Marbury Versus Madison And The Kurds

When I teach my classes about Separation of Powers, I necessarily discuss Marbury v. Madison, the case that established the doctrine of judicial review.

The case was superficially simple. President Adams spent the waning hours of his term creating judgeships–packing the courts, in the view of Jefferson, who succeeded him. In those days, the “commission” appointing someone had to be physically received in order to be effective; time ran out before Marbury’s could be delivered.

Jefferson refused to deliver it, and Marbury sued.

Jefferson made it clear that he would ignore the order If the Court ruled that he had to deliver Marbury’s commission. But Marshall was aware of the damage that would be done if an official action by a preceding President could simply be disregarded by the current one.

At this point in the discussion, I usually pose a hypothetical to the class. Let’s say you own a towing company, and your city, under its current Mayor, awards you a four-year contract. You bought a new tow truck and hired a couple of additional workers in anticipation of the increased business. But a few months later, a new mayor was elected, who refused to honor the contract. How likely would you be to ever do business with the city again?

Students get it; they recognize the importance of government honoring its commitments. So did Justice Marshall, whose decision, in my opinion at least, was right up there with King Solomon’s proposal to cut the baby in half.

Marshall ruled that Jefferson was bound by his predecessor’s official action–or at least, would have been bound, had the law passed by Congress that created the judgeships been constitutional–which, Marshall also ruled, it wasn’t.

Marshall’s decision avoided the crisis that would have been precipitated had he given an order that Jefferson defied. It also established the court as the final authority on constitutionality. (Jefferson reportedly was unhappy with the terms of the decision, but he’d “won,” so he accepted it.)

Marshall had recognized how critically important it is that nations, like individuals, keep their word. If national commitments could be disregarded when an administration changed, neither our own citizens nor foreign countries would trust the government of our country,  a situation that would negatively affect everything from trade agreements to treaties.

Which brings me to the disaster that is the Trump Administration, and its betrayal of the Kurds.

It’s bad enough that the administration is roiling the economy by rolling back regulations that businesses have relied upon (however grudgingly), introducing unpredictability and inviting litigation–both of which are costly. Betraying commitments to allies is far worse. When that betrayal virtually guarantees the death of soldiers who have been fighting beside Americans and against our enemies, it is both damaging to national security and morally unforgivable.

The New York Times quoted a Special Forces soldier

“They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

The American military’s strategy in Syria over the past four years has been dependent upon  trust and collaboration with the Kurds, who have been described as integral to routing ISIS, the Islamic State, from northeastern Syria.

The Kurds fought in Manbij, Raqqa and deep into the Euphrates River Valley, hunting the last Islamic State’s fighters in the group’s now defunct physical caliphate. But the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., as the Kurdish and their allied Arab fighters on the ground are called, are being left behind.

Thanks to this profoundly ignorant and corrupt administration, America’s reputation and what remains of its honor are being left behind with the Kurds.

Words fail.

24 thoughts on “Marbury Versus Madison And The Kurds

  1. Our military has a ‘commander-in-name-only’ who not only has never served, not only devised his escape from service with a lie, but has no concept of honor or team work.

    Does anyone recall the rumblings from the military about how they wouldn’t take orders from Obama (for the obvious reason)? Why don’t we hear similar rumblings about taking orders from a lunatic?

  2. “They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

    The above quote by that Special Forces soldier could…and should…be the rallying cry of the Democratic party at all levels of government against the Trump administration. His word is not our bond and it changes from mood to mood; his over zealous handshakes with our foreign allies and enemy leaders alike is his greatest lie as “sealing the deal” of the moment.

    “Thanks to this profoundly ignorant and corrupt administration, America’s reputation and what remains of its honor are being left behind with the Kurds.”

    WE, as a nation, have been left behind to founder for ourselves under the rule of White Nationalists and live with the dishonor he and his administration have forced on us and on the world at large. The loss of lives in Syria and the acceptance of money from Saudi Arabia, the country who directly attacked us on 9/11, to pay OUR military troops should be the final degradation…but McConnell has announced loud and clear that he will NOT allow impeachment of Trump to happen.

