Obama Hits the Libyan Legal Wall

The War Powers Resolution gets a destruct test.

The Libyan morass grinds on apace:

Mourners vowed revenge and fired assault rifles into the air in a Tripoli cemetery yesterday as they buried nine men they said were Muslim clerics and medics killed in a NATO airstrike in mostly rebel-held eastern Libya.

You'd never know it from the dropping bombs and angry targets, but according to the 1973 War Powers Resolution, today is a special day in the history of our battle, such as it is, to give Qaddafi the boot:

Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States.

Based on when we started bombing Libya, that sixty-day window is up.  Not much has been accomplished in that time, partly because Mr. Obama's been very careful to lead from behind and let the French take the lead.  Libya is a mere footnote to everything else going on at home and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama did send our air forces into combat and ground forces had to rescue a downed pilot.  Congress has most certainly not declared war on Libya, or on anyone else for that matter.  Neither was there an attack on any of our allies, much less one upon the US that prevents Congress from meeting.

By what authority, then, is Mr. Obama, as commander in chief, continuing to wage war in Libya?  Without Congressional authority of any kind, where's the money coming from?  Surely Barack Obama hasn't put jet fuel on his personal credit card or signed an IOU for the surveillance aircraft he loaned the Brits?

Another Day, Another Hypocrite

This is not to say that we expect the War Powers Resolution to actually matter.  Since the day it was enacted over Nixon's veto, not one single president has ever acknowledged its authority.  The Constitution makes the President the commander-in-chief, so for military action outside of a declaration of war, what business does Congress have telling the C-in-C how to run a - ah, well, a non-war fight?

Yet most Presidents have obeyed the War Powers rules while carefully saying that they aren't really obliged to do so.  President George H.W. Bush, for instance, asked for and got Congressional authority for Desert Storm, but said the request was merely a courtesy.  George W. Bush requested and received approval prior to the invasion of Iraq, an inconvenient truth that a great many Democrats would love for you to forget.

Today we see something new: a President who neither obeys the War Powers Resolution with complaint, nor plows through it with a constitutional argument, but simply ignores it as if it didn't exist.  Despite poking around for dodges, at latest report the White House has blithely stated that the Libyan conflict is "open-ended" - it'll go on as long as Qadaffi and Mr. Obama want it to, the Congress or the Constitution notwithstanding.

Shoot The Dogs That Won't Bark

This sounds like a broken record, but can we imagine what would have happened had George W. Bush tried this?  The entire news media and Congress would have suffered a collective nervous breakdown and every talking head would be calling for impeachment.

Instead, of course, there's silence.  As if any more proof were necessary, the media liberals have once again noiselessly bellowed their utter moral bankruptcy and complete partisanship for anyone who cares to hear.

Nothing surprising about that.  What's more than a bit strange, though, is that the Republicans in Congress aren't taking the opportunity thus presented.  They could hammer Obama with a Constitutional argument that, through thirty years, the non-Presidential left and the media has generally supported.  Or they could hammer the silent media for their blatant bad faith, again with arguments that the American people have heard before and somewhat accept.  But they don't.

It's time for the music to stop in both the Evil Party and the Stupid Party; we've had enough of the Kool-Aid being served on both sides.  If Libya is worth our time, blood, and treasure, say so, explain why, and enact supporting legislation; if not, demand that we leave.  For goodness' sake, guys and gals, we elected you to represent our interests.  Don't just sit on your hands doing nothing!

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

The president shall be commander in chief WHEN CALLED TO ACTUAL DUTY by the Congress.
What is the constitutional mechanism to do this? A declaration of war.
Nothing short of this is constitutional.

So now the executive branch uses this argument that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional--which it is--and then flaunt the Constitution doubly by waging war by executive fiat regardless.

