Saturday, August 27, 2011

Libya here

In the wake of the Gulf War, that is, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, there was a lot of right-wing triumphalism, going after war opponents who had predicted the conflict would be longer and bloodier than it was. (Full disclosure: I was among those opponents.) "Whaddaya think now, huh? Still think it was a bad idea now? Huh, huh?" The underlying claim, of course, was that the war's success (which was never in any real doubt) and relative ease (for a war) provided a retroactive justification for it to which, they were insisting, opponents were now obliged to admit.

Ignore for the moment who was proved right about both the logic and justice of the war by later events and consider just the mockery. It was simply an example of the age-old practice of mocking a (supposedly) defeated enemy, expressed in ways as major as desecrating the bodies of enemy dead, as brutal as seizing women as "prizes" for victory, and as childish as an ass-wiggling touchdown dance. In all instances, they represent the emotional maturity of a six- year-old sticking out their tongue and going "nyah-nyah."

Despite that long and very human, um, "tradition," it still was disturbing to see liberal (or, to put a finer and more accurate point on it, Obamabot) triumphalism in the wake of the fall of Muammar Qaddafi's regime.

A few days ago, ThinkProgress, one of that whole range of "the answer to every question is 'more better Democrats'" outfits, tweeted this:
Does John Boehner still believe US military operations in Libya are illegal?
The chuckling sneer being audible right through the screen.

Well, I can't speak for Sir John of Orange, but I do!

A quick re-hash of the arguments I laid out over the course of this war in posts in February, April, May, and June:

Initially, PHC* offered no real legal justification either for a US-imposed "no fly zone" over eastern Libya nor for the bombing of Libyan forces on the ground. He talked about a "humanitarian response" to prevent a "slaughter" in Benghazi - a response whose necessity was proved more by assertion than by evidence - but not about his own legal power to take military action. He sought no authorization from Congress even though everyone agrees he had it for the asking, preferring to assert he didn't need one. Hillary Clinton went so far as to tell a group of House members that Obama would simply ignore any attempts by Congress to assert its Constitutional authority.

Then he cited the War Powers Act, which allows a president to use US military forces for 60 days without Congressional authority. Unfortunately for Mr. O's claims to rationality, that is only allowed in the case of, quoting the Act,
a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
No one but no one claimed any such attack had occurred or would occur; Obama did not even claim a threat to a single American citizen. What's more, it almost immediately became clear that he had lied about the extent and purpose of the bombing as it quickly moved from "defending unarmed civilians" to open support of the rebel drive, with Obama openly saying that the mission could not stop so long as Qaddafi remained in power.

At the 60-day limit set by the War Powers Act, the White House was unable even to offer a legal theory as how continued involvement was within the power of the President - even as the Pentagon announced that US participation in the Libyan mission was going forward unchanged, a "participation" that at the time included the use of armed Predator drones targeting Tripoli. This despite the fact that at that limit, again quoting the act, "the President shall" - notice the word is "shall," not should or can or might or anything else, but "shall" - "terminate any use of United States Armed Forces" involved unless Congressional authorization has been obtained. The only exception in the Act is an additional 30-day window specifically to allow for the safe withdrawal of forces, which obviously was not a factor in Libya.

At the 90-day limit, things passed from bizarre to surreal. At that point, the White House PR flaks asserted that the War Powers Act - the very same act Obama had asserted as providing his authority - does not apply to Libya because the US was not involved in “hostilities.” The situation, they said, does not involve
sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.
In other words, the Barack Obama team (I used to say that Bill O'Reilly had the world's most perfect initials; I'm no longer so sure he can hold the title) rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon, the DOJ, and the Office of Legal Counsel and instead asserted that he was free to use whatever military force he wanted, however he wanted, for as long as he wanted, because the Libyans were unable to shoot back. And therefore this president and all future presidents have unrestrained authority to launch US military attacks on any people, any movement, any nation, anywhere, any time, provided only that those people or movements or nations are incapable of defending themselves.

In April, I wrote this:
Barack Obama, the supposed Constitutional scholar, has shit on the Constitution and disgraced himself, the office of the presidency, and the best principles of the nation. And instead of the condemnation such arrogance, such centralization of power, deserves, it has in too many cases been ignored, downplayed, or worst cheered by people who damn well should know better but are just so happy to have a "liberal" war president ("We're not weak! We're not weak!") that they lose - or rather willingly abandon - the capacity for rational thought.

When George Bush raised the notion of "preemptive war," a policy of, as it was described, attacking real or imagined enemies before they became serious threats and so supposedly preventing such threats from arising, it was quite properly met with a chorus of condemnation from the left. But not this time. Not when PHC - excuse me, GHC - is in charge. Rather, a distressingly, depressingly, large number of ostensibly liberal or left voices have instead been a hallelujah chorus: "He's gone to the UN! He's working with NATO! That is just so totally different from Bush that it's just, just awesome! Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
And the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, as welcome as it is to anyone who retains hopes for justice, does not change a single word of that.

Self-Congratulatory Footnote: Noted for no particular reason beyond the fact that it's one of those round numbers we love so much is the fact that this is the 4000th Lotus post.

1 comment:

Daisy Deadhead said...

4000 posts, you the man.

And a TV star! I'm jealous. Although I imagine you don't get a lot of viewers if you describe yourself as "Glenn Beck without the chalkboard and paranoia"... since I think thats the whole reason those looney tunes watched him in the first place. :P

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