18 February 2007

Incompetent Congress

The following is from Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, in part:

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

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;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Seems pretty simple, right?

Understood pretty well, yes?

So what does it mean when you hear the following:
ABC News, Jan. 10, 2006 — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called the Bush administration "incompetent" when it came to protecting the troops in combat and called the lack of adequate body armor for soldiers and Marines "unforgivable."
It does not mean that the Bush Administration is at fault for not asking for body armor, but that Congress is at fault for not carrying out ITS duties to ensure that soldiers get the equipment that CONGRESS thinks it needs. You may rightly attack the President for not asking for enough body armor, Sen. Clinton, but you do NOT get away from YOUR responsibility to SUPPLY what CONGRESS believes is the right amount. You are pointing out that if the Bush Administration is 'incompetent' then the Congressional lack of insight and ability is criminal and near treasonous. And then not bothering to SHOW UP at the hearing addressing this is pure negligence with malice aforethought, Sen. Clinton.

And we can now add other Congresscritters to this dishonor roll of incompetence:
From the Senate office of Barbara Milkulski - 19-Jan-2006, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) sent a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John Warner (R-Va.) today expressing deep concern over reports that U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq do not have sufficient body armor to protect themselves on the battlefield.
And perhaps you can hold a hearing to find out how the Armed Forces of the United States are to protect themselves from YOUR lack of competence, Sen. Milkulski. And perhaps you two can explain why you voted AGAINST more body armor for the National Guard and Reserves in 2003?

Perhaps this 60 Minutes look at things in 31 OCT 2004 might help to understand where some of the culprits are in this:
Winslow Wheeler, a long time Capitol Hill staffer who spent years writing and reviewing defense appropriations bills, thinks he knows one reason why those shortages exist, after looking at the current Defense budget. Army accounts that pay for training, maintenance and repairs are being raided by Congress to pay for pork-barrel spending.

Wheeler says $2.8 billion that was earmarked for operations and maintenance to support U.S. troops has been used to "pay the pork bill."

Wheeler, who has written a book called "The Wastrels of Defense," says congressmen routinely hide billions of dollars in pet projects in the defense bill.

And buried in the back of this one, Wheeler found a biathlon jogging track in Alaska, a brown tree snake eradication program in Hawaii, a parade ground maintenance contract for a military base that closed years ago, and money for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration.

By law, these projects can't be cut, so Pentagon bookkeepers will have to dip into operations and maintenance accounts to pay for them.

"They do all kinds of things that adds up to: 'We're basically eating our own young to support the war,'" he says.

According to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Armed Services Committee who speaks out against pork-barrel spending, there is a total of $8.9 billion of pork in this year's defense bill, which would go a long way toward upgrading all the equipment used by the National Guard.

"I don't think that this war has truly come home to the Congress of the United States," McCain says. "This is the first time in history that we've cut taxes during a war. So I think that a lot of members of Congress feel that this is just sort of a business-as-usual situation."

"The least sexy items are the mundane - food, repair items, maintenance – there's no big contract there," says McCain. "And so there's a tendency that those mundane but vital aspects of war fighting are cut and routinely underfunded."
Yes, Congress puts in all sorts of little 'goodies' for itself and IGNORES the mundane things like actually making sure the Armed Forces are properly supplied as it isn't glamorous. And who is to blame for NOT getting those things to the Armed Forces when Congress is given the whole and entire oversight of ensuring that they ARE?

And then there is this little gem:
From the Office of Sen. Feinstein 3 OCT 2002 - Senator Feinstein first introduced the James Guelff Body Armor Act almost seven years ago in response to the death of San Francisco police officer James Guelff. On November 13, 1994, Guelff responded to a distress call. Upon reaching the crime scene, he was fired upon by a heavily armed suspect who was shielded by a kevlar vest and bulletproof helmet. He Guelff died in the ensuing gun fight.

The legislation was later also named after Officer Chris McCurley when Senator Sessions came on as a cosponsor and wanted to recognize an officer in his home state who was also killed by a gunman wearing body armor.

"It is unconscionable that our laws permit felons to obtain and wear body armor without restriction, when so many of our police lack comparable protection," Senator Feinstein said.

The bill directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to provide an appropriate sentencing enhancement for any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime in which the defendant used body armor. It also makes it unlawful for a person who has been convicted of a violent felony to purchase, own, or possess body armor.

"Lee Guelff, brother of the slain officer, has worked tirelessly on behalf of this legislation for years. He wrote to me about why this legislation is so vital.

