2012 Contenders

May updates have been posted for the 2012 Contenders section.  Click the tab above to explore the candidates and the campaign.

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Justice Has Been Done

Late Sunday night, President Obama announced that after nearly one decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has killed the mastermind of those attacks, Osama bin Ladin.  As news spread, a jubilant crowd gathered outside of the White House to celebrate.  They chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and sang The Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America.  I saw a comment from a widow of a 9/11 victim that said that it is unusual for anyone to celebrate the death of another person, but that she could not help but feel some joy.  I think that feeling is prevalent thoughout our country and the world.  Here is the statement from President Obama on Sunday: 

Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

 It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.  The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
 
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty seat at the dinner table.  Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father.  Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.  Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
 
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
 
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.  We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe.  And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
 
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort.  We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.  In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.  And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
 
Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
 
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
 
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.  I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.  And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
 
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
 
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
 
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
 
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam.  I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.  Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
 
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we’ve done.  But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.  Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
 
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.  They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.  And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
 
The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
 
So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror:  Justice has been done.
 
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.  The American people do not see their work, nor know their names.  But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
 
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.  And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
 
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores. 
 
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.  I know that it has, at times, frayed.  Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. 
 
The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. 
 
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are:  one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
 
Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.

From former President George W. Bush:   

Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked Americaon September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory forAmerica, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

From former President Bill Clinton: 

This is a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in al-Qaida’s other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children.  I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al-Qaida attacks.

Osama Bin Laden’s death brings an end to a dark chapter in America’s history.  To all the intelligence officers, soldiers and servicemen who have fought and served so bravely, I say thank you.  The death of the face of global terrorism and the leader of al Queda is no doubt a psychological  and operational setback to the organization, but we must remain vigilant.  The fight is not over and we must continue to face it on military and diplomatic fronts.  Still, I think that this is a time for our citizens to come together, reflect on what has happened over the last decade and take pride in our country’s accomplishment.  Join the Discourse.

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Tax Day Humor

April 15th is usually tax filing day, but this year due to a holiday in the capital city, it’s Monday, April 18th.  While I could probably write many thoughtful posts about taxes, I’m not going to focus on any serious info in this post.  As the title implies, this is gonna be fun!

Cee-Lo Green has a pop song called Forget You (That’s the radio edit name; you can use your imagination to think of a short “F” word to replace “Forget”).  In it, the singer sees a girl he loved riding around town with another guy who has more money; even though he’s hurt, he moves on telling her “forget you.”  It’s a feel good, move on song.  This week I heard a parody about tax time on a local radio station called Tax You.  It’s set to the same music, and to me it was hilarious.  Here’s the video.  I hope you enjoy!

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Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the start of one of America’s greatest conflicts:  the Civil War.  It was an epic struggle, the culmination of tensions that had festered from the beginning of the Republic.  Much debate has taken place over the last century and a half concerning the cause for this war, the scars of which still shape the contours of American culture and politics.  Many have argued that the Southern secession and resulting war was solely for States’ rights; others say they were for economic reasons.  I contend that the Civil War was fought for States’ rights only insofar as Southern states believed that they should have the right to maintain slavery and for economic reasons to the extent that slavery was very profitable to the South’s planter/ruling class.  I come to this conclusion only because slavery is what the legislatures in those states focused on as a central reason for leaving the Union.  For example, my state’s Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union states early on, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world.”[1]  As with any historical examination, primary sources are the best sources.  I want to look at what the people from both sides saw and heard during the lead up to the War Between the States.  They are the best sources of knowledge about one of the world’s most historic struggles.

“There was never a moment in our history when slavery was not a sleeping serpent.  That issue lay coiled up under the table during the deliberations of the Constitution Convention…thereafter, slavery was on everyone’s mind, though not always on his tongue.”  -John Jay Chapman

Indeed slavery was a major issue from the time of the founding through the Civil War.  Thomas Jefferson had made remarks on several occasions suggesting that maintaining slavery was like having a “wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”[2]  So the Founders did nothing.  They thought that slavery would eventually work its way out of existence.  At the time of the nation’s founding, slavery was all but gone in the North and on the decline even in the South.  But all that changed in the 1790’s.  It was then that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin (cotton engine), making slavery very profitable.  Prior to the cotton gin, a slave labored mainly to plant, cultivate and harvest rice, tobacco, indigo and occasionally cotton.  With cotton, a slave could work 10 hours and produce only about 1 pound of lint.  The cotton gin could more easily separate the seeds from cotton, increasing the output of a single slave from 1 pound to 55 pounds.  This rejuvenated slavery and greatly increased demand for slaves; it’s what made cotton king and made a king’s fortune for many southern plantation owners.

