No Presidential Wars

Bruce Fein's Remarks
The Committee for the Republic
Metropolitan Club
January 5, 2017

Fix your eyes on Richmond, Virginia 242 years ago. The liberty of a continent then and there hung in the balance. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry was speaking at St. John's Church. The British Crown was tyrannizing American colonists with, among other things, Writs of Assistance, precursor to our NSA's dragnet surveillance. The Declaratory Act had decreed that British powers over the colonists were limitless. With words that thundered like a hammer striking an anvil, Mr. Henry awakened the audience to its duty. "Is life so dear," he asked, "or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"

The crisis confronted by our Republic today again comes from government, but now the tyranny is exercised inside rather than outside America. We have met the enemy, and we are they.

The Committee for the Republic recognizes that our undertaking to end presidential wars and to repudiate global domination for its own sake is unprecedented. Never before has opposition been seriously mounted inside an empire to tame the beast of power. For 3,000 years, empires craving domination have self-destructed.

For three generations, the Democratic and Republican parties have relentlessly compromised the Constitution's separation of powers--a structural bill of rights against tyranny--in favor of one-branch government. The White House exercises more power over American citizens than King George III did over American colonists. They include not only waging multi-trillion dollar wars on the President's say-so alone--turning children into orphans and wives into widows. But also playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill any American citizen the President decrees is an imminent national security threat based on secret, unsubstantiated information.

The American colonists revolted against a lesser tyranny. We have acquiesced in a greater.

The remedy for the decay is simple: honor rather than vandalize the Constitution-- "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."

It entrusts the war power to the branch of government with no predisposition to abuse it: the legislative branch--a talking shop. The Constitution's authors knew what all of human history verifies--that the executive personality is eager for gratuitous warfare to aggrandize power, to evade accountability, and to be memorialized with monuments and obelisks.

I believe our No Presidential Wars Project is not an option but a duty.

I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My childhood was filled with Paul Revere's Ride, Concord Hymn, Lexington Green, Old North Bridge and Bunker Hill. I can still remember, "By the rude bridge that arched the flood their flag to April's breeze unfurled. Here once the embattled farmer's stood and fired the shot heard round the world."

I grew up grateful to those who risked and the many who gave their lives or fortunes to create a liberty-centered universe unalterably opposed to limitless power in all its imperious moods and tenses.

At the Department of Justice, I had a bird's eye seat for 18 months in the forced resignation of Richard Nixon in the face of certain impeachment and conviction. The nation repudiated Nixon's assertion that when the President does it, it's legal. Impeachment proved our institutions are stronger and more important than their occupants. Nixon's removal from office marked the Constitution's finest hour and the high water mark of self-government. It set a standard to which we should repair.

At present, we are engaged in nine known unconstitutional presidential wars: Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and against Al Qaeda and ISIS. The CIA may be fighting other secret wars.

David had his Goliath. We confront a multi-trillion dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex which will seek to crush us.

But let it never be said of our generation what Tacitus said of Rome in explaining the death of the Republic: "The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more, and tolerated by all."