FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Desperately Seeking Legitimacy

by RALPH NADER

The meticulous Harvard Law Review editors should be rolling over in their footnotes. The recidivist violations of constitutional and statutory requirements by their celebrated predecessor at that journal ? Barack Obama has reached Orwellian dimensions in the war against Libya.

You see, the widespread daily bombing of Libya, the strict naval blockade of Muammar Gadhafi-controlled Libya, the destruction of Gadhafi’s family compound and tent encampment in the desert–killing his son and three grandchildren–and the deployment of special forces inside Libya is not a “War.” It is in the Obama White House’s evasive nomenclature just a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” Can you find that phrase in the Constitution?

If Obama used the word “War,” he would have a more difficult time explaining to Congress and the American people (three out of four oppose this war) why he did not (1) seek a declaration of war under Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution, or (2) seek Congressional authorization for appropriated funds to further the war with our NATO co-warriors, or (3) comply with the deadlines of the War Powers Resolution. He threw all three lawful restraints on his Presidential unilateralism overboard.

So, in the invidious tradition of George W. Bush and his indentured confessor, Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, now comfortably ensconced on the law faculty of the University of California Berkeley, Mr. Obama is blithely claiming as authority for taking our country into another war “the inherent powers of the President under Article II of the Constitution.” This wouldn’t pass the laugh test by Jefferson, Madison, Franklin Mason or even Hamilton. James Madison believed placing the war-declaring power in the exclusive hands of Congress was the most significant achievement during the convention in Philadelphia that summer of 1787. No more King George substitutes for America’s future, they demanded.

Note that Libya did not attack the U.S. or its appendages, and did not attack a member of NATO. Obama admits these points. Libya’s trusting government sovereign fund even left $37 billion in the U.S. which Obama promptly froze. Lacking even the prevaricatory pretenses for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, Obama and Hillary Clinton now say the U.S. is militarily involved “to protect our interests and advance our values” in the region and, of course, to protect the “universal rights” of the Libyan people. (Opportunities abound for this Obama doctrine around the world from the Congo to Syria, to Burma, to occupied Palestine and many other areas.)

Desperately seeking legitimacy, Mr. Obama cites the UN resolution, NATO, and the Arab League instead of seeking it from Congress. For all treaties with foreign countries, including the UN Charter, are trumped by the U.S. Constitution (Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957)). As a former teacher of constitutional law, the President knows this basic principle but then, as Lord Acton declared: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Congress, rendered a rubber stamp by President George W. Bush, is bestirring itself. On June 3, 2011, the House of Representatives passed H.R. Res 292 declaring that the President shall not deploy, establish, or maintain the presence of units and members of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Libya. On this matter, Obama pleads state secrets.

On June 16, 2011, ten members of the House ? five conservative Republicans (including Walter B. Jones (Rep. N.C.) and Ron Paul (Rep. Texas) and five Democrats (including Dennis Kucinich (Dem. Ohio) and John Conyers (Dem. Mich.) filed suit against President Obama in federal district court for an order declaring the U.S. war in Libya “without a declaration of Congress with the use of funds never approved for such a war” to be unconstitutional. Given past judicial decisions declaring members of Congress to have “no standing to sue” on what they call “political matters,” this suit is facing an uphill barrier.

Congress has appropriated no money for this war, already costing nearly a billion dollars, nor has the lawless Obama asked for it because he knows there will be strong bi-partisan resistance.

So where is the Congress to go but to the courts to decide this internal, domestic issue affecting the separation of powers provoked by a clearly lawless President? The degraded, politicized, formerly professional, Office of Legal Counsel is a sleazy apologist for presidential overreaching for over two decades.

The expanding immunities of the Executive branch, now increasingly embracing the military contractors of the corporate state, is destroying the remaining pretensions that we are a nation under law. When he was inaugurated as President in January 2009, President Obama said he wanted his Administration to be known as one of “transparency and the rule of law.” You’ll recall during his 2008 campaign he trumpeted that he would obey the Constitution, inferring the the Republican regime was trampling the Rule of Law.

Indeed in 2007, then Senator Barack Obama stated that “the president does not have any power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Vice President Biden was even more vehement on this issue. And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates originally opposed the attack on Libya before falling in line.

Gadhafi’s dictatorship is a brutal one. Civil wars are brutal. People are dying and suffering. The country is being torn apart. Obama and NATO are not adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections. Top level officials are defecting from Gadhafi and hoping to help lead any successor government.

Regimes brutalize their people whether as dictatorships, authoritarian rulers, connected with dominant oligarchies, or through racial, religious or other sectarian repressions. Is the U.S., mired in deep recession, debt and its own kleptocracy, going to continue to police the world with bases, interventions, subversions or occupation?

The cause of human rights everywhere, needs a permanent, well-quipped professional United Nations peace-keeping force and effective international courts to prevent mass massacres and mass brutalities. That time is not near but it should be at the top of the agenda of civilized nations.

The U.S., as the number one military superpower, provoking antagonisms by its penchant for control throughout the world, should not imperially advance our empire. It is that belief which is bringing Right and Left together, not just in Congress, but around the country.

Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.

(See: ComeHomeAmerica.us, edited by George D. O’Neill, Jr. Paul Buhle; Bill Kauffman and Kevin Zeese, Titan Publishing Company [2010])

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail