News & Politics

Barack Obama Violated the War Powers Act, Not Trump

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In the wake of the strike ordered by President Trump that killed General Qasem Soleimani, many on the left have rushed to criticize Trump for retaliating against the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. 2020 Democrats, in particular, piled on Trump with condemnations. “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” said Biden. Cory Booker, who apparently is still in the race, claimed, “We have a president who has failed to show any larger strategic plan.” Elizabeth Warren acknowledged that Soleimani was an evil terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, but also said, “this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.” Bernie Sanders naturally agreed, “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.” Blah, blah, blah.

Democrat leaders in Congress also complained about the strike and the lack of congressional authorization.

The media has also done its part to paint Trump’s actions in a negative light. And some Democrats in Congress have whined about Trump not informing Congress about the strike before it happened, and some are even accusing Trump of violating the War Powers Act—for a retaliatory action well within his constitutional authority—which means they’ll probably try to impeach him over it, too.

Except that would once again demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Democrats. For example, Adam Schiff was fully behind Obama’s illegal war with Libya. As National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy noted on Twitter, Adam Schiff “supported President Obama’s war on Libya, which was unauthorized by Congress, unprovoked by any attack or threatened attack on the US, and unwanted by Americans.”

Despite the fact that Obama’s war in Libya wasn’t in response to any attack or threat, Obama actually argued the War Powers Act didn’t apply because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”

But many experts disagreed. Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, argued in an op-ed in the New York Times on June 20, 2011, that Obama had indeed violated the War Powers Act, and was engaging in an illegal war. “It has now been over three months since the first NATO bombs fell on Libya, yet President Obama has failed to request Congressional approval for military action, as required by the War Powers Act of 1973,” Ackerman wrote. “The legal machinations Mr. Obama has used to justify war without Congressional consent set a troubling precedent that could allow future administrations to wage war at their convenience — free of legislative checks and balances.”

Member of Congress on both sides of the aisle called the War in Libya a violation of the War Powers Act, and it even prompted a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to sue the Obama administration over its constitutionality.

Trump’s authority to respond to the attack on the U.S. Embassy, however, was constitutionally justified. “[Soleimani] was a combatant,” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz explained on Breitbart News Tonight on Sirius XM. “There’s no doubt that he fit the description of ‘combatant.’ He [was] a uniformed member of an enemy military who was actively planning to kill Americans; American soldiers and probably, as well, American civilians.”

Dershowitz added, “It was the right thing to do. It was legally justified, and I think we should applaud the president for his decision. We send a very powerful message to the Iranian government that we will not stand by as the American embassy is attacked — which is an act of war — and we will not stand by as plans are being made to attack and kill American soldiers.”

Despite allegations of Trump acting recklessly, Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett also believes Trump has demonstrated “remarkable restraint” in dealing with Iran. “He did not retaliate with military action months ago when Iran shot down a U.S. drone or attacked oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman or fired rockets into an installation housing American military personnel. One can argue that his forbearance only emboldened Iran’s belligerence.”

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, General Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks against Americans in the Middle East. “It was the time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian regime — as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation,” Pompeo explained on CNN’s “New Day” on Friday. “The risk of doing nothing was enormous. The intelligence community made that assessment, and President Trump acted decisively last night.”

In the wake of this strike, Democrats seem intent of stirring up fears of a war with Iran—something Trump has repeatedly declared he does not want. It reminds me of how in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, Democrats claimed President George W. Bush was going to bring back the military draft, when in fact the only people even proposing bringing it back were Democrats. The left seems to be operating under the theory that acts of war by enemy nations should not be met with retaliation.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis