I rarely if ever agree with Bruce Ackerman on political matters, but the politics of warfare, I suppose, makes for strange bedfellows. What Ackerman says in this Op-Ed, pointedly titled “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” seems to me exactly on target:
Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.
This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.
But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.
Mr. Obama is rightly proud of his success in killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 and dismantling the Qaeda network he built up. But it’s preposterous to suggest that a congressional vote 13 years ago can be used to legalize new bombings in Syria and additional (noncombat) forces in Iraq.
To suggest that a Congressional vote 13 years ago responding specifically to the 9/11 attack can be used to legalize new warfare in Syria is to flout the plain meaning of the words of the original Authorization of the Use of Military Force, and to suggest by implication that words have no meaning. It’s about as obvious a violation of the rule of law as can be imagined–a paradigm case of violation staring us straight in the face, while masquerading as law. It also marks another sad milestone in the United States’s childish, eyes-wide-shut descent into imperialism.