Protesters pick wrong target for their anger

October 03, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

It was exactly one week ago today that police in the nation's capital arrested Cindy Sheehan, the diva of the anti-war movement, and carted her off with scores of other protesters demonstrating in front of the White House.

About a week earlier, the peripatetic Sheehan was in Baltimore, speaking to a group of anti-war protesters at the Johns Hopkins University. Before that, she spent nearly a month ensconced in front of President Bush's Texas home, demanding that he see her and give her an explanation for the war in Iraq.

Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq last year. I can't say I can feel her pain because I can't. I do know I had a niece who was in Iraq at probably the same time Sheehan's son was. If the beloved daughter of my beloved brother hadn't made it home, or didn't come home with every body part intact, I wouldn't be camped outside of Bush's home.

I'd be camped outside of Congress demanding to know why legislators haven't resigned from office.

In fact, I'd be demanding to know exactly why they gave Bush the go-ahead to invade Iraq in the first place. Sheehan was camped outside the wrong house in August. She and the other protesters were arrested outside of the wrong place last Monday. Their gripe isn't with Bush.

It's with Congress.

Let's consult - because we absolutely must - Article I of the U.S. Constitution. It deals with the powers of Congress. The Founding Fathers probably put the powers of Congress in Article I ahead of Article II, which deals with the powers of the president, and Article III, which explains the powers of the Supreme Court, because they probably figured the powers of Congress were, well, kind of important.

Now, class, let's scroll down to Section 8 of Article I, the part that starts with "The Congress shall have the power to ... " About 10 or 11 paragraphs down it reads, "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."

Oh, that's not all. Article I, Section 8 says Congress is to "raise and support" our Army and "provide and maintain" our Navy. The president is commander in chief of those forces, as is stated in Article II, Section 2. But when it comes to declaring war, it's clear where the constitutional power lies.

When Bush went before Congress in late 2002 seeking approval for what was then only a possible war in Iraq, he got it. The Senate voted 77-23 to give the president authority to use force against Iraq. The vote in the House of Representatives was 296-133.

If any senators or representatives had any misgivings about the war, they were supposed to hold Bush in check right then and there. Those who did voted accordingly. If Sheehan has a bone to pick, she's picking it with the wrong person. Hers is with 77 senators and 296 representatives, not Bush. Some 23 senators did their jobs. Twenty-one of them were Democrats who were perhaps channeling the spirit of their predecessors Sens. Ernest Gruening and Wayne Morse.

Forty-one years ago, Gruening of Alaska and Morse of Oregon - who both died in 1974 - were the only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that gave President Johnson the authority to escalate the Vietnam War by sending in more troops and bombing North Vietnam. The resolution was named for the body of water where Johnson claimed North Vietnamese PT boats had attacked two U.S. warships on routine patrol in international waters.

It transpired that Gruening and Morse had good reason to vote against the resolution. Four years later, in 1968, the Senate finally investigated what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in early August of 1964. Gruening described the findings in his autobiography, Many Battles.

"A summary of the true facts," Gruening wrote, "revealed that the destroyer Maddox had not been, as alleged, on a routine patrol in international waters. She was a spy ship, outfitted with elaborate electronic equipment; she had penetrated the territorial waters of North Vietnam and was engaged in hostile operations against a country with which we were not at war. Furthermore, her penetration of North Vietnamese waters took place at the very time when South Vietnamese vessels supplied by the United States Navy, with crews trained by it, were raiding North Vietnamese ports, and shelling their installations."

Later in 1968, Gruening addressed an anti-war rally at Hopkins Plaza in Baltimore.

"The American people were lied and tricked into this war," Gruening thundered from the podium.

"Boy, is that guy miffed," I thought as I headed home after the rally ended.

Today it's Cindy Sheehan who's miffed. She needs to be sure she's miffed at the right people.

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