The War Powers Trump Is About to Inherit from Obama Are Scary as Hell

December 7, 2016   |   Darius Shahtahmasebi

(ANTIMEDIA) The Obama administration released a report on Monday attempting to argue that the presidential war powers reality TV-star and billionaire Donald Trump will soon inherit will actually be limited in scope.

The report’s conclusions are likely due in part to the president-elect’s unpredictable nature, coupled with his fiery promises, such as when he vowed to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS’s oil fields. Obama’s report, titled “Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” purports to summarize his views on the legal barriers and policies that will limit Trump’s war powers. But the current president’s wartime legacy of bombing seven predominantly Muslim countries with a highly questionable legal basis raises serious questions about the veracity of the report.

White House counsel Neil Eggleston claimed the report proves Obama has ensured “that all U.S. national security operations are conducted within a legal and policy framework that is lawful, effective and consistent with our national interests and values.”

It’s one thing to write something on paper, but it’s quite another to do the complete opposite in practice. As Anti-Media reported a little over a week ago, Obama officially expanded the global war on terror to Somalia to include the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab. The move came after a Somali immigrant killed multiple students at Ohio State University in an attack investigators believed was inspired by ISIS (not al-Shabaab). This is, of course, not to mention the fact that the United States has been quietly backing Somalian warlords and drone striking its civilians for some time now.

Clearly, the current presidential powers wielded against multiple groups and territories within the Middle East and Africa are incredibly broad; Obama has expanded the wars considerably in comparison to his predecessor.

As the Intercept noted in March:

“Since 2001, the U.S. government has legally justified its we-bomb-wherever-we-want approach by pointing to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), enacted by Congress in the wake of 9/11 to authorize the targeting of al Qaeda and ‘affiliated’ forces. But al Shabaab did not exist in 2001 and had nothing to do with 9/11. Indeed, the group has not tried to attack the U.S. but instead, as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage noted in 2011, ‘is focused on a parochial insurgency in Somalia.’ As a result, reported Savage, even ‘the [Obama] administration does not consider the United States to be at war with every member of the Shabaab.’”

So what is the actual justification for expanding the war to Somalia under Obama?

The president’s report has, for the first time, attempted to explain how the Somali militant group was added to the hit list — they “pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda” and have conducted attacks against “U.S. persons and interests in East Africa.” This fact alone should reveal something about how easily manipulable the presidential war powers are: If the president can bomb one terror group simply for pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda, only to provide billions of dollars worth of arms, funding, training, and even aerial support for groups heavily affiliated with al-Qaeda in Syria, there are no rules to this game.

Further, even if the report had been written in good faith and was actually going to provide a check on Trump’s future powers, the fact remains that CIA Director John Brennan admitted in July that Donald Trump could revoke these prior restraints instantly (perhaps through his Twitter account, where he handles his most important work).

What the report states and what has been practiced under Obama are two different sides of a non-existent coin. If you doubt this, take a look at what Trump is about to inherit. Trump will soon take the lead on bombing campaigns in IraqLibyaAfghanistanPakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria.

In Syria, the goal of the U.S. bombing campaign is currently the polar opposite of another nuclear power — Russia – and holds the potential for the greatest disaster the world has faced to date (interestingly, Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have indicated a willingness to work with Trump).

In Libya, Obama bypassed Congress to begin bombing the rich North African country in 2011, and his rationale for doing so was based on unsubstantiated allegations about crimes committed by the Gaddafi regime.

Not to mention, eight American citizens have been killed by U.S. drones to date. The most famous case was the termination of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, and his sixteen-year-old son. These killings have never once been validated by any legal justification. If this is a power Trump should never be allowed to acquire, it was also wrong for Obama to utilize it to begin with.

So, where are the checks and balances on these presidential war powers?

In practice, they do not exist.


This article (The War Powers Trump Is About to Inherit from Obama Are Scary as Hell) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebi and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article to edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Darius Shahtahmasebi

Darius Shahtahmasebi has completed a Double Degree in Law and Japanese from the University of Otago, with an interest in human rights, international law and journalism. He is a fully qualified lawyer in two separate jurisdictions. Follow him on Twitter @TVsLeaking

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