Declaration of War on War

 By Gregory Wonderwheel

            Introduction:  This is a proposal for how the United States of America should respond to the bloodbaths and dictatorial regimes occurring around the world, as well as how we should curb our enthusiasm for imperialistic adventurism.  Historically, we have been hampered by an orientation that thwarts responsive action until the political expediency of entrenched vested interests (i.e., corporate business interests disguised a "national" interests) call out for action.  And then the call for intervention is always for benefit of the corporate racketeers.

Only occasionally, as in the withdrawal from Vietnam, does an effective call come directly from the populace at large and the vested interests are thereby politically threatened to the extent that they must act.  Usually, as in the invasions of Vietnam, Grenada, or Panama, and most recently with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq arising from so‑called “War on Terrorism,” the powers‑that‑be act on their own initiative for their own political and financial interests.   For the best single statement on the usual historical causes of the United States at war see “War Is A Racket” by General Smedley D. Bultler, retired.

This is a proposal that the U.S.A. adopt principles, policies, and procedures that will remove important areas of uncertainty and arbitrariness in the war making decision processes of Congress and the President. Here are the five steps of this proposal:

1.         Acknowledge the prohibition that an undeclared war is unconstitutional.

2.         Recognize humanitarian concern as the only valid reason for declaring war.

3.         Adopt an objective and reasonable criteria for declaring war.

4.         Adopt a consistent and clearly understandable international process for declaring war.

5.      Adopt consistent and evenhanded goals for declaring war and legitimatising the successor government.

THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HEREBY DECLARE WAR ON WAR.   To this end we declare the following truths and policies to be essential to the end of war as a tool for international racketeering and declare that the exclusive and solely legitimate purpose of war is to establish humanitarian normalcy.  The framework for legitimate war must be based on the following principles and procedures:


            First, we must acknowledge the prohibition that an undeclared war is unconstitutional.

            War is armed hostile conflict between states or nations. Historically, nations went to war for many reasons both offensive and defensive, including territorial expansion and plunder. Currently, there are three reasonable justifications for war all defensive in nature: 1) defending against territorial attack, 2) aiding an ally who is attacked, and 3) defending vital interests abroad. As war is conceived to be between nations, the causes of war are thought of in terms of nationalism, and only national interests are seen as valid reasons for war. I contend that "national interests" are only second-rate reasons for war and that people must evolve to a new level of understanding about war. In our current stage of political development the only truly moral reason for war is in fact international or "transnational," in the sense that it must transcend nations, and that is: humanitarian concern. War may be in conducted by nations but it should not be in the name of nations that wars are fought, rather in the name of humanity.

            By Orwellian circumlocution, politicians declare that only those armed hostile conflicts which they declare to be war are actually war, and all other armed hostile conflicts between nations are euphemistically called police actions, armed interventions, peacekeeping missions, etc. Traditionally, the congressional power to declare war has only been invoked when the U.S.A. has been directly attacked. Even the two other usual arguments for war have seldom resulted in declaring war. This creates the situation in which any armed response to all other world conditions must be through undeclared war, unconstitutionally invoked and commanded by the president without a declaration of war by Congress. By abdicating, in most situations, its power and responsibility to declare war, Congress has given up its interest in the principles behind decisions to go to war.

            Thus when faced with bloodbaths around the globe, as are occurring in Tibet, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti, Rwanda, etc., Congress finds itself incapable of conceiving of its responsibility to respond, much less to consider or formulate any humanitarian principles for responding. The president, as Commander in Chief of the military, then, is left to intervene at his own discretion without impartial guidelines or restraint, and with only those provided by political expediency. Having the power to wage war without requiring the prior restraint and check of the constitutional power to declare war breeds both an insidious contempt for the constitution and a conceit of power in the executive branch, which, ironically, leaves it either in vainglorious rapture over its massacres, as in Panama or Iraq, or in hand wringing consternation over its impotence, as in Bosnia and Haiti, or just plain denial as in Tibet.

            The central security and sustenance of our constitutional democracy lies in the principle of checks and balances of power. No matter how unwieldy or inexpedient democracy is, its glory and its validity lie in its principled restraint of governmental power. Therefore, the first step to recovering the constitutional center of gravity lies in returning to Congress its sole constitutional prerogative to declare war. Congressional abdication to the president in cases of imminent need on a temporary basis by the War Powers Act not withstanding, since such power should only be temporary and at first opportunity followed by the necessary declaration of war or a repudiation of the presidential usage.

