[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Why do people do this? Why do they have to come up with ever more ridiculous euphemisms designed to take the color completely out of our language, to render it all a dull beige?
Well here, we know why they are doing this: to avoid admitting the obvious fact that we are at war.
In the last few days, Obama administration officials have frequently faced the question: Is the fighting in Libya a war? From military officers to White House spokesmen up to the president himself, the answer is no. But that leaves the question: What is it?
In a briefing on board Air Force One Wednesday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes took a crack at an answer. “I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone,” Rhodes said. “Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.”
Rhodes’ words echoed a description by national security adviser Tom Donilon in a briefing with reporters two weeks ago as the administration contemplated action in Libya. “Military steps — and they can be kinetic and non-kinetic, obviously the full range — are not the only method by which we and the international community are pressuring Gadhafi,” Donilon said.
Read the whole thing, if you think you can resist the urge to beat your head on something while reading it.
You know over a year ago I started a blog that I am badly neglecting these days, called, um… let’s call it Allergic to B.S. Or as I jokingly call it, the blog that can’t be named.* And that was because it really captured a big part of my personality, which is where I have little patience for B.S., even when I agree with it. And of course it grates twice as much when I don’t.
And all of this is designed to avoid the obvious illegality of it—declared by no less than candidate Obama and Senator Joe Biden. You know, in my day job, I occasionally have had to deal with a certain word: “willfully.” You might have been told that “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.” Well, that’s not entirely true. In some federal laws, particularly criminal federal laws, it is actually necessary to prove the defendant knew that his conduct was illegal. From Bryan v. the United States:
A person acts willfully if he acts intentionally and purposely and with the intent to do something the law forbids, that is, with the bad purpose to disobey or to disregard the law. Now, the person need not be aware of the specific law or rule that his conduct may be violating. But he must act with the intent to do something that the law forbids.
And indeed, in some limited cases the courts have even required you to know which exact statute has been violated. [Warning: this is not legal advice. Consult with your own lawyer on how this rule might apply to your life.]
My point is this, and maybe this will explain why I have written three posts on the legality of this war (counting this one). If you believe that Obama is breaking the law, then he is not just accidentally doing it. This is not a case where the President honestly disagrees about what the Constitution and other laws say and just got it wrong. He is willfully doing it, as that term is understood in that case law. He has said he cannot do this. His Vice President has concurred. And yet here he is today, doing precisely what they told you he could not legally do.
And these hapless bureaucrats are forced to engage in this degrading euphemism to avoid telling us what we all know: we are at war. And you can’t deny it. Our military is attacking their military and not just once, but on a sustained basis. If you believe that the war with Japan started when they bombed Pearl Harbor, and not when Japanese officials declared war after the fact, or when Congress formally declared war shortly thereafter, then you have to believe we are at war with Libya.**
This is not about whether we believe this war is wise or just. I believe it is both (although I am with McCain–this would have been a better idea weeks ago). But it is not the President’s call to make, or the U.N.’s. Absent an attack or at least an imminent threat of an attack on America, its territories, its forces, or even perhaps its civilians, the President can’t do this without Congressional approval.
And what do we do if a member of the Air Force refuses an order to bomb Libya because the President didn’t have the authority? Do we jail him or her because they stood up for what the Constitution actually said? For agreeing with what the President and Vice President themselves have said, and having the courage of his or her convictions?
I think that this might be the time for military civil disobedience. The Uniform Code of Military Justice repeatedly states our military is only obligated to obey lawful orders (see, e.g., here). This is not a technicality, but an important bulwark in the protection of this republic. Free nations are overthrown by soldiers who blindly follow unconstitutional orders. When the President requires those of you in the military to act unconstitutionally, you have a positive duty to disobey.
Now a complete stoppage could potentially endanger the lives of other members of the military. I am not contemplating that. But I am asking if perhaps one or two pilots in the military might decide to take a stand. I don’t believe two pilots would impact the efficiency of the operation, and I know it is a lot to ask of those individuals. And this disobedience should be done in the Martin Luther King way: openly and peacefully refusing to obey those orders and offering no resistance as they arrest you. Don’t hide what you are doing, just say it openly, “I refuse to follow this order because I believe that this engagement is unlawful under the United States Constitution. Only Congress can declare war and Congress has not authorized force against Libya in any way, shape or form. Therefore I refuse this order and will peacefully submit to incarceration if necessary.”
And bluntly this would be a great test case. The courts might be reluctant to step in if it is merely seen as a fight between Congress and the President. But if a good and conscientious airman’s freedom is on the line, I believe the courts will be more inclined to take these constitutional issues more seriously.
I am not quite ready to endorse this idea, it’s just something I am tossing around. But one way or the other, the rule of law has to be asserted over the willful lawlessness of this President.
As I wrote this, I found a Daily Show clip that made a very similar point, only they were like funny and stuff:
That’s gonna leave a mark.
Also, astute readers will recognize that this is in direct contradiction of a post I wrote yesterday where I accused Jon Stewart of (1) unfairly attacking McCain and two other Republicans as hypocrites, while (2) ignoring Obama’s hypocrisy on the war. Of course Stewart’s attack on McCain et al is still unfair, but at least Stewart is attacking both sides and I have written my mea culpa and correction at the original post.
* Yes, that is a Harry Potter allusion. Deal with it.
** I am not saying that what we are doing in Libya is as vile as what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. I am just saying that one military attacking another is inherently war, especially when it is a sustained assault like we have here and not a one-off.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]