Since 2005, Veterans for Peace and others have been calling for the impeachment of the sitting president for war crimes. After their demands to lawmakers to uphold the rule of law against Bush were largely ignored (except by Dennis Kucinich who introduced impeachment articles too late in 2008), they renewed their effort to impeach Obama once he continued to bomb sovereign nations without congressional approval. Now, some lawmakers seem to have finally decided to take the rule of law and Separation of Powers seriously.
Obama will face impeachment over his failure to seek congressional authorization before launching offensive military action in Libya last year. Official impeachment proceedings have now been filed in both the House and Senate.
Last week, North Carolina Representative Walter Jones filed an Impeachment Resolution in the House H.CON.RES.107.IH stating; “Expressing the sense of Congress that the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution.”
“Whereas the cornerstone of the Republic is honoring Congress’s exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress violates Congress’s exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution.”
President Barack Obama becomes only the third sitting president to face impeachment following Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Johnson was impeached for illegally dismissing an office holder without the Senate’s approval, and Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both were acquitted by the Senate.
Significantly, President Obama faces much more serious charges than his impeached predecessors and it’s still unclear what legal defense he will use to defuse the charges, as the legal basis for his unilateral action has been inconsistent and vague from the beginning of the Libya assault.
Prior to military operations in Libya, the Justice Department advised the Administration on the legality of using unauthorized force in Libya in a 14-page memo titled Authority to Use Military Force in Libya, which states vaguely:
We conclude…that the use of military force in Libya was supported by sufficiently important national interests to fall within the President’s constitutional power. At the same time, turning to the second element of the analysis, we do not believe that anticipated United States operations in Libya amounted to “war” in the constitutional sense necessitating congressional approval under the Declaration of War clause.
The memo goes on to explain why the alleged situation on the ground in Libya was in the United States’ national interest, citing previous times when the U.S. military was deployed without congressional approval. As further justification for their conclusion, the memo also claims that the mission was an international support mission with no deployed ground troops.
However, in no way were national interests under an “imminent” threat by hostilities in Libya, as required by the War Powers Act, and supporting an international mission is irrelevant to the Act. Furthermore, Obama has maintained the legal defense that American involvement fell short of full-blown hostilities even after hostilities exceeded the 90-day limit of unauthorized use of force afforded under the War Powers Act.
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The New York Times quotes directly from the 38-page report Obama sent to concerned lawmakers after the 90-day deadline passed, “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
Therefore, the Administration claims it wasn’t a real military conflict that Congress should concern itself with. However, at the same time, the White House acknowledged that the cost to U.S. taxpayers was well over $1 billion for these non-hostile military activities.
Coincidentally, on the same day the impeachment resolution was filed, Obama’s Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged that the Libya War did indeed constitute military combat, but claimed the legal basis for spending U.S. tax dollars on war rested in “international permission”:
This impeachment comes on the heels of other Administration officials giving equally flimsy legal justifications for assassinating U.S. citizens without due process. Where, also last week, Attorney General Holder sought to clarify this tyrannical authority in a speech at Northwestern University by claiming “judicial process” was not the same as “due process” under the Constitution.
Yet, the Fifth Amendment clearly states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.”
And as Wikipedia defines due process:
Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects individual persons from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due-process violation, which offends against the rule of law.
The Obama Administration has clearly “offended against the rule of law,” and it appears his only defense lies in somehow changing the definition of words. It’s not a strong legal position to be in and it seems that, for the first time in history, a sitting president may be held accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors.
See more articles by Eric Blair here