            Indeed, if Congress won't empower itself, then the president must show true leadership by refusing to order or command armed hostile conflicts without a prior declaration of war and thereby forcing Congress to accept its duty. That presidents have uniformly refused to do so proves the adage that power corrupts.

            Lacking such presidential leadership or congressional resolve, the Supreme Court must resolutely assume leadership and declare that presidential orders to engage in armed hostile conflicts, of any magnitude, without a declaration of war by Congress are unconstitutional.

            Until the first step is taken and the balance of power is restored, our nation will only flounder from crisis to crisis without setting itself or its fellow nations onto the path of honorable relations between nations. While wallowing in each crisis, no long range principled planning occurs. Additionally, the ethical reasons for going to war are obscured by patriotic idiocy in the guise of normal nationalism.


Second, we must recognize that humanitarian concern is the only valid reason for declaring war.

The public participants in the spectrum of nations include, at one end, the diversity of people comprising the modern nation state and, at the other, the homogeneous tribe of "the People." In the evolution from the tribe as nation- to the nation as a confederation of tribes- to a nation of people who transcend tribes even if maintaining their ethnic identity, national identity becomes more complex and multifarious: thus making personal identity in relation to the nation more tenuous and ambiguous. Consequently, for citizens in demographically complex nations who must rely on allegiance to shared ideals to bond them together, there is an inherent allure to return to a supposed age of simplicity when one's personal identity was supported and verified by one's tribal identity. For less complex nations still relying on ethnic similarity as the bonding agent, the challenge to personal identity if the nation were to be integrated with other tribal identities seems insurmountable and inexcusable. There is no motivation strong enough to forge a shared ideal with the outsiders, and the result is national exclusion.

            Some variation of the conflict over how the "nation" shall be defined, i.e., by the ethnic purity of shared tribal identity or by the ethnic pluralism of tribal alliances under shared ideals, lies at the heart of all the bloodbaths worldwide.

            Whether in the creation or breakdown of nations, national identity breeds warfare.

            Such wars between nations will continue until a greater identity can be formed which includes them. This is the hope in the genesis of the United Nations.

            We are so enamored of the nation as the reflection of our identity that our vision is blurred to our own motivations in the world. The national propaganda machines tell us that we legitimately go to war for affairs of national interest, when in fact no sincere individual would ever go to war for merely national interests if it were not for that individual's personal identity being invested in the nation. The individual always goes to war because of the belief that his or her humanity requires it.

            The manipulations of politicians, businessmen, and generals convince people that their humanity lies vested in the national interest as defined by those leaders. But the people themselves fight for their humanitarian concerns as vested in the protection of their families and loved ones, their neighbors and friends, and those they perceive to be in the human family. This is why we can transcend our national identity when called upon to defend another nation, identifying with their humanity no matter how different their ethnic identity. And this is why the enemy in war must be dehumanized through relentless and repetitive propaganda.

            To cut out the ability of propagandists to manipulate us on the basis of national interests, we must focus on the true humanitarian grounds for war. From this perspective the only valid reason for war is to prevent crimes against humanity by nations who dehumanize their enemies. Whether one nation is attacking another (e.g., China attacking Tibet) or attacking a "nation" within its borders (e.g., Germans attacking Jews) or two tribal nations fighting each other in a "civil war" (e.g., Irish Protestants vs. Irish Catholics; Tutsis vs. Hutus in Rwanda; or Serbs vs. Bosnians vs. Croates), all such nationalistic wars are in fact crimes against humanity. In other words, the only valid cause for war is to fight to stop others from warring. In lopsided wars it is easy to see that the powerful aggressor is a criminal nation. In civil wars, after years of attack and defense and revenge attacks, a wrong side is impossible to distinguish. In such cases war must be waged against all sides until they cease their criminal warring.

            If the reasons for going to war cannot be stated in terms of humanitarian values and can only be stated in terms of national interests, then those reasons are not sufficient, and a proposed declaration of war should be denied. I propose going so far as to find national interests, in the absence of direct territorial attack, to be irrelevant to the question of declaring war. This is the kind of national leadership that is needed in the world today to create a nation brave enough to willingly subordinate its national interests to humanitarian interests when it comes to killing other humans.


