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May 22nd, 2011

Iowa Congressmen Forget Forgotten War

By Nathan Tucker

The American involvement in the Libyan War is at an end.  Or at least it should be under the War Powers Act.  From general congressional and media apathy, however, one would never know that there was still a war in Libya, or that authorization for the war expired on the 22nd.

President Obama ordered U.S. troops to begin enforcing the U.N. no-fly zone in Libya on March 19 and, two days later, submitted an initial report to Congress pursuant to the War Powers Act.  Under the Act, that initial report filed on March 21 triggered a 60 day limit on any military action in Libya unless Congress specifically extends the deadline.

Though a number of Libyan resolutions, both for and against, have been introduced in Congress, none have yet to even be considered by committee.  Pursuant to the Act, a war resolution was supposed to be voted out of committee no “later then twenty-four calendar days before the expiration of the sixty-day period.”  The resolution is then supposed to “become the pending business” of the legislative chamber and “shall be voted on within three calendar days thereafter.”

Since Congress has declined to take any action authorizing the Libyan War, U.S. involvement must therefore come to an end by today.  While NATO has taken over operational control of the war, the President informed Congress on Friday that continued “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…”

In his letter, President Obama did not discuss the War Powers Act at all, only ambiguously and hypocritically stating that it “has always been my view that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with Congressional engagement, consultation, and support.”  Noticeably, he did not even attempt to make the dubious argument that U.S. military involvement in the Libyan War did not implicate the Act.

Also on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the media that the President’s actions “have been and are consistent with the War Powers Resolution” and that he would “welcome an expression of support” from Congress.  Carney didn’t argue that the Act didn’t apply, but only that the President was following it.

When asked by NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd for a “legal justification” of the White House’s strenuous position, Carney simply repeated his talking points.  Later, ABC White House Correspondent Jake Tapper told Carney that he hadn’t answered Todd’s question and that “I don’t understand how the U.S. is behaving in a way consistent with the War Powers Act?”  Carney again repeated his talking points.  He ended up repeating the phrase a total of four times during the press conference.

Left unanswered, therefore, is how, exactly, not complying with the Act is complying with it.  Also left unanswered is what role, if any, the President would allow Congress to have given that the White House recently announced that U.S. military operations in Libya will continue as long as Moammar Gadhafi continues to attack his people (i.e., for years to come).

Of course, the Administration’s imperialism should come as no surprise, given that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously told a House committee that the Administration will not be constrained by the Act, though “they are certainly willing to send reports [to us] and if they issue a press release, they’ll send that to us too.”  What thoughtfulness…

Certainly, then, Iowans could expect that, in the face of such defiance by the Administration, it’s congressional delegation would be properly outraged and clamoring for an immediate withdrawal of all armed forces from the war.  Sadly, such expectations would be sorely disappointed.

The Iowa Republican (TIR) asked every member of Iowa’s congressional delegation if “they will vote to authorize the use of military force in Libya and the reasons for their vote.”  TIR also asked “What will your response be if Congress fails to authorize the use of military force but President Obama continues to use such force in Libya?”

TIR received only one response.  Fred Love, Congressman Latham’s spokesman, replied that “Congressman Latham is monitoring the situation closely.  If the House takes up legislation on military action in Libya, it will most likely originate from members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee or House Armed Services Committee.”  Doubtless such a strong rebuke got Obama’s attention.

For all their earlier talk about the importance of the War Powers Act, neither Senator Grassley nor Congressman King have bothered to issue a statement when it is violated.  One can only hope its because the Obama Administration’s actions have rendered them speechless in constitutional outrage and that they will soon rise to their feet in protest.

And for all their pre-Obama talk about Congress’ sole constitutional role in declaring war, Senator Harkin and Congressmen Boswell, Braley, and Loebsack have yet to utter a single protest over the Libyan War.  Braley did send the White House “a letter…quizzing” the Administration on the costs of the Libyan operation, but there’s been no word yet on whether or not he has received a response.

Practically speaking, most American’s don’t consider this a war because American troops, for the most part, aren’t on the ground.  And so long as the lives of Americans aren’t endangered, they could care less about the War Powers Act.

Members of Congress, however, don’t have that luxury, for if they allow the Act to be so openly violated this time, it becomes precedent the next time when there may be boots on the ground.  Either enforce it or repeal it, but don’t continue to hypocritically claim to care about it.

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at nathanwt@juno.com.




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