It should be rather obvious that the republic is a long withered corpse at this point.ww

May 17, 2011 10:57 AM

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- Lord Acton

May 17, 2011 1:17 PM

I believe that goofy Dennis Kucinich did actually draw up impeachment papers based on Obama ignoring the War Powers Rez. He's done that with every other President. At least he's consistent.

May 17, 2011 1:26 PM

I don't think it's at all goofy to criticize a President who goes to war casually. Colin Powell had experience giving orders and seeing his friends come back in body bags - he tried. If the papers would do their job and yell and scream, we wouldn't need Kucinich doing that, but if they won't some body has to.

Willy is right about power. Not being criticized makes Obama's power more absolute. Corrupts not only him but the whole government top down.

May 17, 2011 1:30 PM

Yes Kucinich did draw up impeachment papers based on Obama ignoring the War Powers Rez.

He also drew up such against GW Bush.

And that makes him "goofy"?

I'm not a fan of ANY member of the criminal syndicate known as the "federal government", but I don't see how you can characterize Kucinichas particularly goofy...???


May 17, 2011 1:34 PM

Kucinich may be a nut, but he's an honest nut, and he's gotten the occasional sympathetic Scragged article even.


May 17, 2011 1:39 PM

No actually lfon, I do get it.

According to your credo, any "liberal" is goofy wrong or evil, and any "conservative is cool headed right and has integrety.

This is why I keep asking why you do not comprehend the Hegelian Dialectic, how it is a divide and conquer technique.

May 17, 2011 1:41 PM

In fact, numerous presidents in American history already have used various specific threats to sidestep their Constitutional restraints. Today we are entering a nebulous world where our "enemy" cannot be defined, has no particular allegiance to one country, and is able to adopt new leaders at will. Rather than encourage a sense of resilience and independence in its citizens, America has chosen to amplify the terror threat in order to concentrate power in the hands of the State. The very first signpost on this historically familiar road to tyranny is an atmosphere of hate, suspicion, and vindictiveness. It first begins as an outwardly directed aggression and then rather abruptly turns inward upon itself.~Activist Post


May 17, 2011 1:45 PM

You're all reading my sentence wrong.

I didn't say Kucinich was goofy BECAUSE he wanted to impeach Obama. I merely said "goofy Kucinich". (ie. "in general, the goofy guy known as Kucinich did blah, blah blah")

In other words, Kucinich is just plain goofy regardless of what he does.

Remember, this is the guy that talks about UFO sightings:


And petitioned the Defense Department to stop turning Bradley Manning crazy:


Nothing new here. A Google search for "goofy Kucinich" yields 200,000 results:


And "crazy Kucinich" puts us over half a million:


Clearly, I am not alone in my use of the adjective.

May 17, 2011 2:10 PM

"Remember, this is the guy that talks about UFO sightings
And petitioned the Defense Department to stop turning Bradley Manning crazy"

I get it Ifon,
You know for certain there are no such thing as UFOs.
Bradley Manning wasn't being psychologically tortured...

You are hopelessly brainwashed by the mainstream paradigm.
Typical TV-Mind


May 17, 2011 2:35 PM

And Ifon,
there are no such thing as conspiracies, which is why the US has the RICO Act, to provide for the prosecution of criminal conspiracy.

May 17, 2011 2:40 PM

The NYT gets it, a bit late, but they're pointing it out.

As NATO Claims Progress in Libya, a U.S. Deadline Is Put to the Test
The Obama administration appears to be ignoring a statute requiring hostilities to cease after two months if Congress has not authorized them to continue.

WASHINGTON — With NATO officials expressing increased confidence on Friday that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s military position in Libya was weakening, the Obama administration appeared to ignore a statute requiring hostilities to cease after two months if Congress had not authorized them to continue.

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 says that a president must terminate military operations 60 days after notifying Congress that he had introduced armed forces into actual or imminent hostilities. The Libyan operation reached that deadline on Friday.

