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President Obama ignored the wise direction of President George Washington when he casually told the nation — and Congress — that U.S. military forces will engage in acts of war in Iraq for an extended period of weeks and maybe months. Bombing, he said in a brief statement last week, is needed here and there, but he promised there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.
Although not mentioned publicly, his close partners in this risky adventure are Britain and France, whose diplomats carved up the Middle East at the end of World War I to suit their empire interests, plus Israel, the world’s latest colonial power.
The announcement seemed almost an afterthought as the president headed for vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. He neglected to seek approval of Congress before authorizing bombardment of the military forces of ISIS, the new marauding power that suddenly gained control of much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
A former instructor in constitutional law, Obama ignored plain evidence that framers of the Constitution feared presidential abuse of instruments of war. They vested the power to declare war, that is, to make war, exclusively in Congress. They viewed war-making the most oppressive burden government can impose on its citizens and, in effect, declared it too important to entrust to a single person, the president.
Obama had ample time to seek congressional approval before the Capitol Hill vacation began. He chose to usurp congressional authority with U.S. bombs dropped in Iraq and thereby is guilty of impeachable offense.
It is shameful that congressional leaders failed to insist on strict compliance with the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
Once more, America’s government attempts nation-building in Iraq. It will be costly, and the people of Iraq have little reason to expect it will be better than our recent decade-long folly that left Iraq broken in almost every respect and its citizens outraged at the U.S. government and its Iraqi employees. This fury left many of the former employees assassinated and others sought survival by fleeing their homeland.
Paul Findley served as a member of United States House of Representatives for 22 years. He was a key author of the War Powers Resolution and a leader in securing its enactment by overriding the veto of President Richard Nixon. He is also the author of six books. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him.