My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Syria forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Nobel Peace Prize Committee:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2009/

The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".

United Nations charter:

http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml

Chapter 1

Article 2

4. All Members [ of the United Nations ] shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state

US Constitution:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

Article. I.

Section. 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power … to declare War

War Powers Resolution, actual text:

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/warpower.asp

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.

War Powers Resolution, commentary:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution

The War Powers Resolution has been violated in the past…

All incidents have had congressional disapproval, but none have had any successful legal actions taken against the president for violations.

President Obama's Press Secretary Jay Carney's 26 August 2013 briefing:

http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2013/08/20130827281682.html?CP.rss=true#axzz2dEPHfZK6

Q: Would the President act without congressional or U.N. authorization? …

Jay Carney: …When it comes to Congress, we’re consulting with Congress and will continue to do that…

Q: Can you detail the consultations with Congress that have gone on so far? Because there are many members of Congress who believe they have not been consulted.

Jay Carney: I think members of Congress with a particular interest in this matter have been consulted

Q: What would the legal basis be for a military strike?

Jay Carney: I'm not going to speculate

Q: Do you need Congress to act on anything? …

Jay Carney: I don't want to speculate

Last 5 posts by Clark

Comments

  1. ketchup says

    Why are you bringing up the Constitution? It is the 21st century – we should not be constrained by such quaint ideas as "separation of powers" anymore.

  2. DocumentedArizonian says

    So, let me see if I have this logic down from the righties who don't just say outright that they are righties.

    UN disagrees w/ US + Non-existent actual evidence + Occupation Non-Plans = GO GET'EM! Not with us? ANTI-AMERICAN!!!

    UN agrees + Actual evidence exists + No idiotic occupation = Terrible idea

    Brilliant. Thank God we don't have another rightie deciding about foreign intervention

  3. ketchup says

    Seriously though, I have never understood the War Powers resolution. It seems to be an attempt by Congress to impose its own interpretation of the Constitution on the President. Congress is saying "We interpret "declare war" to be any type of hostilities not necessitated by emergency". But the President is free to say "I didn't declare war. I just commanded the armed forces to bomb Syria".
    Without a Supreme Court ruling that initiating armed conflict is tantamount to a declaration of war, it seems the President is free to do whatever he wants besides say "I declare war on Syria".
    I think this is a case where the founding fathers were a little too naive. They probably thought "No civilized country would attack another country without first declaring war", so it didn't even occur to them that future presidents would use that vagueness as a loophole.
    Constitutional Lawyers in the group feel free to correct my impressions.

  4. beingmarkh says

    If only someone had thought to make these arguments in 1950, 1959, 2002, and all the other dates in between.

    Cutting edge as usual, Clark.

  5. says

    They probably thought "No civilized country would attack another country without first declaring war",

    Well, James Madison died in 1836. He was the last of the original signers of the Constitution to die. By 1836, we'd had four wars without a declaration, NOT COUNTING the Indian Wars. You'd think he might have said, "Uhm, excuse me… not our Original Intent, these wars. Even if several of them were conducted by Thomas Jefferson. I guess he forgot our Original Intent. It's hard work being President. You can't remember all the piddly little details. I mean, look at John Adams! He totally forgot we put that 'freedom of the press' thing in!"

    In the entire history of the United States, there have been only FIVE formal declarations of war. FIVE.

    Do YOU think we've only been in five wars?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States

    We can probably quibble over exactly how this article defines a war, but, let's figure… it's more than freakin' FIVE we've been in. And it didn't start with Obama, or Clinton, or Reagan, or Nixon, or LBJ, or Kennedy…

  6. wolfefan says

    IANAL and I apologize if this is off-topic. I am happy to learn from others here. @Lizard is spot on, to this layman. I don't see why the correct interpretation of the meaning of the Constitution is bound directly to the text and the text only. How did the framers treat the text of the Constitution? When Senators showed up who were Constitutionally too young to serve, they seated them. When a court case came up arguing that the Federal government didn't have the expressed authority to do something, the Supreme Court (made up of people a lot closer to the framers personally and relying on Hamilton's reasoning) voted 7-0 that the Feds have powers beyond those enumerated. The framers adopted the Common Law system, knowing from their experience in Britain that it is a system that over time leads further from the original document and relies upon precedent and the interpretation of precedent in a given place and time. What is the basis in the actions of the people who wrote the Constitution for thinking that because the text of the Constitution says war must be declared by Congress, that should trump the practice of the people who wrote it and signed it and all who have come after them?

  7. Xenocles says

    @wolfefan-

    The reason we have to believe that the government is bound by the text of the Constitution is the text of the Constitution. It has no reason to exist if it is not binding as written. Many of the Framers abused power once they were in positions of power. The most important thing that tells us is that they were human. That they did not receive correction does not make them right.

    Then again, it's probably just history rhyming again. Thucydides records the words of an Athenian official: "To an imperial city, nothing is inconsistent which is expedient." I fail to see anything fundamentally different.

  8. James Pollock says

    Isn't a declaration of war actually for the benefit of third parties? In other words, we don't declare war so the other country knows we're mad at them, we declare war so that other countries can get their assets clear of the potential crossfire before it goes all shock and awe.

