09/24/2014 archive

Are Syria Strikes an Illegal War?

Are the Syria strikes an illegal war? By what authority has President Barack Obama ordered these attacks? The administration says that it doesn’t need congress to approve it and congress, along with the courts, has surrendered its responsibility.

United States Bombs Syria In Latest Undeclared War

By Jonathan Turley, Constitutional Law Professor George Washington University

I just completed a two-city debate with former Bush official John Yoo on executive power with a focus on undeclared wars. It appears Yoo won the debate . . . at least with President Obama. Indeed, Yoo appears to have had Obama at “hello” to quote Jerry Maguire. Without any declaration of war, Obama has launched attacks against targets in Syria – an act of war by any measure and a violation of international law.

We have been discussing the growing concerns over President Barack Obama’s series of unilateral actions in ordering agencies not to enforce law, effectively rewriting laws, and moving hundreds of millions of dollars from appropriated purposes to areas of his choosing. One of the greatest concerns has been his unchecked authority asserted in the national security area.

The most serious acts of unilateral presidential action falls within war powers – powers that the Framers expressly and carefully limited to prevent precisely this type of attack. Of course, the Administration does not use the word “war.” I previously represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war without a declaration from Congress. In the case, President Obama insisted that he alone determines what is a war and therefore when he needs a declaration. Since the court would not recognize standing to challenge the war, it left Obama free to engage in war operations in any country of his choosing.

Professor Turley joined David Corn, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief, on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss just how legal are these attacks.

US ties itself in legal knots to cover shifting rationale for Syria strikes

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Lawyers use Iraq’s right of self-defence and weakness of Syrian regime – which US has undermined – to justify failure to seek UN approval

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released near 24 hours after attacks began, US ambassador Samantha Power argued that the threat to Iraq from Islamic State, known as Isis or Isil, gave the US and its allies in the region an automatic right to attack on its behalf. [..]

The brief letter did not mention the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which rested on erroneous claims of weapons of mass destruction and arguably contributed to its current instability, but stresses instead the country’s right to self-defence in the face of this new threat. [..]

The US also argued that there was legal right to pursue Isis inside Syria due to the weakness of that country’s government – a regime the US has been actively urging be undermined by rebel groups for much of the past two years. [..]

Fearing that US politicians up for re-election in November may balk at voting for a third military attack on Iraq and being sucked into a Syrian quagmire, the White House has avoided seeking a fresh authorisation of the use of military force, preferring to rely on early authorisations against al-Qaida granted after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

But this means arguing that Isis is equivalent to al-Qaida, even though the groups are split – logic that several critics in Congress, such as Virginia senator Tim Kaine, have argued is flawed and requires a fresh authorisation to fix.

Power reached for similar arguments in her letter to the UN, arguing that Tuesday’s separate attack on Khorasan rebels in Syria was also an act of self defence by the US due to the group’s closeness to al-Qaida.

Is Obama misleading the world to war? Depends how you define ‘misleading’

By Trevor Timm, The Gusrdian

When it comes to military strikes against Isis in Syria, his administration’s strategy relies on what the meaning of ‘is’ is

Want to decipher what the US military is really doing in Iraq and Syria, or figure out whether its regional war against the Islamic State (Isis) is legal? Good luck. The Obama administration’s secret efforts to redefine the ordinary meaning of key legal terms and phrases has made that near impossible.

For instance, in his Tuesday statement that US airstrikes that have expanded into Syria, Obama studiously avoided any discussion about his domestic legal authority to conduct these strikes. That dirty work was apparently left up to anonymous White House officials, who told the New York Times’s Charlie Savage that both the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 (meant for al-Qaida) and the 2002 war resolution (meant for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) gave the government the authority to strike Isis in Syria.

In other words: the legal authority provided to the White House to strike al-Qaida and invade Iraq more than a dozen years ago now means that the US can wage war against a terrorist organization that’s decidedly not al-Qaida, in a country that is definitely not Iraq. [..]

So when you hear the words “imminent attack”, “civilians”, militants” or “ground troops” from now on, be careful: if the government says they’re not misleading you, it might only be because they’ve secretly changed the definition of “misleading”.

Public Law 107-40  – the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001

Public Law 107-243 – The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq

Neither one of those laws applies to this situation. The president is on violation of his oath of office

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Phyllis Bennis: “There Is No Military Solution” – But Obama Launches a New U.S. War in Syria

President Obama’s decision to bomb Syria stands in stark violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution. It contradicts his own commitment, stated a year ago in the UN General Assembly, to reverse Washington’s “perpetual war footing.”

And it portends disaster for the people of Syria, the region, and much of the world.

