Congress should require President Obama to answer key questions before a select House-Senate committee as a condition for entertaining his request for after-the-fact authorization to wage war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for up to 30 years. (Leon Panetta, who served as Mr. Obama’s Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, advised USA Today in an interview: “I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war” that could extend to threaten Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.”)
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War met with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House during the Civil War, and President Gerald Ford testified about his pardon of former President Richard Nixon before a House Judiciary Subcommittee. Thus, there would be nothing constitutionally irregular about requiring Mr. Obama to appear before a joint congressional committee to answer questions before Congress decides whether to authorize war.
Chronic White House deceit warrants deep congressional skepticism. Mr. Obama’s assertion that Islamic State threatens the United States and must be destroyed to avoid terrorist attacks on Americans is facially dubious. Consider the background of presidential mendacity.
President Lyndon B. Johnson lied about a second North Vietnamese torpedo attack on the USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy to justify the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and Vietnam War.
President George W. Bush deceived Congress about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq.
President Obama lied about Muammar Gaddafi’s plans for mass killings of political opponents to justify his unilateral war against Libya.
Why should Congress believe Mr. Obama’s fantastical claims about Islamic State?
The president’s Department of Homeland Security has confirmed the absence of any credible Islamic State threat to attack the United States.
Islamic State has no air force.
It has no navy.
It has no weapons of mass destruction.
It has no satellites or drones.
It has no tax base or power to conscript.
Mr. Obama is clueless about the number of Islamic State fighters, although he confidently insists they may soon cross the Atlantic Ocean to attack us.
According to Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the United States Central Command, the number provided by the intelligence community has gyrated from 9,000 to 30,000 to 17,000. In a nanosecond of candor, the general has acknowledged: “That number has bounced around a bit. Without having human intelligence on the ground to confirm or deny, it’s very difficult.”
But even assuming the worst, the number of Islamic State fighters is a minuscule .005 percent of the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II.
Mr. Obama maintains that Islamic State oil revenues approach $1 billion annually. But German intelligence asserts that a figure of $100 million is more likely.
Islamic State presents some danger. True enough. But so do an infinite number of other things. The only absolute certainties in life are death and taxes.
We cannot wage war against every concievable threat without drowning ourselves in debt, awakening worldwide enmities, and crushing liberty at home.
And the Islamic State threat falls far short of the high threshold necessary to justify war. The odds now are 20,000,000 to one against death from an international terrorist attack. Death from a dog bite is vastly more likely.
Islamic State is also weakened because of its encirclement by many opponents: Turkey, Syrian Kurds, Iraqi Kurds, the Government of Iraq, the Government of Iran, the Government of Syria, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the al-Nusra Front, Kuwait, Iraqi Shiite militias, Syrian Sunni militias, and otherwise. And ISIS antagonizes countless other Muslims by its imperious claim to a caliphate to rule over the Ummah [the global Muslim world].
Islamic State is destined to burn itself out. Waging war against it will be at best superflous and at worst a provocation for jihad against us.
Unless Mr. Obama has answers to these facts and observations, Congress should refuse any war authorization. it should also prohibit Mr. Obama’s expenditure of funds to carry on what he has been doing against Islamic State without congressional authority for more than three months.
This does not mean the United States should do nothing. The military should be employed to capture (or kill if necessary) Islamic State fighters on or off the battlefield when there is probable cause to believe they are implicated in killing or conspiring to kill Americans. The arrestees should be returned to the United States for criminal prosecution before civilian courts. This counterterrorism strategy was recently used for a detainee in the Afghanistan Parwan Detention Facility brought to the United States for prosecution in the Eastern District of Virginia.
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit www.brucefeinlaw.com.