Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Article 10- Nonprofits and Public Ownership for the Public Interest
“1. National defense industries, healthcare, prisons, education, and news media must be nonprofit or publicly owned. No business, corporation, or individual can profit unfairly from federal, state, or local governments or public resources and must pay fair market value for all previous resources, subsidies, and research.”
So much of the worst in American (and all of human) society and history has been driven by the profit motive. So much of US (and state, and local) government practice is corporate welfare, reverse Robin Hood at its worst. From billions for stadiums built for sports teams at the local level to trillions for the Defense Department internationally, government in America often funnels money upward, from the working and middle classes to wealthy elites, and from public lands to private elite hands.
This is naked class warfare, both the cause of and maintenance of deep inequality. Wealth redistribution upward shows that those who maintain government should be run like a business could not be more wrong. (Businessmen also generally have terrible records as presidents.) Some matters are far better left to public management rather than private, done by the state with no private intent or to make a profit because doing so harms us all and is morally repugnant and unjust.
But since partisans of capitalism are generally unmoved by moral arguments, here is another consideration: businesses are far less competent at public enterprises. They tend to think in terms of individual profit for the next quarter, rather than the long term public good. Public parks are one obvious example. No one would reasonably want national parks opened up to strip mining, or the crassest commercial theme parks. Both would lose the parks' great value, aesthetic, public, environmental, and even long term economically, for purely short term profit.
Fire departments are an example we have learned from hard experience should not be private. Early American fire departments were, and they were notorious for incompetence and thievery. When your home caught fire, private fire departments demanded payment before they would put out the fire, negotiating with you while your place burned. Often they stole everything they could in burning homes, even looting neighbor's homes. Competing private fire departments even got into brawls over who would fight the fires, so lucrative was the theft.
Intelligence gathering is another area where privatizing has long been a disaster. But unlike the previous examples, America has yet to learn that lesson. The CIA looms so large in American consciousness, it will surprise many that the US had no national intelligence agency until the Cold War. Lincoln relied on the Pinkerton Detective Agency for intelligence during the Civil War. (They also became notorious for violent union busting.) Pinkerton routinely over estimated Confederate troop strength by 200-300%. US generals like McClellan then often refused to engage the enemy, prolonging the war.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, some of the torturers in prisons like Abu Ghraib likely were private contractors who were unaccountable to US or other law. Some CIA agents volunteered for Iraq for six months, resigned, and then worked for private intelligence companies for several times their previous pay. Besides being overpriced, a high turnover and lack of experienced agents and analysts almost certainly made mistakes that cost American, Iraqi, and Afghan lives, prolonging and worsening both wars.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars gave us still more examples of the folly of privatizing war, relying on mercenaries, the most infamous being Blackwater, later rebranded XE. Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on an Iraqi crowd, massacring dozens. A drunken Blackwater guard also killed no less than the bodyguard of the Iraqi Vice President.
Certainly conventional troops do commit atrocities. But they at least face military law, whose inadequacies are because of the protection of an old boys network. (Often, enlisted and junior officers get punished with prison, while senior officers get their careers ended, but no prison time.) Private mercenaries have far fewer laws to govern them, sometimes none. They are often not bound by military codes nor local laws, and rarely prosecuted, even for atrocities.
Equally disturbing, and most importantly for American society, mercenaries and “contractors” (actually support troops) came to outnumber US troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Without mercenaries, Presidents Bush and Obama would have had to withdraw far sooner, or bring back an incredibly unpopular draft. The public turned against both wars after five years, and so few Americans were enlisting that both the army and marines missed their recruiting goals for years at a time. Relying on mercenaries allowed both presidents to ignore public opinion and keep the wars going over half a decade more. This proposed article by banning mercenaries will end future unpopular wars sooner.
Nations and empires who relied on mercenaries were always undone by them. The Praetorian Guard often chose who would become the next Roman Emperor. Mercenaries in the Thirty and Hundred Years Wars prolonged and worsened both wars. Looting became one of the main ways to pay them, attracting the worst criminal elements into these armies. The French Foreign Legion had an appalling histories of atrocities in Algeria, Vietnam, and within France itself during the Paris Commune uprising. The Spanish Foreign Legion was equally notorious for rapes and other atrocities during the Spanish Civil War and helped put Falangist fascism into power, a dictatorship that killed half a million Spaniards over 40 years.
