White House on War Powers Deadline: 'Limited' US Role in Libya Means No Need to Get Congressional AuthorizationMay 20, 2011
In an effort to satisfy those arguing he needs to seek congressional authorization to continue US military activity in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders this afternoon suggesting that the role is now so “limited” he does not need to seek congressional approval.
“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”
A senior administration official told ABC News that the letter is intended to describe “a narrow US effort that is intermittent and principally an effort to support to support the ongoing NATO-led and UN-authorized civilian support mission and no fly zone.”
“The US role is one of support,” the official said, “and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.”
From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration has cited the 1973 War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. The military intervention started on March 19; Congress was notified on March 21. Those 60 days expire today.
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President Obama's Libya Intervention Hits 60-Day Legal LimitThe legal license President Obama used to justify U.S. military intervention in Libya expires today, and there's little sign the White House is working quickly to get it renewed.
Exactly two months ago, Obama notified Congress of his unilateral decision to engage in "limited military action" to help defend the Libyan people from attacks by their leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
But under federal law -- the War Powers Resolution of 1973 -- Obama is only allowed to keep U.S. forces engaged in hostilities for 60 days, unless Congress declares war, authorizes funding for the effort or extends the deadline.
Congress has not enacted legislation authorizing military involvement in Libya, and the White House has not made a public effort to comply with the rule.
Experts say this is the first time an American president has defied the War Powers Resolution's deadline for participation in combat operations without any concurrent steps by Congress to fund or otherwise authorize the role.
While every administration since 1973 and some lawmakers have questioned the constitutionality of the resolution's infringement on executive power, it has not been successfully challenged in court and remains the law of the land.
Now some members of Congress from both parties want answers.
"As recently as last week your administration indicated use of the U.S. armed forces will continue indefinitely. Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution," six Republican senators wrote Wednesday in a letter to Obama. "We await your response."
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did not co-sign the letter but has been pressing the administration to seek Congressional authorization on Libya for weeks.
"Extended engagements in military action abroad, and the costs and risks they entail, must be undertaken only with the full support of the American people," Lugar said last week.
U.S. involvement in the Libya operation is estimated to have cost taxpayers at least $750 million so far, according to the Pentagon. U.S. drones and military aircraft, including refueling tankers and surveillance planes, remain actively involved in enforcing a no-fly zone above Libya.
White House press secretary Jay Carney has said that the administration plans to continue "consultations" with Congress on Libya but would not comment when asked recently about the passing of the 60-day deadline.
But Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told a Senate panel last week that Obama remains "mindful" of the War Powers Resolution and seeks to abide by it.
"He will continue to do so, and we look forward to continuing to consult with Congress on our role in the coming days," he said.
With the House of Representatives on recess and Obama headed to Europe next week, many observers don't see a speedy resolution to the issue and expressed disappointment at the impasse.
"They're making a mistake on the War Powers Act," said Brookings Institution foreign policy fellow Michael O'Hanlon. "Congress does deserve a role in this and making the case to Congress for continued military action in Libya shouldn't be hard."
Tom Donnelly, director of Center for Defense Studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, speculated that Obama has tried to avoid the issue of extending operations in Libya given public sentiment on the conflict.
"There's been rising domestic and political discontent about it," he said. "Maybe he [Obama] can get away with it because of the Osama bin Laden killing. But it's difficult to say in the games of chicken between the White House, Capitol Hill and all over town."
"This is a war entirely at our disposal to bring to a conclusion given our military power. If we really cared about it, it could have been over and done with by now," Donnelly said.
Recent polls show a strong majority of Americans approve of Obama's handling of national security issues and foreign affairs. But on Libya he has not had significant support from either side of the political spectrum.
Forty percent of Americans oppose U.S. military involvement in Libya, and among those, 65 percent disapprove of his handling of the situation so far, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted last month. Some conservatives think Obama should have been more aggressive in using force to oust Gadhafi.
For his part, Obama has sought to take a backseat in the Libyan intervention, stressing the U.S. holds a support role as part of an international coalition led by NATO.
"We cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force -- no matter how well-intended it may be," Obama said Thursday in a speech on Middle East policy.
"But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people's call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed."
Still, nearly four years ago, it was then-candidate Obama who suggested an end didn't justify the use of any means.
"No more ignoring the law when it's inconvenient. That is not who we are," Obama said, referring to his predecessor President George W. Bush. "We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers."
March 21, 2011
Late today US and British cruise missiles joined with French and other NATO combat aircraft in Operation Odyssey Dawn/Operation Ellamy, a neo-imperialist bombing attack under fake humanitarian cover against the sovereign state of Libya. Acting under UN Security Council resolution 1973, US naval forces in the Mediterranean on Saturday night local time fired 112 cruise missiles at targets which the Pentagon claimed were related to Libya’s air defense system. But Mohammed al-Zawi, the Secretary General of the Libyan Parliament, told a Tripoli press conference that the “barbaric armed attack” and “savage aggression” had hit residential areas and office buildings as well as military targets, filling the hospitals of Tripoli and Misurata with civilian victims. Zawi accused the foreign powers of acting to protect a rebel leadership which contains notorious terrorist elements. The Libyan government repeated its request for the UN to send international observers to report objectively on events in Libya.
The attacking forces are expected to deploy more cruise missiles, Predator drones, and bombers, seeking to destroy the Libyan air defense system as a prelude to the systematic decimation of Libyan ground units. International observers have noted that US intelligence about Libya may be substandard, and that many cruise missiles may indeed have struck non-military targets.