  9. a_random_guy says

    I think this demonstrates how completely irrelevant the choice of any single politician is. Not that I think Obama is anything but a Chicago politician. My point is: you could elect the Pope to be president, and the surrounding political machinery would continue undisturbed along the usual path.

    In this case, there is no credible reason to suppose that Syria would drop a canister of nerve agent on a bunch of random civilians. Far more likely that one of the rebel groups did this, to keep Syria from dropping off the news cycle.

    But it's really convenient. The military-industrial complex needs more action, to justify more contracts. So take the excuse – let's go bomb Syria and get ourselves involved in yet another unwinnable war. The "unwinnable" is, by the way, a feature – should ensure a good supply of contracts for years to come!

    You know what's frightening: I was going to make a joke about "let's get all the movers and shakers in D.C. at the same time and then have something horrible happen to D.C.". And I decided not to, because I don't really need the NSA triggering on it, noting my military connections, etc… So I put the joke in this form. Chicken, I know, but it's damn sad that we now have to assume that our government is monitoring us, and willing to violate our rights at the drop of a hat. Welcome to the USSA.

  10. Castaigne says

    Jumping the gun a bit, aren't you, Clark? We haven't even decided TO bomb yet. It's only being talked about. Just like bombing Iran was talked about.

  11. James Pollock says

    "In this case, there is no credible reason to suppose that Syria would drop a canister of nerve agent on a bunch of random civilians. Far more likely that one of the rebel groups did this, to keep Syria from dropping off the news cycle."

    Oooh! Conspiracy theory! That's a fun game.
    Where'd they (the rebels) get it (a supply of nerve gas)? One of Saddam's "mobile labs", abandoned in the desert just over the border?
    Did they capture a supply from the Syrian government forces?
    Maybe the Mossad supplied it, marked up with fake Syrian government markings on the cannisters?

  12. a_random_guy says

    @James: That's not a conspiracy theory, this is a conspiracy theory: "The US government smuggled chemical weapons into Syria, so that the rebels could use them, so that the US could blame the Syrian government, so that we could intervene."

    Conspiracy theories are overly complicated nonsense. What I'm saying is much simpler: False flag operations are pretty normal stuff. One of the rebels got hold of some old chemical weapons and set them off, hoping to shift blame to the government. Why? Because the MSM was slowly forgetting about them and they desperately need support.

    Where did they get the weapons? That's easy. It's entirely likely that there are rebel sympathizers in the Syrian army, otherwise there is a lot of unpleasant stuff available on the black market.

  13. freedomfan says

    DocumentedArizonian:

    So, let me see if I have this logic down from the righties who don't just say outright that they are righties.

    I am assuming that you don't mean libertarians, since most of us have been against these sorts of military interventions, both when the "humble foreign policy" Bush was in the White House and even when Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Obama was in the White House, at which point many formerly vocal anti-war people suddenly mysteriously lost their urge to protest. Or is this one of those bipolar fallacy things where the false assumption is that anyone who thinks Obama stinks on ice couldn't possibly have felt the same way about Bush?

    UN disagrees w/ US + Non-existent actual evidence + Occupation Non-Plans = GO GET'EM! Not with us? ANTI-AMERICAN!!!

    UN agrees + Actual evidence exists + No idiotic occupation = Terrible idea

    To be fair, though I and many others found it uncompelling, the "evidence" trotted out at this stage last time seemed about as compelling as it does this time. The U.N. is irrelevant, but it's worth noting that the U.N. isn't going to endorse military action this time around either.

    Brilliant. Thank God we don't have another rightie deciding about foreign intervention

    Because it has made so much difference, right? The mistake would be to believe that it makes so much difference whether the head clown has a D or an R after his name. I'll just ask Anwar al-Awlaki and his son about that. Oh, darn…

  14. Anony Mouse says

    I don't want to buy into the rebel gassing themselves theory, but it makes some sense. Honestly, it's less chilling than the thought of Assad doing it.

    Why would Assad do it? He's doing fine (as it were) as is. I mean, he surely knew about Obama's line in the sand over chemical weapons. Did he think it would be such a killing blow that nobody could respond in time?

    Or did he just view the US as a paper tiger and not care about any potential retaliation?

  15. L.D. says

    You guys are talking about wars and bombing and politics. Have you *SEEN* the latest Miley Cyrus act at the MTV VMAs? For Christs' sake.

  16. barry says

    Popehat has done stories on the overly harsh punishment of graffiti before (chalk outside a bank).

    I remember how this one started.
    In march 2011 a bunch of school kids from the Al-Abazeed family graffitied a school wall in Daraa (paint rather than chalk), and were caught and put in jail. Some of the town protested the harshness of the punishment, and when the size of the protest grew from a few hundred to a few thousand, security forces fired on the crowd and killed four of them, and it all got a little out of hand from there.

    The graffiti itself was pretty simple and direct, it said "The people want the regime to fall"

  17. EH says

    It seems to be an attempt by Congress to impose its own interpretation of the Constitution on the President.

    What's wrong with that?

