On Wednesday, the White House told lawmakers that its military actions in Libya are legal and that the War Powers Resolution requirement for Congressional approval of military intervention overseas does not apply in this case. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says the White House’s reading of the War Powers Resolution does not “pass the straight face test.” He’s got a point. To quote Jason Ditz of AntiWar.com, “Indeed, the letter and spirit of the act, passed during the Vietnam War era, make the administration’s claim extremely difficult to understand.”
There is a gritty pragmatism undergirding the perplexing claim by the executive branch: if Congress, in a bipartisan way, refuses to fund your war, just claim that the rules don’t apply to you. Administration officials will surely be questioned about their abrupt shift in their interpretation of the law which, until very recently, was built on the assertion that Obama was indeed following the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The act provides a 60-day grace period for the president to seek congressional approval for military deployment in an overseas conflict when the president does not ask for an official, congressional declaration of war.
Congress responded to the administration’s audacious statement with the usual and heretofore empty threats of tightening purse strings. Ten congressmen have gone so far as to file suit against the president, who they believe is acting in contravention of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Meanwhile, Republican leadership in the House says it can likely move on legislation to defund the invasion of Libya as early as next week.
The seemingly ever-expanding theater of war is continuing to take a heavy psychological toll on active-duty troops. The Pentagon announced Thursday that the month of May saw the highest number of potential suicides for active-duty Army personnel since June of 2010 – the worst month on record for active-duty Army suicides. There were 21 potential suicides in May. So far only one has been confirmed, while the rest are under investigation, officials say. In recent years, the vast majority of active-duty suicide cases investigated by the Army have been confirmed.
Outspoken skepticism about continued military involvement in Afghanistan has trickled down the political ranks. Not only are senators demanding an accelerated drawdown of forces from the region, local authorities are voicing their disapproval of the administration’s foreign policy. On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors heard a resolution to support efforts to speed up the ending of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The group of largely Democratic mayors who authored the measure hail from several mid-to-large cities including Carolyn Peterson of Ithaca, N.Y.; David Coss of Santa Fe, N.M; Dave Norris of Charlottesville, Va.; and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis, Minn.
The mayors are calling on national policy makers to “re-examine our national spending priorities” in light of “budget shortfalls at all levels of government.” The resolution maintains that the $126 billion that is going to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan each year should be reallocated within our borders. The measure concludes with a demand to “bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs.”
A vote on the resolution is expected to take place Monday. If it passes, it will be the first time since the Vietnam war that the body will have officially demanded an end to a military engagement.