The White House stated goal is to destroy the headquarters of the violent and extremist ISIS militia. But you can’t bomb extremism out of existence. The U.S. bombs do not fall on “extremism,” they are falling on Raqqah, a 2,000 year-old Syrian city with a population of more than a quarter of a million people – men, women and children who had no say in the take-over of their city by ISIS. The Pentagon is bombing targets like the post office and the governor’s compound, and the likelihood of large number of civilian casualties as well as devastation of the ancient city, is almost certain.

President Obama was right when he said there is no military solution to the ISIS crisis. Bombing Syria, without Congressional authorization, without United Nations approval, in direct opposition to the stated position of Syria’s government, will only make that crisis worse. It will give ISIS and its allies a new basis for recruitment, it will strengthen the repressive Syrian government, it will undermine Syria’s struggling non-violent opposition movement, and it will further tighten the links between ISIS supporters in Syria and in Iraq.

Karyn Strickler: Fear This, Congress: The People’s Climate March

The People’s Climate March has permanently changed national and international perception and proven that Americans care passionately about the climate issue. The diverse sea of black, brown and white people who flooded the streets of New York sent the message that climate change is a political issue for all Americans, with signs reading, “Vote Climate.” A young woman of East Indian descent carried a hand-painted, blue and green sign that said, “Change Politics, Not the Climate.”

The crowd was loud with drumming, singing and chanting. A favorite moment came when an eerie hush suddenly descended. I ducked and looked skyward, thinking something must be wrong. You could hear a cheer rise-up from miles away and cascade through the crowd. When the wave hit our section it got so loud that I’m certain the world leaders, gathered for the global summit on climate change, could hear us roar. [..]

U.S. politicians take note. Congress generally operates on two basic principles: fear and greed. U.S. Congressional leaders chase the almighty dollar to pump-up their campaign coffers, that’s the greed part. But they can’t get the vote if they don’t follow the will of the people, that’s the fear part. Yesterday’s March indicates that it’s time for politicians to wake-up and follow the people on the issue of climate change or fear for their election prospects.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: New Deal Liberalism Lives On

n the age of trickle-down economics and unrelenting attacks on the social safety net, there have been few greater champions of progressive values than Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who hosted his final Steak Fry this year as the senior senator from Iowa. Throughout his storied career, Harkin has remained a “prairie populist.” From his landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, to his principled vote against Clinton-era financial deregulation, to his recent sponsorship of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, Harkin has always been unapologetically loyal to the fundamental belief that government can – and should – play a role in improving people’s lives. And for Harkin, who proudly displayed his father’s Works Progress Administration card on his office wall, this brand of progressivism was deeply rooted in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal philosophy. [..]

Our current political battles, as they have been for the past 70 years, are largely defined by the right’s bitter desire to roll back the gains of the New Deal and the Great Society. And as Harkin prepares to retire next year, many have been writing obituaries for his brand of progressive politics. “Today he is seen as one of a dying breed of Democrats,” The Post’s Dan Balz observed. “[H]e remains an unabashedly and old-fashioned liberal.”

But the would-be eulogists predicting that these ideals will follow Harkin into retirement are wrong. While Harkin’s departure will be a loss, the mantle of New Deal liberalism that he proudly carried has been passed on. In recent years, what the late Sen. Paul Wellstone called “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” hasn’t lost its way; on the contrary, it has found it.

Jessica Valenti: Roger Goodell wants YOU to accept his nightmare of violence and sexism

Throwing money at women’s rights groups is not how you fix a fundamentally misogynist institution

In the wake of the Ray Rice horror show, and the Adrian Peterson horror show, and the Greg Hardy horror show, and the Ray McDonald horror show, and the Daryl Washington horror show, and the Jonathan Dwyer horror show, and the 725 other arrests among the players who make money for him, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Friday afternoon in a mea culpa press conference that all 32 teams and their employees must attend educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault. Sounds promising, until you get to the part where it’s the NFL itself that’s designing the program. Will there be sessions on “hiding videos for beginners?” A lunch program on crafting the perfect tweet to blame a player’s battered spouse? How to blame your parents for beating your four-year-old son?

I understand that these programs are likely the first of many stops on the NFL apology tour, but I find it difficult to believe the answer to all of this drawn-out wrongdoing will be found in NFL locker rooms, with employees listening to mandatory NFL-designed domestic violence speakers. According to Goodell’s announcement, these compulsory programs are being developed by the NFL Players Association and a “top group of experts” that the NFL hired last week. And the woman in charge of one anti-violence organizations the NFL plans to “partner” with told me Sunday night that, as of right now, the relationship is purely financial.

This is what Roger Goodell and the NFL are asking of us: to accept their nightmare of violence, sexism and cover-ups with the hope that a dash of contrition and remedial classes on why hitting women is wrong will make everything OK.

Joan Walsh: The Dick Cheney view of presidential power is winning

Feckless Congress campaigns instead of voting on Syrian airstrikes, while McCain and Graham want to move on Assad

President Obama warned earlier this month that he intended to use airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. Immediately the New York Times as well as legal scholars shrieked that the president needed to seek authorization of any Syria strikes from Congress. “Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris,” wrote Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman.

