This article was originally published in March 2011
Not so fast my friends. “No way” could quickly become “way” if a couple of House of Representative members have their way. A few short days ago, under orders from President Obama, the U.S. military engaged in combat actions in the country of Libya. The purpose of these actions were to impose a no fly zone over Libya under authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011) of 26 February 2011. You can read the Resolution here:
It seems that this UN Resolution was the sole authority for President Obama to dispatch our armed forces into conflict with a foreign nation. But there is another U.S. law called the Constitution that limits the ability of the President to do this. There is also the War Powers Act of 1973, of which many claim gives the President the authority to take such actions. With that in mind, let’s investigate President Obama’s actions to determine if his actions are Impeachable.
President Obama ordered our armed forces to engage in hostile action against the country of Libya under the guise of a humanitarian mission, namely to stop the reported slaughter of innocent civilians. Implementing a “no fy” zone over Libya was put in place to stop Libyan aircraft from killing it’s civilians. On the surface, these actions appear to be for the cause of saving innocent lives, but were President Obama’s actions legal under U.S. law? The Constitution outlines the separation of powers and gives authority to declare war to the Congress. Specifically:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Looking at the powers of Congress, specifically: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; it is the sole responsibility of Congress to call for military action. Through out the last three major military operations in foreign countries (Iraq and Afghanistan), the approval of Congress, by their vote, was given in each instance before hostile actions were undertaken. Based on the powers of Congress as given, President Obama stepped beyond his authority to order combat actions against Libya.
The President is also given certain powers in the Constitution. The most important one dealing with his role as Commander in Chief is stated as such:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
It is easy to see the authority levels when it comes to the military, most importantly this: ” when called into the actual Service of the United States”. This statement in the Constitution makes it very clear who has the authority to order military action, that would be Congress. It is only after the Congress orders the military to action, that the President has any authority to direct our nations military forces in combat. Once again, President Obama has overstepped his authority by directing hostile action against a foreign nation.
Congress passed a law in 1973 that outlines the Presidents authority to direct hostile actions. That law is The War Powers Act of 1973. The Act supplies the President with some authority to order combat operations, and they are outlined in section 1541: Purpose and Policy:
a) Congressional declaration It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and ensure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.
(b) Congressional legislative power under necessary and proper clause Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer hereof.
(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (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.
As we look at the War Powers Act, paragraph (a), it outlines the authority to introduce the U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. 1. a declaration of war. As I have outlined, it is the responsibility of Congress to declare war. Congress has taken no such action against Libya. 2. specific statutory authorization. As I have also outlined, this would have to come from a vote of Congress to approve military action, which no such authority was given concerning Libya. 3. a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. In this instance, Libya did not attack any part of the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
In Section 1542: Consultation; Initial and regular Consultations, it states the following:
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.
It appears that President Obama chose not to consult with Congress. Had he done so, the law of statutory regulation would have been demanded. This did not occur. At this point of the investigation, the remaining sections are moot to the decisions of the President. Once the President violated th conditions in Section 1541, the remaining sections are meaningless. Had President Obama acted in accordance with the War Powers Act, his Constitutional violations would also have been avoided. However, President Obama failed to act in accordance with both the Constitution and the War Powers Act. This is an impeachable offense which should certainly be pursued by the House of Representatives.
I have presented my opinion on the actions of President Obama concerning actions in Libya. We are a nation of laws. Our Constitution is very clear on the separation of powers when it comes to our armed forces. As a Constitutional Republic, no one person should ever have the sole authority to direct our armed forces into hostile actions, those are the actions of dictators, not U.S. Presidents. The American people should be screaming for impeachment. Our President acted as a dictator, we must remind him that he is not, and do it quickly a decisively. There must be lessons taught to those who blatantly abuse their power, that time has come!