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Walter Rodgers

Costliest government 'program' of all? Undeclared wars

Congress's habit of ignoring Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution has arguably cost taxpayers trillions. And now it seems to be happening again, with Obama's military action in Libya.

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I recently read Karl Marlantes’s poignant novel “Matterhorn,” which seems a thinly disguised first-person account of a Marine rifle platoon getting mauled in Vietnam as a result of bad orders from unthinking senior officers intent on their own promotions up the ranks.

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The novel breaks your heart, because it calls to mind a question asked of President Gerald Ford at a White House news conference a week after Saigon fell on April 30, 1975. Aldo Beckman of the Chicago Tribune stood up and essentially asked President Ford what he would like to tell the parents of the 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam. It was unfair to target Ford when the question should have been asked of Presidents Johnson and Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Iraq war: gap between perception, reality

More recently, the casus belli for the Iraq war was hyped up by the fearmongers of the Bush-Cheney White House. Had US senators considered the rationale for war in Iraq more seriously than they did, they might have found laughable some of Vice President Cheney’s alarmist remarks.

Writing in 2004, former senior CIA analyst Michael Scheuer suggested that the gap between our perception and the reality of modern US military engagements makes for an embarrassing audit. “[A]cross thirteen years of frequent military action, we not once definitively and finally defeated the force – military, paramilitary or armed rabble – we defined as a foe.... We have seen no huge body counts, no stacking of arms, no formal surrenders, no masses of prisoners of war and no tangible evidence of victory save the combination of our leaders’ claims thereof and highly staged, melodramatic homecomings....”

Congress must live up to its duties

If timid members of Congress still don’t get it, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests the public does. Nearly two thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan hasn’t been worth fighting.

At the very least, if Congress won’t own up to its duties under Article I, Section 8, the incumbent president at the end of hostilities should be required to publicly address the nation and tell American parents what their children in the armed forces died for.

The tea party and its Republican allies were vociferous in opposing President Obama’s $800 billion economic stimulus package that put Americans back to work and began rebuilding our crumbling bridges and roads.

I’m waiting to hear their shouts about the reckless cost to our national debt and national security of continuing to ignore Article I, Section 8.

Walter Rodgers, a former senior international correspondent for CNN, writes a biweekly column.


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