Obama’s Unconstitutional War

A government of laws, and not of men.” –John Adams

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” –John Adams

John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and the nation’s second president, was a prolific writer and a great patriot.

The quotes above are two of Adam’s most famous and have special meaning this week given the unilateral decision by President Barack Obama to take the U.S. into war against the Islamic State group, also referred to as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

While there is room for debate over the wisdom of going to war with the Islamic State group, there should be no debate over the need to follow the U.S. Constitution when the nation goes to war.

To do otherwise, to cast the Constitution aside and fight a war that was launched unilaterally by one man – in this case, Obama – endangers the liberty of all Americans because it sets the precedent that a president can ignore the liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

If that occurs, we will have, as Adams warned, a government of men that endangers the public liberty.

So the questions are: Has Obama launched an unconstitutional war? And, if so, does that unconstitutional war threaten our liberty as Americans?

{Before answering the question, I want to let you know that theSeptember edition of the Self-Reliance Institute Newsletter is now available.}

This week, there have been many writers who have examined the question of whether Obama has launched an unconstitutional war against the Islamic State group and, if so, does that war threaten the liberty of Americans. One of the best is by Michael Krieger, founder of the Liberty Blitzkrieg Blog.

In “Obama’s ISIS War is Not Only Illegal, it Makes George W. Bush Look Like a Constitutional Scholar,” Krieger blends his own astute commentary with an op-ed many of us in the liberty movement noticed in, of all places, The New York Times. The New York Times piece, “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” is by Bruce Ackermen, a professor of law and political science at Yale University.

Here are several significant points from both Krieger and Ackerman that are worth considering.

While critics have been questioning the legality of U.S. military campaigns consistently since the end of World War II, one trend has become increasingly clear. With each new President and each new war, we have witnessed those who hold the office act more and more like dictators, and less and less like constitutional executives.” –Krieger

One very important, and up until recently, overlooked point about Obama’s latest “war on ISIS” is that this is not at all just more of the same. This crosses yet another very important line of shadiness, and if we as [the] American public allow him to do so, we will suffer grave long-term consequences to our economic future as well as our liberties.” –Krieger

President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris. Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.” –Ackerman

[T]he 2001 authorization for the use of military force [Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks] does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.” –Ackerman

[I]t’s preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalize new bombings in Syria and additional (noncombat) forces in Iraq… Not only was ISIS created long after 2001, but Al Qaeda publicly disavowed it earlier this year. It is Al Qaeda’s competitor, not its affiliate.” –Ackerman

Obama may rightly be frustrated by gridlock in Washington, but his assault on the rule of law is a devastating setback for our constitutional order. His refusal even to ask the Justice Department to provide a formal legal pretext for the war on ISIS is astonishing.” –Ackerman

[Obama] is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.” –Ackerman

Read that last sentence by Ackerman again. “He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

So what’s the big deal? Even if Obama has launched an unconstitutional war, how does that jeopardize the liberty of Americans living safely here in the United States?

I think Krieger nails it in his commentary at the Liberty Blitzkrieg Blog.

Who cares right? This won’t ever affect you. So what if some bombs fall on innocent Arab civilians? Wrong.

One of the most terrifying aspects of this whole war push if Obama is able to pull it off, is that the reasoning (or lack thereof) could ultimately be applied to the detention of U.S. citizens indefinitely without a trial.

Yes, what I am referring to is the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial. …

One of the ways in which the U.S. government has defended the NDAA is by saying it can only be used against “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

Krieger notes that others have pointed out that “Section 1021 of the NDAA governs, as its title says, “Authority of the Armed Forces to Detain Covered Persons Pursuant to the AUMF.”  The first provision — section (a) — explicitly “affirms that the authority of the President” under the AUMF “includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons.” The next section, (b), defines “covered persons” — i.e., those who can be detained by the U.S. military — as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.

Krieger then ties it all together.

Notice that the above says “pursuant to the AUMF,” which is the exact law the Obama Administration is using to justify his latest war. If he is able to start a war with ISIS based on the AUMF, despite the fact that ISIS and al-Qaeda are not allies at all, he or a future President could similarly use the AUMF and the NDAA to imprison anyone, anywhere for an indefinite amount of time based on the same absurd non-claim.”

As always, I’ve provided you with the source material so you can decide for yourself. And, as always, I’d love to read your thoughts about Obama’s unilateral decision to start a war with the Islamic State group. Please email me at [email protected]

As for me, I agree with Ackerman and Krieger.

I believe Obama has launched an unconstitutional war.

I believe that war has the potential to threaten the liberty of all Americans.

I believe the Congress of the United States should impeach and convict President Obama for initiating an illegal and unconstitutional war.

I believe all Americans have an obligation to educate themselves on the increasing loss of liberty that is taking place in the United States and to work to restore and preserve those liberties for the benefit of future generations of Americans.

Be safe, secure and free,

Rob Douglas


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