While it's certainly better that President Obama has waited to attack Syria and is seeking authorization from Congress, the assertions he made from the Rose Garden on Saturday reveal that he is prepared to act illegally.
On international law, he said, "I'm comfortable going forward without U.N. Security Council" authorization. He may be comfortable with that. But Ban ki-Moon isn't. The U.N. Secretary General said the United States must adhere to the U.N. Charter, which under Chapter 7, requires Security Council approval. There is only one exception, and that is if country A attacks country B, then country B can retaliate without seeking Security Council approval. In this case, obviously, Syria has not attacked the United States.
On U.S law, under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, only Congress has the power to declare war. And under the War Powers Act, the President can order military action without a declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization only if there is "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." In this case, again, Syria has not attacked the U.S., its territories or possessions or its armed forces. Nevertheless, Obama asserted today: "I believe I have the authority to take military action without specific Congressional authorization."
Obama may believe he has such authority, but believing doesn't make it so.
And his assertion of that belief, along with his expressed determination to strike Syria, suggests that if Congress debates the issue and votes against military action, he'd bomb Syria anyway.
That would be "business as usual," which Obama said he wanted to avoid.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Bradley Manning's Unjust Sentence.
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