The US defense industry, in Eisenhower's famous phrase the military-industrial complex, itself was one of the main drivers of the Cold War, then the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and now the current undeclared wars on terrorism in lands from Colombia to central Africa to Yemen to the Philippines. It is also socially and environmentally destructive to the US itself, far out of proportion to its size. The need for war or the threat of war to maintain an American empire distorts our democracy and society, giving us such movements as neoconservatism and government such as Homeland Security with its massive spying. Removing the profit motive will dramatically shrink all of that.
Even if one is unmoved by the moral arguments, one should acknowledge another matter: for profit defense industries are enormously inefficient and wasteful. Weapons routinely cost double or triple original estimates. Some combat planes cost more than if they were literally made of gold. Some military planes, like Howard Hughes' Hercules or “Spruce Goose,” were never in combat at all and barely able to fly. Hercules was the most costly and worthless plane in history.
By contrast, state owned defense industries produced one of the most reliable and low cost of modern weapons, the AK-47, compared to the far worse US commercially made M-16. (The M-16 jammed so often, US soldiers in Vietnam often used them to hold up tents.) Israel's defense industries, easily among the world's very best, have a large part entirely state-owned and much of the rest produced in partnership with the state. In the beginning Israeli weapons were almost entirely produced by collective enterprises.
Prisons are one more area that must remain ruled by and for the public interest. Private for profit prisons give the owners incentives to lock up as many as possible. The need for profit also cannot help but endanger not only the prisoner and the prison guard, but the general public in the long run. Abusive prisons where costs are cut to increase profit will worsen the rate of repeat offenders.
Private for profit healthcare has given the US terrible a far lower life expectancy compared to other industrial nations, especially for its cost. The worst of these US health industries are drug companies, charging up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single prescription. Typically drugs cost a tenth in other nations compared to the US. The next costliest nation is Canada, about half that of the US. Two horrifying side effects are that many Americans are over medicated because of the desire for profit, and many more Americans stop or never seek treatment because they cannot afford drug prices.
Public school education is funded unequally in America, with school districts based on income. For profit education private schools reproduce from young ages the inequality and elitism that undermines democracies. Contrary to public perception, US public schools have been getting steadily better for a third of a century. For example, the US dropout rate is now less than one in fourteen, where in the 1970s it was over half. Most of the problems in public schools are problems of economic inequality brought in from outside the schools.
The generally acknowledged best type of schools in the US, Catholic, notably don't have profit as their prime motive, only education. Parochial schools would not be affected by this proposal, only elite institutions. This includes elite private universities, mostly attended by wealthy elites, who receive far more public money per student than public colleges. This corporate welfare add to elite institution graduates dominating most of the upper levels of government. Taking away public giveaways and making them nonprofits will end their old money bias, and at least weaken their hold on the federal government.
“2. No journalist, commentator, or others presenting themselves as experts in politics, history, law, society, health, medicine, or science can make more than five times the median national income, and any excess income must be donated to charity or it will be seized by the federal government.”
Much of the worst actions of the media is driven by profit. This includes not just deliberate falsehoods, but fearmongering, deception, propagandizing, and hostility to empirical thinking and evidence. It was not always so. Believe it or not, as recently as the 1970s, news divisions at major networks were expected to be public services.
The problem is not ideological, for the most part, since some of the worst offenders don't even believe what they preach. To take the most obvious example, Rupert Murdoch does not agree with much of what his network and papers argue. It simply suits his business model to sell an ideology of fear and anger to a declining demographic.
The simplest cure, again, is to remove the profit motive. Media should be nonprofit. A salary cap will help drive out those who harvest fear for the sake of lucre.
Media is enormously class biased in America. When watching a “news” channel one is typically watching multi millionaires who work for multi billionaires. Thus the inevitable class hostility and hatred directed against the poorest. Think how often there are calls to drug test those on welfare. Now try to think of any instance of a call to drug test CEOs and bankers on corporate welfare. Media figures have little idea of what it is to be homeless or work for minimum wage. The best media today is that which is nonprofit, PBS, NPR, and BBC. The worst news media is the most profitable, Fox.
