By Matthew Rothschild on August 11, 2014

In assessing President Obama’s latest escalation in Iraq, it’s worth asking a few basic questions.

1. Is it constitutional? Only Congress has the right to declare war. Under what authority is President Obama sending U.S. warplanes back to Iraq?

2. Has he followed the War Powers Act? This 1973 law says the President can send the armed forces into action only by "statutory authorization" or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." Neither of those applies here.  Also, the War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. Has the President done that?

3. Is the bombing legal under international law? The U.N. charter says that no country can attack another country except in self-defense. The Islamic States, as repulsive as it is, has not attacked the United States.

4. If U.S. personnel at our embassy or in our consulates are in danger in Iraq, as Obama has said, why not pull them out instead of sending in the bombers?

5. President Obama cites the humanitarian crisis of the Yazidis. And yes, it is a crisis. But there are other humanitarian crises around the world—in Syria, in the Congo, in the Ukraine. Why Iraq and not the others?

6. If the United States couldn’t subdue enemy forces in Iraq with 170,000 soldiers and Marines on the ground, how will it be able to do so with none on the ground?

7. What role is oil playing in all this? As Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker, “ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.”

8. President Obama on August 9 said, “Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq. The United States can’t do it for them. . . . Ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem.” Well, then, how long is “ultimately”?

9. Though the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was, by almost all accounts, corrupt and extremely divisive, what right did the United States have to muscle him out of power?

10. What credibility does the United States have to claim it’s now on a humanitarian mission in Iraq to save innocent lives when it killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives from 2003-2011?

Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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Comments

An excellent piece; Obama stands in a long line of failed, misguided presidents.
8-16-2014: Its The Oil Stupid,i.e. Expression But Its: The Truth You Never Heard... TRASK...
Ref #3. Does anyone recognize ISIL as a government? The US certainly doesn't, therefore we're not attacking a country when we attack ISIL forces. The point is rather basic.
Isil is now a recognized country?
Ref 1&2 My understanding is that the GWOT AUMF has never been repealed. You and I might wish that Congress would exercise its war powers more selectively, would issue only declarations of war against specific nations, with specific war aims whose achievement would end the authority to continue prosecuting hostilities. But that's not the world we live in. In the real world, Congress, in passing the AUMF, passed a blank check declaration of war against any nation or group the President decides is a threat. The War Powers Act doesn't come into play, because the AUMF gives the President the authority to decide that we can conduct hostilities against ISIL.
1. The president is commander in chief, exercising his constitutional powers, as have many presidents before him (cf. Barbary pirates). Using the armed forces is not the same thing as declaring war, which has a specific meaning in international law. 2. As pointed out above, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force is still in effect, though unnecessary, since the War Powers Act is unconstitutional anyway (see #1). 3. Yes, ISIL is not a country. Iraq, which IS a country, has asked for our help. 4. Because then they wouldn't be able to carry out their functions, duh. 5. Because the world is imperfect, and so is foreign policy. Your argument is akin to saying, "We can't ticket all speeders, so why ticket any?" 6. This is your best argument, but is off. ISIL is not equivalent to the Iraqi Sunni opposition that the US fought. 7. It's too facile to suggest that this has been a "war for oil." Oil companies don't care who they get their oil from -- they're happy to deal with communist Angola, Cuba, USSR (back in the day), fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, whatever. They'll happily deal with ISIL if that's what's required. Oil is oil; doesn't matter who pumps it, it all goes into the same market. 8. Your second-best argument, but doesn't address the immediate question of helping stave off genocide of the Yazidis. 9. This is a very naïve and silly question. 10. Do you believe that Barack Obama is the same as George W. Bush? No? Then you've answered your own question.
I renounce war, and I will never support or sanction another war.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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