Saturday, June 18, 2011

Obama declares that illegal war is legal non-war

| »
Pres. Barack Obama
Pres. Barack Obama

When people (I included) say that President Obama, for all the good he has demonstrably done, is still a bona fide tyrant* who’s only too happy to expand the Bush administration’s unlimited view of executive power, this is a perfect representation of what they mean:

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

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 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.

Because missile strikes and infantry deployment into a foreign country that openly and repeatedly denounces such acts don’t constitute “hostilities” now. Gee, I wonder what the threshold is for admitting they’re at war? First nuclear strike?

This is asininity laced with sheer chutzpah. Not only did the War Powers Resolution never actually apply to the United States’s participation in the “non-war” in Libya, but neither Obama nor Congress seem to care in the slightest that their 60-day window for either legally declaring war on the country they’re bombing and invading, or pulling back, expired just under a month ago. So, of course, Obama’s solution is apparently to try and seek out anybody in his administration who could twist the law and basic textbook definitions any which way to suit his fantasy that what he’s doing is in any way legal.

At this point, it has become impossible to tell whether Obama genuinely possesses the mistaken belief that the United States’s offense in Libya is legal (which, given his previous occupation as a constitutional professor and lawyer, is difficult to believe), or if he does realize that he’s greatly superseding his powers – and simply doesn’t give the slightest damn about it. The problem is that when one takes into account his administration’s current abysmal track record in keeping executive power under check, it’s hard to stop anyone with a critical mind from veering into the latter camp of thought.

This is why it’s becoming increasingly hard to defend the President against accusations of extending the Bush presidency further without getting laughed at.

(via ThinkProgress)

* Definition: “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution”.