It Depends on What the Meaning of “War” Is

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” – Bill Clinton

OK, we’re back to Libya today. I’ll try to be brief.

Ten congressmen sued today to force the president to pull US troops and support from the ongoing NATO mission in Libya (story here). They claim that he has violated the War Powers Act by not consulting congress within 60 days of the beginning of hostilities (hat tip – they are flagrantly right).

The White House has responded that they are not in violation of the War Powers act because the Libya mission does not constitute “hostilities” (story here). Hmmm. Why is that?

Well, as the story notes, “they argued that United States forces are at little risk in the operation because there are no American troops on the ground and Libyan forces are unable to exchange meaningful fire with American forces.” OK, so, if U.S. forces aren’t receiving direct fire, then there aren’t hostilities?

Or how about this from State Department legal advisor Harold Koh: “We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own … We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”

Get the picture? Nobody shooting at us, or, shooting at us particularly effectively, and it’s not ‘hostilities’ … not war.

OK, the argument is as dumb as can be, but when you’ve got absolutely nothing you’ll grasp at straws, as the president has done now.

Let’s see, we’re bombing Libya, hitting military and other targets, attempting to remove a foreign head of state. Those probably aren’t what one would call “cordialities” … no, that might actually meet the threshold of “hostilities”. It is absurd to define hostilities as “they’re fighting back … effectively”.

US forces are in Libya, training rebels (see here).

Rumors are swirling all over the web about sightings of U.S. and U.K. forces (errr …. “NATO” forces) on the ground in Libya.

Heck, the Gaddafi forces have even taken a few shots at Geraldo Riviera. (OK, he’s not actually in the U.S. military – still, the hostilities have hit close to home if it has come to this.)

This is, I think, a crucial test for the Congress. One branch of government has flouted the responsibility and authority of another, in clear violation of the law. Back down now, and who knows what powers will be usurped next …

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One Response to It Depends on What the Meaning of “War” Is

  1. Pingback: Libya Update – When Lawyers Disagree | Freedom at Bethsaida

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