Libya had responded to the UN vote by declaring a cease-fire, but Obama and Cameron brushed that aside. On Saturday, France 24 and al-Jazeera of Qatar, international propaganda networks hyping the attacks, broadcast hysterical reports of Qaddafi’s forces allegedly attacking the rebel stronghold of Bengazi. They showed a picture of a jet fighter being shot down and claimed this proved Qaddafi was defying the UN by keeping up his air strikes. It later turned out that the destroyed plane had belonged to the rebel air force. Such coverage provided justification for the bombing attacks starting a few hours later. The parallels to the Kuwait incubator babies hoax of 1990 were evident. Qaddafi loyalists said Saturday’s fighting was caused by rebel assaults on government lines in the hopes of provoking an air attack, plus local residents defending themselves against the rebels.
At the UN vote, the Indian delegate correctly pointed out that the decision to start the war had been made on the basis of no reliable information whatsoever, since UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon’s envoy to Libya had never reported to the Security Council. The bombing started shortly after a glittering Paris summit “in support of the Libyan people,” where Sarkozy, Cameron, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Harper of Canada and other imperialist politicians had strutted and postured.
Token contingents from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were supposed to take part in the attack, but were nowhere to be seen, while some Arab states were expected to provide financial support. The minimum estimated cost of maintaining a no-fly zone over Libya for one year is estimated in the neighborhood of $15 billion – enough to fund WIC high-protein meals for impoverished US mothers and infants for two years.
From no-fly zone to regime change
The alleged purpose of the bombing was to establish a no-fly zone and to protect a force of CIA-sponsored Libyan rebels composed of the Moslem Brotherhood, elements of the Libyan government and army subverted by the CIA (including such sinister figures as former Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and former Interior Minister Fattah Younis), and monarchist Senussi tribesmen holding the cities of Benghazi and Tobruk. But twin Friday ultimatums by President Obama and British premier Cameron, plus a speech by Harper, made clear that the goal was the ouster of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and regime change in the North African oil-producing nation, whose proven reserves of crude are the largest on that continent.
Prospects for military success are uncertain, despite the apparent NATO preponderance. No clear military objective has been articulated, and disagreements about the scope of the war are likely. If Qaddafi’s tanks and infantry are engaged in house to house battles with the rebels in cities like Bengazi and Tobruk, it will be hard for NATO to bring its air superiority to bear without massacring large numbers of civilians.
From hope and change to shock and awe
While Obama’s action is being widely compared to the Bush-Cheney 2003 attack on Iraq, parallels to the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco are also strong. In that instance, a force of anti-Castro Cubans organized by the CIA was militarily defeated in an attempt to take over Cuba, resulting in calls from Allen Dulles to President Kennedy for air strikes and a ground invasion. Kennedy rejected those calls and fired the Dulles CIA leadership. Obama, faced by the military collapse of a CIA force in Libya, has ordered such bombing, opening a second phase of the present US debacle.
The rebel region of Cerenaica has long been the scene of Moslem brotherhood agitation against Qaddafi, much of it fomented from across the Egyptian border with US assistance. After the failed 1995 assassination attempt against the Libyan leader reported by MI-5 defector David Shayler (for which MI-6 paid £100,000 to an al Qaeda subsidiary), eastern Libya was the scene of a protracted Islamist insurrection. In the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt, it has become clear that the CIA has stipulated a worldwide alliance against existing Arab governments with the reactionary and oligarchical Muslim brotherhood, which was created by British intelligence in Egypt in the late 1920s. Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), another CIA front, is trumpeting full support for the rebels on its website.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was first to recognize the Benghazi rebels, calling for a no-fly zone and air strikes a week earlier, seconded by British Prime Minister Cameron. Until about 18 hours before the UN vote, top US officials like Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates were stressing the difficulties of a no-fly zone. French Foreign Minister Juppé lamented that it was already too late for a no-fly zone. Then, the US abruptly demanded a no-fly zone plus a blank check for aerial bombing. Diplomatic observers are puzzled by Obama’s turnaround. Was he being blackmailed by the British and the French, the same imperialist coalition that invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal back in 1956? Because of Obama’s decision, the US is now at war with a fourth Moslem nation after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the simmering conflict is threatening to escalate into the open at any time in the wake of the scandal around CIA contractor Ray Davis, accused by the Pakistanis as a terrorist controller.
The Arab League, surprising many analysts, had voted unanimously for a no-fly zone over Libya. The African Union, by contrast, has resolutely opposed foreign intervention. Western diplomats have discounted the AU position, giving rise to suspicions of racism. These are reinforced by reports that the anti-Qaddafi rebels have lynched a number of black Africans, claiming that they were mercenaries hired by Qaddafi.
Interference in Libyan internal affairs violates UN Charter
Diplomatic observers were shocked by the sweeping resolution passed by the Security Council, which allows “all necessary measures” to be used against Libya. The United Nations Charter strictly limits Chapter 7 military actions to threats to international peace and security, which Libya has never represented, but rules out interference in internal affairs of member states. The pretext cited in this case was the protection of defenseless civilians, but it is clear that the rebels constitute an armed military force in their own right. Since no state can be an aggressor on its own territory, the Security Council resolution stands in flagrant violation of the UN Charter. Russia, China, Brazil, Germany, and India abstained. The resolution contains an arms embargo against Libya which the US is already violating by arming the rebels through Egypt.
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