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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/7/15

Obama's speech reminded Americans that the war with Isis is still illegal

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Reprinted from The Guardian

No matter the merits of the case for destroying Isis, the fact remains that it's unconstitutional for the president to go to war without Congressional approval
President Obama Delivers An Address To The Nation Dec. 6th
President Obama Delivers An Address To The Nation Dec. 6th
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If you listened closely during President Obama's speech to the nation on Sunday night, you would have heard him reference the fact that the US war against Isis -- which is well over a year old at this point -- is illegal and unconstitutional.

He didn't phrase it like that of course, but he did remind Americans that Congress has not authorized any military action against Isis despite the fact that we have been dropping bombs on multiple countries in an effort to stop Isis since August of 2014, and despite the fact that such military action is required by both the law and the US constitution.

Here's what Obama did say about the subject on Sunday night:

"Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.

"For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of air strikes against ISIL targets. I think it's time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed to this fight."

He framed congressional authorization of the war against Isis as a solidarity or symbolic issue -- like the US Congress would be showing the American public unity or something -- but it's much more consequential than his deceptive wording allows. According to Article I, section eight of the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, not the executive branch, and under the War Powers Act passed after the Vietnam War, Congress must authorize war 90 days after any combat missions begin.

For the past year and four months, the administration has been pretending that the 2001 Authorization for Military Force (AUMF), which made it legal to wage war against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, somehow makes it okay to wage an indefinite, worldwide war against Isis. But Isis did not exist in 2001, and has been enemies with al-Qaida (the group that committed 9/11) for years. Still, the 2001 AUMF is being used to fight Isis in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact that al-Qaida was almost exclusively operational in Afghanistan when Congress first authorized military action.

It makes no logical sense to claim that the authorization to engage in military action against al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 2001 applies to Isis in Syria in 2015, yet that is supposed argument to which the White House lawyers are clinging.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)

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