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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Dimitri Vassilaros
Friday, Nov. 7, 2008

When remembering the brave Americans on Tuesday who served this republic -- especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice -- remember the people who put them in harm's way.

Veterans Day, which was known as Armistice Day until 1954, honors American veterans of all wars on Nov. 11.

What many of them experienced doing their duty is almost incomprehensible. Sing their praises to the heavens. Shower them with all the glory they so richly deserve. Thank God so many put their lives on the line to help make this the greatest nation in history.

But after the parade bands stop marching, the bunting is decommissioned and the bystanders stop waving those little American flags, consider why so many have been wounded or lost -- and if anything can be done to lessen the need for more rehab hospitals and national cemeteries.

The public should ask itself if it's ever done a disservice to its service men and women when expedience trumped the U.S. Constitution. And if so, how many in our military paid -- and how dearly.

Congress has formally declared war during five conflicts: with Great Britain in 1812, Mexico in 1846, Spain in 1898 and the two world wars.

However, this nation has used its armed forces abroad in situations of military or potential conflict (or for other than normal peacetime purposes) more than 420 times, according to a report by Richard F. Grimmett, a congressional research service defense specialist at the Library of Congress.

U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan to Zaire, the Fiji Islands, Hawaiian Islands and Falkland Islands, Samoa, Sumatra and, yes, even Soviet Russia. The U.S. battled Barbary pirates and Mexican bandits but also deployed troops to protect American interests in foreign lands -- too many times and in too many places (like Korea and Vietnam) -- to fight and maybe die.

There have been about 100,000 American military fatalities in these undeclared wars or "conflicts" abroad, says Eric Garris. "It's horrendous." He is the director of , a site supporting a noninterventionist U.S. military policy and adherence to the rule of law.

"A lot of the presidents' actions take place not for strategic planning, just political events. How can you justify even one person being killed for that reason?" Mr. Garris asks. "At best, Congress has passed advisory votes that say to presidents, 'We advise you to get out within a year.' They essentially have left it to the presidents, which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. They are relinquishing their responsibility."

Like the undeclared war in Iraq.

Congress abrogated its responsibility, says Jacob Hornberger, lawyer and president the Future of Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization in the Washington, D.C., area that espouses libertarian philosophy. "They said, 'We don't want to make that call. We'll just delegate to the president to make the call.' They weren't declaring war. It's not only unconstitutional, it was the height of political cowardice."

CNN reports that the U.S. conducted a "successful" strike in Syria on Oct. 26, targeting a suspected smuggler of foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq.

Enjoy the parades on Tuesday.

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