Wednesday, March 14, 2012
US Constitution Article 2, Section 2 "The president shall be called Commander-in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States."
Everyone assumes that the President is the Commander-in-Chief by default, just by being the President. But the Constitution is very clear on this point, "when called into the actual service" what this basically says is that only when Congress declares a war is the Commander-in- Chief title bestowed upon the President.
This has been interpreted for centuries to mean that he is the Commander-in-Chief of the militia (the National Guard) when they are called into service. But the punctuation used would actually signify the clause pertaining to the militia as not the object of the subject; the militia clause would be an intervening clause used to modify the subject. Thus attaching the clause " when called into the actual service of the United States." to the subject and making it the direct object.
Okay so what does this mean in real time? Presidents are only called upon to be the Commander-in-Chief during times of military actions. Okay, so one can say that GW Bush became Commander-in-Chief once Congress declared war on Iraq and Afghanistan. But when Obama sent troops into Libya, no war declaration passed through Congress, thus Obama has not been appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the military by Congress.
This also means that during times of peace, the Army and Navy are under the command of their Joint Chief within the Department of Defense, the militia under the command of their governor. The Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard fall under either the Army or the Navy for purposes of this clause. So how do we reconcile the command structure then? This means that during peace the president has only indirect command over the armed forces, through the Secretary of Defense. Each branch answers to the Joint Chief and decisions are made independently of the other branches. The Army doesn't need to answer to the Navy during peace-time, they can and usually do coordinate their efforts, but it is not mandatory. The Constitution made sure to recognize that they are individual branches, and not one branch of the same military.
It is only during military action that the Commander-in-Chief is called into duty to coordinate the actions of all branches of the military to achieve the military objective. Okay, lets address the whole Leon Panetta idea, that the US military is an arm of the UN.
Leon Panetta is the Secretary of Defense, he does have direct command over the armed forces, through each branch's Joint Chief. However, the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 8, better known as the war powers clause, gives all power over the military to the Congress. "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense....to raise and support armies....to provide and maintain a navy; to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions."
So although Secretary Panetta has command over the armed forces, he does NOT have control over them. The founders specifically gave that control to Congress. Mr Panetta has no authority to order the troops into any kind of military action without authorization (and yes permission) of the US Congress. The United Nations has not one scrap of authority over our military. So for Mr Panetta to say, "You know, our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress." is another direct usurpation of power by the office of the President.
I am left to wonder whether our President is really the Constitutional expert that his law degree would seem to signify. If I, a simple lay person, can read the Constitution and apply simple logic to it, then why do we need experts to tell us what we know in our hearts is NOT there. So a direct reading of the Constitution would have us conclude that President Obama is in violation of the US Constitution Article 1 Section 8 by his action in Libya. And as H. Con Res 107 states, would be "an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor under US Constitution Article 2 Section 4" when applied to the Leon Panetta action concerning Syria.
The US Constitution is very clear on this, the President does not have control over the military until such time as Congress calls him/her to become the Commander-in-Chief.