I'm not going to spend lots of time on the day-to-day details of our Nobel Peace Prize president's latest celebration of the benefits of bombing. I am, however, going to make some general observations.
The first and most important observation is that we are being stampeded into another war. Or more correctly, into re-expanding a war that never actually ended.
Bombing in Iraq. Bombing in Syria now. Over 1500 so-called "advisers" on the ground in Iraq, "advisers" who have already been in firefights, all amid cries from jackasses like Buck McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, and BFFs Lindsay Graham and John McCain to "go all in now" because they just can't wait to see the spurting blood amid the shrieks of the wounded writhing in pain because after all why should ISIS have all the fun.
Stampeded by the hawks, stampeded by the ideologues, stampeded by the media, stampeded with cries of "9/11" and "the gates of hell," and "kill them there or they don't kill us here," stampeded into, as we keep on doing, creating even more extremism by seeing threats against the US - that is, against us - that don't actually exist, as neither the FBI nor Homeland Security nor the Pentagon nor the National Counterterrorism Center, none of which have a reputation for downplaying dangers to the Glorious Fatherland, find any cause for alarm. The stampede has become a crashing wave, a tsunami of equal parts ideology, paranoia, bigotry, and bloodlust.
And the Amazing Mr. O rides his surfboard through the tube, the wave breaking over his head as he uses it to go along as he damn well pleases, taking step after step into the Big Muddy. Yes, all that is a horribly mixed jumble of metaphors. It still fits.
Make no mistake, we are being set us up for years of this, years of bombing and death and fear-mongering that will extend far beyond Obama's presidency, setting up his successor, whoever that is, to deal with a volatile and incomplete war against an enemy - terrorism - that, unlike some group of terrorists, can never be defeated, because you can't defeat a tactic, as the scenes from 1984 about a population kept subdued by perpetual reports of perpetual wars perpetually far away become a daily reality. Obama came into office dealing with Bush's Iraq war; the next president will come into office dealing with Obama's Iraq and Syria war.
Some in Congress, bless their day-late-dollar-short little hearts, are mumbling questions about just what is Obama's authority to carry out these attacks even as most of that august body are more concerned about campaigning than about doing their jobs and so will just dump the whole thing until the lame-duck session after the election - assuming they'll actually address the issue of authority even then.
But here's the thing that gets me about this, what especially gets me about this:
More than four years ago, I was asking what is the authority? Where is the authority? What gave Obama the right, the legal right, the legal power, to do what he was doing? "Mr. President," I asked, "just who the hell do you think you are?"
That was in response to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen murdered with a drone strike - put more directly, they dropped a bomb on him - without a pretense of anything a rational person would call due process. But it wasn't the only case.
Three years ago, in the case of Libya, I was making the same demand to know "by what authority." At the time, I said that instead of calling Obama "PHC," for "President Hopey-Changey," as I had been calling him, I would start calling him "GHC" - for Generalissimo Hopey-Changey - because he had apparently decided that the US military is his to use in any way he sees fit, any time he thinks appropriate, anywhere in the world he in his own personal, not-to-be-judged opinion thinks merited. So much so that Hillary Clinton, who was then secretary of state, told members of Congress that the White House would simply ignore any attempts by Congress to invoke the War Powers Resolution.
The questions beginning to be raised, oh so tentatively, oh so gently, oh so don't-rock-the-boatly, should have been asked four years ago - at least four years ago.
It is so incredibly frustrating to be always expected to deal with these sorts of things after the fact. After four years - and more - of standing by, of watching the bombings, the drone strikes, the assassinations, after four years - and more - of letting all this slide because you didn't want to make a fuss, to now be saying "golly gee whiz, um, do you have any authority," well, there is an old saying about barn doors and horses that applies here.
But be fair, Obama has claimed a basis for his supposed legal authority to not only bomb Iraq but to expand the campaign into Syria. a legal basis that, what did you expect, does not require any Congressional vote. And he knows it's true 'cause gosh darn it, he had "top lawyers" at the Office of Legal Counsel at the DOJ check it out and what do you know, they told him exactly what he wanted to hear.
And what is that legal authority? What is the Congressional authorization?
Why it's the AUMF, the Authority to Use Military Force that was passed in a rush without significant debate in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The same legislation that over a year ago Obama called "outdated."
The guts of that act is the statement that, quoting,
the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.So how does ISIS fit that description?
ISIS was founded in Jordan in 1999 under the name Group of Monotheism and Jihad. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, it became involved in the resistance to the US occupation.
In 2004, to build its prestige as compared to other radical groups in the Iraqi resistance, it declared itself faithful to al-Qaeda and became commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq,even though that was never the actual name.
It later broke off from al-Qaeda, claiming in effect that the older group had gone soft. It's now a rival of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda has even denounced ISIS for the extreme nature of its violence.
So sum it up: ISIS was not involved in 9/11. It did not harbor anyone involved in 9/11. It was not active in Iraq until after our invasion. It had no connection to al-Qaeda until 2004, and now is a bitter rival.
So I ask again: How does ISIS fit the definition of those covered by the AUMF? And I answer again: It doesn't. Obama's claim is crap.
So where is the actual authority to militarily attack ISIS?
There isn't any.
And Obama knows it. Of course he knows it, he's not stupid. Of course he knows it - but he just doesn't care. Because as long as he can make some claim that he has some sort of authority, even if it's transparently bogus, he knows that enough people in Congress will fold like a beat-up accordion.
You've got to realize, this has nothing to do with whether or not you think ISIS is a threat to the US, even though it's not. This has nothing to do with whether or not you think bombing ISIS is a good idea or not or the right thing to do or not and it has nothing to do with whether or not you want to see "boots on the ground" or I should say more boots on the ground.
It has to do with the legal, the Constitutional authority to commit the US to year upon year of war and death and destruction. That is a power no one person should ever have and one the Constitution was originally designed to prevent, but it's one that Obama is claiming for himself and one that the members of Congress - or at least a good number of them - are prepared to passively let him take. It is disgraceful, it is dangerous, it is frightening.
The other day someone asked me what I as a believer in nonviolence would do about a group like ISIS. Now I'm not going to get into a discussion about nonviolence, because that's not relevant here. What is relevant here is that the first thing I said was that I wouldn't be in this situation because I wouldn't have done the things that got us into it.
And maybe, just maybe, if people had started asking "where's the authority" four - or more - years ago, we might not be in this situation now.
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