Attack Islamic State? Congress should decide

//Attack Islamic State? Congress should decide

Attack Islamic State? Congress should decide

By | 2014-09-17T08:18:34+00:00 September 17th, 2014|Middle East|0 Comments

In announcing last week that he would seek to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” Islamic State, President Obama asserted that, while he welcomed congressional support, he already possessed the legal authority to use military force against the group in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. That’s a dangerous assertion of authority in which Congress must not acquiesce.

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No one can deny that the campaign against Islamic State, which already has involved airstrikes on the group’s positions in Iraq, represents a new undertaking for the United States. Yet in offering legal justification for this escalation, the president’s advisors are citing two congressional enactments more than a decade old that arose from vastly different circumstances.

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One is the post-Sept. 11 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which empowered the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.” Even if one reads this language as applying to forces “associated” with Al Qaeda, the connection with Islamic State is tenuous. True, it’s an offshoot of a group that called itself Al Qaeda in Iraq, but it has been repudiated by Al Qaeda’s central leadership.

As an “alternative statutory authority,” a senior administration official pointed to the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force “against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” That document was a prelude to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It’s an even flimsier authority for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria than the 2001 AUMF.