The Charlotte News

Sunday, December 19, 1937


Site Ed. Note: We have been considering a little more the possibilities regarding that proposed 1937 amendment being resurrected to require a national referendum before committing United States troops to a foreign conflict which does not involve a direct and imminent threat, nuclear or otherwise, to the sovereign territory of the United States. Here is our proposed language:

Section 1. Except in cases of national emergency where the security of the United States or its sovereign territory is in imminent peril and it would be impracticable for a national referendum to be held, or in cases of direct attack on the sovereign territory of the United States, it shall be the right of the people of the United States to commit armed forces of the United States to wars or conflicts occurring exclusively in territory outside the sovereign territory of the United States.

Section 2. A national referendum shall be held to determine whether the United States shall commit its armed forces to such wars or conflicts under Section 1. The national referendum shall occur within sixty days of either an Executive Order of the President, a majority vote of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, or petitions presented to the House of Representatives from a majority of the States, each such petition bearing the signatures of at least five percent of the population of that State as determined in the most recent United States Census. Petitions shall be conducted and presented in a manner determined by each State's Legislature, under procedures which each State shall enact within ninety days of the ratification of this provision. The national referendum shall be held on the same day in every State. A majority of the voters in the referendum shall determine whether United States armed forces shall be committed to a particular war or conflict in a particular foreign sovereignty or sovereignties, as named on the referendum ballot, except that in the case where the referendum is at the instance of the people of a majority of the States by petition, the referendum shall require in excess of a two-thirds majority of the voters in the referendum.

Section 3. When United States armed forces are committed to foreign wars or conflicts pursuant to Section 2, then it shall be the right of the people of the United States, by national referendum occurring once per annum, and by the same majority which approved the commitment of armed forces pursuant to Section 2, to determine the continued funding of such commitment of armed forces beyond a period of six months from the date of the referendum held pursuant to this section. In no case shall funding of an existing commitment of armed forces to foreign wars or conflicts be terminated by national referendum in less than six months from the date of the referendum.

Section 4. In all cases of a national referendum pursuant to Section 3, the Congress shall be authorized, by a majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives in excess of the majority of the popular vote of the people of the United States in the referendum, to override the decision of the referendum.

Section 5. In all cases where a national referendum pursuant to Section 2 refuses to commit United States armed forces to a foreign war or conflict, when that refusal would abrogate a prior treaty commitment of the United States, then the Congress shall have authority to override the decision of the referendum by a two-thirds majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

And, should it become law, just think: no more Vietnams, no more Iraqs, except by the true consent of the people, and at every stage of the process.

And, no one could carp that it would do away with NATO or other treaty commitments, as the Congress could act by two-thirds majority in such instances to override the referendum should a vote so seek such an abrogation--an abrogation of which by a majority of the people's will thus communicated would serve to quell the ardor, no doubt, of Congressional or Executive determination to go to war under particular circumstances where the will of the people deemed the war an insufficient threat to United States interests, even though ostensibly pursuant to treaty provisions.

Conversely, by an affirmative vote of approval of such a commitment, criticism of a war effort would not be susceptible to being dumped at the doorstep of the President or Congress, thus strengthening the government's position in seeking an early end to hostilities.

The referendum could be initiated by Congress, the President, or the people directly, but in the latter instance, only on a two-thirds majority, thus establishing a check against inertia developed from hotblood propaganda waves sweeping the country overnight for war, which by their nature would be hard to muster for sixty days in more than two-thirds of the country. For whole populations inevitably, in any land, and in any time, are subject to the same sort of insane fits of which "Stuff of a Killer" indicates the individual is susceptible.

Moreover, the Congress could again override by a majority greater than that of the referendum any decision to cut off funding of an existing commitment voted by referendum initially.

And the war-making powers of the President and any necessary approval by Congress under the War Powers Act, would not be intruded upon under exigent circumstances, such as that of Pearl Harbor or the Cuban missile crisis, as the right of referendum would not apply to either direct attacks on United States sovereign territory, or national emergencies requiring such imminent action that a referendum within sixty days of the decision by Congress or the President to go to war, under existing laws and the provisions of Articles I and II of the Constitution, would be impracticable.

Inevitably, in close questions, the determination of what is emergent and what is impracticable would be determined, as in all such cases of constitutional interpretation, by the Federal courts. As a practical matter, no Congress or President would wish to risk the wrath of the public sufficiently made vocal, before undertaking any such close case without initial approval, thus serving as an additional check on the authority of a President and Congress in any non-emergent scenario. No longer susceptible to cries of "wagging the dog" for political hay in an election year or to distract from scandal, the Executive and the Congress would thus achieve an unhampered authority to wage war in the case of popular approval by referendum.