"'It's bad enough when officers have to face gunmen in possession of superior firepower... But to have to confront suspects shielded by equal or better defensive protection as well goes beyond the bounds of acceptable risk for officers and citizens alike. No officer should have to face the same set of deadly circumstances again.'"
And how did she vote a year later for getting body armor, helmets and other equipment to the National Guard and Reserve? NAY! Remember, that actually serving in the Armed Forces where actual COMBAT might be required is a lower priority than Civilian Law Enforcement. I do not denigrate the Law Enforcement community in this, but the Citizen Soldiers who are going to be put in harms way deserve the best protection that they can utilize and we are damned for not providing same to them FIRST.

When the manufacturers of the actual armor for infantry and HUMVEEs ran into *production* bottlenecks, what did Congress do?

Did they do the "Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings" that is REQUIRED of them to do so as to ensure the supply of goods to the Armed Forces? They actually did get one Arsenal involved, but that ramp-up time for modern armor production is horrendous.

And was armor the only thing that went missing from the ready stores so as to keep the warfighter supplied? Back to that 60 Minutes story:
(CBS) Two weeks ago, a group of Army reservists in Iraq refused a direct order to go on a dangerous operation to re-supply another unit with jet fuel.

Without helicopter gunships to escort them over a treacherous stretch of highway, and lacking armored vehicles, soldiers from the 343rd Quartermaster Company called it a suicide mission.

The Army called it an isolated incident, a temporary breakdown in discipline, and an investigation is underway.

But the 343rd isn't the first outfit to be put in harm's way without proper equipment, and commanders in Iraq acknowledged that the unit's concerns were legitimate, even if their mutiny was not.

With a $400 billion defense budget you might think U.S. troops have everything they need to fight the war, but that's not always the case.
Yes, armored HUMVEEs were also a problem, although a production one. Was that it? No, let us read further:
Oregon guardsman Sean Davis told us that his unit was short ammunition and night vision goggles, and lacked radios to communicate with each other.

He says guardsman were using walkie-talkies that they or their families purchased from a sporting goods or similar store. "And anybody can pick up those signals, you know," he says. "And we don't have the radios that we need."

Gen. Byrne says stories about families in Oregon having to go out and buy for their sons and daughters radio equipment, body armor, GPS gear, computers and night vision goggles because they weren't being issued are true.

He said some Guard units are also using Vietnam era M-16 assault rifles, which he calls adequate for state duty but not acceptable for duty in Iraq. There is also a bullet shortage for training, he says.

It bothers him, but "there's nothing I can do about it," he says.

"If I was making the decisions, I would readjust," he says. "The soldier on the ground should be a focus. When that's taken care of you can take care of other stuff."

The Army acknowledged to 60 Minutes that there is a shortage of radios in Iraq and a shortage of bullets for training, and says both are in the process of being remedied. There have also been problems with maintenance and replacement parts for critical equipment like Abrams tanks, Bradley personnel carriers and Black Hawk helicopters.
Maintenance equipment, spares, stores, even such things as bullets. Where was Congress on this? Were they authorizing new contracts to be let, left, right and center. Calling for new Arsenals and Armories to be opened? Because these ALL are under the jurisdiction of Congress. You do not get to blame the Executive on this and as the Armed Forces must go through with what you send them to do on the contracts and supply realm, Congress has clear oversight of THAT. Instead they saw fit for a Biathlon track in Alaska and parade ground maintenance for a closed base, such handy things with which to save the Union with.

Any time you hear any Congresscritter point to the Administration for 'not supplying the troops' remember that the responsibility for scoping out supplies, stores, munitions, and even such things as the SIZE of the Armed Forces is done by Congress, *not* the Executive. Congress had long months between the actual Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force in Iraq and the actual start of hostilities that could have been used to get the logistics and production supply base properly up and running. The did NOT do that then and this Congress looks as incapable as that one.

Even worse, however, is that Congress does not understand its real-live, actual War Powers. Here is a bit from a hearing on the Blackwater incident as reported by CNN News on 8 FEB 2007 about the hearings held on 7 FEB 2007 by the House Oversight Committee:
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said federal law prevents lawsuits against contractors acting as government agents in a war zone, and he raised hackles among the witnesses when he asked whether their attorneys wrote their opening statement.

"Why are you dwelling on that?" asked Kathryn Helvenston-Wettengel, Helvenston's mother.

"We're subcontracting out our war. I understand there's 100,000 contractors over there, and there doesn't seem to be a law that applies," she added.
Now that just is plain wrong, although for the standard procedures for the Armed Services it is correct, but that is NOT the only set of War Powers that Congress gets. In point of fact there is an exact set of Laws that do apply to this as put forward by the Constitution a bit further up in Section I, Article 8:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
That is the Privateer power in which Congress sets up a system of Warrants and pay for Bounty or selling of Captured Goods at Auction against those that are defined as Enemies of the Union that the regular Armed Forces cannot act against. They do not get PAID until they actually fulfill the work as set out by Congress and only those that meet the Warrant capabilities put forward by Congress can get the Letters to carry out the War Powers of the Union under their own cognizance.