In the mid nineteenth century, one out of every seven people living in the United States belonged to another.  It was a deplorable condition in which to live.  If a slave born in the U.S. survived to age twelve, it was then that they were sent to work the fields.  A slave could expect to be sold at least once in his/her lifetime.  Fewer than 4 in 100 lived to be age 60.  Marriages between slaves had no legal standing; preachers would often amend the vows to say “until death or distance do you part.”  Frederick Douglass escaped slavery, learned to read and write, wrote an autobiography which detailed his slave life, and went on to become a powerful voice for abolition.  He voiced the feelings of many Americans with these words: 

In thinking of America I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky, her grand old woods, her fertile fields, her beautiful rivers, her mighty lakes and star-crowned mountains.  But my rapture is soon checked when I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slave-holding and wrong, when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, that her most fertile fields drink daily the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing.

Many Americans, then and now, recognize that slavery was the great stain for our nation that proclaimed the liberty and equality of all men.  Before his election, Lincoln wrote to a friend: 

As a nation we began by declaring ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it, ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes’…it will read ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty–to Russia, for example, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. [3]

Still, nothing began to change until the 1850’s.  The decade began with the Compromise of 1850 which brought in free California, allowed popular sovereignty (voters would decide whether to allow slavery or not) in western territories, strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act and banned the slave trade in the nation’s capital.  The period was marked by a strengthening of the abolitionist movement and fear among some Southerners that their way of life was about to change.  Some remembered the warnings of Former Vice President and South Carolina native John Calhoun who said that the abolitionists “would raise the negroes to a social and political equality with the whites.  And that being effected we would soon see the present condition of the two races reversed.  They and their northern allies would be the masters and we the slaves.”[4]  If you think the behavior in Congress today is ridiculous, consider that in 1856, on the floor of the United States Senate, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina brutally beat abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner with his cane.  Southern supporters sent Brooks new canes.  Members of Congress began carrying guns and knives into the chamber.  Even with all of this happening, many Southerners thought that secession was madness.  One politician went so far as to say that “South Carolina was too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”  That changed in 1859 when abolitionist John Brown violently attempted to begin a slave revolt in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  The effort failed miserably in sparking a revolt, but it did make some Southern politicians begin to seriously contemplate leaving the Union.

Then Abraham Lincoln won the election of 1860.  He did not appear on the ballot in nearly one third of the states (10 southern states did not include him) and won only 40% of the popular vote.  Some in the South saw this as a final straw.  For them, as the New York Express newspaper (reprinted in Richmond (Virginia) Whig) put it, “the election of Mr. Lincoln is undoubtedly the greatest evil that has ever befallen this country.”[5]  They thought that the Union was about to be radicalized, that abolitionists, led by Lincoln and the new Republicans in Congress, would take their property (slaves) and way of life.

By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration, only 27 (of 33) states remained in the Union.  South Carolina led the exiting states, seceding on December 20, 1860.  Six days later, the federal troops that remained in the capital relocated to Fort Sumter.  Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana left the Union in January 1861.  In Texas, legendary Gov. Sam Houston tried to stop his state from joining the Confederacy.  He presciently stated:

Let me tell you what is coming…after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence; but I doubt it…The North is determined to preserve this Union.  They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates, but when they begin to move in a given direction…they move with a steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche.

He failed to sway the state.  It joined the Confederacy in February 1861; Houston resigned his office.  Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee joined the Confederate cause in the days and weeks following the beginning of the conflict (April-June 1861). 

Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a former U.S. senator and Secretary of War, was chosen to lead the Confederate States of America.  Upon notification, Davis remarked, “Upon my head were showered smiles, plaudits and flowers, but beyond them, I saw troubles innumerable.”  When he took his oath of office on the steps of the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, the crowds cheered; they sang Farewell to the Star Spangled Banner and Dixie, which ironically, most sources attribute to Ohioan Daniel Decatur Emmett.  Shortly after his election as Confederate Vice President, Alexander Stephens praised the formation of the Confederacy as history’s only bloodless “revolution” and proclaimed that “Our new government is founded upon…the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man.”[6]  I bet he rolled over in his grave a few times at Obama’s election.

Though Lincoln prepared for war, he held out hope to avoid a great conflict.  In closing his inaugural address, Lincoln spoke directly to the Southern states:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. [7]

A little more than a month later, Rebel forces opened fire on Fort Sumter, initiating the American Civil War.  The battle saw no casualties and Union forces surrendered.  After Sumter, Americans drew lines in the sand; people who had once fought as countrymen would now face each other in battle as enemies.  Ulysses S. Grant, the man who would go on to command the Union Army, proclaimed “There are but two parties now:  traitors and patriots, and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter.”  Grant would face Robert E. Lee, a man who could anticipate “no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union.”  Lincoln had offered Lee command of the entire Union Army, but the Virginia general whose estate would later be home to America’s national cemetery could not fight against his home, and so resigned from the U.S. Army and went on to become commander of the Confederate Army.

