Obama to Congress: Libya is none of your concern

It looks like we’re headed towards a showdown as the Obama Administration has sent a report to Congress explaining that the legislative body has no authority over military operations in Libya because they contend that we’re really not at war:

In a 38-page report sent to lawmakers describing and defending the NATO-led operation, the White House said the mission was prying loose Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power.

In contending that the limited American role did not oblige the administration to ask for authorization under the War Powers Resolution, the report asserted that “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.” Still, the White House acknowledged, the operation has cost the Pentagon $716 million in its first two months and will have cost $1.1 billion by September at the current scale of operations.
[…]
“We are acting lawfully,” said Harold H. Koh, the State Department legal adviser, who expanded on the administration’s reasoning in a joint interview with the White House counsel, Robert Bauer.

The two senior administration lawyers contended that American forces had not been in “hostilities” at least since early April, when NATO took over the responsibility for the no-fly zone and the United States shifted to primarily a supporting role — providing refueling and surveillance to allied warplanes, although remotely piloted drones operated by the United States periodically fire missiles, too.

They argued that United States forces are at little risk because there are no troops on the ground and Libyan forces are unable to exchange fire with them meaningfully. And they said the military mission was constrained by a United Nations Security Council resolution, which authorized air power for the purpose of defending civilians.

“We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” said Mr. Koh, a former Yale Law School dean and outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s expansive theories of executive power. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

Seriously? What else do you call our participating in bombing another country? That’s a weak argument. No to mention that it’s just another example of the Executive Branch consuming more power for itself. Those of you on the left that have defended Obama’s intervention need to burn this in your memories before complaining when a Republican president uses Obama’s action as precedent. You’ll have no moral ground to stand on.

Speaker John Boehner had warned President Obama on Wednesday that he needed to explain our role in Libya and justify ignoring the War Power Act by Friday. Before the day was out, the White House had promised more details.

Adding to the tensions is a lawsuit filed by a bipartisan group of House members alleging that President Obama has violated the War Powers Act by not seeking congressional approval for prolonged military action in Libya:

Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Walter Jones continued their bipartisan quest to end the U.S. military’s participation in the conflict in Libya, filing a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against President Obama to “challenge the commitment of the United States to war in Libya absent the required constitutional legal authority.”

The lawsuit challenges what the lawmakers see as “the executive branch’s circumvention of Congress and its use of international organizations such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to authorize the use of military force abroad, in violation of the Constitution.”

“With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated. We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies,” Kucinich said in a statement announcing the suit.

A copy of the complaint is linked here.

The lawsuit is signed by a bipartisan group of members of the House, including Kucinich (D-Ohio), Jones (R-North Carolina), Howard Coble (R-North Carolina), John Duncan (R-Tennessee), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland), John Conyers (D-Michigan) Ron Paul (R-Texas), Michael Capuano (D-Massachusetts), Tim Johnson (R-Illinois) and Dan Burton (R-Indiana).

According to a release announcing the suit, the lawmakers are calling for “injunctive and declaratory relief to protect the plaintiffs and the country” from:

(1) the policy that a president may unilaterally go to war in Libya and other countries without a declaration of war from Congress, as required by Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution;

(2) the policy that a president may commit the United States to a war under the authority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in violation of the express conditions of the North Atlantic Treaty ratified by Congress;

(3) the policy that a president may commit the United States to a war under the authority of the United Nations without authorization from Congress;

(4) from the use of previously appropriated funds by Congress for an unconstitutional and unauthorized war in Libya or other countries; and

(5) from the violation of the War Powers Resolution as a result of the Obama Administration’s established policy that the President does not require congressional authorization for the use of military force in wars like the one in Libya.

I doubt any court will touch this lawsuit, but at least there are some members that aren’t standing on the sidelines.


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