Third, we must adopt an objective and reasonable criteria for declaring war.

Only an objective scale to measure humanitarian interests for authorizing armed hostile conflict between states or nations can be a reasonable standard. A scale must be logically sufficient for declaring war by an internationally accepted process. A scale must also be clear and concise and easily understandable to the person of average intelligence.

            The measurement processes must be reportable and verifiable. They must be made by recognized international monitoring organizations without national domination or control, such as United Nations Human Rights Programs, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, to name a few.

            The following are suggested categories of measurable humanitarian concern and consideration.

1)         Number of deaths within a nation measured in percentage of population within a certain amount of time. Whether by war or by other cause such as starvation is irrelevant since both indicate the current government is incapable of providing for the humanitarian rights of its citizens and is therefore morally bankrupt and forfeit of its legitimacy.

2)         Number of documented crimes against humanity within a nation, as defined by the United Nations human rights declarations and International Law precedents, measured in percentage of population within a certain amount of time.

3)         Armed hostile conflict between states or nations resulting in fatalities without following United Nations or regional processes for declaring war.

            Thus, if a country has a death rate within one month or one year which exceeds the designated percentage standard then any country or countries could legitimately initiate war declaration proceedings against that country. For example, if a country had over one-half of one percent of its people die within four to six months regardless of the reason, that could be sufficient to find that country's government to have violated humanitarian levels of care for its people. Or if a country was to have levels of reported human rights violations, such as torture or imprisonment without trial, greater than set limits, for example more than one per 1000 population in incidents occurred within twelve months, then that country's leadership has invalidated itself.

                        4.         INTERNATIONAL PROCESS FOR DECLARING WAR

            Fourth, we must adopt a consistent and clearly understandable international process for declaring war.

After adopting reasonable criteria, a process must be promulgated to make the manner of declaring war susceptible to international evaluation and consequences and that the consequences of violations of the process are internationally equivalent.

 1st)     Petition to the United Nations.

2nd) Petition to the regional international organization.

3rd) Petition to an ad hoc alliance of interested nations.

4th) Take independent action.

            Clear process whereby 1) the higher level's inaction will allow for lower level action, 2) the higher level's decision will veto or prevent lower level action, and 3) a lower level may override a higher level decision of inaction or insufficient action.

            No country can petition to an organizational level to which it does not belong. For example, the U.S.A. could declare war against France and petition the U.N. for war sanctions and appeal to NATO if the U.N. failed to act, but it could not appeal to the O.A.S. Or, Egypt could appeal to the U.A.R. for war sanctions against Jordan but not against Israel, since it only belongs to the U.N. in common. A nation could only take independent action if their petition resulted in inaction at all the higher levels of appeal.

            Until the U.N. and other international organizations can mutually establish such process, the United States should promulgate and abide by its own openly declared process that substantially incorporates the internationally proposed process.


Fifth, we must adopt consistent and evenhanded goals for declaring war and legitimatising the successor government.

 The fundamental goals of declaring war should only be 1) the return to humanitarian normalcy and 2) the institution of self-rule democratic governments to secure that humanitarian normalcy.

The return to humanitarian normalcy will be measured in terms of the same criteria that prompted the humanitarian declaration of war, i.e., reduction in deaths, in human rights violations, and in armed hostile conflict between states or nations.

The range of structures of popular self-rule democratic governments may widely vary, but there must be adopted by the United Nations (or in the interim by regional international organizations or unilaterally by the United States) a process that is easy to implement for allowing a people to determine for themselves what kind of new government or governmental modifications will both a) best express the people's will and responsibility and b) prevent a future need to declare war. 


This proposal is inchoate.  If you would like to help create and mold this proposal, please e-mail me at  and put “war on war” in the subject line.


“War Is Just A Racket” is the short excerpt of the speech given by Smedley D. Butler, Maj. Gen. Ret., during his national speaking tour of 1933.

“War Is A Racket” is the small booklet (of 5 short “chapters”) written by Smedley D. Butler, Maj. Gen. Ret., which expanded on his speech after it was so well received and he was asked for written copies of the speech.


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Page last edited 12/08/04.