Barack Obama, it seems, is unfamiliar with the Internet and the facts of life in the wired age. Or maybe he just hopes no one is paying attention.
In his feeble attempts to justify the continued U.S. military involvement in NATO’s efforts to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power, Obama is directly contradicting numerous statements he made in the past about the abuse of presidential power by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Those statements can be readily accessed via video and documents posted all over the Web, never mind those of us who can remember back that far.
The statements range from the ones made in late 2002, while Obama was a state senator in Illinois, to those he made on the presidential campaign trail in 2008 while trying to convey the supposed stark differences between him and his GOP rival, John McCain.
As Obama supporters will recall, in his pre-White House days “Our Man Barack” shared the concern that many of us had back then: Bush had unconstitutionally expanded the powers of the presidency to justify various policies including the launching of an invasion in Iraq.
The U.S. Constitution specifically gives the authority to declare war to Congress. But still reeling from post-9/11 hysteria, Congress passed a resolution in October 2002 that gave Bush the discretion to use military force against Iraq if diplomatic efforts at removing Saddam Hussein from power proved insufficient.
The authorization only was supposed to be used “as (Bush) determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States.” Of course, Bush and his cronies altered intelligence reports and cooked the data so it appeared like our nation was under an imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction which, in reality, they knew didn’t exist.
A coalition of U.S. soldiers, military families and members of Congress subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the resolution’s constitutionality, alleging Congress couldn’t convey its exclusive power to declare war to the president. But a federal appeals court upheld the lawsuit’s dismissal by a lower court, ruling the judiciary couldn’t intervene because the president and a majority of Congress weren’t in conflict on the matter.
Plaintiffs in the case asked for another hearing, which was denied on March 18, 2003. Two days later, the United States invaded Iraq.
Leaving aside the appellate court’s spurious logic, the 2002 resolution probably also violated the War Powers Resolution, which survived a veto by President Nixon and was enacted into law by Congress in November 1973.
Passed in the wake of the United States’ ill-advised excursion into Southeast Asia, the law only allows the president to commit U.S. military forces in armed conflict without congressional consent if there has been an attack on the nation, its military or its possessions. Even then, the president may only commit the military for 60 days, along with another 30-day withdrawal period, without Congress’ authorization or a formal declaration of war.
Here’s what then-State Sen. Obama said on a Chicago TV talk show in November 2002 about the Iraq resolution, explaining why he didn’t support it: “What I would’ve been concerned about was a carte blanche to the administration for a doctrine of preemptive strikes that I’m not sure sets a good precedent.”
Ya don’t say?
And here’s what then-presidential candidate Obama told The Boston Globe during a Q&A session in December 2007: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
So, it’s clear that Obama believes in the integrity of the War Powers Resolution, at least when he’s trying to score votes.
The 90-day limit on U.S. military involvement in Libya expired June 19. On the day this issue is published, it will be Day No. 93, with no end in sight.
To circumvent the dilemma, Obama is making the case that the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply here because the U.S military is in a supporting role to NATO forces, there are no U.S. troops on the ground in Libya and there was “no exchange of fire with hostile forces.”
Obama’s argument is disingenuous; the United States is firing missiles on Libya using unmanned military predator drones. Those are the small, automated aircraft controlled by a person using a joystick hundreds or thousands of miles away in the safety of a command center — it’s the Sony PlayStation of modern warfare. Other nations don’t (yet) have these aircraft, so theoretically the United States could use them to bomb anywhere and still not be involved in a war, under Obama’s definition.
Those are the same aircraft that’s been blamed by Libyan rebels and others for inadvertently causing civilian deaths on the ground due to errors and “glitches” in their bombing missions.
The New York Times revealed last week that Obama rejected the advice of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department, all of whom said congressional authorization was required to stay in Libya. Obama, an ex-constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, disagreed.
By the way, the Libyan involvement costs taxpayers $9.42 million each day, or $392,542 every hour. It’s estimated to have cost $1.1 billion by late September. Keep those figures in mind when politicians tell us about all the things we can’t afford on the homefront like better public schools and universal health-care coverage.
For those keeping track, the Libyan adventure is the fourth war the United States currently is waging. Besides the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s also the “secret” drone strikes the nation is conducting in Yemen.
It’s no wonder that a decisive 72 percent of respondents said the nation is involved in too many foreign wars, according to a poll released this week by The Hill newspaper, which covers Congress. The same poll found that 37 percent believed the U.S. troops in Afghanistan don’t help national security and 17 percent said it actually makes our nation less safe. Similarly, 40 percent said the U.S. presence in Iraq doesn’t help national security, and 20 percent said it makes us less safe.
This odd situation finds uber-liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland) and uber-conservative Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) both siding with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in demanding that Congress be asked to vote on an extension.
Meanwhile, Obama’s allies include McCain, his former rival, and U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Strange bedfellows, indeed.
For those of us that took candidate Barack Obama at his word regarding his principles on national security issues during the 2008 campaign, we’re left with two dismal options: Either the man is a liar or he’s a pushover.
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