Too expensive to hold such national referenda, someone might rejoinder. How expensive is ill-advised war? we might reply. How destructive to national morale, and hence the productive capacity of the country, is one which is fought or continued, contrary to the will of the majority of the citizenry? The expense by comparison is but a skimption, a pennysworth--and one not for tribute, but to avoid same.

Exhibit A: Vietnam and the two-decade long struggle afterward to repair the wrecked inflationary economy to which in great part that war gave rise.

If you need a name for it, call it the Cash Amendment. If someone asks why, tell them it's so that fewer young people, in the future, will have to walk the line for any cause but the rare one for which it is worth fighting, that one perhaps of which Macaulay, as set forth below, poetically dignified and ascribed to Horatius in his heroic defense of the Sublician bridge across the Tiber, in direct protection of Rome.

The rest of the page is here. Dorothy Thompson's piece,--both columns, not just the right or left side, backwards though they may be, or are they simply of one piece?--, is worth thoroughly digesting, together with the little piece to its right on the elderly woman's zest for the defining scene in the Shark Island movie, otherwise about the imprisonment of Dr. Samuel Mudd for tending to Booth in presumed aid of his escape. Such emotions, even though removed from the event by 72 years, were far more prevalent, especially in the Deep South, than people cared then or later to believe, probably--just as they were 26 years later and afterward within the same territorially warped, generationally, and even perhaps genetically, passed subsets of mind bent, a bend, however, enhanced nevertheless by the vagaries of the carpetbagger resulting directly from the assassination of which the lady ironically found to be so pleasant to view in recreation.

And then--we ask again, did someone none too clever, or perhaps too clever for their own good, view this stuff, someone with inimical will to the elevation through biography of the name of W. J. Cash and his work, in the time of 1962 and 1963, and thereon decide it was better to go out on that limb, of which the editorial cartoon makes reference, than have the new post-war empire limb-hangers, as they saw them then, engage in surprise attack the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, only utilizing nuclear warheads this time, and thus saw themselves as the grand vindicators of will against such an inevitable consequence otherwise, the one they perceived both from within and from without?

It is circumstantial, true enough, but unlike that on which Bob premised his more absurd and pointless investigations, not of the flimsy variety or wanting of continued grave consequence to democracy for misinterpretation of the history, especially given the aftermath.

Bob Believes Everything*

Back in the dark days of 1933, the late great rascal Ivar Krueger, Swedish match king, died in his Paris apartment. Somehow the story got around that his death, like many of the acts of his life, was a fraud, and that he changed his name and altered his appearance and was somewhere living off his the ill got gains. With nothing more than the flimsiness of circumstantial evidence on which to base his suspicions, Bob Reynolds fell for this tale so hard that he actually cross-examined a friend of Krueger's before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee on the point. "Did you view the remains?" Bob shot at him in his best court-room style. Heck, no, the witness replied, probably adding that he didn't like to view remains. But Robert sniffed.

And now Robert believes that there is something funny about this "recession" we're having. He scents a deep-dyed plot on the part of Business and the Interests to gratify a grudge against the President, and he may introduce a resolution calling for a Senate investigation. Well, it would be fine and dandy were the explanation as simple as all that, but the chances are that Robert can't wish off the responsibility which is the politicians' onto business. Business, after all, is not so stupid as to cut off its nose to spite its face.

The Move That Failed

The Japanese government, having fallen over itself in its haste to apologize with an unparalleled abjectness for the bombing of the Panay, is now apparently turning sullen. Nor is it difficult to guess why. The great haste probably had as its object the securing of formal acceptance by the United States of the doctrine that the thing was all an unfortunate mistake before the facts came to light. But our Mr. Hull proved too canny to swallow that one out of hand. And now it is becoming increasingly and overwhelmingly plain that the thing was not and could not have been a mistake.

The report of the commander of the British ship Bee that Japanese launches machine-gunned the Panay was perhaps open to some little suspicion. But the reports of the American survivors that the charge is true, that Jap soldiers boarded the sinking boat and held its crew on board at bayonet point, and that the boats carrying off the wounded were machine-gunned, are open to no such suspicions. The case stands forth now as one of wanton and malicious action on the part of stupid militarists consumed with megalomania.

And that puts the Japanese government in a spot. Genuinely to satisfy our government about this business, it is going to have to do a good deal more than go through the hocus-pocus of recalling a Mitsunami. It is going to have to convince Washington that it can and will genuinely discipline the army and navy in China. And the fact ineluctably is that the Japanese government is unable to discipline them, and knows it.

Stuff of a Killer

We take it for granted that there is much to justify the action of Governor Hoey in paroling Frank Chadwick, convicted of second-degree murder for a killing in Columbus County. The "mitigating circumstances" mentioned undoubtedly exist. And the fact that "prominent citizens" of their communities testified to his great general reputation and to the belief that he could be successfully rehabilitated as a good citizen argues strongly in their favor.