There is an equal need for an end to vast industries of outright hustlers trading in not just fear mongering but pseudo science, from global warming deniers to anti vaccine conspiracists, conspiracy theorists of every kind, and an entire industry of faux medicine, today's equivalent of snake oil that sells by the tens of billions. Faux medicine kills, by the thousands, preying on the desperate who turn to it instead of tested treatments.
Pseudo science kills not just people but democracies. An industry of deliberately false science has convinced two fifths of Americans that global warming is not real. A separate industry of conspiracy theorists long ago ceased to operate with vanity presses and xeroxed pamphlets and today has entire networks peddling conspiracy thinking. Much of 1960s counter culture protest was dissipated chasing phantom Kennedy conspiracies. Much of the outrage against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars was wasted over claims of phantom missiles on September 11, made by those who seem to have never passed high school science classes.
All of the above are still perfectly free to state their opinions. They will simply be unable to profit from them. There is a precedent, in laws that prevent those who commit crimes from benefiting from them. In New York, it was nicknamed the Son of Sam law. The same principle used against mass murderers can and should apply those who make their living by serial lying, that they cannot profit by doing so. Let them show empirical evidence, and if not, no profit. The number of websites claiming JFK was killed by UFOs will shrink rapidly if there is no ad revenue to be made from it. So will faux medicine if there is no profit in it.
“3. All journalists, commentators, and others presenting themselves as experts for mass news media will be fined every time they lie in their articles, broadcasts, or public statements. No person or media outlet can profit from lies or falsehoods and shall be fined at least equal to all profit, money, or benefits made from lies or falsehoods.”
The nation's constitution should not be a defense for falsehoods. Media and media figures should be accountable for what they say and write. Those who argue for free speech of any and all kinds often ignore the fact that the First Amendment does not sanction defamation, libel, or slander. It does not protect incitement to murder nor callous recklessness that leads to mass panic (commonly known as “no right to shout fire in a crowded theater.”) That fact makes the US more free, not less. Neither should the Constitution or American society sanction and allow profit from the deliberate and knowing spread of falsehoods.
For an opinion is different from a fact, despite the mushy solipcist's claim that everything is an opinion. The simplest way to toss solipcism to the side is to ask the believer to point a loaded gun at his toe and fire. Let him then tell us that his bloody foot and limp is just an opinion.
Facts are black letter realities, and their truths are often simple Cartesian logic. Most often, either something is or is not true. An opinion brings in interpretation, hopefully backed by solid evidence. For example, an opinion is that capitalism or socialism is superior to the other, or a third system superior to both. It is not an opinion that capitalism is less than 500 years old, it is fact. It is a blatant falsehood that “free markets” have always been around. The fallacy is a mere ideological propaganda claim, known to non-dogmatic scholars in the social sciences as the naturalizing tendency of capitalism.
Falsehoods in journalism undermine the central purpose of journalism, and should not be allowed anymore than one should teach in math classes that two plus two equals five. What is just punishment for one posing as an expert spreading deliberate falsehoods, or lazily passing them along without checking or because it suits their ideology? Fines should equal any and all profit made from lies, including salary, royalties, and advertising revenue, plus the market value of all free publicity gained by falsehoods.
Again, no one is proposing interfering with anyone's mythical “right” to be a serial liar, only their profiting from destructive lies. To give it an old fashioned analogy, one could still hand out books with falsehoods for free. You just can't sell the book to make a profit.
“4. The agency in charge of judging lies and falsehoods by journalists, commentators, or experts for the mass media must be entirely of respected historians for matters of history and politics, respected legal scholars for matters of law, and respected scientists or doctors for matters of science, medicine, and health, and shall be nonpartisan, with no member affiliated with any party.”
A completely nonpartisan and expert agency is needed to judge and enforce these new laws. Otherwise the agency would inevitably become censorship by one party or ideology upon all others. Thus the need to be very specific, written within the new Constitution and not within ordinary or easily repealed law, in who would make up such an agency, and in what they judge. It must be made up of experts in the particular fields, the most highly regarded in those fields, not partisan hacks nor self deluded amateurs.
