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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/24/18

Tell Congress: Curb the President's War Powers

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From Common Dreams

The attack on Syria was an open violation of international law and of the U.S. Constitution.

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This week, the Senate will decide whether to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Pompeo is a key figure in Trump's new war cabinet, along with National Security Advisor John Bolton and Gina Haspel, who he wants to take Pompeo's place the CIA.

The Senate is also likely to move towards a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which grants congressional authority to expand the global war on terror. What remains to be seen is whether Congress will finally curb presidential war making.

Unrestrained Power

This president -- like his predecessors -- claims the right to make war unilaterally, unrestrained by international law or the Constitution. The recent U.S. missile attack on Syria to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians reveals the scope of presidential contempt for the law.

This attack on Syria was an open violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, the centerpiece of the "rules-based" order the U.S. claims to uphold. This Charter prohibits "the threat or use of force" against a sovereign nation, unless the attack is authorized by the U.N. Security Council, an act of self-defense, or consented to by the sovereign government.

None of these apply here. Some argue the attack was justified by the "responsibility to protect" populations from atrocities endorsed by U.N. member nations since 2005, but that too permits intervention only with U.N. sanction.

Constitutional Contempt

The attack is also an open violation of the U.S. Constitution, which lodges the power to make war in the Congress and not the Executive (Article 1; Section 8). Congress has provided no authority for the invasion of Syria.

The 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) authorizes actions against the organizations that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and their offshoots. No contortion of logic can stretch it to include the Assad regime in Syria.

The secret legal rationale -- if there is one -- would likely be based on the rationale invoked by both Obama and Trump for earlier strikes in Syria: that as Commander in Chief, the President may use military force to uphold regional stability and vital international norms in the national interest.

This contention, as Jack Goldsmith, former attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel under George W Bush, concludes, "places no limit at all on the president's ability to use significant military force unilaterally."

Dangerous Instability

That our "stable genius," the impulsive, erratic, ignorant Donald Trump, claims the power to use the military anywhere at any time that he might decide is frightening enough. It becomes terrifying when combined with the views of the war cabinet he now seeks to assemble.

The Syrian strike coincided with uberhawk John Bolton assuming his post as National Security adviser to the president. Bolton's views -- and treatment of colleagues --are so extreme that a Republican Senate refused to confirm his nomination by George W. Bush to be Ambassador to the UN. Bolton was not only part of the effort to sell the "war of choice" on Iraq, but remains a defender of what is clearly the greatest U.S. foreign policy debacle since the Vietnam War.

Having learned nothing from that calamity, he remains a vociferous advocate of preventive war against both North Korea and Iran. He openly scorns diplomatic achievements like the Paris Climate Accord or the multilateral Ira n nuclear weapons agreement. He advocates escalating U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and a more muscular policy against both Russia and China.

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Robert L. Borosage is the president of the Institute for America's Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America's Future. The organizations were launched by 100 prominent Americans to challenge the rightward drift (more...)

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