President Barack Obama came a step closer to engaging in military action in Mali. The Associated Press reports this morning that the White House has notified Congress that 100 military personnel have been sent to Niger, which borders Mali to the east:
In a letter to Congress, Obama says the forces will focus on “intelligence sharing” with French troops fighting Islamist militants in neighboring Mali. He says the American forces have been deployed with weapons, quote, “for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”
The U.S. and Niger signed agreement last month spelling out legal protections and obligations of Americans who might operate from the African nation. But U.S. officials declined at the time to discuss specific plans for a military presence in Niger.
The French military has been battling Islamic militants in Mali, but they’re expected to begin a troop withdrawal in the next month, turning over operations to African military forces. This withdrawal comes despite new skirmishes with radicals.
Even though the presence of American troops in the region is small, we’re involved in yet another conflict with against a forces who don’t represent any real threat to us. Not to mention that it’s another undeclared war, as Ron Paul recently explained, with a good risk of escalating.
While he isn’t exactly friendly to the free market point of view, you have to hand it to Oliver Stone, at least he’s consistent in his criticism of presidents who overstep their constitutional boundaries.
During a recent interview, Stone, who directed JFK and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, told the Russia Today that the United States “has become an Orwellian state” and called President Barack Obama a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
While many on the Left have given silent consent to the policies of the current administration, including reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and robbing Americans of due process through indefinite detention and drone strikes, Stone expressed shock and outrage at Obama, who was supposed to be “a great hope for change.”
“I think under the disguise of sheep’s clothing [Obama] has been a wolf,” Stone told the Russia Today. “That because of the nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him, people forgave him a lot.”
He added, “He has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them.”
Stone, who has recently co-authored a new book with Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, showed concern for what contempt President Obama has shown during his first term and what his second term may have in store. He explained, “[W]e are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer.”
“Without the law, it is the law of the jungle,” Stone noted. “Nuremburg existed for a reason and there was a reason to have trials, there is a reason for due process – ‘habeas corpus’ as they call it in the United States.”
During the Tea Party response to the State of the Union address, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) mentioned the drones issue that has recently been the subject of deserved controversy. In a list of grievances against the Obama Administration, Sen. Paul said, “We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial.”
The reference was a response to a recent memo from the Department Justice outlining the legal case for drone strikes against American citizens. There hasn’t been any attempt from the Obama Administration to sell the program to Americans, though it has certainly made neo-conservatives quite happy.
Sen. Paul, who is a strict constitutionalist, is doing more than talking about the issue, even though his concern over the drones program is being dismissed by some in the media. He wants answers from the Obama Administration. In a recent letter to John Brennan, who is President Obama’s nominee to lead the CIA, Sen. Paul asked a series of questions about the drones program — ranging from the use of drones against both American and non-American targets to the CIA and Posse Comitatus to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old, American-born son to the issue of privacy.
You can read the letter in full here, but here are some of the questions that Sen. Paul asked Brennan:
During a Google+ Hangout yesterday, Lee Doren, a good guy and libertarian, asked President Barack Obama about his administration’s use of drones against American citizens.
“A lot of people are very concerned that your administration now believes it’s legal to have drone strikes against American citizens and whether or not that specifically with citizens within the United States,” Doren stated. “And if that’s not true, what will you do to create a legal framework to make American citizens within the United States know that drone strikes cannot be used against American citizens?”
“There has never been a drone used on an American citizen, on American soil. We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States,” President Obama replied. “The rules outside of the United States are gonna be different from the rules inside the United States — in part because our capacity to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.”
Noting oversight of the program, President Obama explained he was going to work with Congress to provide “mechanisms to make sure the public understands” the drones program. Obama added, “I am not somebody who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants — or whatever she wants — just under the guise of counter-terrorism.”
“I blame Congress more than the President because we really have not brought the issue before Congress as to whether or not the President should or should not have so much authority.” — Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on executive power
There aren’t many in Congress who are willing to take strong stands against bad policies no matter who is sitting in the White House. Democrats were once strongly supportive of civil liberties, but now that President Obama is in the White House, there is little criticism to be found. And while expansive executive power and an aggressive foreign policy were popular during the Bush Administration, Obama’s expansion of these policies have started a conversation amongst conservatives.
Yesterday, I spoke with Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s Third Congressional District, about President Obama’s State of the Union address, foreign policy, and executive power.
Rep. Jones, who has served in Congress since 1995, has been at the forefront of questioning foreign policies decisions made by previous and current administrations. While he expressed disappointment that Obama didn’t talk in detail about the deficit, Rep. Jones explained that he was happy with the annoucement that 34,000 troops would be coming home from Afghanistan.
