Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama Belatedly Notifies Congress About Action Over Libya

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 21, 2011

March 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

At approximately 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, on March 19, 2011, at my direction, U.S. military forces commenced operations to assist an international effort authorized by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council and undertaken with the support of European allies and Arab partners, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya. As part of the multilateral response authorized under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, U.S. military forces, under the command of Commander, U.S. Africa Command, began a series of strikes against air defense systems and military airfields for the purposes of preparing a no-fly zone. These strikes will be limited in their nature, duration, and scope. Their purpose is to support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. These limited U.S. actions will set the stage for further action by other coalition partners.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized Member States, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya, including the establishment and enforcement of a "no-fly zone" in the airspace of Libya. United States military efforts are discrete and focused on employing unique U.S. military capabilities to set the conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council Resolution.

Muammar Qadhafi was provided a very clear message that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. The international community made clear that all attacks against civilians had to stop; Qadhafi had to stop his forces from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya; and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas. Finally, humanitarian assistance had to be allowed to reach the people of Libya.

Although Qadhafi's Foreign Minister announced an immediate cease-fire, Qadhafi and his forces made no attempt to implement such a cease-fire, and instead continued attacks on Misrata and advanced on Benghazi. Qadhafi's continued attacks and threats against civilians and civilian populated areas are of grave concern to neighboring Arab nations and, as expressly stated


in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, constitute a threat to the region and to international peace and security. His illegitimate use of force not only is causing the deaths of substantial numbers of civilians among his own people, but also is forcing many others to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region. Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States. Qadhafi's defiance of the Arab League, as well as the broader international community moreover, represents a lawless challenge to the authority of the Security Council and its efforts to preserve stability in the region. Qadhafi has forfeited his responsibility to protect his own citizens and created a serious need for immediate humanitarian assistance and protection, with any delay only putting more civilians at risk.

The United States has not deployed ground forces into Libya. United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support of international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Accordingly, U.S. forces have targeted the Qadhafi regime's air defense systems, command and control structures, and other capabilities of Qadhafi's armed forces used to attack civilians and civilian populated areas. We will seek a rapid, but responsible, transition

of operations to coalition, regional, or international organizations that are postured to continue activities as may be necessary to realize the objectives of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973.

For these purposes, I have directed these actions, which are in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.


Hmm. Shouldn't this have been delivered two days prior to the press release date? Shouldn't Congress have been notified and consulted? How about a clear message as to what the mission is in Libya, especially as far as the U.S. commitment is concerned?

Speaker of the House Boehner admonished Obama and said that the president must consult Congress for any further action. What about this first move here, Speaker Boehner? Doesn't that concern the Congressional leadership?

In admonishing President Obama that he’d better “define . . . what the mission is in Libya,” he adds that this “better job of communicat[ion]” must be done “before any further military commitments are made.” But what about the military commitments that have already been made? They include starting a shooting war against Libya — unprovoked by any attack or threatened attack on the United States. As the leader of the United States Congress, does it not bother the Speaker just a smidge that the president felt he had to get approval from the Arab League (which has now reneged) and the U.N. Security Council, but there was no need to get the assent of the peer department of the United States government that is constitutionally responsible for declaring war and for paying for the war that Obama has launched?

I argued over the weekend that our Constitution should be construed to require congressional approval if the president wants to take the nation to war under circumstances where we have not been attacked or threatened and when our vital interests are not at stake. More importantly, let’s say you think I am wrong on the constitutional law question (and as I concede in the column, this is more a political matter than a legal one). Does anyone doubt that it is terrible policy to launch a war without public support, and that the people’s representatives should be heard from — especially by an administration that takes pains to get the assent of foreign bodies

Obama said nothing for three weeks, other than violence against the protesters in Libya is unacceptable. Then after a change of strategy by Secretary of State Clinton and then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Obama was convinced to act. Now we are acting within a U.N. Resolution and Obama can't say enough that it is only a temporary involvement on the part of the U.S. But the message is mixed from the administration. First it was humanitarian assistance, then regime change - Qaddafi must go- and now it is back to only humanitarian assistance, except in Chile Monday Obama said Qaddafi must go.

This is no way to run a war. A No Fly Zone is an act of war. Obama was only too willing to criticize the Bush administration about the Iraq invasion. That was, by the way, under the former Clinton policy of regime change in Iraq and Bush went to the U.N.- which had 17 resolutions concerning Saddam - and Congress voted on the mission. Obama, conveniently, wasn't in his Senate seat yet. He was still in the Illinois State Senate. Easy to criticize when you really don't have to vote on it. We see how he is handling the real time decisions now.

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