Is Libya Legal Yet?

Helen Whalen Cohen

5/24/2011 12:38:00 PM - Helen Whalen Cohen

In 1973, Congress signed the War Powers Act, meant to prevent the president from engaging in an unchecked war without congressional approval. It says that the president cannot commit our troops to a foreign occupation without authorization from Congress, unless we are attacked first and acting in self defense. After 60 days, we get one month to withdraw troops without congressional authorization.

Well, 60 days ran out on Friday. What's happened since then? The Obama Administration argued to Congress that the US role in Libya is so limited that he doesn't need their approval:


In an effort to satisfy those arguing he needs to seek congressional authorization to continue US military activity in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders this afternoon suggesting that the role is now so “limited” he does not need to seek congressional approval.

“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition's efforts.”

...

From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration has cited the 1973 War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. The military intervention started on March 19; Congress was notified on March 21. Those 60 days expire today.

That's our president. Using the law to justify his actions until he can't anymore, then casting the law aside when it is inconvenient.