Obama, Gaddafi, War And The Law

Muammar Gaddafi: Is bombing his residence an act of war?. AP photo from Bob Jones

I guess I’m as puzzled as many of you about how an American president can bomb Libya and demand that its leader step down without consulting Congress or being held to the letter of the 1973 War Powers Act.

Basically, that law passed by two-thirds of Congress gives a president 60 days grace in initiating emergency “hostilities” against a foreign country plus 30 more days to pull out deployed forces. Beyond that, Congress must concur or there must be a formal declaration of war.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes against Libyan “President and Guide” Muammar Gaddafi’s residence in a near-miss assassination attempt.

Barack Obama’s rationalization now seems to be that we were bombing for a while this year but only our NATO allies are now. We only provide reconnaissance and intelligence.

Any reasonable American must interpret what we’re doing at a cost so far of more than $800 million as “hostilities” under the War Powers Act. That’s very dangerous stuff, and if left unchallenged by our Supreme Court it will open the door to all manner of U.S. military ventures in the future.

I’m no fan of Col. Gaddafi. But he is the internationally recognized chief of state and we haven’t got a clue to who’s leading the opposition we support. And if we can intervene in Libya militarily, can we do the same in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria? The situations are parallel. We intervened in Somalia and Grenada, Haiti and Panama. We secretly intervened in Nicaragua.

What’s to check the power of an American president, who can use current budget funds for interventions of his choosing until Congress cuts off the money. And by then we’re in it and look weak by pulling out – like in Somalia, Vietnam and Korea.

And where’s all this money for three simultaneous “hostilities” coming from? More taxes and more borrowing?

I guess if Obama says Libya doesn’t involve “hostilities” under the War Powers Act then somebody better rewrite that one and more carefully define the word.

Libya did not attack us. We have no immediate national interest there. The people Gaddafi is hurting are – for the most part – people who attacked the government. Some innocents have been killed, but consider what we call “inadvertent collateral damage” in Pakistan – where we also are not at war but conducting hostile air and ground operations.

Come to think of it, Congress never declared war on Afghanistan and the U.N. never authorized military action there, either. Only George W. Bush did. Obama opted to keep it all going.

Don’t you think somebody needs to say “wait just a minute, Mr. President”?

Isn’t actively running or supporting a war “hostili-ties”? Just since 1980, we’ve put troops or war planes in Iran, El Salvador, the Sinai, Lebanon, Egypt, Grenada, Honduras, Chad, Haiti, Bolivia, Colombia, the Philippines, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, Liberia, the Persian Gulf states and Afghanistan.

Our news media got all worked up against Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon over bombing Cambodia and Laos; even nagged the two Bushes about Iraq. Why so timid about Obama bombing Libya?

That’s flat-out war, isn’t it?