An Administration Gone Rogue
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Have certain parts of the Constitution become irrelevant, as a former Republican leader once told me at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing? At the time, I was told that demanding a Congressional declaration of war before invading Iraq, as Article I Section 8 of the Constitution requires, was unnecessary and anachronistic. Congress and the president then proceeded without a Constitutional declaration and the disastrous Iraq invasion was the result.
Last week, Obama administration officials made it clear that even the fig leaf of Congressional participation provided by the 2003 “authorization” to use force in Iraq was to be ignored as well. In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated clearly and repeatedly that the administration felt it was legally justified to use military force against Syria solely with “international permission”. Such “international permission” could come by way of the United Nations, NATO, or some other international body. Secretary Panetta then told Senator Sessions that depending on the situation, the administration would consider informing Congress of its decision and might even seek authorization after the fact.
While Senator Sessions expressed surprise at the casual audacity of Panetta in making this statement, in reality his was just a bluntly stated explanation of what has been, de facto, the case for many years. When President Obama committed the US military to a pre-emptive war against Libya last year, for example, Congress was kept completely out of the process. Likewise, military action in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and so on, proceed without a Congressional declaration. In fact, we haven’t had a proper, constitutional declaration of war since 1942, yet the US military has been engaged in Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, Bosnia, Liberia, Haiti, and Libya with only UN resolutions as the authority. Congress’s only role has been authorizing funds, which it always does without question, because one must “support the troops”.