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Did Obama Violate the Constitution in Going To War with Libya?

 :: Posted by Limited Government on 03-24-2011

The U.S. attack on Libya to enforce a UN resolution against the government of dictator Muammar Qaddafi is just the latest military action undertaken by a U.S. President without proper Constitutional authorization. Now, critics from both sides of the aisle are questioning President Obama’s actions.

The U.S. Constitution, the governing charter of the federal government, grants the power to declare war exclusively to Congress and not to the President. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution establishes that Congress alone has the power to authorize military activities against foreign nations. Clause 11 of Section 8 states that Congress shall have the power “to declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

Despite the clear grant of the war-making power to Congress alone, since World War II, which was the last war authorized by a proper Congressional declaration of war, U.S. Presidents have routinely engaged in war making without properly seeking a declaration of war.

In an attempt to reign in the executive branch’s growing affinity for conducting warfare under auspices other than that of Congress (such as their own, or that of the United Nations), in 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution. It maintained that the President could only “introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances” pursuant to three conditions:

  1. A declaration of war,
  2. Specific statutory authorization, or
  3. A national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

The resolution also requires that “The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.”

Finally, in such cases wherein the president has begun hostilities, the War Powers Resolution requires that the President terminate such hostilities within 60 days unless declares war, extends the sixty-day period or if Congress can’t meet because of the severity of the situation or because the President “determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces.” In the last case, the President can keep troops engaged for an additional thirty days.

In enforcing the UN resolution against Libya, it is beyond question that the Obama administration began a war without a Congressional declaration of war. But critics contend that he also did not fulfill the mandate of the War Powers Resolution to consult with Congress before the onset of hostilities.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), in introducing a measure to defund the Libyan intervention strongly criticized the administration’s actions in launching the war. Declaring that “The establishment of a no-fly zone by the U.S. and our allies, billed as an act to protect civilians in Libya, is an act of war,” Kucinich said, then continued: “Yet the President committed the U.S. to military intervention without consulting Congress, in clear subversion of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives only Congress the power to declare war.”

According to the publication The Hill, however, the president contends that he did consult with Congress. The Hill reports that in a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the President argued that he “directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”

President Obama concluded the letter, stating: “I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.” 

Whether, in fact, a letter to the Speaker of the House is enough to fulfill the requirements of the War Powers Resolution is certainly debatable, and many in Congress harbor concerns that the President far exceeded his authority.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) said: “If we are going into war with Libya, we should declare a war on Libya.” Continuing, Lugar said, “These are things that must be debated here in Washington quite apart from Paris….”

Also criticizing the President on the issue is Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia). Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the former Navy Secretary and current member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Webb noted that the American people have had no say in whether U.S. should have intervened in Libya.

“[W]e have not put this issue in front of the American people in any meaningful way; the President’s in Rio, the Congress is out of session,” Webb said. So before we even get into the command structure of this, I think it’s very clear to put the marker down that moving forward, we need to get more involved in terms of anything that goes from this point forward.” 

Senator Webb went on to note that Presidents have routinely ignored Congress’s authority regarding war making. We have been, he said, “sort of on auto-pilot for almost ten years in terms of presidential authority in conducting these types of military operations absent the meaningful participation of the Congress. We have not had a debate and I know that there was some justification put into place because of concern for civilian casualties, but this isn’t the way that our system is supposed to work.”

Democratic Congressman John Larson of Connecticut also signaled concern over the administration’s failure to consult with Congress. In a statement, Larson noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and others have noted that “military action is tantamount to an act of war,” and that the President must at least consult with Congress. 

“If that means calling Members of Congress back from the District work period for a joint session, then that’s what we should do.” Larson said. “It is imperative that Members of Congress, as the direct representatives of our constituents, have the opportunity to weigh in before decisions are made.”

And, he continued: “Using our military against another nation, even a brutal regime like Colonel Quadaffi’s, requires that Congress both be informed and exercise our constitutional authority.”

The question remains, however, what Congress will do to reign in the executive branch. At least one Congressman has an idea.

Reporting that several Democratic legislators including Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Mike Capuano (Mass.), Donna Edwards (Md.), among others had raised concerns about the Constitutionality of the intervention in Libya during a Democratic Caucus conference call, Politico noted that Dennis Kucinich raised the idea of impeachment.

According to Politico, “Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.”

