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article imageOp-Ed: AUMF used by Obama to justify expanded Islamic State attacks

By Ken Hanly     Sep 13, 2014 in Politics
Washington - In his speech on September 10, Obama claimed he already had authorization for an expanded war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. However, he is also anxious that Congress provide him resources for his project.
Obama's request for funds include money to arm and train Syrian rebels, even though weapons provided to moderate rebels sometimes end up with the Islamic State. While there are members of Congress from both parties opposed to the war, they appear to be a definite minority at present.
A recent poll showed that almost two thirds of Americans back attacking the Islamic State. According to the poll:Asked what type of military response was appropriate, some 40% of those polled said action against ISIS should be limited to airstrikes and an additional 34% were willing to use both airstrikes and commit U.S. ground troops—a remarkable mood swing for an electorate that just a year ago recoiled at Mr. Obama's proposal to launch airstrikes against Syria.
While Obama constantly suggests there will not be boots on the ground, there are already well over a thousand special forces and advisers. In time there will no doubt also be many contractors. Unlike the American public, except for Iran and Syria, Middle East countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan have been relatively subdued in their support for American actions. Syria was particularly anxious to cooperate with the US, but the US refuses to formally cooperate with Syria. Other countries are not that welcoming of the US return to Iraq: Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama’s expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.
The Obama administration claims that the 2001 AUMF law that authorized the US to use military force against Al Qaeda and others responsible for the 9/11 attacks also authorizes attacks upon the Islamic State. However, Al Qaeda has disowned the Islamic State and in Syria the Islamic State fights against the Nusra Front recognized by Al Qaeda. Even if the Islamic State was linked to Al Qaeda in the past, they had nothing to do with 9/11. There is not even any evidence of their mounting any attacks against the US. They beheaded two American journalists only after the US attacked them in Iraq.
Robert Chesney from the University of Texas School of Law said: “On its face this is an implausible argument because the 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States. Since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda it’s hard to make that argument.” Many would argue that Obama should bring the issue of his expanded war to Congress to approve. In 2008 while campaigning for president Obama said: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Another law professor, Jack Goldsmith. from Harvard Law School said: “I think they are going to get more heat for this implausible interpretation of the 2001 AUMF than they realize,”
Just in case plan A for justification becomes too risible there is also plan B announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry refuses to even say that the US is at war with the Islamic State or ISIS as they insist on calling it. Kerry notes that the administration's strategy--apparently they have one now--consists of "many different things that one doesn't think of normally in context of war." Kerry told CNN: "What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counterterrorism operation. It's going to go on for some period of time. If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."
For its part, Congress seems not anxious to vote on Obama's expansion of the war in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State.If there is a vote at all, it will probably be after the mid-term elections as California Democrat Adam Schiff told the Huffington Post: "At this point I will have to say it’s quite likely. That could change because there is definitely growing momentum behind the idea that Congress needs to vote on this, that the prior authorizations are insufficient. But I’m not sure that will be enough given the compressed time schedule." Of course there is no discussion at all of whether the expansion of the war into Syria might involve breaking international law. The only pertinent question for American lawmakers it seems is whether it violates US laws.If the international law issue comes up the response seems to be that whenever the US feels threatened by any group anywhere in the world it can legitimately act in self defense.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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