Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Carney's Twisted Logic: Syria using chemical weapons is a "threat" to the US and justifies war


The White House is currently preparing the public for a strike on Syria, and part of that preparation involves heading off accusations that the president is abusing his powers. As Obama himself said when he was still a candidate, "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." Everyone knows this and everyone knows that Congress won't approve a military strike on Syria, which is why Obama hasn't asked Congress to convene on the matter. That leaves the White House only one option: to re-define "imminent threat to the nation" to include whatever it wants, such as a civil war in a land thousands of miles away. Here is the Guardian's live-blog of the relevant exchange:
Carney is asked about Obama's statement as a candidate in 2007 of his belief that a president may only take unilateral war action, without congressional approval, in cases of "an actual and imminent threat" to the United States. Does the US face such a threat? Carney replies in the affirmative: "Allowing [the asserted chemical attack] to take place without a response would present a significant... threat to the United States," Carney says.
This sounds remarkably like something from the Bush era, and it deserves widespread condemnation for its twisted logic. The Obama administration clearly hasn't learned from Bush's mistakes, or it wouldn't be leading us into yet another unpopular war on flimsy legal grounds.

Of course, some people will forgive the White House simply because they want to support the Syrian rebels. But that is a separate issue. Even if one supports a military strike on Syria, one can still condemn the illegality of it. In the present scenario, the president simply does not have the legal authority to do what he is about to do, and this should alarm anyone who wants to avoid re-living the past. We must hold our government officials accountable -- especially when their reasoning is as irrational as Carney's -- if we want to live in a lawful society. Allowing this administration to so flagrantly abuse its powers would be an astonishing disavowal of the rule of law.