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Jamie Stiehm
Past and Present
5 Sep 2014
President Obama, Meet Your Mate: James Madison

America needs a foreign policy vision that's fresh, clear and bold as a series of crises cascades over the … Read More.

29 Aug 2014
Love, Slavery and Truth in the Madison Match

Hello, Dolley — Madison, I mean. She stole the glory from the British burning down the president's … Read More.

22 Aug 2014
Black and White in Ferguson and Journalism

When you don't know if the violent scenes on the evening news are in Iraq or in Ferguson, Missouri, then … Read More.

Declaring War on the Defensive/Washington Notes


The mood in the Capitol was jittery on Sept. 10. The day descended into the night scene of a somber president, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, declaring a new war on Iraq.

Thirteen years later, what a way to mark the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 21st century was instantly darkened by one tragic day, which depleted our economy and military.

We waged war on false grounds, maiming many soldiers and marines from roadside explosions. We left Iraq seething in political chaos, which is why we "have" to return. That's what they — foreign policy experts — say. When have they ever been wrong?

Rich as it is, irony thickens. Obama, the constitutional lawyer-in-chief, is now going to war without seeking permission from Congress. He had House and Senate leaders over to the Oval to tell them, face-to-face, that he did not need their authorization.

As he added, he may ask for approval in arming rebels in Syria. But that's not the way it's supposed to work. He knows better from his bookish professor days.

War just does not become Obama. He's got gravitas, but he signed up for making us sing in worldwide harmony. A third American campaign against Iraq since 1991, even if limited to air strikes, will darken the rest of his days as president.

Indelibly, it means we are going in and killing people and putting our own in harm's way. That's war by any other name and this time it will have his name on it.

As a younger man, Obama opposed the Iraq War in 2003 — frankly calling it a "dumb" war at a Chicago rally.

So let's go to war by the book this time. Let's see how much the American public likes a draft and higher taxes. Just for fun, let's revive rules George W. Bush broke. It's time to end the crafty Pentagon policy of "volunteer" armed services. The minds inside that building's rings know it's harder to go to war with an old-fashioned draft.

There's no truer test of public opinion.

Obama's televised speech for taking military action against ISIS, a new rising Islamic power in Iraq and Syria, was mostly greeted with silence in the halls. A few brave Democrats declared it's unwise — and unconstitutional — not to seek consent from Congress. Senator Timothy Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, spoke out on the Senate floor.

"The Constitution is clear. It is the job of Congress, not the president, to declare war," Kaine said. "A president must seek congressional approval for significant military action." Citing James Madison, a Virginian and the Constitution author, Kaine showed real courage in admonishing a president of his own party, in open court. Nobody likes to do that.

The morning of Sept. 10 was filled with fresh mourning. It opened with a Rotunda congressional medal ceremony honoring the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 in three burning buildings.

A fourth hijacked plane, forced down by crew and passengers, was headed to hit the Capitol itself. Instead, it fell into a lonely field in Pennsylvania and crashed to smithereens. Across a turquoise sky, that plane was only 10 minutes away from a citadel you could not miss on a cloudless morning. The nation watched frozen in horror.

The former vice president, Dick Cheney, who put the nation on a war footing then, was loose on the Capitol grounds. With his grandiosity, called himself an "architect" of the post 9/11 security apparatus — something like that. He's done so much for us.

Did we forget to send Dick a thank-you note?

Kaine reminded the Senate how grave the hour is. "If we have learned nothing else in the last 13 years, we should have certainly learned that."

Last, Obama has been pushed around by the establishment, scolded in the media and derided by Republican Senator John McCain (his 2008 foe) for saying, naively, that he didn't have a "strategy" for dealing with a new Islamic militant force.

All while the president was on the Vineyard. Apparently his critics begrudge him even that. Let's hope going to war isn't a defensive move here at home.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit



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