Less than two weeks after requesting that Congress rescind the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq, President Obama has ordered a campaign of air strikes against the Islamic State (IS, formerly called ISIS). A need to defend the American embassy at Erbil in Kurdish Iraq, and a humanitarian mission changed his mind.
If you're wondering about legal authority for attacking Iraq today. The Iraq AUMF is still a thing. pic.twitter.com/5mEDEUpqRo
— DrewMTips (@DrewMTips) August 8, 2014
The New York Times reported in early June that the Iraqis requested that the US intervene against ISIS. On June 15, ISIS released images of its own atrocities. The request for air strikes went public June 18. By June 20, shiploads of US Marines were headed to Iraq to defend our embassy and help stand up the Iraqi armed forces.
That had to wait for the lawyers to work out a temporary Status of Forces agreement. President Obama blamed the lack of a SOF agreement for his complete withdrawal of troops in 2011. Critics charged that he failed to negotiate with any vigor, having made known his dislike of a US presence in Iraq since 2003.
On July 25, the House passed a resolution sponsored by Democrat James McGovern (MA-02) that said, in substance:
The President shall not deploy or maintain United States Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific statutory authorization for such use
In a letter earlier that day, letter to Congress, National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote that rather than voting not to send ground troops, Congress should rescind the AUMF for Iraq:
So the administration had received multiple requests from Iraq for air strikes, and had not only refused them, but has asked Congress to take away its ability to carry them out. The administration claims they don’t need Congressional authority to go to war, however. And on August 7, after an outcry over the fate of the Yazidi people in Iraq, Mr. Obama said:
I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world. So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now. When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.
This White House is marked by a long-term, proactive approach to unimportant matters and a short-term, reactive approach to things that do.
— LHeal (@lheal) August 8, 2014
Failed grammar aside, the tendency to react to world events rather to shape them is a hallmark of the Obama administration.
So, about the use of military force in Iraq…
Curious; what was the Congressional vote tally on this Iraq invasion?
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) August 8, 2014
If I have this right, we're conducting air strikes on ISIS, destroying American weapons and equipment that were originally given to Iraq.
— J.R. Salzman (@jrsalzman) August 8, 2014
Yes, that pretty well sums it up.