viet Nam, we left in disgrace. In Korea, we are still there, almost sixty years later. Perhaps there is a correlation between moral justification and success.

Second, there is a lingering question regarding sovereignty related to undeclared wars. Since the establishment of the United Nations, the United States has not declared war, yet has been almost continuously involved in military operations, almost exclusively under the auspices of U.N. resolutions. Another passage in Locke may speak directly to this.

“To avoid this state of war (wherein there is no appeal but to heaven, and wherein every the least difference is apt to end, where there is no authority to decide between the contenders) is one great reason of men’s putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature: for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power.”[16]

The moral argument notwithstanding, there is the further question of whether the United States still has the right to declare war. By recognizing the United Nations as a world governing power, is it not true that, as Locke puts it, there is now always “an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal?” If the United Nations has any authority whatsoever, then by its own traditions of liberty, the United States has surrendered its right to declare war, even when it determines that a state of war does indeed exist. Certainly, this is a consideration that is beyond the imagination of most of its citizenry, but the evidence seems to indicate that it is nevertheless true. The implications of this are indeed foreboding when considering a United States of the future, in a world where it is no longer the undisputed military power that it is now, perhaps as a result of an economic decline that may be in its first stages already.

Finally, there is the question of an undeclared war’s implications for the liberty of the people. Certainly, the founders granted the federal government war powers out of recognized necessity. They lived, as we do, in a world where an aggressor nation could threaten the security of even a free, non-aggressive state. However, they granted those powers for the specific purpose of defense against aggression, including the power to declare war as a means to determine if a state of war existed. The declaration of war process provided a litmus test of whether or not military action was justified. Even in a volunteer army, an undeclared war exploits the solemn trust placed in civilian leaders by the brave soldiers that defend that nation. However, the United States has twice, in Korea and Viet Nam, compelled civilians to join the army and fight. Moreover, it is not just the soldiers that war places at risk. Indeed, civilian casualties in Iraq far outweigh those of soldiers on either side. In decades past, the United States has been insulated from civilian casualties because of its remoteness from the countries in which it has waged war. However, the 21st century has already shown us that remoteness no longer provides that insulation. Given the direct risk to U.S. citizens that war involves, does the United States government have the right to wage an undeclared war? Are a people really free when they can be put at risk and into debt by their government in the absence of a true state of war?

Tom Mullen

[1] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.19 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm
[2] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.18 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm
[3] Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan, Chapter XIII http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-c.html#CHAPTERXV
[4] WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY AMONG MEN, AND IS IT AUTHORISED BY NATURAL LAW? Part II http://www.constitution.org/jjr/ineq_04.htm
[5] That the definition of the state of war applies not only to individuals, but to states as well is made clear by Locke in later chapters.
[6] http://www.sagehistory.net/jeffersonjackson/documents/MadisonWarMessage.htm
[7] Twelfth Congress Sess. 1, Ch. 102 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/GBritain1812.pdf
[8] http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/mexdec.htm
[9] Twenty-Ninth Congress Sess. I Ch. 16 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Mexico1846.pdf
[10] http://www.spanamwar.com/McKinleywardec.htm
[11] Fifty-fifth Congress Sess. II. Ch. 189 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Spain1898.pdf
[12] http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/4943/
[13] Sixty-Fifth Congress Ch. 1 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Germany1917.pdf
[14] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/fdrpearlharbor.htm
[15] Seventy-seventh Congress Sess. 1 Ch. 561 http://www.lawandfreedom.com/site/historical/Japan1941.pdf
[16] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter III.18 http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr03.htm

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

To the People of the United States of America

To the People of the United States of America,

I am writing today because no one has asked my opinion in any poll. No candidate has sought my vote, and no lobbyist taken up my cause. It seems that of all of the “special interests” in America, mine is forgotten – unworthy of notice by politicians, activists, media commentators, and the press.

It may be because I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, nor represented by lobbyists for the disabled, senior citizens, minorities, trade unions, nor any other lobby. In fact, I am not a member of any group whatsoever.

I am the individual. Our Constitution was written to protect me from the majority. I am the victim of Democracy, which has overwhelmed the safeguards of the old Republic and replaced the Republic with mob rule. I am raising my voice now, while I am still able to raise it, if for no other reason than to let posterity know that I was still here when the ruins of our Republic are examined.