  18. Tom says

    Funny thing I heard on CBC the other night. If anybody wants to impose sanctions on the US over war crimes, they'd have to do it through the security council. Upon which the US has veto power. Right.

    Weird thing about Obama. I'm starting to think he might be worthy of a Nobel prize after all. If he incites the nation to overthrow the government (which, thanks to democracy, can be done peacefully!), we may enter a new era of peace. Well, I mean, not worldwide, of course. Don't be silly. We've made damned sure that won't happen. But will we stop sowing seeds of violence thanks to this constitutional law professor's skullfucking of the constitution?

  19. Votre says

    Every US president needs his distraction to throw into the public fray.

    Snowden and the ongoing revelations about domestic soying and government abuses of law and constitutional rights is the 800lb gorilla in the room.

    Syria is Obama's distraction.

  20. says

    @Castaigne

    Jumping the gun a bit, aren't you, Clark? We haven't even decided TO bomb yet.

    Yes "we" have. "We" just haven't announced it to the serfs yet.

    To quantify our respective faiths in our positions, care to place a wager?

  21. says

    @EH

    It seems to be an attempt by Congress to impose its own interpretation of the Constitution on the President.

    What's wrong with that?

    Intra-branch jockeying is how the game is played.

    The only group that's not allowed to fight for power are the serfs.

  22. ZarroTsu says

    Ah, but it doesn't say what kind of war.

    For all we know we might see congress enter in a rock tournament. World War 3 might be baffling as all hell.

  23. C. S. P. Schofield says

    I would be a hell of a lot more comfortable with the idea of getting involved in Syria if I thought Obama and his administration were as competent at using and understanding military force as, say, his immediate predecessor. Or Jimmy Carter.

  24. Renee Jones says

    I am sure he will consult with congress in the same way he "consulted" on the NSA programs.

  25. Scott K says

    Presidents have been engaging in military actions without Congressional authorization almost since the ink was dry on the Constitution. There's nothing unusual going on here.

  26. a_random_guy says

    @ScottK: Presidents engaging in military action without Congressional approval has become ordinary since WWII, with well over 100 such actions. Add to that all of the interventions where the US involved itself militarily with some sort of pro forma Congressional approval, and the total is much higher.

    Think about that for a minute: that represents two to three military interventions per year, every year since the last world war.

    This is not a peaceful country we live in. The fact that warfare has become so ordinary is not a reason for acceptance, but rather for repugnance.

  27. says

    @Scott K

    Presidents have been engaging in military actions without Congressional authorization almost since the ink was dry on the Constitution. There's nothing unusual going on here.

    Getting back to the distinction between metaphysical morality and government norms? #thread_convergence

  28. Anonymous Coward says

    I find this entire affair deeply troubling; partly because of the implications of what Ken posted. However, what disturbed me the most is the way the administration has been speaking about the Syria situation. It seems to me that they are blatantly starting with the conclusion (attack Syria) and looking for the proof and justifications after. Sound familiar? Shameful that the President holds a Nobel Peace Prize.

  29. Zack says

    Meh. There does have to be a line between "war" and "not war", but there is a whole continuum in between 'pure peace' and 'pure war'.

    1. What if we want to move naval, air, or ground forces close to the country in a show of force? Does that require a declaration of war? It's obviously an application of force intended to coerce, but no violence is occurring.

    2. What if terrorists launch inaccurate mortar fire over the border into our country, from a neighboring one? Do we have to declare war on that country to bomb them? Or do we have to rely on that other country to get them? What if they're a major political player in that country, which will refuse to discipline them? Violence is plainly occurring, but the country in question is at worst marginally responsible for it.

    3. What about a case like the one we have now- or we had with Libya back in the 80's- where a relatively minor offense (compared to full-scale attacks and acts of war) has occurred by a country? (Barracks bombing in 80's, use of chemical weapons now.) What if we don't want to commit ground forces- do we still have to go through the process of declaring war?

    Also:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Terrorists

    Congress has already essentially given the President a blank check to declare war in their name, as long as he 'determines' that a group or country either 'aided' the 9/11 attacks or 'harbored' persons who 'planned, authorized, committed, or aided' these attacks.

    Via the whole 'six degrees of separation' thing, that ensures that vast swathes of the middle east are (fairly reasonably, under this broadly written statute) up for grabs, in terms of declaring war.

    For instance:

    Assad (reportedly) harbored Iraqi weapons and troops, and the Iraqis (according to Bush, in his use of the AUMF for the war) aided Al-Qaeda. Therefore Assad is a legal target for the AUMF.

    (now, for the record: I agree that that statute is definitely worded way, way too broadly and is almost definitely unconstitutional in terms of how much power it delegates and the breadth of the declaration of war.)

  30. Steven H. says

    @ Zack:

    "2. What if terrorists launch inaccurate mortar fire over the border into our country, from a neighboring one? Do we have to declare war on that country to bomb them?"

    I think that the War Powers Act covers that:

    "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."

    Note (3) above.

  31. says

    Zack:

    1. What if we want to move naval, air, or ground forces close to the country in a show of force? Does that require a declaration of war?

    No. The Commander in Chief is allowed to do that.

