Thursday, March 31, 2011

Counseling Required Before Military Intervention

Setting aside the fact that the last time this country had a formal declaration of war before engaging in a military operation was World War II, back in 1942, the actions of the executive branch since have effectively neutralized any legal mandate for such a declaration.

And, little by little, the forces that want to overturn another constitutional amendment, one that allows women to decide their reproductive future, are taking hold in this country.

Last week, South Dakota signed into law a measure that imposes the most egregious restriction on women seeking legal abortion in that state. In South Dakota, women are now required to get "counseling," and wait 72 hours, before the medical procedure may be performed.

And, while South Dakota is only one of 34 states, according to CNN, that mandates counseling before an abortion can be performed, and two-thirds of those states also require a waiting period, there is no such requirement for those who command our armed forces.

Savor the irony. Although the president is constitutionally accountable to Congress before we can go to war, for generations the White House has circumvented that prerequisite; most recently by arguing that the U.S. is acting on a U.N. directive.

Still, there is no law that mandates the chief executive of this country, the Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense to get counseling as to alternatives to airstrikes, and military intervention, before any kind of combat operation can ensue. The mere suggestion of that would ignite the kind of rage from the president's cabinet we've not seen since our separation from England.

Yet, South Dakota's Republican governor wants to ensure that women are presented with what he calls "other alternatives" before exercising reproductive choice. The measure argues that a woman must be prepared for all the hazards, moral and physical, before exercising her constitutional right to a legal abortion. What "other alternatives" are soldiers who decide to enlist in the armed forces offered? What "other alternatives" have been discussed in Congress? None, and why not? How is it that the corporate imperative has been allowed to prevail over the Constitution.

The governor, and legislators in South Dakota, or any other state that requires women to go to a "pregnancy help center" before terminating her pregnancy, should likewise be required to present all prospective service men and women with reasonable alternatives to their tours of duty before requiring them to fight what amounts to a rich man's war.

And, as Raw Story reports, incredibly, a bill is inching its way through the largely GOP South Dakota legislature that would legally sanction the murder of abortion providers as "justifiable homicide." That anyone could get elected who could rationalize, and make an argument for killing anyone else is nothing less than baffling. Of course, the universal exception is, and has always been, war.

It was, after all, the GOP who responded most favorably to President Obama's speech, earlier this week, justifying what is called a limited military intervention in Libya. And, it's the same members of the GOP who support those airstrikes who are also most exercised about curtailing a woman's right to reproductive self-determination. Essentially, then, the GOP is more concerned about protecting the rights of a fetus than the lives of civilians, and soldiers who are victimized by war.

Some would argue that presidents already have a waiting period before taking us to battle, and that the purpose of the State Department is to counsel the executive branch, but it is not the role of the Secretary of State any more than it would be the role of a gynecologist to do anything more than inform his patient of her pregnancy. And, how can Congress provide counseling, or even be the venue for discourse of the merits or liabilities of a combat operation if the president hasn't made a formal disclosure to Congress until the issue of funding the war comes up?

In fairness to Mr. Obama, he certainly tried to avoid military intervention in Libya, and successfully managed to circumvent the kind of unilateral action seen over the past half century. His efforts to involve NATO, as well as to act under a United Nations directive, are a far cry from those of his predecessors.

Now if only the president could stick to international law, the Geneva Conventions, and the U.S. Constitution in how it treats those detained both at home and abroad. What is happening to Bradley Manning, and Jose Padilla before him, certainly cries out for adherence to the kind of humanitarian principles that are said to be at the core of our intervention in the Libyan crisis.

One would think that Congress, or the Supreme Court, would act to ensure oversight into executive branch overreach, especially when it involves overturning the Constitution. But, the Supreme Court that recently gave corporations First Amendment rights in the Citizens United ruling is not likely to deprive corporations of any royalties they might get as a result of an illegal war.

As Major General Smedley D. Butler suggested back in 1935,in War Is A Racket, it is not the role of Congress to declare war either, but "We must permit the youth of this land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war."

Just as a woman is constitutionally protected to exercise her right of reproductive self-determination, so should America's youth have some say as to whether or not a war is justified, and we are no closer to hearing the whole truth of any combat operation now than we were in Butler's day.

While the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are prepared to challenge South Dakota's new law, South Dakota lawmakers may be on to something. The concept of a "pregnancy help center" might transfer well, and be justly applied to the period before battle.

If presidents and their henchmen, and henchwomen, are also required to adhere to a waiting period during which they must attend a "war help center" in which they must tell the truth and nothing but the truth, as well as listen to testimony from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, all those who are slated to be sent into the jaws of battle to preserve the bank accounts of the few for whom war is now, and has always been, profitable, we will surely have fewer wars.

The lives of service members, and civilians, are every bit as valuable as those of unborn fetuses.

If women who want to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, in accordance with their constitutional right, are now required in many states to undergo counseling, presidents and leaders who beat the war drum should also be reminded of all the hazards and liabiities of war not in the abstract, but from testimony of all those whose lives hang in the balance largely to bolster the corporate bottom line that help put them in office in the first place.