If defamation, libel, and slander can be punished without harming freedom of the press, then why not this? If a judge or jury can assess such matters, why not an agency with members far more trained than the general public? In fact, we do have a model for such an agency in the current existence of fact checking sites online. The great majority of these sites have laudable records as badly needed resources. What this article simply proposes is that such assessments add financial penalties so that none profit from willful or ideologically driven lying.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Article 9- Referendums and Recalls
“1. Members of the public may propose referendums to pass new laws, recalls to remove for illegal or corrupt actions the President, Vice President, member of Congress, Supreme Court Justice, or any appointed official, or bring an end to wars or operations involving US troops.”
A referendum, done right, can be direct democracy at its finest. The public directly proposes and passes laws, completely bypassing both the Congress and the President. Referendums at their best show a public more far sighted than elected officials that may depend on elites for their office and fear angering them.
There have been over 500 national referendums in recent history in 56 nations. The region with the most national referendums by far is also the most democratic, Europe. Two nations account for over 300 of national referendums worldwide, Australia and Switzerland. Outside of those two nations, the most common reason for a referendum was to approve a new constitution or other change of government, especially after an overthrow, independence, or to prevent or end a period of turbulence. In a few cases, nations do have purely nonbinding referendums that simply force a legislature or president to consider an issue.
There are not any federal referendums in the US. But 24 states allow referendums within them. Most of these states are in the west, the best known being those in California. Puerto Rico has also held four referendums on their status, and they are perfect examples of doing them wrong. Each time, a pro status quo government worded the referendums to be confusing, hoping to defuse sentiment for statehood. Interestingly, sentiment for the status quo still keeps dropping, and for both statehood and independence it keeps rising, along with voter turnout on the issue.
California also provides some very good lessons in these problems. The most destructive of their referendums was Proposition 13, which not only rolled back taxes, it required a supermajority to raise taxes. It took several decades to undo the damage done by Proposition 13. Clearly, using a referendum for routine matters such as tax rates is a misuse, as is something as fitful and undemocratic as requiring a supermajority for a minor matter.
California also faced one of the more despicable examples of a witch hunt posing as populism, where Lyndon Larouche's organization of conspiracy theorists and bigots managed to stealthily force a proposition which would have quarantined AIDS patients. It's worth pointing out the measure was defeated by almost 3 to 1, and many of the signatures were gathered by a consultant later convicted of fraud.
The final example of abuse of referendums or plebescites is in fascist, communist, and other dictatorships. Dictators use them to claim to represent the will of the people. But very few people are fooled by such claims. Everyone can see that a dictatorship's elite proposal from above, with no debate or dissent allowed, is the opposite of actual direct democracy.
Recalls certainly have a better history. Most recalls in recent US history have been successful, mostly at the local level, mayors or town councils. Most efforts to recall governors have failed. Meacham of Arizona was recalled for an ugly history of racism, and Blagojevich of Illinois for corruption. The worst example of a successful recall was Gray Davis of California, orchestrated by officials in Enron, who were later convicted on other criminal counts. Enron officials ordered rolling blackouts across California, leading to Davis being blamed for a nonexistent power crisis. The recall overturned an election less than a year before. The simplest way to avoid such a debacle on a national level is to allow recalls only for lawbreaking or corruption.
A recall can and should be used to remove corrupt officials. Recalls could have removed Nixon far sooner and kept Reagan from avoiding responsibility for the Iran Contra Scandal. Recalls could have been used against partisan Republican leaders misusing the impeachment process against Clinton for the ludicrous matter of lying about oral sex. Recalls could have been used to remove the five partisan Supreme Court judges who halted a valid recount of the 2000 election. Had recalls been around in the 1850s, they could have been used to remove the judges in the Dred Scott decision, possibly making the Civil War less likely.