    2. What if terrorists launch inaccurate mortar fire over the border into our country, from a neighboring one? Do we have to declare war on that country to bomb them?

    The president, under the War Powers Resolution, is allowed introduce US forces into hostilities if we come under direct attack.

    3. What about a case like the one we have now- or we had with Libya back in the 80's- where a relatively minor offense (compared to full-scale attacks and acts of war) has occurred by a country?

    I'd argue that both are illegal with out congressional approval.

    (Barracks bombing in 80's, use of chemical weapons now.) What if we don't want to commit ground forces- do we still have to go through the process of declaring war?

    The Founders knew of the concept of "navy", so the fact that they didn't call out ground troops as special indicates that they intended to require Congress to declare all wars and military actions.

    in 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that "shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct." … In the event of a declaration of war on the United States by the Barbary powers, these ships were to "protect our commerce & chastise their insolence — by sinking, burning or destroying their ships & Vessels wherever you shall find them."

    Jefferson sent a small force to the area to protect American ships and citizens against potential aggression, but insisted that he was "unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense."

    Of course, shortly thereafter we did go beyond the line of defense, thus Jefferson waged war with out congressional permission.

    Hardly surprising; Jefferson also ignored the limited powers of the presidency when he purchased the Louisiana Territory.

  32. says

    @naught_for_naught

    When the battle plans are leaked to the press, I'll believe it.

    Believe.

    http://online.wsj.com

    Loose Lips on Syria: U.S. leaks tell Assad he can relax. The bombing will be brief and limited.

    An American military attack on Syria could begin as early as Thursday and will involve three days of missile strikes, according to "senior U.S. officials" talking to NBC News. The Washington Post has the bombing at "no more than two days," though long-range bombers could "possibly" join the missiles. "Factors weighing into the timing of any action include a desire to get it done before the president leaves for Russia next week," reports CNN, citing a "senior administration official."

    The New York Times, quoting a Pentagon official, adds that "the initial target list has fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria's Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed." The Times adds that "like several other military officials contacted for this report, the official agreed to discuss planning options only on condition of anonymity."

    Thus do the legal and moral requirements of secret military operations lose out in this Administration to the imperatives of in-the-know spin and political gestures.

  33. Nicholas Weaver says

    Clark, you had an error in quoting. The correct Nobel Peace Prize citation is:

    The Nobel Peace Prize 2009 was awarded to Barack H. Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to be not named George W. Bush".

    Fools that they are, they didn't wait to see if he'd continue the policies of George W Bush….

  34. James Pollock says

    "I would be a hell of a lot more comfortable with the idea of getting involved in Syria if I thought Obama and his administration were as competent at using and understanding military force as, say, his immediate predecessor."

    Really? You're more impressed with the way W handled Iraq than the way O handled Libya?

  35. James Pollock says

    "The Founders knew of the concept of "navy", so the fact that they didn't call out ground troops as special indicates that they intended to require Congress to declare all wars and military actions."

    The Founders intended that we not HAVE a standing ground force to call upon unless there was a declaration of war. That's why defense appropriations have to be (re-)approved so often. The assumption was that the militia would provide the first line of troops until the federal government could raise an army. They also lived in a time when the U.S. was isolated from the world powers by an ocean that took a long time to cross, and other colonies were days, if not weeks, of travel overland (The British were still in Canada and British Columbia, the French in Canada and Louisiana, and the Spanish in Florida.).

  36. barry says

    When the battle plans are leaked to the press, I'll believe it.

    There's also usually a few weeks of war-movie saturated TV to soften up the public.

  37. says

    If the Executive Order on assassination were to be rescinded, and a TLAM-C with Assad's name on it were to show up on his doorstep one night while he was sleeping, I would have no problem with this. (The trivial task of what happens when the country comes apart even further, and the dispensation of the chemical weapons stocks is left as an exercise for the alert reader)

  38. Nicholas Weaver says

    There's a LOT of "we're gonna just send a bunch of tomahawks at various military targets, but not going to bring in the planes" leaks going on.

    Which makes it clear:

    a) We want to start shooting

    b) We won't shoot that much (4 destroyers on station, each carries probably only 30 Tomahawks in the total payload of 96 missiles)

    c) We'll only shoot static, lightly protected targets.

    d) The shots won't be than effective (Tomahawks only carry ~300 lbs of explosives)

  39. Zack says

    @NW: That's actually kind of the point- we're not intending to change the balance of power on the ground, just to let Assad know that he's crossed a line- and to let him know if he does it again, that the Western response will be far more energetic.

    Basically, we're proving to him that we're willing to intervene militarily if need be, despite the political and economic costs involved.

  40. Noah Callaway says

    @DocumentedArizonian

    I say this as someone that generally thinks that a minimal intervention in Syria might not be a bad idea; I also thought going to war in Iraq was a very bad idea. I'll talk a little more about my reasoning below, but if you had to pigeonhole me onto the political spectrum, I'd definitely be fairly "leftie" according to you,

    UN disagrees w/ US + Non-existent actual evidence + Occupation Non-Plans = GO GET'EM! Not with us? ANTI-AMERICAN!!!

