Obama’s Illegal War in Libya Just Became More Serious

Saturday, June 18, 2011

President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional war in Libya just became much more serious with the revelation that the president jettisoned the opinions of its top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department and decided he had the legal authority to continue U.S. military participation in Libya without Congressional authorization.

The New York Times reports:

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20.

But Mr. Obama decided instead to adopt the legal analysis of several other senior members of his legal team, including the White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department legal adviser, Harold H. Koh — who argued that the United States military’s activities fell short of “hostilities.” Under that view, Mr. Obama needed no permission from Congress to continue the mission unchanged.

Presidents have the legal authority to override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and to act in a manner that is contrary to its advice, but it is extraordinarily rare for that to happen. Under normal circumstances, the office’s interpretation of the law is legally binding on the executive branch.

President Obama’s reinterpretation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution was sent to Congress late Wednesday. On Thursday, the House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH) was not satisfied and demanded to know whether the Office of Legal Counsel had agreed.

Boehner said:

“The administration gave its opinion on the War Powers Resolution, but it didn’t answer the questions in my letter as to whether the Office of Legal Counsel agrees with them. The White House says there are no hostilities taking place. Yet we’ve got drone attacks under way. We’re spending $10 million a day. We’re part of an effort to drop bombs on Qaddafi’s compounds. It just doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities.”

Speaker Boehner suggested on Thursday that President Obama’s bizarre assertion that the 1973 War Powers Resolution does not apply to U.S. efforts to depose and kill Libyan dictator Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi means the Congress may be forced to use the “ultimate option” and exercise its “power of the purse” to defund the U.S. mission.

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13 Responses to Obama’s Illegal War in Libya Just Became More Serious

  1. Stephen Iversonn says:

    Old school conservatives, versus the faux conservatives currently serving in the Congress, reject the War Powers Resolution as unconstitutional. The cite the late Barry Goldwater:

    “The fact is that the United States, as the strongest free nation in the world has a stake in preventing totalitarian conquest. The president has a duty to resist challenges in the early stages and cannot wait until the challenge is so clear that the cost of resistance is prohibitive. The danger in the war powers resolution and any other legislative effort like it, which is intended to restrict the president’s defense powers, is that it takes away all flexibility to deal with unforeseen events.” – Barry Goldwater

    So I think the vast majority of us can safely and unfortunately conclude that Barack Obama isn’t a liberal Democrat, he’s not a pragmatic Democratic, he’s a Goldwater Republican.

    Ready to vote him out of office in 16 1/2 months? I know I am.

  2. Big Hank says:

    In the not so distant past, George W. Bush also rejected his Office of Legal Council, Alberto Gonzales’ advice and forged ahead with domestic eavesdropping.

    I am truly nauseated by how similar Barack Obama’s behavior is to his his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama uses Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as templates to inform his own presidency. He’s not just a disappoint, he’s behaving with reckless disregard to the US Constitution and making the same mistakes Republican presidents made in prior eras. Thanks, Christopher, for keeping us in the know on this critically important issue.

  3. fran says:

    Quote from Daniel Ellsberg (leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed the Vietnam War was not winnable):

    ” Fortunately there are a few Congresspersons, like Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee, Walter Jones and Ron Paul who got that message the first time, even if the Republican and Democratic leadership hasn’t, yet. (CLICK HERE to see a salon.com essay pointing to the only way out of Afghanistan, as it was the only way out of Vietnam).

    On June 23, 1971, in an interview with CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, you said, “I think the lesson is that the people of this country can’t afford to let the President run the country by himself, even foreign affairs, without the help of Congress, without the help of the public. I think we cannot let the officials of the Executive Branch determine for us what it is that the public needs to know about how well and how they are discharging their functions.” How concerned are you that elected officials haven’t learned those lessons?

    Leaders in the Executive branch–in every country– know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, and they always want to stay in office and keep on running things with as little interference from Congress, the public and the courts as possible: which means, with as much secrecy as they can manage. So I’m not exactly concerned that they’re still at it (which is why I’m still at what I do), since that is so predictable, in every government, tyrannical or “democratic.”

    Our Founders sought to prevent this. Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, for the first time in constitutional history, put the decision to go to war (beyond repelling sudden attacks) exclusively in the hands of Congress, not the president. But every president since Harry Truman in Korea–as the Pentagon Papers demonstrated up through LBJ, but beyond them to George W. Bush and Barack Obama–has violated the spirit and even the letter of that section of the Constitution (along with some others) they each swore to preserve, protect and defend.

    However, as has been pointed out repeatedly by Glenn Greenwald, ( CLICK HERE) and Bruce Ackerman , David Swanson and others, no president has so blatantly violated the constitutional division of war powers as President Obama in his ongoing attack on Libya, without a nod even to the statutory War Powers Act, that post-Pentagon Papers effort by Congress to recapture something of the role assigned exclusively to it by the Constitution.

    This open disregard of a ruling statute (regardless of his supposed feelings about its constitutionality, which Obama has not even bothered to express) is clearly an impeachable offense, though it will certainly not lead to impeachment–given the current complicity of the leaders of both parties–any more than President George W. Bush’s misleading Congress into his crime against the peace, aggression, in Iraq, or President Johnson’s lies to obtain the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

    As Lincoln put it, the alternative approach (which we have actually followed in the last sixty years) “places our President where kings have always stood.” And the upshot of that undue, unquestioning trust in the president and his Executive branch is: smart people get us into stupid (and wrongful) wars, and their equally smart successors won’t get us out of them.