Referendums, had they been around at the federal level, could have ended the Vietnam War far sooner. The public opposed it by 1968, yet Nixon kept it going five years longer. A similar referendum could have ended the Iraq War as early as 2006, when the public first opposed it. There would have been tens of thousands of American soldiers still alive, many more not amputated or otherwise wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Iraqis surviving had the public been able to directly order these wars stopped.
“2. A referendum or recall vote happens 30 days after the certified collection of valid signatures of ten percent of all voters.”
A 30 day period is long enough to allow for informed debate and avoid a rush to judgement, but short enough to avoid a buildup of cynicism and disgust for the process. Ten percent is a high enough threshold to prevent most fringe groups of conspiracists or bigots from getting a measure on the ballot. Recall that Larouche's people had to use fraud.
Of course there are some groups large enough to succeed in still doing so. Birther conspiracy theorists were and are over 10% of the public. In that case, all a ballot initiative would do is rouse the anger of the public against them, as Larouche's people did in California. Referendums that sanction prejudices are explicitly barred by the clause below.
“3. No referendum may overturn, contradict, or limit anything in either constitution, and such efforts must be done instead by constitutional amendment. Nor shall referendums or recalls be funded by corporations, nor any private contributions except for individual unpaid volunteer work. Referendum advertising must be equally funded both pro and con, must be publicly funded only, and subject to reasonable limits.”
One of the arguments against referendums, and populism of any kind, is “What if segregation had been up for a vote?” It always was, and segregationists had to use force to impose it. For over a century racists used massive violence and intimidation to maintain separate and unequal divisions. Referendums are barred from being used for any form of government sanctioned prejudices by other proposed articles to this proposed new constitution.
What would be best for elections would also be best for referendums and recalls. Publicly funded elections only, so that corporations and wealthy elites cannot hijack them and do not have a greater voice than the average person. Neither side should be given an advantage financially. The time frame for recalls and referendums must be limited for the same reason as for elections, to prevent the overload, the burnout and cynicism and unnecessary waste that long election campaigns currently produce.
The founders, Madison especially, hated the idea of direct democracy. That is one of the strongest arguments for it, for we have been living with the destructive results of their limits on democracy for over two centuries.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Article 8-Renouncing War
“1. The United States shall not go to war except in self-defense, and permanently renounces wars or acts of military aggression.”
War is not healthy for living things, not just people, but democracies.
The historical record is clear: Most Americans have long opposed most wars most of the time. Yet Americans keep getting maneuvered, pushed, pulled, prodded, lied to, deceived, conned, forced into, or propagandized into one destructive and often useless war after another.
The Constitution was supposed to require wars be preceded by a declaration of war from Congress. The military was put under civilian command, and the US military for most of its history was very limited in size. Even as late as the 1930s, the US Army was only 140,000 men. Many of the founders argued strongly against a standing army of any kind as leading to tyranny.
So how did we wind up with a very large powerful permanent military, and the dangerous industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about? How do US troops keep getting sent to nations many Americans have never even heard of, much less believe it important to invade them?
It was not always this way. Up until the 1890s, the main wars the US fought were against American Indian tribes. The big exceptions were wars against Britain (1812), Mexico (1845), and the Civil War, the last one begun by Confederate aggression.
But there were a series of invasions, called filibusters, that most Americans don't know about today. These were private armies, mercenaries, led by American warmongers willing to invade other nations on their own to gain profit, territories, or power. Often they hoped to drag the US into wars, get nations or pieces of a nation taken away and made into part of the US. Filibusters invaded Canada and their allies provoked the War of 1812. They also invaded California and Texas many times. They gained an ally in slave owners who wanted to make Texas a slave state, and so they provoked the war with Mexico.
This was not what most Americans wanted. Congress passed half a dozen neutrality laws over 30 years making it illegal for private citizens to invade another nation. The laws proved difficult to enforce because of the size of the US and slow communications over great distances at the time.
Public anger and horror over the huge loss of life in the Civil War ended these private invasions, and US wars with other nations. Even “Indian wars” declined. US Grant had a Peace Policy that reduced battles with Native tribes by three fourths. But by the 1890s, the Civil War generation had died off and war enthusiasts like Teddy Roosevelt led a new push for empire and territory.
