The U.N. versus the U.S. Constitution


As the situation in Libya has deteriorated, there has been increasing chatter amongst the chattering classes as to whether the United States will impose a no-fly zone over that country much like we did to Iraq between the two Iraqi wars. Now, I’m all for a debate about whether imposing such a zone, and the resultant risk to American military lives, should be considered an existential threat to our national security (personally, I have my reservations).

But the usual coterie of Leftists have predictably erupted in a snit over us even having this discussion without first going through that most beloved of Leftist institutions – The United Nations.

It’s for another post to discuss whether it’s a legitimate foreign policy goal of the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. But it is time, once and for all, to destroy the Globalists’ assertion that the U.S. is bound, by our membership in the U.N., to subject our Constitution to the whims and vagaries of that institution.

Robert Naiman, in a piece up over at FireDogLake, pens the following regarding whether the U.S. can establish, unilaterally, a no-fly zone over Libya:

The United Nations Charter is not an obscure document that can be safely ignored when it is convenient to do so. It is the founding document of the United Nations. It is the Constitution of the world. (emphasis mine)
And it is legally binding on the United States, because it is a treaty obligation. According to the U.S. Constitution, treaty obligations are “the supreme law of the land.”

Well, Mr. Naiman, as my mother used to say, saying something is so doesn’t necessarily make it so.

I’m not sure exactly what part of the Constitution Mr. Naiman is thinking of (of course being a leftist who’s a member of an organization, Just Foreign Policy, who has as members of its Board such luminary Leftists as Julian Bond and Tom Hayden, I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t feel the need to actually read that document) but it’s not in the U.S. Constitution that I’ve read.

Perhaps he’s thinking of the Supremacy Clause (Article 6, Paragraph 2) which states:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

But if that’s the place, he’s missed the whole point of the Clause, which Supreme Court decisions throughout our history have ruled apply to the supremacy of Federal laws and treaties over state statutes which are in conflict with Federal statutes (he’s also ignoring that little clause in there which states: which shall be made in Pursuance thereof).

But let’s not quibble over little nits here in a section of the Constitution which is dealing with the relationship between the U.S. federal government and the states. Let’s even lay aside for the moment that Mr. Naiman’s assertion that somehow a treaty with the U.N. or any other foreign entity takes precedence over the U.S. Constitution would, in effect, ammend the Constitution in a manner which violates Article V which deals with the various ways of amending the Constitution.

Let’s just look at what the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in Reid v Covert, October,1956, opined about that notion:

“There is nothing in this language which intimates that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution nor is there anything in the debates which accompanied the drafting and ratification which even suggest such a result…”

or this little nugget from the same ruling:

It would be manifestly contrary to the objectives of those who created the Constitution, as well as those who were responsible for the Bill of Rights – let alone alien to our entire constitutional history and tradition – to construe Article VI as permitting the United States to exercise power UNDER an international agreement, without observing constitutional prohibitions. (See: Elliot’s Debates 1836 ed. – pgs 500-519).

And rather than compelling you to wade through assorted writings of the Founders and other Supreme Court cases which clearly stated the same (in the off-hand chance that Mr. Naiman and his ilk would caterwaul that this is just one case), I leave you with this closing quote from the same ruling:

“This Court has regularly and uniformly recognized the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty.” – Reid v. Covert, October 1956, 354 U.S. 1, at pg 17

Therefore, Mr. Naiman, I’m not sure just exactly where you divine this notion that somehow our membership in the United Nations subjects our foreign policy to their jurisdiction but it certainly isn’t found in the U.S. Constitution itself.

You are certainly entitled to your own opinion as to the wisdom of the U.S. imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya. You are certainly entitled to believe that our invasion of Iraq was a bad idea. But what you’re not entitled to do is to invent Constitutional notions out of whole cloth.

And if you wish to make the U.S. Constitution subject to foreign treaties such as our treaty with the U.N., well, there’s even a path for you to follow to realize your vision of a U.S. that is subject to the whims of the United Nations.

You’ll find it under Article V.

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Constitutional conservative living in the frozen tundra. American first, conservative second, and Precinct Committeeman because I got tired of ColdWarrior hassling me about it (which, btw, led me to being elected as GOP County Chair, to my Congressional District Central Committee and to the state Central Committee).
Fervent believer that if we followed the Tenth Amendment more, we'd be hassled by the government a lot less.
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Constitutional conservative living in the frozen tundra. American first, conservative second, and Precinct Committeeman because I got tired of ColdWarrior hassling me about it (which, btw, led me to being elected as GOP County Chair, to my Congressional District Central Committee and to the state Central Committee). Fervent believer that if we followed the Tenth Amendment more, we'd be hassled by the government a lot less.

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March 9, 2011 4:45 pm

Outstanding write-up, eburke. The Leftists just can’t help themselves, it is their fervent wish to see the end of United States sovereignty. They make every effort to push us under a global, one world government, so that they themselves can rule the world. I don’t think that is as far-fetched an idea as one might have believed in the past. Our only hope is that we let the people know the truth, and push back when this happens.

March 9, 2011 5:23 pm

EB, this wailing and gnashing of teeth over consideration by politicians on both sides of the aisle for operations over the State of Libya, can you imagine what it will be like when it comes time to consider operations over the State of Mexico?

March 9, 2011 5:40 pm

As I said terrific article eburke. The cuts in funding for the UN are a drop in the bucket compared to our annual costs with them. I have never seen an American Ambassador to the UN such as Susan Rice. About the only time you ever hear anything about her is when she is extending her tin cup for more US funding for failed UN programs. John Bolton has more knowledge and is much more vocal on foreign policy issues than the current holder of that position.

March 9, 2011 6:25 pm

The UN clearly needs its charter revoked.

FDR strikes again from the grave.

March 9, 2011 8:03 pm

I am so glad you Patriots have started up this site. Now I don’t have to sift through all the chaff to find well thought out writing. You all inspire me to carry on. Thanks Eburke, you gave me so many “talking points” within this post to run with for days. I’m sorry I declared for Lent I would not post any political article on my Facebook page. Fortunately, I find that more “friends” have been paying attention than I imagined as I have many comments asking me to say it ain’t so. Unfortunatley, Even though I keep trying to… Read more »

March 9, 2011 9:20 pm

Not only our “demi-gods” (Jefferson’s admiring term for the Framers) from the 18th century, but modern thinkers have opined in your favor on this subject, Jaded. One of the greatest international lawyers of the 20th century no less. His name was J.Reuben Clark, US Undersecretary of State. He wrote the famous Clark Memorandum clarifying the Monroe Doctrine in modern times, and served both Republican and Democrat Administrations, because his brilliance and skill were unquestioned. When they met in San Francisco to charter the United Nations, he was asked whether he thought it was a good idea or not. His answer… Read more »

March 10, 2011 8:00 am

great column eburke on a perennial problem. Sorry for the misnomer above, I was reading too many posts too fast!