The Blackwater Personnel do *not* fit into this as Congress has been lax in putting forth a System of Warrants and then requiring the Executive to draw up a list of Enemies that need to be curbed and then Congress offering Bounty for the ending of Commerce and Trade with those Enemies to those that have such Warrants to enact such Letters. But there is that entire War Power which Congress ignores to go after terrorists and their supporters and suppliers who would willfully attack the US and its legitimate Embassies and Government officers and Armed Forces without declaring War. Even better is that these being Privateers, they do NOT need to be supplied by the Union and take up lawful arms to carry out those warpowers as they see fit all on their lonesome, so long as they follow the strictures of warfighting put out by Congress. Yes, we can indeed go after them in that way

If Congress were not so treasonous and cowardly in the abdication of their responsibilities under the Constitution.

Congress is no longer cognizant of its powers and refuses to use them.

Congress no longer holds to their responsibilities given to them under the Constitution.

Congress now abuses the Federal budgetary system to get perks for themselves and their supporters.

Congress refuses to pay for those things necessary to protect the Union and ensure that the warfighter has the necessary equipment it needs.

The Executive has little to no say over these things.

These are Congressional powers.

Wherefore art thou, Congress?

Spineless, wool covered and bleating masses Upon the Hill.

Incompetent. Incapable. Destructive in their outlook towards the Nation.

I have severe problems criticizing the way a War is run, when the soldiers are not properly supplied by those that have the responsibility to do the supplying. Supply them with everything YOU think they need and ensure that it is at least what they ask for if not MORE if you think they are underestimating things.

Rather $100 Billion too MUCH than one red cent too little.

Congress is unable to do this or even comprehend this.

Why are they not held to their Oaths of Office by anyone?

And how can they claim to represent the Nation if they will not hold to their Oaths to it?


Vigilante said...

It seems to me the real issue is: Has Bush's unaccomplished mission(s) in Iraq exceeded the original Joint House Resolution Authorization of October 2002?

A Jacksonian said...

From the Joint Congressional Authorization for the Use of Forcein Iraq, as put forward by Congress we find a few interesting tidbits:"Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1)," that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region," and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688";"

Now previous paragraphs also cite other UNSC articles and the UNSC must actually have some say if they are satisfied that those articles have been carried out. I have no idea if they have said anything on this issue. My guess is that they are acting like the UN and have done nothing.

This one is open to interpretation:"Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;"

While a democratic government is in place, the actual security of it is not certain. If Congress wishes the US to get into the business of throwing newly established democratic regimes back to the wolves, which in this case is al Qaeda and the Iranian sponsored militias, plus some Syrian sponsored ones, and the odd extra folks from around the region, then they should SAY that they do not support emerging democratic governments!

Now this one is not really open to interpretation, although one could quibble somewhat with Foreign Terrorist Organizations setting up shop in Iraq with or without cognizance of the actual government:"Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;"

If we really did go into Iraq to put paid to Foreign Terrorist organizations and they keep on moving IN to the country, then the job could be seen as not being done yet. Most likely not, but a good argument could be made for that.

Seen in light of the NEXT paragraph, the argument can still not only be made, but bolstered:"Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;"

Notice that it is all international terrorist organizations that get hit on this, so the previous paragraph now has its argument strengthened by Congress here. The intent of Congress is to get RID of these organizations that have taken up the illegitimate use of War while not being a Nation State. Note that this is an extremely broad paragraph in that it does not mention Iraq. Iraq is inferred by the document, but the paragraph itself is broadly sweeping.

The very next paragraph enforces that: "Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;"

Note the 'nations, organizations, or persons, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks' language. That is al Qaeda and its entire set of supporters which now includes Iran and Syria, plus multiple autonomous al Qaeda organizations in Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, KSA. They keep coming into Iraq, we keep killing them.

This part near the end is also worth reading: "Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40);"

There you have it: terrorists keep coming into Iraq with any connectin to al Qaeda, which means those who support and aid them, and the job is not finished. Hasn't been since the first AQI attack in Iraq sponsored by AQKSA. With Iranian help and cooperation with al Qaeda, that is now a nation aiding and supporting al Qaeda.

Even with that, take the case of the Philippines in which the actual 'war' portion was won in 1.5 years, but the fight against the Moro insurgency by the US Army and Marines lasted for nearly a decade (1901-1910). And only by 1915 did Congress get around to saying that things should slowly be handed over to the locals. The US did similar in Japan and Germany and we still HAVE 115,000 or more troops IN GERMANY. Japan looks to finally stand up on its own and the US will be removing most if not all of its bases there over the next 5-10 years. Blindingly fast compared to the Philippines.

By what Congress put down: no, their work has not been fulfilled as they specified it.

And by US standards in the past, we do *more* than just win: we help those who have been under Empire and Tyrannical rule to stand on their own.

