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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/16/11

60 More Days in Libya: Obama Does Bush Lawyers Proud

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Now we know why Obama has gone to such outrageous lengths to keep Bush's lawyers out of prison, claiming powers of secrecy and immunity beyond Cheney's wildest dreams and pressuring foreign nations to clamp down on any outbreaks of law enforcement.

If the Bush lawyers who "legalized" aggressive war, lawless imprisonment, and torture were not consulted on how to keep the war in Libya going in perpetuity, they were certainly the inspiration for the latest White House brainstorming session.

Remember when Alberto Gonzales claimed that the U.S. Constitution gives no one the right to habeas corpus by merely asserting that if you had that right it could not be taken away? Amateur work.

Remember when John Yoo and Jay Bybee explained that a man tortured but never tried had no rights due to his guilt? Child's play.

Remember when Bush suggested he might get a war with Iraq started by painting airplanes with UN colors, flying them low, and trying to get them shot at? He was the warm-up act.

Obama's relationship with the U.S. Constitution, U.S. treaty obligations, and the War Powers Act is a mature performance, a masterpiece for the ages.

The U.S. Constitution allows no president to launch a war. The War Powers Act makes an exception for cases in which the United States has been attacked by another nation. Libya did not attack the United States. So, the War Powers Act does not apply.

But Obama's great legal minds decided to pretend it applied by submitting a report to Congress that pretended to comply with the reporting requirements of the War Powers Act. The pretense was pretty thin, as that law requires that certain items be reported, including "the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement," that were not included in the President's pretend report to Congress.

Obama's "Justice Department" then leaked a memo that Bush's gang would have been proud of but would have kept secret, a memo announcing more than arguing that Obama could make war in Libya if he damn well felt like it. We needed to defend regional stability, the DOJ argued, apparently forgetting what region we're in. And we needed to defend the United Nations, they claimed, even while rejecting UN demands to visit Bradley Manning or to cease murdering Pakistanis with drones.

And now we come to the end of the first 60 days of bombing Libya. If you're pretending to partially comply with the War Powers Act, then you're pretending that you have 60 days in which to wage unconstitutional war. After that, you have to put your guns and other toys away or ask the first branch of our government to authorize what you are doing. Here are two of Obama's schemes for getting around this law:


"[An] idea is for the United States to order a complete -- but temporary -- halt to all of its efforts in the Libya mission. Some lawyers make the case that, after a complete pause, the United States could rejoin the mission with a new 60-day clock."

This is the one that has John Yoo kicking himself with jealousy, assuming he didn't provide it. You stop a war for a moment, and then restart it with another 60 days on the clock. If they could do this repeatedly, they could have permanent war while "complying" with the War Powers Act. Or perhaps they could just do it once, and in the interim Congress would pass its "Defense Authorization" including Congressman McKeon and Senator McCain's amendment to give Obama and all future presidents blanket authorization to launch wars. That might work.


"One concept being discussed is for the United States to halt the use of its Predator drones in attacking targets in Libya, and restrict them solely to a role gathering surveillance over targets. Over recent weeks, the Predators have been the only American weapon actually firing on ground targets, although many aircraft are assisting in refueling, intelligence gathering and electronic jamming. By ending all strike missions for American forces, the argument then could be made that the United States was no longer directly engaged in hostilities in Libya, but only providing support to NATO allies."

This is a curious idea. The United Nations investigator on extrajudicial killings has already declared U.S. drone use elsewhere illegal. The U.N. resolution that the U.S. Justice Department argues justifies the war forbids foreign ground troops and imposes an arms embargo. So, by halting one illegal action, the United States would "legalize" continuing others.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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