But Congress shrugged. After voting to fund the training of Syrian rebels, both the Senate and the House departed to campaign in the 2014 midterms.

Now that the bombs are dropping, few in Congress are even bothering to argue that they ought to deal with the question when they get back after the election. Sen. Tim Kaine is an exception: he is accusing his colleagues of accepting Dick Cheney’s view of the president’s power to wage pre-emptive war.

Heather Digby Parton: The right’s new religious war: Why they see ISIS as Christianity’s big threat

From Ann Coulter to Ted Cruz, a new strain of far-right thinking is developing a scary foreign policy

   “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while…

   – George W. Bush, September 16, 2001

Most people probably recall that comment pretty vividly as it provoked an outcry among America’s allies in both Europe and the Middle East for obvious reasons. The word “crusade” in that particular context is an explicit historical reference that places the “war on terrorism” in the category of a religious conflict. Bush, to his credit, never used the word again and went out of his way throughout his term to downplay any talk that he was waging a religious war.

Not that it stopped the usual suspects from saying so, of course. Ann Coulter issued a notorious cri de guerre on behalf of the entire conservative movement in October of 2001 saying, “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity!” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, whose radio show is frequented by Republican officials and conservative luminaries has been preaching this gospel for some time as well.

TBC: Morning Musing 9.24.14

Ok, I’m sick right now, so I’m going pretty light on this one. I can’t believe I missed it when it was written some 13 odd years ago, but it’s well worth the read as it’s still pertinent. Yeah yeah, I know it’s the Onion, but it’s right on the mark!

God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule

NEW YORK-Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.


On This Day In History September 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 24 is the 267th day of the year (268th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 98 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day on 1789, The Judiciary Act of 1789 is passed by Congress and signed by President George Washington, establishing the Supreme Court of the United States as a tribunal made up of six justices who were to serve on the court until death or retirement. That day, President Washington nominated John Jay to preside as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson to be associate justices. On September 26, all six appointments were confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Supreme Court was established by Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution granted the Supreme Court ultimate jurisdiction over all laws, especially those in which their constitutionality was at issue. The high court was also designated to oversee cases concerning treaties of the United States, foreign diplomats, admiralty practice, and maritime jurisdiction. On February 1, 1790, the first session of the U.S. Supreme Court was held in New York City’s Royal Exchange Building.

TDS/TCR (The Town of Shipwreck)


I feel pretty.  Oh so pretty.

I met the nicest EMT crew.

So who would have thought Jenny Nordberg would get two web exclusive extended interview segments?  Anyway, they’re below as well as real news and this week’s guests.

Khorasan Who?

First it was Al Qaeda, then it was ISIS (or Is, or ISIL, whatever), now a new “monster under the bed” has been marched out as the latest excuse to bomb another Muslim country, number seven for President Barack Obama, who has managed to surpass any of his predecessors. So who and what is “Khorasan”? Are we now suppose to believe a proven liar, James Clapper, that this group is such a threat to US national security that it’s necessary to violate Syria’s sovereignty, further enabling terrorist groups to attract members? All of a sudden this group is an imminent threat when as recently as Monday weren’t even on the radar.

Marcy Wheeler isn’t biting into this either:

It appears the legal logic behind the attack (besides the fact that Congress hurriedly approved funding for war through December so it could get back to the campaign trail) is that in addition to striking ISIS in Syria (an attack we don’t have any reasonable  legal justification for) we are also attacking a group that James “Too Cute by Half” Clapper just rolled out, “Khorasan,” which unlike ISIS has not been kicked out of Al Qaeda and therefore might be targetable under the 2001 AUMF. [..]

Today’s continuation of that narrative appears in CNN (and ABC, which I won’t link to because of their infernal auto-play ads), which doesn’t ask how the US hoped to surprise Khorasan if they had just rolled them out as the big new boogeymen. [..]

The threat of Ibrahim al-Asiri – who with one bomb that could not have worked and several more claimed attacks identified by double agents in Saudi employ not only created the excuse for millions of dollars in TSA scanner profits, but also the ability to label Yemen an “imminent” threat and therefore bomb it – has moved to Syria.

Label the country an “imminent” threat. Then bomb.

In Obama’s statement, he emphasized the Khorasan tie.

She’s not the only one questioning the latest excuse to start another war:

So far the only source for any information about this new group comes from two people, who as Marcy says, “have a somewhat strained relationship with the truth and a very cozy relationship with disinformation,” Clapper and Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

This latest US military intervention has gone from a humanitarian rescue, to assisting the Iraq army fighting ISIS to bombing another sovereign nation under the guise of “national security” in a mere 6 weeks. While there is no dispute that ISIS and Kordasan are terrorist groups and some very bad people, but this has the whiff of being just another excuse to overthrow Syrian President Bashir Assad.