The US took Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Samoa by force. Self righteous scientific racists like T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson insisted they knew how other nations of mostly nonwhite people should be run more than the people there themselves did. Between 1890 and World War II, US troops invaded ten Latin Americans countries over 30 times, sometimes taking over a nation for up to 20 years at a time, other times installing a dictatorship to run the nation on US orders.
The Cold War saw American invasions in Latin America and Southeast Asia, dozens of US sponsored overthrows of governments, assassinations of national leaders, and outright genocide and democide in Cambodia and Indonesia, respectively. This has been done by US presidents on both ideological sides, Lyndon Johnson as well as Reagan, Obama as well as both Bushes. The only two US presidents in the last 125 years to not overthrow a non-aggressive nation's government were FDR and Carter.
Since World War II, there has not been a single declaration of war by Congress. Though there have been dozen of nations attacked by US invasions or bombings, there have been only three authorizations to use force; the notorious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Bush Sr. receiving authorization (which he said publicly he did not need) for the Gulf War, and GW Bush's for the Iraq and Afghan Wars. The last has since been stretched by Obama to claim it covers him in warring against ISIS. Congress, including both parties, agreed to Obama's claim and declined to even meet to discuss any kind of an authorization, much less a declaration of war. (For the Korean War, Congress only authorized funding. Truman relied on a UN resolution as his military authorization.) Congress's failure is the strongest argument for making war more difficult, and demanding the public hold veto power over the start of wars or bombing other nations.
Political and media elites have the contemptuous habit of leaving the public out of war decisions. Both parties are guilty of it. There is the saying that “partisanship stops at the water's edge.” What this means in practice is that congressmen from both parties are expected to support a president's wars without reservation or criticism. For the only criticism accepted of wars by most of Congress or much of the media is that the president is not warlike enough, not willing to go to war on a hair trigger or bomb just to show dissatisfaction or crush other nations' leaders should they show independence.
For quick invasions and interventions, bombing campaigns or missile strikes, the public will briefly rally around a president by instinct and then move on, as long as there are no heavy American losses. For longer wars, the same stampede effect is used, often preceded by heavy propaganda to promote fear of the latest “greatest threat ever.” Then once the war starts, public opinion is ignored. Nixon and GW Bush both publicly said they ignored antiwar demonstrations, the biggest in America's history. Media elites also often ignored public opinion, or caricatured demonstrators as atypical when they came from across the spectrum of American opinions and backgrounds.
We should seek a model in Japan. After World War II, the nation looked at its shameful history, renounced warfare as an instrument of policy, and forbade armed forces used except for self defense. The US should do the same. On this issue even many Republicans and conservatives agree. For all the calls for wars by right wing media, they are out of touch with their own base. Most Americans of all ideologies and backgrounds want fewer wars, and never without just cause. Build such a stance directly into a new constitution.
“2. The United States, its government, agencies, or agents shall never try to overthrow another nation's government again unless directly attacked by said government.”
It must also be made far harder for the president to send troops, bomb other nations, or by any other ways try overthrow other governments, including in secret. Many Americans are aware that the US has invaded other nations or overthrown other governments. But most do not know just how often.
In Latin America alone, over a dozen nations were invaded by the US. Nearly three dozen nations had their governments overthrown by the CIA, or attempted overthrows, bought, stolen, or disrupted elections, and hundreds of assassinations of government leaders. Castro alone survived hundreds of attempts on his life. This pattern includes overthrows or attacks on nations that might surprise many people, like the CIA orchestrating the firing of Australia's Prime Minister in 1975, or stealing Italian elections for over 30 years.
This has continued in recent years, under both parties, with assassination orders, drone attacks from Colombia to Pakistan, interference in elections in Venezuela, recognizing a coup in Paraguay, and a potential next president, Hillary Clinton, whose election advisers played a role in the coup in Honduras. This must end. Any nation the US is not at war with, the US should never try to overthrow, with presidents explicitly forbidden to try.
“3. Unless under direct and immediate attack, the United States shall not go to war or deploy troops without an official declaration of war by Congress. Unless under direct and immediate attack, the declaration of war by Congress must then be approved by a vote of the American public within 30 days. Failure to get approval by the American public makes the declaration of war overturned.”
