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At this writing, President Obama has neither the legal nor the political mandate to conduct airstrikes in Iraq or Syria.

On Thursday night, 182 Members of the House voted yes on Representative Barbara Lee's amendment defunding the use of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use Military Force. Among those 182 Members were 151 Democrats - 81% of the Democrats voting - including Minority Leader Pelosi and House Minority Whip Hoyer. By voting yes on Rep. Lee's amendment, these Members of the House affirmed that they oppose invocation of the Iraq AUMF to justify U.S. military action in Iraq today.

182 was not a majority of Members voting. But it is similar to the number of Members of the House - 192 - who urged President Obama to come to Congress for authorization before bombing Syria last August.

Some people claim that President Obama has the legal authority to bomb Iraq under the 2002 Iraq AUMF or under the 2001 AUMF passed after the September 11 attacks. Among other places, this claim is refuted here and here.

But regardless of whether we can agree that President Obama does not have the authority to bomb Iraq or Syria in a legal sense, as a political matter he should come to Congress for authorization anyway.

Indeed, when President Obama came to Congress for authorization to bomb Syria, he never conceded that he was legally bound to do so. He only conceded that it was appropriate to do so.    

This is what President Obama said on August 31:

Our military has positioned assets in the region.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.  Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.  And I'm prepared to give that order.

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the President of the world's oldest constitutional democracy.  I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  And that's why I've made a second decision:  I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.

Over the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard.  I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.

In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America's national security.  And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.
Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.  We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.  And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.

If that was true of bombing Syria then, it is true of bombing Iraq or Syria now. Many Members of the House are extremely wary of deeper U.S. military involvement in Iraq or Syria. On Thursday night the House passed by voice vote the Conyers-Yoho amendment prohibiting the Administration from transferring MANPADS to insurgents in Syria, and 167 Members voted for Rep. Fortenberry's amendment to prohibit all weapons transfers to insurgents in Syria. Before using military force in Iraq or Syria, the President should come to Congress with a specific plan and get explicit Congressional approval for it.

You can tell President Obama and Congress that there should be a full and public Congressional debate and vote before the President uses force in Iraq here.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy.


President Obama should come to Congress for explicit authorization before bombing Iraq or Syria.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The post 9/11 authorization allows it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hell, it allows a lot of things. I wish it weren't true. I hope Obama does seek authorization if he seeks to take action in Iraq. I hope he doesn't take military action at all. But despite the opinion pieces you linked, it's very easy for Obama and/or future Presidents to broadly interpret the 2001 AUMF to justify action against ISIS and a large number of other targets.

    This is a problem and getting Congress to repeal the 2001 AUMF might be a better use of time for the anti-war movement than the odd obsession with drones. Drones are not the problem. The fact that we're attacking other nations in an endless war with open-ended authorization is the problem.

    •  I don't agree, but as I wrote (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Johnny Q, aliasalias, schumann

      He should come to Congress for authorization whether he believes it is legally required or not.

      As I wrote, last year he came to Congress for authorization on Syria even though he never conceded that he was required to do so.

      •  Correct, and (0+ / 0-)

        Obama did not get authorization from Congress to bomb Syria, in spite of the fact Assad crossed his "red line"-- Assad used chemical weapons.

        The War Powers Resolution could apply:

        this provides that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization," or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."
        The most likely scenario here being ISIS or Sunni forces attack our forces in the Green Zone-- IF ISIS or Sunni forces get that far. and Muqtada al-Sadr (Shia) stated the 300 advisers being sent "will be killed". so there's that scenario as well.

        The WPR allows 60 days for use of our armed forces, with a an additional 30 days for withdrawal.

        "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

        by Superpole on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 01:24:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  actually, there's an MIT study (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, Superpole

          that's pretty much debunked the claim that Assad used CWs.

          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

          by corvo on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 01:52:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sure he's regretting that right now! (0+ / 0-)

        I know I am.

        It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

        by Rich in PA on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 06:49:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, aliasalias, schumann

    Even more importantly he doesn't need to.

    Just say "Hey people of Iraq, America is behind you in your battle against ISIS" and share some of that very expensive 'best in the history of the world' intelligence.

    And maybe ship over some missiles and helicopter parts.

    The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 10:37:32 AM PDT

    •  re: Good (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, schumann

      I totally agree. Direct US military force is not necessary to defend the Shiite areas from the Sunni Arab insurgents and direct US military force should not be used to recapture territory from Sunni Arab insurgents for the central government in the absence of a new political dispensation.

      •  re: the new political dispensation (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Naiman, aliasalias, schumann

        We will possibly hear about negotiaitons for/preparations for/agreement on a new government soon, and I am sure there will be some who will say something stupid like "Another success for Obama!".

        The April 30th elections were ratified on Tuesday and there are negotiations ongoing for the formation of a government so there was going to be a 'new' government anyway.

        And given the fractured nature of Iraqi voting and the number of MPs Maliki's party got, it will probably be a 'more inclusive' government led by Maliki.

        I hope to write about it this weekend.

        The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
        Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

        by InAntalya on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 11:07:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Be sure to mention your (0+ / 0-)


          There is pressure building — and what Obama is saying is a cause of a lot of the pressure.

          The US helped install and cover for al Maliki however I don't think he realizes how out of any "protection" he is. He thinks he is in control. He may get pushed into a position of high title and no power. Even the Shiia politicians are moving away from him. He has been a disaster for Iraq.

          I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

          by samddobermann on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 02:45:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  This isn't Shiite vs Sunni (0+ / 0-)

        Arab insurgents; this is more secular vs ultra fundamentalist crazies. And the Sunnis need protection as well from al Sadr's hopped up militias.

        The Sunnis of Iraq have been plagued by the radicals almost as much as by the Maliki government.

        Obama is well aware of the dynamics which is why they are handling things as they are. Obama has stated that he doesn't intend to get caught favoring anyone in the Sunni vs Shiia dichotomy.

        You seem to be trying to make this about Sunni vs Shiia. It isn't.

        And you don't seem to have figured out the target of the proposed very limited airstrikes in Syria. Nor did you get his feint to a Congressional vote.

        It would help if you quit thinking you are smarter than Obama is,  especially with his aides and the intelligence he has.

        I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

        by samddobermann on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 02:20:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Paint the Republicans into a corner (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman

    They should put their cards on the table one way or the other.  Allowing them to simply oppose whatever Obama or Dems in congress want to do will drive the debate.  

    Instead, get morons like McCain and Graham to make direct commitments on their great ideas.  Then use it productively against them rather than the other way around, as it generally is now.

  •  I don't think bombing is happening soon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    in the Trees
    •  No Bombing , Yet... (0+ / 0-)

      The authorization of 300 Special Forces did not authorize Combat Pay.  You will know when the bombing is eminent, because they will authorize Combat Pay.  They need spotters before they can bomb without unnecessarily endangering civilians.

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