I have lived my life in a country that proclaims itself to the world to be the “land of the free,” but have watched my freedoms erode. The most basic right I had – ownership of the fruits of my labor – has been taken from me. Now, politicians argue over what portion of my labor will purchase medical care for the poor and elderly, what portion will pay social security, what portion will educate other people’s children, and what paltry sum I will be allowed to keep so that I may go out tomorrow and work another day.

I once lived in a country which recognized my right to do as I pleased, as long as I did not violate the rights of others. Now, mountains of laws and regulations have been passed in the perverse effort to prevent me from having even the opportunity to commit a crime. As a result, I am rendered paralyzed, as there is almost no action that I can take, beyond rising from my bed, that cannot be construed by someone to be a crime or violation.

More of my property is seized to support grand adventures in foreign lands, where my government spreads “freedom” through the crosshairs of its guns. My government’s invasion of countries that pose no military threat to us whatsoever has made me hated throughout the world, merely for being an American, and helped enslave my children to unserviceable debts.
Most ominously, even the legal protections of my person have been revoked in the name of protecting my fellow citizens against “terrorism.”

While the Constitution guarantees me sound money, as only gold and silver shall be legal tender, I am nevertheless forced to use the worthless paper notes of a private banking cartel that decreases their value daily, providing me no safe store of value to save for my future. To aid financial speculators who produce nothing whatsoever, the volume of these notes is increased out of all reason whenever these gamblers and thieves stand to suffer a loss. As a result, the purchasing power of this slave currency is constantly decreased, widening the gap between rich and poor, and destroying the middle class. I am left with no practical means to participate in free trade and civil society.

I give my fellow citizens the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they have merely forgotten what the true nature and purpose of government is. I remind them that government is nothing more than the collective use of force – and that the use of force is never justified except in defense. It is, by definition, a last resort. Government has almost limitless power, but very few rights. It has no right to do anything beyond protecting my life and my freedom.

Government has no right to provide for the needy with monies extorted at gunpoint from its citizens. I will gladly work with my fellow citizens to help those in need, once I have a choice. In the meantime, I demand that my labor cease to be taken from me without my consent.

Government has no right to bring freedom to the oppressed by initiating force. I remind my fellow citizens that all of the tyrants of history justified their conquests under the false guise of “liberation.” I will gladly stand with my countrymen to fight any foreign power that truly threatens us, but I demand that my government immediately cease to invade foreign countries in my name.

Government has no right to “manage the economy.” Trade is only truly trade when it is free – the result of exchanges between people by mutual, voluntary consent. There is no role for government in this whatsoever. I demand that my right to trade freely with my fellow citizens and citizens abroad be respected and no longer subject to inspection or interference.

Government has no right to “prevent crime.” It may only punish activities that are truly criminal, and those are relatively few compared to the ocean of laws and regulations that have been passed. I demand that any law prohibiting an act that does not directly harm another person be repealed, along with any law that prohibits unpopular thoughts or speech. Neither the threat of terrorism, poverty, natural disaster, nor epidemic justifies the surrender of one ounce of liberty. I demand that habeas corpus be restored.

Finally, government has no right to rob me of my property by forcing me to use paper currency whose value is subject to its whim. I demand that gold and silver no longer be taxed as capital gain if it rises in price relative to paper currency.

While I owe my fellow citizens nothing in return for heeding these demands, I nevertheless offer a thousand-fold in return. My fellow citizens are running out of fossil fuel – I will discover a new, renewable energy source. Our planet is growing crowded – I will unlock the secrets of traveling to others. The productive members of our society will soon be outnumbered by those less able or unable to produce any longer – I will feed them all. For it was I – the free individual – that gave you everything you have. It was I that invented the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, and the computer. It was I that devised methods to produce mass amounts of goods, making them affordable and available to everyone. It was I that devised a system of government where the rule of the jungle was replaced by the rule of just laws.

In return for restoring my rights, you will again free my creative power to give you more than you can possibly imagine, and solve problems which you are unable to solve without me. I ask nothing more in return, for it is no more my right to make claims upon my fellow citizens than it is their right to make claims upon me. I hereby waive any supposed “entitlement” to public welfare, medical care, retirement benefits, or any other benefit that requires coercion of my fellow citizens to provide it. In return I demand that my liberty be restored. As I believe that I am the last individual left on earth, I do not believe that my tax money will be missed. However, if there are other individuals besides me that would claim their freedom as well, I invite them to join me, and to them I pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor.


A Farmer

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.