    This article isn't about which wars we should fight. It's about the extent of the legal powers of the different branches of government. Clark, in this specific piece, isn't arguing that the war in Syria shouldn't happen. He's arguing that the President of the United States should be bound by the Constitution of the United States of America.

    I generally agree with him.

    From that perspective, the war in Iraq did have authorization from Congress. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY
    FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002
    .

    UN agrees + Actual evidence exists + No idiotic occupation = Terrible idea

    Well, so far, most of these things aren't true. The UN inspectors haven't filed a report, though the UN enjoy to Syria said this morning that we shouldn't have military action without going through the UNSC. Going through the UNSC will not happen, because Russia is very close to Assad.

    Actual evidence is asserted by the administration. It's not entirely reasonable to make the leap to saying the evidence is real and exists. In Iraq, actual evidence was also asserted by the administration.

    Anyway, these things are an aside; I largely agree that a limited intervention in Syria is a good idea. The important point is that Obama is in the position of launching military strikes on another country without congressional authorization. The more this is done, and becomes the norm, the more the executive's power will continue to slowly creep.

    Brilliant. Thank God we don't have another rightie deciding about foreign intervention

    This sentence is the thing that prompted me to reply. Like you, I think Obama's foreign policy has generally been better than George W. Bush. We need to break the "us vs. them" mentality between "lefties and righties", though. When the person you support does something illegal, we need to not defend it because "he's our guy". It's more important to call out the people we agree with when they do something wrong.

    I'd be very surprised if Obama got an AUMF for Syria; he didn't do it for Libya and I imagine the intervention here would be even more limited. That disappoints me. I personally believe that the execute branch has accumulated too much power; I wish Obama wouldn't exacerbate that problem, even if it's in the name of accomplishing goals I agree with.

  41. Ken in NH says

    Let's be honest, the power to declare and prosecute a war lies with the executive regardless of what the constitution and statutes say. No one, but congress has standing to sue the president over illegally going to war and there is only one consequence for doing so, removal from office. The only other power to stop the executive is the power of the purse. Since congress is too filled with party loyalists to impeach, prosecute, and convict any president and because they are too cowardly to defund any war action, there is no consequence to any president to ignore them and go to war.

    I give Bush at least a little credit for having the AUMF, UN resolution 1441 (even toothless as it was), and public poles on his side at the time we invaded Iraq. I also give credit to Obama for exposing congress as the band of cowards, hypocrites, and liars that they are by thumbing his nose and them in Libya and now, probably, Syria.

  42. Steve says

    The problem is that if we go forward with this, I believe Obama might use the same loophole that Bush used with Iraq. If I remember correctly, he can order military actions for up to 90 days, and then Congress has to vote on whether or not we are going to war before action can continue. While the evidence may be shoddy, we can do it.

    Also, the problem with the UN is that it's a governing body in name only, and only has power over us to the extent that we allow it. Because we are our own country, we abide by our own laws and regulations. The UN is meant to facilitate interactions between different nations with like-minded interests, but any member could honestly say f*** the UN and do it's own thing because to let the UN have power over us would take away from the government's power and put us in the hands of other nations. We would no longer be a sovereign nation at that point.

    Only agreements and legal documents that we have signed have any real bearing on our actions aside from the disapproval of other nations who at first glance seem to refuse to stand up to us.

  43. Ryan says

    Here's a [legitimate, non-inflammatory] question:

    Does military retribution to denounce the illegal use of chemical weapons and/or intervene to protect civilians constitute a declaration of war?

    Because the US Constitution seems somewhat mum on that. I realize it was written at a time when the quaint notion that countries would declare war prior to any sort of military engagement issues, but geopolitics has changed considerably since the late 1700s and early 1800s.

    I realize the War Powers Resolution was designed to clarify this, but there seems to be some wrangling about the Constitutional validity of that Resolution (which Clark omitted).

  44. Zack says

    @Noah: And, to be fair, we did eventually find chemical weapons, but not nuclear weapons. We also found yellow-cake uranium, but no nuclear weapons.

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/dni/dni_ltr_wmd_21jun06.pdf

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2008/07/05/saddam-uranium.html

    And the U.N. inspectors (A.F.A.I.K.) found plenty of dual-use items- items with legitimate uses that could be turned to produce NBC weapons on a moment's notice (like if you found your neighbor with fifty-three jugs of cough syrup and two crates of cleaning supplies. He could be supplying and cleaning a doctor's office…. or he could be making meth.)

    So the idea that he had- or had the capability to produce WMD's was not unreasonable and not wholly unsupported by evidence. Whether the evidence was sufficient to justify the actions taken is another debate that I ain't gonna participate in, but there WAS at least a certain amount of evidence.

  45. says

    "Is the United States actually bound by its own laws to obey the UN charter?"

    It seems as if the United States is not bound by it's own laws to obey it's own laws.

    The UN Charter, then, is like a 25 MPH posted speed limit on a long stretch of empty road.

    Jam that sucker to 50, we've got people to bomb and places to be.

  46. Noah Callaway says

    @Ryan

    Does military retribution to denounce the illegal use of chemical weapons and/or intervene to protect civilians constitute a declaration of war?