    Either we the people will press elected officials in Congress–on pain of losing their jobs–to take up their Constitutional responsibilities once again and to end by defunding our illegal, unjustifiable (and now, financially insupportable) military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and air attacks on Pakistan, Libya and Yemen: or those bloody stalemates will continue indefinitely.”

    * Sorry for the long post, but Ellsberg really framed this topic well.

  4. There’s no doubt that Barack Hussein Obama is enchanted with Republicans.

    He has spent most of his time in office working not for the American people but, for the approval of the Country Club Republicans in the House and the Senate. Their approval means everything to him.

    What he fails to understand is, no matter what he does, whether renew and extend Bush’s Patriot Act for another four years, or escalate and tripled the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, or order the U.S. military to bomb and kill Gaddafi, the GOP will never give him what he wants: their approval.

    One day, when Obama is out of office, he may realize this. Then, my guess is, he will return to the fields with the people who first elected him to the senate and President. But by then, no one will care. Obama has burned too many bridges for us to take him seriously.

  5. retahyajyajav says:

    There is no reason to reelect Obama.

    The number of fuck ups is just too great and please don’t say something idiotic like, “But we can’t let Sarah Palin become president,” because she will never be president. I am not going to tell anyone else what to do in 2012 but I will say, if the race is between Obama and Romney, then I plan to stay home.

  6. feminazi says:

    Obama’s arrogance may very well provoke a constitutional crisis. Rep. Darrell Issa is an attack dog and he promised more than 100 investigations of the Obama administration this year alone. Add to the fire Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s lawsuit which was joined by several Republicans and I think it’s safe to say Obama is in a whole lot of hurt.

  7. Brigadoon says:

    The Imperial presidency of Barack Obama. Who could’ve predicted this in 2008? Not me.

  8. Tiny Dancer says:

    Meanwhile, real unemployment in the U.S. is 22% and Labor unemployment is 9.1%

    I’m comforted to know this president is working diligently to solve this nation’s myriad economic problems. Oh wait a minute? He isn’t doing anything of the sort. He’s starting illegal wars.

  9. ajihani says:

    I saw a figure quoted on CNN that said Libya’s cost will reach $1.1 billion by September. How is Obama getting this money and from whom? The Treasury is empty. Is it more borrowing from our good friends, the Communist Chinese?

  10. joost says:

    It will be very interesting to see if this high profile golf game nonsense is sufficient to silence Boehner. My sense is, Boehner, whether you like him or not (I don’t care for him) is the sort of guy who will play golf with Obama and smile pretty for the camera but, when he meets with his caucus, all of that will be forgotten. Obama has much to fear from the Ohio Republican. Boehner isn’t Kucinich. All it took to silence Kucinich was a ride on Air Force One. Boehner is much tougher.

  11. Shayne K. says:

    Obama’s behavior is every bit what one would expect from an African or Middle East dictator.

    I don’t agree with your assessment that this is Bush’s third term. At least Bush had the sense to go before the United State Congress and ask for their vote on both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama’s temerity with Libya is troublesome and I have written to both my House reps and both my senators demanding to stand up to this dictator.

    Make no mistake; Kadaffi is a terrible man. But, Obama’s claim that he’s killing his own people en mass is the pretext for our bombing campaign doesn’t pass the smell test. More Libyans have died these last 90-odd days from American bombs than from anything Kadaffi did in recent years.

    Remember too, Obama was flying to South American when he gave the order to begin bombing Libya. This is simply beyond anything I’ve seen in my adult life. How convenient. Out of the country so the media couldn’t get to him. What a coward.

    I hope the Congress does its job and defunds Obama’s Libyan adventure immediately.

  12. rob says:

    How can the war in Libya cost any where near one billion dollars (prediction of the cost if it continues till sept.)? That would be up there with Iraq and thats with tens of thousands of troops on the ground.

    @Shayne K.
    That’s a really pathetic kick in the shins, Gaddaffi lost the few marbles he still had when people started protesting, that is Libyan citizens, so he bought mercenaries, press ganged migrant workers and used his military to kill thousands of people in the first week or so and then! Oh then he casually says that blood will flow in bengazi -the city at the heart of the rebellion which has hundreds of thousands of people in it, the vast majority of which supported the uprising.

    What Obama, the nato nations, U.N. and the arab league did was prevent a massacre on a national scale. If you’ve ever heard of the genocide in rwanda you will get a clue as to what was averted.

    Oh and the whole in flight cowardly comment is putting the president on some villainous pedestal, if the president of the u.s. had to stop every diplomatic trip for every event or disaster in the world he would never be able to leave America.

  13. Rob,

    I wondered the same as you. Here’s a link from ABC News on Obama’s Libyan adventure reaching $1 billion by September:

    In a report revealing that the total cost of US intervention in Libya as of June 3 has been $716 million and will reach $1.1 billion by the end of September, the Obama administration today told congressional leaders in a report.


    War and Empire is costly. Even in the 21st century.

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