At his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry used two weak arguments to justify President Obama’s war-making in Iraq and potentially in Syria.
First, he said the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which Congress approved right after 9/11, gives the President the right to go after ISIS, even though ISIS had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and wasn’t even around then.
What’s more, Kerry’s boss, Barack Obama, just last year warned of the dangers of misusing this authorization.
In a speech at the National Defense University, Obama called for an “eventual repeal” of that law.
“The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old,” he said. “Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.”
Kerry’s second justification was equally disturbing. He said, “The President has the right under Article Two to defend this nation.” Article Two of the Constitution states that “the President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” But Article One says that Congress has the sole power to declare war.
Kerry’s invocation of Article Two is eerily reminiscent of the rationales offered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their Justice Department lawyers, who claimed that the President in time of war could do anything he wanted abroad and even at home. (John Yoo, the White House is on the line…)
For liberals, it was an embarrassing day. Senator Barbara Boxer of California was there to defend the President and his misuse of the AUMF. And the most ardent defender of the Constitution and Congress’s power to declare war was not a Democrat but Senator Rand Paul.
“The President used to believe this,” Paul said. On the campaign trail in 2008, “he said no President should unilaterally go to war—so I liked the President as a candidate on this but not as a President.”
Paul said he was “disappointed in the President for disobeying the Constitution.”
The most visible progressives at the hearing were the members of CodePink who held up signs throughout Kerry’s testimony that said: “U.S. Bombing Equals More Terrorism” and “More War Equals More Extremism.”