    The Office of the Legal Counsel provided a memorandum that argued the constitutionality of Obama's actions in Libya. MEMORANDUM OPINION FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. This opinion argues that the limited engagement was within the president's purview as Commander-in-Chief and didn't require congressional approval. Obviously the situations in Libya and Syria are different, but I think you could reasonably apply the OLC's arguments for Libya to Syria fairly well.

    To some extent, we don't know what the exact law is until there is a judicial ruling on the matter; we won't have that until after the fact, and then only if congress decides to sue the president.

  47. Zack says

    @Noah: Congress doesn't have standing (AFAIK; IANAL) to sue the president; only the Justice department can sue for violations of federal law. This has created problems in the past and would be a problem again in this case. Congress could GIVE themselves standing by appropriate legislation, but that's a whole nother kettle of fish. (although, I'm all for it because it would help restrain executive power.)

  48. a_random_guy says

    @Ryan asks: "Does military retribution to denounce the illegal use of chemical weapons and/or intervene to protect civilians constitute a declaration of war?"

    The answer would be "no" if for no other reason that the fact that Congress is the organ that must do the declaring.

    This makes no practical difference to Syria. However, it is an enormous ethical and legal difference within the USA. The Constitution clearly intends for the executive to be restrained by Congress. The fact that Congress has abdicated this authority (along with many others, such as actually passing a responsible budget each year) is a large part of the reason that our government is able to turn ever more tyrannical.

    Of course, Brian said it more succinctly.

  49. grouch says


    Because we are our own country, we abide by our own laws and regulations.

    I hate it when someone tosses out a punch line without first giving the body of the joke.

    BTW, to the illegal spies illegally snuffling US citizens' communications:
    Everyone working for the NSA is a traitor.
    President Obama is a traitor.
    Former President Bush (the younger, dumber one) is a traitor.
    The secretive, rubber-stamp FISA court judges are traitors.
    All Congress critters who knew, or should have known, about the violations of various portions of the Constitution and failed to act, are traitors.
    If you claim to uphold and defend the Constitution while you are in fact secretly working to subvert it, you're a traitor and should be tried, publicly, for treason.

  50. James Pollock says

    "Congress doesn't have standing (AFAIK; IANAL) to sue the president; only the Justice department can sue for violations of federal law."

    Congress can "sue" the President for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. We just usually use a different verb for the process.

  51. Steven H. says

    @Grouch:

    "Everyone working for the NSA is a traitor.
    President Obama is a traitor.
    Former President Bush (the younger, dumber one) is a traitor.
    The secretive, rubber-stamp FISA court judges are traitors.
    All Congress critters who knew, or should have known, about the violations of various portions of the Constitution and failed to act, are traitors."

    /sighs

    Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution seems to disagree with you:

    "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

  52. says

    I don't care what Article 3 Section 3 says.

    If one swears to uphold and protect the constitution and then fails to do so then one is a traitor. At the very least they are not a very nice person and should be taunted.

  53. Zack says

    @Steven H.: That's one thing that gets my goat about espionage prosecutions and the like: clearly, the whole goal of defining treason in the constitution was to prevent the definition of any similar crime for the same purpose, that might have a lower standard of proof.

  54. George William Herbert says

    Nicholas Weaver:
    "d) The shots won't be than effective (Tomahawks only carry ~300 lbs of explosives)"

    The BLU-109/B penetrator bomb only has about 550 lb; penetrator bombs are about 3/4 steel. Tomhawk's 750 lb class WDU-36B uses titanium for a lighter casing and is closer to 40% fill. It's at least equal to the 1,000 lb penetrator bombs.

  55. Xenocles says

    So if someone has violated the Constitution we should violate the Constitution to try them? Makes sense, I guess…

  56. Steven H. says

    @Brian Dunbar:

    "I don't care what Article 3 Section 3 says.

    If one swears to uphold and protect the constitution and then fails to do so then one is a traitor."

    Umm, not according to the Constitution….
    It really bugs me when I hear someone say, in effect, "He didn't follow the Constitution, so NEITHER SHOULD I!!!!!"

  57. Dion starfire says

    umm, aren't chemical weapons considered "weapons of mass destruction"?

    If the our gov'ment did prove chemical weapons were used, wouldn't that require a nuclear response (since we don't have chemical or biological weapons any more)?

    Also, if you think the intelligence agencies are out of control now, imagine what they could do with an officially declared state of war.

  58. Sam says

    @Dion starfire

    WMDs are not a well-defined category. Also, I feel fairly confident the rules of escalation don't require a nuclear strike, strategic or tactical, particularly when we're talking about a foreign government using the weapon against its citizens not against the US.

  59. Kevin says

    It really bugs me when I hear someone say, in effect, "He didn't follow the Constitution, so NEITHER SHOULD I!!!!!"

    To be fair, the degree of tortured reading necessary to make these people's crimes fit article 3 section 3 is significantly less twisted than that commonly used by the supremes. "Levying war" and "enemies" are not precisely defined after all. Does intentionally and systematically subverting the constitution make one an "enemy" of the US, the aiding and comforting of whom could qualify as treason? Does turning the NSA – a military organization – against the people of the US qualify as "levying war"? It's a stretch, but It's certainly much less of a stretch than is required to fit drug prohibition through the commerce clause.