  3. The “president’s ” art of the deal always seems to rely on screwing the other parties in the transactions. I’m sure he’s prepared to sue the Kurds if necessary and stumble on blindly to his next great victory.

  4. I don’t pretend to understand all of the ins and outs of the situation in Syria that involve the Syrians, the Kurds, ISIS, the Russians, Turkey and us. But neither does Trump! He simply made a phone call to the leader of Turkey and abruptly pulled out our troops. No meetings with his “advisers”. No conferences with the military. No “I’ll think about it over-night”. Nope, the crazy man running the country made the life and death decision on the fly apparently between tweets.
    I’m not feeling so secure these days. How about you?

  5. Even more egregious is that he has given they okey-dokey to genocide. The Turks have been “at war” with the Kurds for years, but this is the first time they have been given a green light to pursue them across their border. Remember, Turkey has the second largest military force in NATO, behind only the US. They will slaughter every Kurdish man, woman, and child they encounter.

  6. Regarding the Kurds, this isn’t our first rodeo of bailing on them. We have a long history of reneging on our agreements with them. I believe this is the 5th time since WWI.

    Like the Jews, they want their own country in the Middle East but have been screwed over by many countries — the U.K. did their part for years then we have taken over like good imperialists.

    We didn’t just betray them — we approved of their slaughter by the Turks. Erdogan told Trump about his planned offensive, and it was approved.

    Trump’s actions are indefensible. ISIS prisoners are fleeing their detainment camps and will most likely find their way to Europe, so our other allies will have to deal with them as they scatter and seek revenge.

    I’m sure North Korea is observing, and so is China. Why would any country enter into an agreement with Trump? His history of screwing over parties to a deal in both his personal and professional lives is well documented. He’s not trustworthy, and as our POTUS, he’s made the USA untrustworthy as well.

    The only silver lining is Trump has made a few more enemies in Republican senators, which hurts his impeachment defense.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. war machine is ramping up in Saudi Arabia as it looks like an offensive against Iran is inevitable. I wonder how many Republicans and Democrats will forget about the Kurds in Syria if we can mount a regime change in Iran.

    I believe Trump’s highest presidential rating came after a bomb dropping excursion on Syria. Our imperialistic ways know no bounds. We aren’t satisfied until every oil-producing nation has U.S. approved leadership and are operated as capitalistic machines. We are not spreading democracy to the world — we are spreading capitalism to the world via the Deep State. Our brand of capitalism with Fascist leadership.

  7. Actually, Jane, there ARE rumblings in our military. Remember, Mattis is a revered Marine and his departure shook the military establishment to its core. McMaster is a highly-respected soldier and leader. His departure has shaken the military establishment to its core also.

    The military are quiet now, because they are caught, but if the orange hairball tells them to do something that is immoral or illegal, they will disobey. Those rules are part of the military’s playbook. The Kurd decision is borderline immoral in that we aren’t directly killing anybody. Trump managed to stagger along that fine line this time, but his collection of diseases will eventually cause an open rift.

    Remember, he has said that he has the military to protect him against a coup. I’m waiting for the 2020 election, or enough Republicans to find their balls and their spines to convict this dirt stain on our national honor and the Constitution. Trump will claim “rigged election” or phony impeachment and sue to stay in office. The Marshalls will have to perp-walk his sorry ass out of the Oval Office in cuffs and shackles.

    Who ever thought our country would come to this? Those Trump adherents must be so proud of their pet criminal.

  8. JoAnn wrote: “…but McConnell has announced loud and clear that he will NOT allow impeachment of Trump to happen.”

    Who made McConnell the little emporer? Kentuckians. We are being held hostage by a bunch of goddam Kentuckians?! SMFH

  9. Sheila,

    “Words fail”

    You hit the “bull’s eye.”