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 14:10

Dennis Behreandt 

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 :: Posted by Limited Government on 02-23-2011

By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
January 2007

Democrat Keith Ellison is now officially the first Muslim United States congressman. True to his pledge, he placed his hand on the Quran, the Muslim book of jihad and pledged his allegiance to the United States during his ceremonial swearing-in.

Capitol Hill staff said Ellison’s swearing-in photo opportunity drew more media than they had ever seen in the history of the U.S. House. Ellison represents the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota.

The Quran Ellison used was no ordinary book. It once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and one of America’s founding fathers. Ellison borrowed it from the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress. It was one of the 6,500 Jefferson books archived in the library.

Ellison, who was born in Detroit and converted to Islam while in college, said he chose to use Jefferson’s Quran because it showed that “a visionary like Jefferson” believed that wisdom could be gleaned from many sources.

There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be “gleaned” from the Muslim Quran. At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic “Barbary” states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli.

Ellison’s use of Jefferson’s Quran as a prop illuminates a subject once well-known in the history of the United States, but, which today, is mostly forgotten – the Muslim pirate slavers who over many centuries enslaved millions of Africans and tens of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans in the Islamic “Barbary” states.

Over the course of 10 centuries, Muslim pirates cruised the African and Mediterranean coastline, pillaging villages and seizing slaves.

The taking of slaves in pre-dawn raids on unsuspecting coastal villages had a high casualty rate. It was typical of Muslim raiders to kill off as many of the “non-Muslim” older men and women as possible so the preferred “booty” of only young women and children could be collected.

Young non-Muslim women were targeted because of their value as concubines in Islamic markets. Islamic law provides for the sexual interests of Muslim men by allowing them to take as many as four wives at one time and to have as many concubines as their fortunes allow.

Boys, as young as 9 or 10 years old, were often mutilated to create eunuchs who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East. Muslim slave traders created “eunuch stations” along major African slave routes so the necessary surgery could be performed. It was estimated that only a small number of the boys subjected to the mutilation survived after the surgery.

When American colonists rebelled against British rule in 1776, American merchant ships lost Royal Navy protection. With no American Navy for protection, American ships were attacked and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”–an Islamist warlord ruling Algeria.

Because American commerce in the Mediterranean was being destroyed by the pirates, the Continental Congress agreed in 1784 to negotiate treaties with the four Barbary States. Congress appointed a special commission consisting of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, to oversee the negotiations.

Lacking the ability to protect its merchant ships in the Mediterranean, the new America government tried to appease the Muslim slavers by agreeing to pay tribute and ransoms in order to retrieve seized American ships and buy the freedom of enslaved sailors.

Adams argued in favor of paying tribute as the cheapest way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again. Jefferson was opposed. He believed there would be no end to the demands for tribute and wanted matters settled “through the medium of war.” He proposed a league of trading nations to force an end to Muslim piracy.

In 1786, Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and Adams, then the American ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the “Dey of Algiers” ambassador to Britain.

The Americans wanted to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote to appease. During the meeting Jefferson and Adams asked the Dey’s ambassador why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.

In a later meeting with the American Congress, the two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

For the following 15 years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to 20 percent of United States government annual revenues in 1800.

Not long after Jefferson’s inauguration as president in 1801, he dispatched a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean, and informed Congress.

Declaring that America was going to spend “millions for defense but not one cent for tribute,” Jefferson pressed the issue by deploying American Marines and many of America’s best warships to the Muslim Barbary Coast.

The USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Philadelphia, USS Chesapeake, USS Argus, USS Syren and USS Intrepid all saw action.

In 1805, American Marines marched across the dessert from Egypt into Tripolitania, forcing the surrender of Tripoli and the freeing of all American slaves.

During the Jefferson administration, the Muslim Barbary States, crumbling as a result of intense American naval bombardment and on shore raids by Marines, finally officially agreed to abandon slavery and piracy.

Jefferson’s victory over the Muslims lives on today in the Marine Hymn, with the line, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land as on the sea.”

It wasn’t until 1815 that the problem was fully settled by the total defeat of all the Muslim slave trading pirates. Jefferson had been right. The “medium of war” was the only way to put and end to the Muslim problem. Mr. Ellison was right about Jefferson. He was a “visionary” wise enough to read and learn about the enemy from their own Muslim book of jihad.

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