  60. James Pollock says

    "Does intentionally and systematically subverting the constitution make one an "enemy" of the US, the aiding and comforting of whom could qualify as treason?"

    With the number of statutes ruled unconstitutional, does Congress get included here? How about the various state legislatures? Executive branch? Lower courts? There's no shortage of "subverting the Constitution". California's Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional, so that makes more than half of the voters of California traitors… I'm pretty sure we can get most everyone, if we look hard enough.

  61. James Pollock says

    "It's certainly much less of a stretch than is required to fit drug prohibition through the commerce clause."
    Well, the high point there is that growing wheat on your own property to feed your own livestock is covered by the commerce clause. Personally, I think that the fact that federal drug laws rest on the commerce clause is the only reason the Roberts court hasn't cut back on commerce clause authority nearly as much as they'd clearly like to.

  62. Personanongrata says

    What does Nobel Peace Laureate Barrack Hussein Obama hope to achieve by intervening militarily in Syria's civil war?

    The reason the pliably supine lickspittle known as Jay Carney wouldn't speculate is war criminals like to ad lib their mass-murdering and concoct their raison d'etre after the fact.

  63. Steven H. says

    @Brian Dunbar:

    "So: not a traitor. An oathbreaker, perhaps, and not a guy to be trusted around children."

    Won't argue at all.
    And not someone to be trusted in public office (i.e. assume they're lying when their lips are moving)….

  64. Michael K. says

    And Ian Hurd, in today's New York Times, opines that the U.S. should Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal

    There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law.

  65. Castaigne says

    @Clark: Yes "we" have. "We" just haven't announced it to the serfs yet. To quantify our respective faiths in our positions, care to place a wager?

    Yes, I am HAPPY to do so. I will wager $50 American that the decision to bomb has not yet been made as of today, 2013-08-28:0200 EST. In order for you to win that wager, you will need provide documentary or visual evidence from a reputable source that the decision was made prior to that time. That means a signed memo, video of a cabinet meeting from yesterday where Obama is saying "We're going to bomb those fuckers." or something similar. None of this "anonymous Pentagon sources" or "senior US officials" bullshit. DOX, BABY, DOX. SHOW ME THE DOX.

    You have until 2013-09-30:2359 EST to provide this evidence. WAGER IS ON.

  66. James Pollock says

    "You have until 2013-09-30:2359 EST to provide this evidence. WAGER IS ON."

    You should have locked down who "we" are before taking this on.

  67. Rick H. says

    Interesting wagering protocol. "Here is my list of terms, to which, according to my imagination, you have agreed."

  68. Rich Fiscus says

    @Steven H

    Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution seems to disagree with you:

    "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

    /sigh

    The dictionary seems to disagree with you. That probably explains why the text you quoted doesn't even include the word, much less attempt to define it. You can be a traitor without committing treason or any other crime. You can be a traitor in contexts completely unrelated to your country or any other political construct.

    Committing treason is an example of being a traitor, not the definition. And yes, I do consider people like James Clapper and Mike Rogers traitors. They have betrayed their country and betrayal is at the heart of being a traitor.

  69. James Pollock says

    "What does Nobel Peace Laureate Barrack Hussein Obama hope to achieve by intervening militarily in Syria's civil war?"

    Forcing the Syrian regime to stop killing its people in large groups with poison gas, and go back to killing its people one at a time with bullets.

  70. Castaigne says

    @James Pollock: You should have locked down who "we" are before taking this on.

    My specifically replying to Clark should have made it evident, but I'll clarify for you. This is between me and Clark, no one else.

    @Rick H: Interesting wagering protocol. "Here is my list of terms, to which, according to my imagination, you have agreed."

    First, specificity is the hallmark of truth and fact. If I did not establish an evidential standard in which falsehood cannot be easily used to win the wager, I would open myself up to this scenario:

    Clark: "ANONYMOUS SOURCES have told me the bombing was decided on June 26th of this year. PAY UP."
    Castaigne: "What anonymous sources? Names? So on?"
    Clark: "ANONYMOUS SOURCES. That send me a LETTER in the MAIL. Which I can't scan and put up because it would be a violation of confidentiality. BUT THEY TOLD ME! SO PAY UP!"
    Castaigne: "Well, damn. I didn't specify what would be acceptable as proof, so I have to pay up. After all, he says anonymous sources told him June whatever and the wager doesn't say I can say he's lying." *pays over $50*

    See how that works? Thus, I require proofs that cannot be easily forged so as not to lose money hard-earned by the sweat of my brow.

    And he is free to refuse the wager. I have set the terms; he has not yet agreed to them. I'll give him a few more days to do so and then, should acceptance not have occurred, declare his wager offer to be disingenuous and a trolling trick, and therefore null and void.

    After all, if the facts are on his side, he will be able to offer that level of evidence.

  71. James Pollock says

    "@James Pollock: You should have locked down who "we" are before taking this on.
    My specifically replying to Clark should have made it evident, but I'll clarify for you. This is between me and Clark, no one else."