    Don’t blame or put all of this on Trump. We just don’t have the necessary “CIVIC COURAGE” as Bonhoeffer explained during the Nazi Era. As I pointed out yesterday on this blog, Martin Luther King also understood and anticipated this problem. He labeled it a failure to take “DIRECT ACTION.”

    Both were very strong Christian leaders, and their exceptionally strong faith allowed them to speak-out knowing the possibility of death.

    We are the ones who created the MONSTER and, thus, are the only ones who can stop its destruction before it is too late, which is probably already the case. Politicians will never be the answer to the calamity we’re facing. They’re too compromised from the “get-go.”

  10. Todd,

    “We are not spreading democracy to the world — we are spreading capitalism to the world via the Deep State. Our brand of capitalism with Fascist leadership.”

    Exactly right. So we continue to wait around expecting democracy to be the answer when we ELECTED a Fascist leader. Can you imagine the Germans when Hitler was at the helm, calling for more democracy? All you can do is laugh at this point. We don’t have what it takes. Although miracles do happen.

  11. For an example of successful DIRECT ACTION was its application in the landmark one man, one vote, DEMOCRACY victory in Dallas. See http://www.TheAlarmReport.info.

    A few days after the report, the Mayor of Dallas decided not to appeal the Federal Judge’s
    ruling which was favorable to the concept of one man, one vote. Also, just as important was the indirect result: the failure of President George Bush to be re-elected.

  12. There has been lots written about the “Golden Rule” as the basis of all religion. While it’s stated differently by different religions all moral institutions practice some form of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    That lesson was obviously not practiced in the Trump household. In fact the household saluted just the opposite. Make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever.

    The Middle East has had a brilliant past in the progress of mankind and was for many centuries the center of knowledge and learning of the whole civilized world. Now it’s in continuous chaos as the toxic combination American and European wealth and theocracy has worked its absolute power corrupts absolutely magic on Middle Eastern tribes.

    The Kurds have always had the misfortune to have immigrated by accident into the worst possible location for peaceful settlement (as did the Jews). They are buffers between tribes that have only known war as a solution to civic problems. Fortunately both the Jews and Kurds picked their allies well, at least until now.

    I suspect that the Trump family considers Israel as hotel worthy and Kurdistan as not so much. Therefore “make more money” and the absence of “do unto others” dictates their family business plans which now have become American foreign policy.

    We suffer a record fall from global relevance. The Kurds face the worst possible extinction. Israel profits. Trump family branding wins again.

  13. Pete,

    “We suffer a record fall from global relevance. The Kurds face the worst possible extinction. Israel profits. Trump family branding wins again.”

    Israel isn’t going to profit much longer from this. Read the foreign press, the Israeli’s are already worried. They’ll be next on the list. Trump has recently attacked the American Jewish community. One important false step by the American Jewish community and every dime to Israel will be cut off.

    After I filed The Alarm Report described above, President Bush cut off all aid to the State of Israel. The money to Israel has always been contingent on the American Jewish community keeping their mouth shut and not causing any problems in the U.S. for the Far Right /Religious Right. That Modus Vivendi is still in effect.

    By the way, I’m a Unitarian from a mixed Christian/Jewish family.

  14. Out of the political ruins of Eastern Europe after WW 1 several new independent countries were carved out of the Russian, German and Austrian Empires from Finland to Yugoslavia.

    The Mid East going back a century after the defeat of the Ottoman’s in WW 1 was carved up by the West for their own selfish Imperialist needs – Oil. Thus, independence for the Mid East was nominal at best.

    Recently, since Bush the Elder’s war in the Iraq, later Bush the Younger’s War in Iraq, WE the USA has created this chaotic situation. Not content with the Iraqi chaos the Obama Regime decided on Regime Change in Syria and in Libya. The Obama Regime ignored a coup in Egypt, nullifying an election there and after foot shuffling decided to support regime change there too.

    The result we have is millions of dead, wounded, missing and refugees all across the Mid East, and Libya. Personally, speaking the decision by Bush the Younger to invade Iraq was and is a disaster. The Obama Regime’s decision to over throw the leadership in Syria and Libya added fuel to the fire.

