Will Obama strike without congressional or UN approval?

US Politics
on 21 Comments

There was a fancy dinner at a palace in St Petersberg last night where attendees of the G20 summit jostled over audience appeal for a strike on Syria. “Clear split” was the verdict of one attendee, but I doubt if it was down the middle.

With discontent over a strike swelling here at home, curiosity over whether Obama would take action sans congressional approval has peaked. When reporters queried Obama on the crucial issue he ducked, swerved and then bluntly blurted out: “You’re not getting any direct response.” Then news spread fast when one of Obama’s national security advisors told a reporter:

But Antony Blinken, his principal deputy national security adviser, told NPR that while the president maintains he has the authority to act regardless of Congress, “it’s neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”

Obama somewhat walked that back today during a press conference in Russia, Time Magazine‘s Swampland offers the transcript.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up (OFF-MIKE) full congressional approval (OFF-MIKE) Senate (OFF-MIKE) and the House does not (OFF- MIKE) would you go ahead with the strike?

OBAMA: You know, Brianna (ph), I think it would be a mistake for me to jump the gun and speculate, because right now I’m working to get as much support as possible out of Congress.

If Congress fails to authorize this, will you go forward with an attack on Syria?

OBAMA: Right. And you’re not getting a direct response.

(LAUGHTER)

Brianna (ph) asked the question very well, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: It’s a pretty basic question.

OBAMA: You know, I was gonna give you a different answer? No. (LAUGHTER)

What I have said, and I will repeat, is that I put this before Congress for a reason. I think we will be more effective and stronger if, in fact, Congress authorizes this action. I’m not going to engage in parlor games now, Jonathan, about whether or not it’s going to pass, when I’m talking substantively to Congress about why this is important and talking to American people about why this is important.

Now, with respect to Congress and how they should respond to constituency concerns, you know, I do consider it part of my job to help make the case and to explain to the American people exactly why I think this is the right thing to do.

And it’s conceivable that at the end of the day, I don’t persuade a majority of the American people that it’s the right thing to do. And then each member of Congress is gonna have to decide, if I think it’s the right thing to do for America’s national security and the world’s national security, then how do I vote?

And you know what? That’s — that’s what you’re supposed to do as a member of Congress. Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America.

And that’s the same for me as president of the United States. There are a whole bunch of decisions that I make that are unpopular, as you well know.

But I do so because I think they’re the right thing to do, and I trust my constituents want me to offer my best judgment, that’s why they elected mean. that’s why they re-elected me, even after there were some decisions I made that they disagreed with. And I would hope that members of Congress would end up feeling the same way.

The last point I would make. Those kinds of interventions, these kinds of actions are always unpopular, because they seem distant and removed.

………

QUESTION: But your deputy national security adviser said that it is not your intention to attack if Congress doesn’t approve it. Is he right?

OBAMA: I don’t think that’s exactly what he said, but I think I’ve answered — I’ve answered the question.

 

Earlier in the briefing he deftly justified skipping U.N. approval through the Security Council which he characterized as being “paralyzed”:

 

It is my view, and a view that was shared by a number of people in the room, that given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required and that will not come through Security Council action.

And that’s where I think the division comes from. And I respect those who are concerned about setting precedents of action outside of a U.N. Security Council resolution. I would greatly prefer working through multilateral channels and through the United Nations to get this done.

But ultimately what I believe in even more deeply, because I think that the security of the world and my particular task looking out for the national security of the United States requires that when there’s a breach this brazen of a norm this important and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn’t act, then that norm begins to unravel.

 

Read the entire transcript here.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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21 Responses

  1. lysias
    September 6, 2013, 5:19 pm

    when there’s a breach this brazen of a norm this important and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn’t act, then that norm begins to unravel.

    That launching a war is illegal unless it is in self-defense or it has been authorized by the Security Council is about as fundamental a norm of international law as you are going to get. It is stated quite explicitly in the UN Charter, and the UN Charter, as a treaty ratified by the Senate, is part of the law of the land in the U.S.

  2. eGuard
    September 6, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Were the fellow journalists (LAUGHING)?

  3. Justpassingby
    September 6, 2013, 5:30 pm

    Only issue is Congress will vote for war.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    September 6, 2013, 5:33 pm

    RE: “Will Obama strike without congressional or UN approval?”

    MY ANSWER: Only over my metaphorically dead body! ! !

