Saturday, October 18, 2008

Memo to US Citizens: your president is not your Commander-in-Chief

Back in July, standing outside the US Congress, a tourist from Illinois said, "Well, if the president told me to do (such and such) then, of course I would do it."

Like so many Americans today, this fellow did not understand what it actually means to be an American citizen.

We had been talking about whether it was OK for the telecoms to illegally wiretap Americans' phone conversations -- supposing they had been requested to do so by the Bush White House. I say "requested" because a US president cannot order an American citizen who is not in the armed forces to do anything.

Blogger and constitutional expert Glenn Greenwald comments on this sorry state of affairs:
The President isn't your "commander," and the "Commander-in-Chief" power, now synonymous in our political culture with "President," is actually extremely limited (Art. II, Sec. 2: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States").

This endless festishization of "President as Our Commander-in-Chief" is one of those small but pernicious reflections of how militarized we've become, of how we are a society in a state of perpetual and endless war.
Greenwald laments that the US media reveres McCain as someone who seems to be Commander-in-Chief material. Contrary to the public misconception, Americans are not electing any Commander-in-Chief of the American People. There is no such thing.

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely right. But it's a scary world right now, with some very scary people trying to kill any Americans they can. Personally, I still have flashbacks to 9/11. I'm not surprised that a lot of us are looking for a warrior to lead us instead of a skilled administrator.


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