    We used the Kurds as mercenaries, it not the first time the USA has done this, Hmong in Laos and the Montagnards in Vietnam.

  15. Pete,

    “Marv, nobody wins from association with the Trumpian crime family.”

    Pat Robertson and his supporters created Trump. I submit he’s the ANTI-CHRIST that most of them have been looking for, at least, the past 50 years. According to Jerry Fallwell, the anti-Christ had to be a Jew. Forgive him, we all mistakes.

    In Jewish folklore, Trump would be called THE GOLEM, another word for monster. After joining with Jerry Falwell and creating this monster, Robertson now wants out.

  16. DJT created this horrible mess. There is blood on his hands. Don’t anyone expect him to know what to do next. It’s not in him!

  17. I always admired the political deftness of the decision and Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v. Madison. It was a brilliant assumption of implied powers through the expediency of a favorable for outcome for the Jefferson administration. A power, I am sure , Jefferson was loathe to accept existed. I remind, however, that it only holds sway if accepted. We have regime now that is wont to adopt the response of Jackson in the Indian removal case. ” The Court has made its decision. Now let Mr. Marshall enforce it”

  18. Betty,

    “There is blood on his hands. Don’t anyone expect him to know what to do next. It’s not in him!”

    He’s a fool and sociopath. That’s a bad mixture. He can take us all down with him, if we don’t move right now. He’s not going to quit. My expertise as an attorney was the insanity defense. I was a counsel of record both at trial and appeal for The State of Texas vs. Paul Pesch which set new guidelines in Texas for the use of the insanity defense. My specialty was the use of “early-onset schizophrenia” as the cause for the insanity of the SOCIOPATHS that I represented through mostly court appointments.

    I immediately recognized Donald Trump fitting this pattern. Within 7 days of his announcing his run for the presidency, I purchased the URL: TrumpCard.video. I still own it.

    He will never admit his mistakes. He has hundreds of them. He’ll blow-up the planet before he will do that.

  19. Marv – not old, but vintage

    As much as this angers me, I don’t know why we should be surprised. Trump always screwed people who helped him, even in his businesses before he was in politics. He seems to think that saying “you’re fired” compensates for his small hands, so being dismissive of everyone makes him happy.

    Add to this the fact that from day one, Trump has been a sycophant to any and every dictator whom he envies, wishing he could be like them. Of course he is aiding Erdogan, Assad and Putin.

    If we want to be nice to Trump, we can say he is just returning to the American habit of breaking treaties with the various American Indian nations.

    Still, this is one of the darkest, shameful, and potentially negatively far-reaching episodes in American history and we have Trump to thank for it. Sad to say, but I don’t think Pence, bad as he is, would have done this. If only we had removed Trump before. 8(

  20. Len,

    “Still, this is one of the darkest, shameful, and potentially negatively far-reaching episodes in American history and we have Trump to thank for it. Sad to say, but I don’t think Pence, bad as he is, would have done this.”

    I agree with you. Pence wouldn’t have done this. And maybe like you say it’s too late to remove Trump, but Trump is a much better target for change if it ever was possible, as he can be attacked in areas that are impossible to do because of Pence’s standing with the Religious Right as a true believer.

    Donald Trump is still vulnerable because he is much more dangerous than Pence when it comes to the general welfare of the body politic. He is unable to rule. He is a menace to the whole country including the Religious Right.

    He has miscalculated with his plans to pit the Jewish and African-American communities against each other. That potentiality was ruled out when Barak Obama’s minister, Reverend Wright, attempted to play the two groups against each other and was stopped by the African-American leadership. Do you remember what Louis Farrikan’s answer was to Trump? Something to the effect that “I don’t like Jews or white people either.”

    This ploy was Steve Bannon’s idea and when it didn’t pan out he left Trump “holding the bag” with one mistake after another.

    As Betty said earlier today: Don’t anyone expect him to know what to do next. It’s not in him!

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