    FROM CommonDreams.org:

    Groups urging their members to sign petitions, call their representatives or take direct action against the war include:

    • RootsAction.org – link to rootsaction.org
    • Win Without War – link to winwithoutwar.org
    • Credo Action – link to act.credoaction.com
    • MoveOn.org – link to front.moveon.org
    • CodePink – link to codepink4peace.org
    • United for Peace and Justice – link to unitedforpeace.org
    • Progressive Democrats for America – link to salsa3.salsalabs.com
    • War Times – link to war-times.org
    • Iraq Veterans Against the War – link to ivaw.org
    • Friends Committee on National Legislation – link to fcnl.org
    • Just Foreign Policy – link to justforeignpolicy.org
    • Grassroots Global Justice – link to ggjalliance.org
    • Arab Resource and Organizing Center – link to araborganizing.org
    • Veterans for Peace – link to veteransforpeace.org
    • US Labor Against the War – link to veteransforpeace.org
    • Middle East Children’s Alliance – link to mecaforpeace.org
    • Avaaz – link to avaaz.org

    SOURCE – link to commondreams.org

  5. just
    September 6, 2013, 6:38 pm

    “• US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said “there is no risk-free door No. 2 that we can step through” in the Syria crisis. She said political negotiations had broken down and presented military strikes as the way forward. “We should agree that there are lines in this world that cannot be crossed,” she said.

    • Both Power and President Obama, who was speaking outside the G20 summit, said the UN security council is “paralyzed.” The president added “frozen.” Russian President Putin said that Obama had failed to persuade most countries to back his proposed military strikes. A joint call for action issued after the summit had 11 signatories including the United States.”

    link to theguardian.com

    Can we just get Rice and Power gone? Please!

    And from the same link, here’s the poodle:

    “• Tony Blair claims that sectarian tension after the invasion of Iraq, rather than the west’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction, explains Britain’s hesitancy over Syria. In an interview with the BBC he said: “The reason why Iraq makes us hesitant is because Iraq showed that when you intervene in the circumstances, where you have this radical Islamist issue, both on the Shia side and the Sunni side, you are going to face a very difficult, tough conflict.””

    He can leave as well. He’s still stupid after all these years. Can’t take any responsibility for his complete bloodthirstiness. Another imperialistic miscreant.

  6. gingershot
    September 6, 2013, 7:04 pm

    I’m so sick of having to fight off Israel and her Neocons on their terms

    Just like last Sept – when there had to be a full on American effort to stop Netanyahu from mousetrapping us into Iran. Netanyahu was humiliated and boiling. Ever since – it’s been intermittent Israeli airstrikes against Syria and mysterious chemical weapons accusations, until Carla del Ponte shut Israel and the Neocons up for a few minutes.

    1-So the US, Saudi, and Israel ginned up this whole ‘Syrian Civil War’ in the first place – doing everything they could to take an Arab Spring-ish type movement against Assad and turn it as bloody as they possibly could as fast as they could.
    2-Then the Israelis/Neocons pressure Obama into setting a ‘red line’, as they play off blackmailing him over Iran with it
    3-Then they provoke Syria as much as possible, as well as fix the false flags around the ‘red line’, with the Syrian Rebels all of a sudden showing up with chemical weapons, as if the West didn’t help them get them
    4- Then the Israelis/Neocons ‘frame the whole argument’ where we are on the edge of a hot war for Israel in the Middle East again, and it just happens to be the backdoor to Iran

    Just like with Iran – sanctions and near war for year after year with Israel and her Neocons getting endless bites at the apple in trying to turn it into a hot war

    We need to get the initiative and start fighting Israel and her Neocons where each of their losses takes them down a couple of pegs and makes it easier and easier to overturn the Apartheid state

    • Walid
      September 7, 2013, 1:11 am

      “I’m so sick of having to fight off Israel and her Neocons on their terms”

      Gingershot, you can’t beat them and they’ll win using every trick in the book. It’s been done before and it will be done again. Think back to the 2 Iraq wars and how much the American public had been against them, until rabbits were pulled out of the hat the first time with the “incubators” story and the second with the yellowcake and Powell UN act. The American public clamored for both wars after they saw the rabbits. This time it’s the small “chemicals” rabbit being pulled out of the hat. Sit back and wait for the much bigger rabbit, it should be hopping along any day now.