It must be made far harder to go to war. The only effort Congress ever made to control presidents' warmaking was the War Powers Act. In theory a president has two days to tell Congress about an invasion or attack, and 60 days to withdraw. It has never worked. Presidents ignored it, even argued it to be unconstitutional, and Congress never used the act.
Wars need to be made very difficult to start and far easier to stop, when right now the reverse is true. Unless the American nation, armed forces, embassies, bases, or other installations are being directly attacked, or citizens are needing rescue, the President shall be absolutely forbidden to deploy troops. Congress must declare war first. Period. Always. End of discussion.
Without exception also, a declaration of war must be followed by approval by the public. A 30 day period is best since the rush to judgement and sometimes public hysteria is often very brief. A 30 day period is deliberately intended to give enough time for opposition to wars or bombing campaigns to build.
“4. The US President can deploy troops to rescue US or other citizens and must prevent genocide or other large scale atrocities. But the president must report to Congress on such action within 7 days and Congress must approve the deployment of troops within 30 days.”
The one exception to the proposed article is to prevent genocide, other atrocities, or mass humanitarian catastrophes. As a nation which itself committed genocide against American Indians, by the Trail of Tears, by outright systematic genocide in California during the Gold Rush, by deliberate starvation tactics when slaughtering the buffalo, and by the slave trade of both American Indians and Africans, the US should have a special commitment to ending, limiting, or preventing genocide elsewhere, if possible. One cannot stop genocides entirely. But genocide or other mass atrocities can often be limited, and many people can be rescued. It is inhumane and morally callous to not try.
And often American presidents have not even tried. Three US presidents deliberately avoided trying to end or limit genocide at least three times, during the Holocaust, in Bangladesh in the 1970s, and Rwanda in the 1990s. Most Americans have not been taught about these moral failures. Scholars do know, and we need to teach and reach the public on this issue far more. In Rwanda's case, Clinton himself has admitted his wrongdoing, that he could have easily saved 300,000 Rwandans by sending in as few as 5,000 troops. For both the Holocaust and Bangladesh, one tenth of the lives lost could have been saved, but were not. In both those cases, the far more effective way of halting genocide than militarily would have been to publicly denounce it, offer refuge, and declare the guilty would face war crimes trials.
One may understandably ask, why the US? Why not other nations too? The obvious answer is we don’t control other nations, only our own. But we can and should ask other nations to work with us to halt atrocities when possible. In practical terms, less than half a dozen nations have the military power to end atrocities in other parts of the world, though perhaps a dozen other nations have the power to stop or help stop regional wars.
This already happens with peacekeeping forces around the world. It is not too widely known, and some may scoff because they don’t know this. But the United Nations does stop or shorten most wars most of the time. The obvious recent failure was the Iraq War. It was an exception, one caused by deliberate obstruction and falsehoods by GW Bush's administration. The UN currently keeps the peace in 15 nations, and has caused a 40% drop in wars in the past 20 years. Limiting wars, and certainly halting or limiting genocide, are vitally important humane, ethical, and (take note, conservatives) Christian goals. These also agree with most Americans' sentiment. Many Americans sincerely believed in some of the wars fought because they genuinely wanted to help others and opposed dictatorships and atrocities. The new constitution should reflect that, and limit US troop actions to only that and self defense.
“5. The US government is forbidden to go to war or use war as an opportunity to enrich in any way any American businesses, corporations, or individuals. Family members of government officials shall not be exempt from military draft, nor sheltered in special units, or in any other way.”
“The flag follows the dollar” in Smedley Butler's words, is one of the main reasons for war. Wars are often fought to enrich the already wealthy. Few things unite people on all sides of the ideological aisle in disgust as much as undeserved advantage and profit in wartime. The profit motive must be removed from warfare, and businesses and persons forbidden from getting wealthy often literally over the dead bodies of servicemen.
It is also true that there are few congressmen's children in wars, less than a single percent during the Iraq and Afghan Wars. The class bias in who was drafted during Vietnam was especially notorious. So were special “champagne units” set up to shelter children of privilege from the draft. This must not be repeated or allowed.