But Pentagon and military officials said the United States’ participation in the Libyan mission was going forward unchanged. That includes the intermittent use of armed Predator drones to fire missiles at Libyan government forces, as happened on Thursday and Friday, they said.

“We will not halt our current operations, which are limited and in support of this critical, NATO-led humanitarian operation,” said Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman.

While the legal debate was playing out, NATO commanders seemed to go beyond their typically cautious statements on the conflict, saying that allied airstrikes had prevented Colonel Qaddafi’s forces from making sustained attacks on rebel fighters and had driven the Libyan leader into hiding.

“NATO nations and partners agree we have taken the initiative; we have the momentum,” the alliance spokeswoman, Carmen Romero, said at a Friday news briefing, summarizing the view of NATO ambassadors who met earlier in the week.

A NATO military spokesman, Wing Commander Mike Bracken, said of Colonel Qaddafi: “Effectively he has gone into hiding.”

The briefing on Friday echoed the generally upbeat conclusions contained in a confidential assessment of the operation’s first 60 days that Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard of Canada, the allied operational commander in Naples, Italy, sent to NATO political and military leaders in Brussels this week, a NATO diplomat said.

May 21, 2011 2:33 PM

Of course the Constitution provides no legal instrument for amending the Constitution by legislation, which is what the War Powers Act does. The Congress essentially abdicated it's sole power to 'Declare War” by such legislation, which is Ultra Vires [beyond law], and in technical fact, unconstitutional.

May 21, 2011 10:55 PM

NYT chimes in again. Will there be action? They report that Kucinich's resolution might actually pass, which is why they blocked it.

House Sets Votes on Two Resolutions Critical of U.S. Role in Libyan Conflict
The efforts, from the Republican leadership and a liberal Democrat, highlight tensions over a president's ability to wage war.

WASHINGTON — The House will vote Friday on two measures that are strongly critical of President Obama’s decision to maintain an American role in NATO operations in Libya, reflecting increasing disenchantment among elements of both parties about the United States’ involvement in the conflict.

The decision to put the resolutions to a vote came after Republican leaders earlier this week postponed consideration of one of them, which would direct the president to end American’s military involvement in the operations. It was sponsored by Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who is one of the most liberal members of the House.

The leadership feared that the Kucinich measure would pass with backing from an unlikely coalition of liberals and conservatives, a step they contended would send the wrong message to allies engaged in other conflicts with the United States.

On Thursday, Speaker John A. Boehner took the unusual step of presenting his own resolution to his caucus to be voted on by the full House on Friday, along with the Kucinich measure.

June 3, 2011 7:29 AM

Looks like Congress decided to actually do something, or at least complain:

Crossing party lines to deliver a stunning rebuke to the commander in chief, the vast majority of the House voted Friday for resolutions telling President Obama he has broken the constitutional chain of authority by committing U.S. troops to the international military mission in Libya.

In two votes — on competing resolutions that amounted to legislative lectures of Mr. Obama — Congress escalated the brewing constitutional clash over whether he ignored the founding document’s grant of war powers by sending U.S. troops to aid in enforcing a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Libya.


June 3, 2011 4:12 PM

At the risk of repeating myself:

Lickspittle nonsense...the federal governmnent has been constitutionally *Ultra Vires for more than a century with the establishment of the 'Personal Income Tax" and the establishment of the Federal Reserve under the private ownership of the international banking cartel.

Thse issue is plainly seen by several counts, the two most glaring being:

>>War Powers, as spoken to here. Wherein only the Congress has power to Declare War. This official declaration may not be handed off by legislative fiat, that is 'amending the Constitution' by statute, which is what the so-called "War Powers Act' attempts to do.

>>Executive Privilege, which is a complete and total constitutional myth. This is explained in excruciating detail by constitutional scholar Raoul Berger in his book of that title: Executive Privilege A Constitutional Myth.

[*Ultra Vires: Beyond Law]

June 3, 2011 7:02 PM
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