Most thought that the conflict would be short, perhaps a few weeks or months, though not everyone agreed.  At the outset of the war, William T. Sherman, the man who would later be known for his fiery march to the sea said, “You might as well attempt to put out the flames of a burning house with a squirt gun.  I think this is to be a long war, very long, much longer than any politician thinks.”  Indeed the war lasted some four years.  More than 3 million Americans fought in the Civil War.  More than 600,000 people (~2% of the total population) were killed.  What began nominally as a bitter dispute over Federal and States’ rights ended as an epic struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

Growing up here in the South, I’ve heard references to the Civil War throughout my life.  I have heard some of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances recount the storied tales of the gallantry of their ancestors, and I don’t begrudge them for that.  It’s hard though to fully understand the admiration that some have for the Confederate cause.  Some these same people tout the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and slap their fellow citizens in the face with patriotism, yet they venerate those whom Grant convincingly called traitors.  I guess this is just another mark of human nature.  I know that everyone who fought for the South was not fighting for slavery (in fact, most Southerners, civilians and soldiers, did not own slaves), but many of the leaders who represented them were fighting for it.    Sometimes honorable men fight for dishonorable causes.

It’s been 150 years since the start of the American Civil War (though sometimes it looks and sounds like it’s 1861 with all the Confederate flags and talk of Yankees and federal government tyranny).  It should be looked back on for its significance as the war that finished the Founders’ work and, as Lincoln said, gave this nation “a new birth of freedom.”[8]  

I’d love to hear your perspectives, thoughts and opinions.  Join the Discourse.

Notes:

  1. Confederate Secession Documents: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/csapage.asp
  2. Thomas Jefferson Letter to John Holmes:  http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/wolf-ears
  3. Abraham Lincoln Letter to Joshua Speed: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/documents/documents_p2.cfm?doc=126
  4. John C. Calhoun Abolition Statement:  http://www.wfu.edu/~zulick/340/calhoun2.html
  5. New York Express Lincoln Quote:  http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/news/rv1861/va.au.rv.1861.03.01.xml#01
  6. Alexander Stephens Cornerstone Speech:  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1861stephens.html
  7. Lincoln First Inaugural Address:  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lincoln1.asp
  8. Gettysburg Address:  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/gettyb.asp
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April 1st Isn’t The Only Day for Fools

One rumor/conspiracy theory/lie that just keeps popping up (with the aid of some otherwise serious people) is that Barack Obama was not actually born in America, and therefore is not constitutionally eligible to be president.  The people who adhere to this belief are so-called birthers and I have not come across a single one who has any proof to back up their accusations; they ignore any evidence that is provided to the contrary.  I’ve read many posts and articles whose authors ascribe to the birther beliefs.  Yesterday, I just couldn’t move on; I had to respond.  Looking back, I knew better…you can’t reason with people who are only looking for reasons that they are right.  I won’t include anything the other author originally posted or their meandering, incoherent response, but this was, in part, my response:

You are right that the Constitution never defines “natural born citizen.”  But the document that does is the United States Code, which is “a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States” that is prepared and published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the House of Representatives.  If the Constitution provides the framework and principles for how our government works, the U.S. Code defines those principles specifically.  Here is a link to the U.S. Code:  http://uscode.house.gov/lawrevisioncounsel.shtml.  Title 8, Section 1401 defines who is a citizen at birth of the United States.
 
I believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, as he has stated, as well as the former Republican governor, Linda Lingle and officials from the Health Department of Hawaii during the 2008 campaign.  Why would a Republican governor admit to having seen his actual birth certificate if it did not exist?  That would have been against the interest of her party and the country.  Being born in Hawaii would qualify Obama as a natural born citizen under subsection (a) of the statute…People in the leadership of the Republican Party either know or have lawyers who know about the United States Code and know that there is no legitimate legal case for Obama being ineligible.  Some argue that if Obama is a citizen, why doesn’t he just release his birth certificate and end the debate?  Well, he released a copy of his certificate of live birth issued by the state of Hawaii.  This is the document that Hawaii provides to people requesting birth certificates and the U.S. State Department accepts this document as valid proof of citizenship.  Still, I argue, why should Obama have release his birth certificate?  Has any other president had to provide his birth certificate as proof of citizenship?  If so, please provide the documentation from an independent source.  I will gladly concede this point if someone can offer me valid proof.  On a side note, what about the presidents who were born outside of hospitals or before states required birth certificates to be issued?  Should their presidencies be retroactively voided?
 