      • gingershot
        September 7, 2013, 11:44 am

        One major Israeli weakness I see is if they DON’T get Syria, they won’t get Iran

        If they don’t get Iran or Syria – that’s IT for Apartheid Israel. It’s a WEAKNESS that they are so dependent upon getting this

  7. RudyM
    September 6, 2013, 9:08 pm

    And you know what? That’s — that’s what you’re supposed to do as a member of Congress. Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America.

    And that’s the same for me as president of the United States. There are a whole bunch of decisions that I make that are unpopular, as you well know.

    And, you know, as a U.S. citizen I have to hope. . . hope that Congress will act to impeach any president who oversteps his constitutionally defined authority. And that may be unpopular with Obama supporters, just like it was unpopular with Bush supporters in the past, but part of being a politically engaged citizen is occasionally having unpopular opinions. So I would say all options are on the table, but we’ll just have to wait and see what Obama does and whether we will need to call for his impeachment, or whether it will get to the point some day when we will have to take up arms against our own government. I mean, I’m just not going to speculate on those things at this point. Thank you, that’s all.

    • Denis
      September 6, 2013, 11:28 pm

      Unlike the British PM and many others, the US president does not serve at the pleasure of the legislature, Rudy. There are only three grounds for impeachment: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

      A president flipping the bird to Congress and asserting the right to dump a cruise missile into the lap of a despot is not Treason, not Bribery, and even if it is in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution would not rise to a high crime and misdemeanor, at least it didn’t when Clinton bombed Bosnia against Congress’ clear mandate not to.

      However, Obama — the Constitution scholar — stated his position in 2007:

      “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”

      But then again, he also said:

      “Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.”

      link to logophere.com

      And we saw how well that played out.

      So maybe we could hang him with his own words if he throws a missile at Assad w/out a Congressional OK. And if not, we can always go back and have another look at that birth certificate issue.

  8. Clif Brown
    September 6, 2013, 10:47 pm

    Obama is standing on a corner, wanting to cross the street. A reporter asks how Obama feels about the DON’T WALK sign being on.

    “We must have rules and, you know, everyone knows red means stop and green is go, and I’ve always advised my daughters on the value of understanding the very valuable caution warning indicated by yellow. There are clear white lines laid down on the pavement that all Americans realize are the limits to where we can walk when we cross the road. Heck, Michelle, makes me look both ways all the time.”

    He then proceeds to jaywalk.

    Obama has raised the bar for BS beyond anything I could imagine from listening to his predecessors. He is the complete con-man, all the more effective because I think he cons himself with his delivery.

  9. Citizen
    September 7, 2013, 7:26 am

    According to a Washington Post survey, 224 of the current 433 House members were either “no” or “leaning no” on military action as of Friday. A large number, 184, were undecided, with just 25 backing a strike.

    The skepticism is also prevalent among the people the lawmakers represent.

    A Gallup survey showed 51 percent of Americans oppose strikes in Syria compared to 36 percent in favor, a larger opposition ratio than before the onset of the Gulf War of 1991, Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

  10. gingershot
    September 7, 2013, 7:34 pm

    Annie – here is the actual clip of Tony Blinken on NPR in case you wanted to hear exactly how he said it and haven’t yet – it really doesn’t add much:

    Blinken’s answer is near the very end — he begins to answer the question at minute 4:00 on the ‘minute counter’ on tape and it’s all over within 10 or 15 seconds

    link to npr.org

  11. giladg
    September 8, 2013, 4:57 pm

    Hey Annie, have you got anything to say about the Christians in Syria who have been threatened if they do not convert to Islam?
    And whilst you are at it, why don’t you mention how the number of Christians in Bethlehem has been dropping over the years, because of Hamas? And don’t forget to mention that Hamas won 70% of the vote that took place there.

    • Annie Robbins
      September 9, 2013, 3:48 am

      hi gilad, actually i co wrote an article about christian being attacked by some islamic extremists in syria the other day: link to mondoweiss.net

      why don’t you mention how the number of Christians in Bethlehem has been dropping over the years, because of Hamas?

      60 minutes did an article about christians leaving bethlehem, they interviewed many of them. they made no mention of leaving because of hamas. it’s the israeli occupation gilad.