    My point was that all he has to do is find one other person who's already decided that bombing's the right plan, and he has a "we" who meets the terms of the wager.

  72. Castaigne says

    @James Pollock: My point was that all he has to do is find one other person who's already decided that bombing's the right plan, and he has a "we" who meets the terms of the wager.

    That's why I requested video/paper evidence that the decision has been made. Doesn't look like he's going to win, though:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/01/world/middleeast/syria.html?hp&_r=0

    Not that I expect to actually hear from Clark or expect him to agree to the terms of the wager. It's pretty evident that he is yet another cowardly troll that doesn't have the ability to man up to things when challenged.

  73. James Pollock says

    "That's why I requested video/paper evidence that the decision has been made. Doesn't look like he's going to win, though:"

    I don't know. My local paper ran a story on the front page today with the headline "U.S. builds its case for attack on Syria" and subhead "Remarks from Kerry and Obama leave little doubt that a missle strike is imminent". Sen. McCain was on the news last night arguing that we aren't doing enough.

  74. barry says

    I've lost the reason again. Was it the red line in the sand?
    If Obama's "because I said I would" is enough reason for anything, he would have closed Guantanamo prison.

  75. Paris S says

    Sure is funny reading this a few days later after President Obama decided to go to Congress! lol But, that is par for internet prognostications.

  76. Anony Mouse says

    Yes. People all across the country, including numerous members of his own party screaming about how, much like he himself said a decade ago, the president doesn't have unilateral power to declare war because he feels like it had absolutely nothing to do with his sudden decision to go to Congress.

    Of course, you'd think a Brilliant Constitutional Scholar would have known that he's required to go to Congress and skipped all this nonsense, but I guess he missed class the day they covered Article 1. And 2.

  77. Castaigne says

    @James Pollock:I don't know. My local paper ran a story on the front page today with the headline "U.S. builds its case for attack on Syria" and subhead "Remarks from Kerry and Obama leave little doubt that a missle strike is imminent". Sen. McCain was on the news last night arguing that we aren't doing enough.

    Except that the decision hasn't been made because Obama's going to put it before Congress. It ain't a decision until the order is given.

    @Anony Mouse: Of course, you'd think a Brilliant Constitutional Scholar would have known that he's required to go to Congress and skipped all this nonsense, but I guess he missed class the day they covered Article 1. And 2.

    Well, the War Powers give him a limited time frame (90 days, 60 for ops, 30 for withdrawal) to do so WITHOUT Congressional say-so. Since he is going to put it before Congress, I assume his campaign is going to take longer than 60 days as currently planned.

    Or were you unaware that he's going to Congress for authorization at the time you made that comment?

    @Paris S: Sure is funny reading this a few days later after President Obama decided to go to Congress! lol But, that is par for internet prognostications.

    My schadenfreude is most satisified.

  78. Dakyri says

    I'm not usually into conspiracy theories, but there seems to be a strong case being made that this is a false flag operation by the saudis … or at the very least that they supplied chem weapons to the rebels who then slipped up with them due to lack of training … this is probably slightly off topic, but curious what the feeling from various pundits on that one is …

  79. James Pollock says

    "f Obama's "because I said I would" is enough reason for anything, he would have closed Guantanamo prison."

    He tried, but he was blocked in Congress from moving anyone into the U.S. prison system. Since "I'm going to close Guantanamo" implied "by releasing the people who aren't dangerous, and putting the ones who are dangerous on trial, like the criminals they are" With that off the table, the remaining options are "shoot the remaining detainees and dump their bodies in the bay" and 'release everybody we're still holding without putting anyone on trial." Which of those do you find preferable?

  80. Joseph Stalling says

    Just don't be hypocritical and say that the President's decision to ask congress constitutes "weakness". He's doing what you want, stop whining .

  81. barry says

    he was blocked in Congress from moving anyone into the U.S. prison system.

    If congress says they can hold suspects without trial forever, it must be legal. But then they can't use "America will lose its global moral authority if we don't attack Syria" as any kind of coherent argument.
    The point was; How much face left to save? ie. there has to be a better reason than that.

  82. James Pollock says

    "If congress says they can hold suspects without trial forever, it must be legal"
    Well, Congress said they could, and the Supreme Court said they could, as long as they got due process as to whether they were actually "enemy combatants" or not. In theory, the authority to hold "enemy combatants" related to the Iraq war has already ended, and "enemy combatants" related to Afghanistan are close to being released. The idea of actually trying the actual terrorists for actual crimes so they can be assigned actual prison sentences might become more popular if the alternative is to spring them because there's no more justification to hold "enemy combatants" after the war is over.

    But yeah, we should have done it consistently from the beginning, through either our courts or an internationally-recognized one. It would have been nice if we'd learned something about dealing with terrorists from, say, ANY of our allies who've been dealing with terrorists for years if not decades. Then again, the way Reagan dealt with them, after the way Carter didn't deal with them, didn't help us, either.

  83. Castaigne says

    @Dakyri: I'm not usually into conspiracy theories, but there seems to be a strong case being made that this is a false flag operation by the saudis …

    I see. And your evidence for this 'strong case'?

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