I think the bottom line is that we (U.S. citizens, voters and our elected officials) need to grow up and admit that we are not all going to agree with all, or in some cases any of the policies of any president.  This does not mean that we should constantly try to delegitimize him or her.  This goes for the conservatives who despise this president and the liberals who tried to constantly belittle and undermine President Bush and the conservatives who tried to do the same to President Clinton.  That is the point that I believe this blatant disrespect for and reflexive opposition to presidents of opposite parties began.  I don’t think that just because a person is president that you have to respect them.  But if one really believes the Constitution and its principles, one would understand that the presidency is about the office and not about the man (or, perhaps in the future, woman) who occupies it.  The office at least deserves our respect.  If our leaders spent as much time and energy trying to work together to solve serious issues as they do trying to undermine their opposition, we might be much better off.

In the end, I don’t think my response will change the minds of any birthers.  I don’t care though, the last paragraph of my response says it all and I believe it.  And at the very least, I spoke my piece.  And that’s my soap box…I mean join the Discourse!

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2012 Contenders March Updates

I’ve updated the 2012 Contenders rankings and added updates to the individual contenders’ pages.  Check them out and make comments if you’d like.  Join the Discourse!

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What’s in a Name?

It has been just over one week since the start of the military conflict in Libya.  The US took a lead role providing strategic and tactical support that our country’s top military leaders consider America uniquely capable of providing.  Now, we have handed the lead role off to NATO and will play an equal support role with our allies.  With this post, I want to focus on one silly topic and one serious one.  I’ll begin with “silly season.”

The conflict that’s going on in Libya is called Operation Odyssey Dawn.  When I first heard this, I thought it was kind of a lame name.  I mean in recent history we’ve had names such as Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Infinite Reach and Operation Desert Storm.  But apparently there are restraints to what can be chosen for nicknames of military actions.  I found that guidelines for nicknaming are laid out in Army Regulation 380-5, a 300-plus page document which covers other topics as well.  The regulation says, in part, that a nickname should be chosen so that it does not “express a degree of hostility inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy; convey connotations offensive to good taste or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed; or, convey connotations offensive to our allies or other Free World nations.”  The document also calls for the names to be two words (not including operation) and bars the use of “exotic words, trite expressions, or well-known commercial trademarks.”  Additionally, each U.S. command is assigned ranges of letters from which they choose the first word of operation names.  U.S. African Command (AFRICOM, cousin to US Central Command, CENTCOM) was in charge of the operation in Libya and had to choose a first word from the range OA-OS.  They picked Odyssey and then searched for a word to match.  Had I been in charge, I would have called the thing Operation Ominous Cloud.  I think this fits considering we were setting up a no fly zone using an array of missiles and aircraft.

Now, I’ll move to more serious things.  Over the last week, we entered yet another military action.  I call it that because the Obama administration is hesitant to call it a war (it would be our third in a decade), citing the UN resolution that green-lighted the conflict and its call for humanitarian actions.  There has been valid debate as to whether this is a war; some military experts only consider “total war” to truly be war.  Whatever you call it though, it is a hostile conflict involving armed forces.  There has been criticism from members of Congress (liberal and conservative) that the president has not adequately defined America’s priorities and objectives in the operation and that Congress was not properly consulted and did not vote on a declaration of war before President Obama led us into this conflict, and that we cannot afford it.  Some cite Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which gives Congress the power to declare war.  A couple of Representatives (liberal Dennis Kucinich and conservative Ron Paul) have called the president’s actions unconstitutional and have even called for his impeachment over this.

I think that the Congressional complaints do not hold water.  First, the president had an Oval Office meeting to discuss the situation with Congressional leaders and key lawmakers with foreign policy expertise on the Friday before the military action began.  Also, before the president took action, the Senate passed a resolution condemning Khaddafi’s atrocities and calling on the UN Security Council to “take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”  The resolution passed unanimously; so the same senators who voted for this are going to come back and criticize the president for doing what they wanted him to do?! Unfortunately, this type of behavior is common for senators who are in the party opposite this president.  As far as the constitutional arguments, Article I does give Congress the authority “to raise and support Armies,” “to provide and maintain a Navy,” and “to declare War,” but Article II ensures that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”  Even some critics of this president admit that as commander-in-chief, President Obama has acted well within his constitutional power to take this military action.  This conflict between the legislative and executive branch is not new; it comes up almost every time there is a U.S. military action.  As far as providing congressional notification, the president has seemed to do everything by the books.  Besides, Congress has only formally declared war five times in the history of the republic:  the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.  That leaves the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War as undeclared military conflicts.  There have also been well over 100 military operations ordered without any advanced notification to Congress.

All of that said, the president needs to make clear what our objectives are in Libya, what the timeline is for our involvement in this international operation, what the cost will be for us and how that will be paid and a report on our progress thus far.  Maybe he will touch on these topics tonight in his address to the nation.  If the American people (a majority of whom support our involvement so far in the conflict) deem our cause just and our actions necessary, then Congress and the president should work together with our armed forces to ensure that we complete a smooth military operation and accomplish what we need to in Libya.  Join the Discourse.

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