By Rep. Pat McGeehan
My father was a B-52 bomber pilot who lost his life in service to this country. My grandfathers served in World War II. One fought in Europe; the other witnessed the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. My great grandfather battled through the trenches of World War I. Following their example, I graduated from the US Air Force Academy, serving as an intelligence officer overseas in the Middle East.
As all of our fathers that served before us did, I took an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I’ve now repeated this oath four times after swearing-in as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. I took this oath seriously then, and I still do today. It does not have an expiration date.
“Congress shall have power to declare war.” One simple line, but a provision our Founding Fathers carefully constructed. This section in the Constitution gives to the legislature, and not the executive branch, the exclusive right to decide when this country goes to war and when it does not. After nearly two decades of endless wars, this essential phrase has more relevance today than perhaps it ever did in the past.
With this war-powers clause, there can be little doubt of our Founders’ intentions, for this can be easily understood from their own words. Of these, none are better than those written by the Father of the Constitution, President James Madison: “The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war to the legislature.”
Discarding this Constitutional first principle that helped forge the backbone of the rule of law in our Republic has resulted in grave consequences. Thousands of American lives have been lost in unnecessary Middle Eastern conflicts, devastating our military families while fatiguing our country’s defenses—all while draining trillions from the pockets of taxpayers. For a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, this is quite simply unsustainable. We must learn the lessons of history and heed the wisdom of our Founders before we’re forced to learn the hard way.
President Trump cited some of these lessons this year in his State of the Union address: “Great nations do not fight endless wars. After two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace. It is time to give our brave warriors a warm welcome home.” I appreciate this respect for Constitutional authority, and here are some steps I’m taking in support:
* Next January, I’ll re-introduce bipartisan “Defend the Guard” legislation providing that the National Guard of West Virginia shall not be sent into combat in foreign nations without Constitutional authority, just as the Framers intended—that is, unless and until a majority of the people elected to Congress choose to do so (and can be held accountable). This year, a bipartisan majority in our House of Delegates voted to bring this bill to the House floor for consideration, but after intense back-room lobbying, a vote on final passage was never held.
* I’m also joining with fellow veterans in other states that are now bringing this same legislation and message to federal and state lawmakers across the country—to uphold Constitutional authority as required by their oath of office, and to support President Trump’s principled desire to Bring Our Troops Home.
If you agree, sign our petition at WVBringOurTroopsHome.com. You can also urge Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, to support President Trump’s efforts to end America’s endless wars. Finally, urge your state legislators to support bipartisan “Defend the Guard” legislation that reaffirms our state’s authority and demands that the federal government honor our Constitutional rule of law—before bleeding more lives and money from West Virginia into the deserts of foreign conflicts.
Pat McGeehan is a four-term state delegate in the West Virginia Legislature who has published numerous books and essays on economics, history, and philosophy. He is a former business owner and now manages a private school which caters to troubled children. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy, he has also served as a military intelligence officer. He resides with his daughter Kennedy in his hometown of Chester, West Virginia.