      And don’t forget to mention that Hamas won 70% of the vote that took place there.

      oh,i don’t forget that gilad. in fact it buttresses my point, hamas is not the primary problem for palestinian christians in bethlehem. speaking of palestinian christians…..don’t forget: link to mondoweiss.net

      • giladg
        September 9, 2013, 5:02 am

        If Fatwah’s still exists that punish Palestinians with death for selling land to Jews, do you really expect Christians in Bethlehem, who have strong negative sentiments towards radical Islam, to be able to speak their minds?
        Come on Annie, you cannot be that naive.
        I saw that 60 Minutes episode. Very shallow with no interviews with those with anti-Islamic comments. Miraculous. Where is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula when you need him? And getting back to the Fatwah’s, your friends support it. Why have you not commented on this? They started this practice long before the creation of the modern State of Israel and they continue it. Racism at its best.

      • Annie Robbins
        September 9, 2013, 11:19 am

        Very shallow with no interviews with those with anti-Islamic comments. Miraculous. Where is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula when you need him?

        this guy? link to en.wikipedia.org who needs him? nobody! and he’s not from bethlehem or even palestine.

        Mark Basseley Youssef, formerly known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (born 1957) is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, a U.S. resident[1] who is a writer, producer, and promoter of Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islamic video that is perceived to denigrate Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.[1][4][5][6][7] He has past criminal convictions and a history of using aliases.[1]

        On July 2, 2012, a “Sam Bacile”,[8] who was later identified as Nakoula, posted English-language promotional trailers for Innocence of Muslims on YouTube. The videos were later dubbed into Arabic and posted on the Internet in September 2012. Demonstrations and violent protests against the video broke out on September 11 in Egypt and spread to other Arab and Muslim nations and some western countries. The protests have led to hundreds of injuries and over 50 deaths.[9][10] A Pakistani railways minister privately offered a $100,000 bounty for the death of Nakoula.[11][12]

        On September 27, 2012, US federal authorities stated Nakoula was arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly violating terms of his probation. Prosecutors stated that some of the violations included making false statements regarding his role in the film and his use of the alias “Sam Bacile”.[13] On November 7, 2012, Nakoula pled guilty to four of the charges against him and was sentenced to one year in prison and four years of supervised release.[14][15]

        Come on Annie, you cannot be that naive.

        gilad, you come into this thread that has nothing to do w/palestinian christians per se to inject this stupid meme into the thread that palestinian christians and palestinian muslims are at odds with eachother as opposed to the truth, which is that they are unified in their resistance to the occupation. and you’re right, i am not naive, you’re spamming the thread.

        for your viewing pleasure check out, In photos: Palestinian Christians welcome Easter’s ‘Holy Fire’ to Gaza link to mondoweiss.net

        if only palestinian christians were able to worship/celebrate at jesus’s tomb in jerusalem’s old city… Holy Sepulcher on Easter weekend as those celebrating under hamas rule at Gaza’s 1,606-year-old Church of Saint Porphyrius.. link to mondoweiss.net link to mondoweiss.net

      • Walid
        September 9, 2013, 11:59 am

        giladg, since you want to get into a discussion on fatwas, you could begin by looking up the meaning of the word and what it entails. Can’t blame you too much for not knowing, many Muslims don’t either. The number of Christians has been dropping in Bethlehem because of Israel’s horrible wall and the restrictions imposed on people-movement in the area that killed the tourist business on which most of Bethlehem’s Christians relied.

      • giladg
        September 9, 2013, 1:34 pm

        walid, blaming the Jews is a well used tactic taken by those who have no simple solutions to their own self-made problems. When situations are too complex to understand or cannot be fully understood with cold facts, “It’s those hooked nosed Jews fault”. Works nearly every time.
        Annie you did not need to go into the bio of Nakoula. He represents those who took a stand against radical Islam. I did not like his video, by the way. And you talk about Christians roaming freely in the Holy Land. So please explain to me how Israeli Christians and West Bank Christians are going to move between the holy sites? Which one of these groups should be free to go anywhere they choose? Which one of these groups will need to go through passport controls? Which one of these groups needs to show their passports when visiting the Vatican? You speak as if Christians have some Godly right to move anywhere they please without any checks or controls. And what about the killing of those who sell land to Jews? Still waiting for your comment.

  12. Theo
    September 9, 2013, 10:22 am

    Will he attack?

    If he does he joins the ranks of many american war criminals like, Bush, Cheney, etc., although he is already there due to his attacks on Pakistan and Yemen, killing thousands of mostly women and children.

    Will the congress approve such an attack without UNSC vote?

    65% of americans are against such an attack and if their representative and senator votes to break international laws, such making themselves war criminals, the voters have the chance to make sure they will never again go against the will of their constituents!

    Will they be elected again?

    Most likely as the american population have a very short memory and are very poorly educated in politics and world affairs.

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