[Indiscernible words] parolees. A man convicted of second degree murder [indiscernible words] the one for killing in a fit of anger. And of a man who kills in anger it may be said--well, many of us (maybe even most of us) have felt the impulse to kill in anger. But we didn't kill at once because our anger was not powerful enough and because our inhibitions against killing were too strong. Of a man who kills in anger, then, it may be said that his anger is likely to be of a particularly violent sort--that it literally does take the form of an insane fit--or that his inhibitions against killing are poorly developed. And either condition, or both conditions, it seems to us, raises as grave a question as to whether it can ever be safe to have him walking about free, as if he were afflicted with, say, paranoia.

Under New Management

What appears to be plain notice that MAFLO is to be taken out of the hands of Zeke Henderson and directed along entirely new lines, has been served by its President Beaty. Most people overlook the fact that Mr. Beaty, and not Mr. Henderson, is President of MAFLO, for until now it has been Mr. Henderson's snickersnee. Did a sucker lose his roll in one of the booky joints that operate here, it was to Mr. Henderson that he hied, and it was to Mr. Henderson, in MAFLO's name, who took it up with the police. Did the grocers feature a pleasant and totally innocuous little game called "bumper" at their food show, it was Mr. Henderson who, in MAFLO's name, cited a law against it. The result of these and other annoyances was that MAFLO quickly became a petty nuisance, and it lost caste which it didn't have to spare.

The new idea for MAFLO is to return to its original conception and educate the people to the advantages of law observance. Whether it will amount to much more than a lot of speeches, we shall have to see; but anyhow it will leave the town's principal and most persistent reformer to operate in solo.

Horatius At the Bridge

Authorities feared the remainder of the historic Sublicio bridge, where Horatius fought his heroic battle in 507 B.C., might be swept away.

Thus the Associated Press in the reports of the flood on the Tiber at Rome.

You remember, we take it, that story of Horatius the One-Eyed as Livy told it. How when Lars Porsena and the Etruscan host were about to overwhelm Rome, he single-handed held the bridgehead against them, while others cut down the span behind him, how then he flung himself in the river and swam to safety. And you probably remember too the heroic rhetoric which Macaulay put into his mouth:

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
In the temples of his gods?

But, alas and alackaday, the debunkers have been at work on that story, too. Schwegler, the greatest critical authority on Livy, says in his Romische Geschichte that no such person as this one-eyed hero ever lived, and that no such battle was ever fought. The whole tale arose, he goes on, through identification of the celebrated Horatian family with Vulcan and the one-eyed Cyclops, and the practice of a religious ceremony in which stuffed figures called Argel were pitched into the Tiber on the ides of May.

We are not prepared to doubt it, but we liked the old tale and Macaulay best.

All That Glitters...

This Propaganda Analysis, a course we have subscribed to, is going to be even better fun than we thought. There are seven common propaganda devices, and the other day we caught some bigwig in the act of using Device No. 2--the Glittering Generalities Device. This is a method of employing virtue words, either in a positive or negative sense, to appeal to our emotions. Virtue words, like many public addresses you undoubtedly have heard, say a lot, but when you come down to it they don't mean anything specifically.

And now we have caught Steelman Tom Girdler, who spoke on the subject of the New Deal to the National Association of Manufacturers last week, using not one but several stock propaganda devices. Glittering Generalities is one of them, some samples of which are appended:

"Instead of the freedom of democracy..."

"Instead of free competition..."

"Instead of encouraging cooperation and understanding between employees and employers..."

Which is to say, instead of that which is virtuous, we have had--and here Steelman Tom rings in the Name Calling Device:

"...a straitjacket of specialized legislation..."

"...restraints and regulations."

"...efforts to foment hatred and breed discord among workers."

In one other place Steelman Tom gets into the Testimonial Device, but enough is enough. Thus, putting his propaganda through the blah wringer--that is, substituting the impudent American word blah for every generality he utters and every name that is called--we arrive at the following ludicrous result:

"Instead of the blah of blah, we have had a blah of blah legislation."

"Instead of blah blah we have had blah and blah."

"Instead of blah blah and blah between employees and employers, we have had efforts to blah blah and blah blah among workers."


Site Ed. Note: But, we might note that this routine might be carried yet too far, thus to cancel out all generalized description in speech or writing, even so sanctified a thing as that ultimately assuring the continued sustenance of salus rei publicae: poetry. For instance, applying the blah principle to a part of one of the Sonnets of Shakespeare:

Which, like a blah hung in the blah night,
Makes black night blah and her old face blah.
Lo! Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.

Cold indeed; and labour lost:

'Ware pencils, ho!

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