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians at all levels of government are looking at stricter gun control measures; policies that they are foolish enough to believe will prevent similar incidents from occuring.
While President Obama has used children as a political prop in the debate, Bill Stevens, a resident of Newton whose daughter attends Sandy Hook, recently took on legislators in Connecticut who are seeking to expand gun control.
Stevens, who appeared before a Working Group Public Hearing on guns, explained that his daughter was “in lockdown” at Sandy Hook on the day of the shooting, noting that a sibling of her classmate was killed during the shooting. Stevens went over the meaning of the Second Amendment, quoting directly from the Constitution of Connecticut.
“We all know what the Second Amendment says, but Section 15 of the state Constitution says very clearly, ‘Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state,’” noted Stevens. “There’s no registration, there’s no permitting, there’s no background checks. It’s quite clear.”
Noting that the legislature couldn’t restrict the constitutionally guaranteed, Stevens explained, “In order to limit the rights of individuals, there is something called due process, and legislation is not due process.”
“You want to take my rights away, let’s go to court,” proclaimed Stevens.
Above, watch Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay Carney explain that the drone strikes are “legal”, “ethical”, and “wise.” This has got to be one the biggest loads of crap I have heard since Obama was elected in 2008.
The legality of these drone strikes is highly questionable, as Doug Mataconis notes over at OTB. I fully expect court challenges to these strikes. Whether or not they succeed is a matter of speculation for people far more trained in the arcane arts of the law than I.
They are certainly not ethical. There have always been deep ethical qualms about killing human beings. In the modern era, we have notions such as due process, trials, courts of appeal, and judicial oversight, as well as punishment for those who kill wrongly. In combat situations, we accept homicide as par for the course, with both sides shooting at each other to kill. But this is not the same situation. This is picking an individual and raining missiles on him via robot death kites. This is not war. This is assassination. There are no restraints nor oversight. If you have a code of ethics that allows you to just kill people, on a whim, without any restraint whatsoever, you are a deeply troubled person and should be committed to a mental hospital. When will Obama go?
They are most definitely not wise. If anything, the drone strikes have only hardened al-Qaeda against us, and have turned us into enemies to the locals there, killing and maiming at will. Is it wise to “double-tap” targets and blow up emergency responders? Is it wise when only one in fifty of our victims are actually bad guys? No, this is not wise. This is most certainly unwise.
During an interview with Breitbart.com last week, Ben Shapiro posed a question to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about a hypothetical attack on Israel that has become a source of some controversy in the blogosphere, particularly among those of us who have been critical of the foreign policy direction of United States in recent years.
“Does the United States stand with Israel, in terms of giving military foreign aid?” asked Shapiro. Sen. Paul responded, “Well absolutely, we stand with Israel, but what I think we should do is announce to the world, and I think it is well-known, that any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States.”
Sen. Paul was critical of the foreign policy views of President Barack Obama during the confirmation hearing of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated to serve as the next Secretary of State. He was also critical of Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, who advanced the idea that a president can unilaterally go to war without congressional approval.
Doug Stafford, Sen. Paul’s Chief of Staff, recently clarified the remarks in an e-mailed statement.
Early last year, President Barack Obama made recess appointments to add three new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Constitution allows a president to make such appointments when the Congress is not in session. And therein lies the problem with the moves made by President Obama — the Senate, which is constitutionally required to confirm appointments, was still in session.
The appointments were challenged in court by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans, who argued that President Obama had acted unconstitutionally. Today, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with McConnell, ruling that President Obama had indeed abused his authority:
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Obama did not have the power to make three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board because the Senate was officially in session - and not in recess - at the time. If the decision stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions made over the past year.
The court said the president could only fill vacancies with the recess appointment procedure if the openings arise when the Senate is in an official recess, which it defined as the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next Secretary of State, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to discuss the administration’s foreign policy. While the confirmation hearing was mostly easy for Kerry, he did face a tough line of questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Paul, who has been a frequent critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of both parties, asked Kerry about his views regarding unilateral war, specifically regarding military action in Libya.
“I agree with candidate Barack Obama, who said in 2007 that the president doesn’t have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” explained Paul. “I’d like to know if you agree with candidate Barack Obama or President Barack Obama, who took us to war in Libya without congressional authority, unilaterally?”
Kerry responded, “Well, Senator Paul, one of the things this committee has spent a lot of time on is the War Powers Act, which I support, and I believe in congressional authority to go to war.” However, Kerry tried to give himself some latitude, explaining that “are occasions which I have supported which a President of the United States has to make a decision immediately and implement that decision, execute on it, immediately.” Kerry listed occasions where he has supported a president bypassing Congress, explaining that he though President Obama went with that tradition when he authorized military action in Libya.