President Obama finally got around to speaking to the American people about the fact that he has led the country into a third war.
The speech was, to no one’s surprise, ably delivered. The president spoke with emotional and rhetorical power of how he felt there had been a need to intervene in order to prevent “a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” He explained how there are times “when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are.” He decried the temptation “to turn away from the world” and promised that “wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.”
Those are noble sentiments, well expressed.
Unfortunately, he also spoke about how he had initiated the way on his own: “I ordered warships into the Mediterranean.” “I refused to let that happen.” “I authorized military action…” “At my direction…”
The problem is that presidents are not supposed to start wars, especially wars of whim that are offensive rather than defensive in nature. That was the complaint against George W. Bush when he failed to obtain a declaration of war before ordering the invasion of Iraq, that is the ongoing complaint against Obama for maintaining the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is the legitimate and necessary complaint against Obama now, a complaint that should come not just opponents of the military intervention but supporters who want that intervention to be lawful and legitimate.
The president did not address the fact that the Libyan adventure is an undeclared war. In fact, he barely mentioned the Congress that is supposed to declare wars, saying only: “And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973.”
But the Constitution does not discuss “consulting the bipartisan leadership.” It says that: “Congress shall have the power…to declare war, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”
That was the point that Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, with regard to the speech made in a letter to Congress.