Maybe, someday, Germany will be able to do that.

markx said...

al-Qada and Iran are not allies any more than they were with Iraq. Iran is supporting elements in Iraq--the same elements we are, ironically.

This is primarily a civil war, which you obviously refuse to accept. We don't belong there. We can still deal with al-Qada with air power, and military support to the Iraqi government. We don't need combat troops there. It only makes the Iraqis dependent on us.

markx said...

ajacksonian said:

The very next paragraph enforces that: "Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;"

Note the 'nations, organizations, or persons, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks' language. That is al Qaeda and its entire set of supporters which now includes Iran and Syria, plus multiple autonomous al Qaeda organizations in Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, KSA. They keep coming into Iraq, we keep killing them.

Note that al-Qaeda was not in Iraq before the war. They are now, of course, thanks to the war.

There is a problem with congress, which if you were honest you would admit--they give too much power to the president.

A Jacksonian said...

markx - The Kurds would contest the assertion that al Qaeda was not in Iraq before the war because they were fighting al Qaeda before the war. Also, the presence of Zarqawi pre-Invasion. Also note that the various FMSO documents and testimony belie this argument. My 'Army of Translaters' compilations shows contacts and cooperation between Saddam and al Qaeda and via ravious other analysts: Powerline Forward, Ray Robison's note to Paul Pillar, Iraqi Intelligence meeting with OBL 1995, then the support by Iraq for an 'Arabic group' in Afghanistan in the way of COINTEL work as posted by Mr. Robison, then the follow-on meeting in Kandahar and the note that al Qaeda is, predominantly Arab, the Newsmax article on al Qaeda working with Iraq. Connections between Saddam and al Qaeda were known and recognized with FrontPage Magazine doing a large round-up article on the connections between Saddam, al Qaeda and the Ansar al-Islam affiliate of al Qaeda.

The assertion that al Qaeda was *not* in Iraq when one of their leaders was and that they had a fully funded affiliate receiving funds from Saddam in the Kurdish territories is just dead wrong.

As for the problem with Congress they have abdicated *their* responsibilities and then COMPLAIN when the things that THEY are given to do are not done. It is not 'giving it to the President' it is not doing their JOBS. As in '5-days a week, figure out how to back what we have put forward' sorts of jobs. You know, the kind one must *work* at and not take 3-day vacations on all of the year?

Do you actually stand by a Congress that will NOT do its JOB and then want to blame the President?

Who is at fault in that?

Congress put forward all of its reasons for war and then did not do the hard *work* to ensure that the Armed Forces were properly scaled, that necessary production means were in place to supply them and that the actual force size and structure was planned for. The President may *ask* for those things, but it is up to CONGRESS to decide them, plan them, fund them and ensure that they are done.

Then we get a Congress wanting to do Foreign Policy while they absolutely neglect their GIVEN duties under the Constitution.

Is that *clear*?

You dare not complain about a President trying to pick up slack when those doing the slacking get away scot-free. The President wouldn't need to do that if Congress just did the jobs they were elected for. And that goes for BOTH PARTIES.

Your assertions fall flat based on what was known, even by Richard Clarke who had stated that Osama would 'boogie to Baghdad' if Afghanistan was attacked. Ansar al-Islam and some of Abu Sayyaf were operating in Iraq during the 1990's and those are affilitates of al Qaeda. Saddam was giving funding and support to those operations. Saddam let Zarqawi into Iraq before the invasion and gave him safe haven as he took over the al Qaeda affiliates: that does NOT happen in a policestate such as Saddam ran without Saddam's personal OK on the matter.

And in Iraq the ex-Ba'athists in many places switched to al Qaeda because they had commonality in outlook: both loved to kill indiscriminantly.

As to my view on what the complexities are in Iraq, do refer to my Unreal 'Realists', Post-Warism and my mosaic article linked in the previous sentence. How the hell do you get a 'civil war' when there are so many different factional differences pulling in so many directions that it is nearly impossible to stay organized? The tribal basis of Iraq does not lead to 'civil war' and we would be DAMNED LUCKY if it DID! It leads to the complete shattering of the Middle East because of all the faultlines running through Iraq. But then that is not an easy view to have because it points to the absolute and continued failure of the West in a region with similar problems... to which we have *never* had a good solution. And that change was going to happen sometime soon due to all the underlying forces involved.

You may not like that view as it is based on historical analysis, views of long term trends, putting ethnic/religious/cultural/economic/social/tribal/familial forces into play all working at their own vectors and then trying to see what results from it. I wish the world were a simple place in the Middle East, where one could easily draw dividing lines and say: 'that is how it is'. Doesn't work that way, from my view and history demonstrates the problems of what happens when that is *applied*. Absolute disaster.

Let me know when UN and NATO have free, democratic societies established in the Balkans, ok? Because that is simple compared to the Middle East.