Obama’s Orwellian wordplay

    President Obama sought yesterday to justify his war in Libya. What a load of bull.Since May 21, he has been violating the War Powers Act – the ’73 law that bars a president from engaging in military actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization – and a growing bipartisan chorus on Capitol Hill has been demanding that he explain himself. He finally did so yesterday, with the help of some euphemisms straight from the spirit of George Orwell.Whereas the War Powers Act requires that a president seek congressional approval in “any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances,” Obama’s lawyers helpfully explained that what we are doing in Libya does not constitute “hostilities.” Therefore, Obama has not violated the law. Therefore, he does not need congressional approval.I’d bet that the people on the receiving end of our drone missiles believe they are in the midst of hostilities – that is, if they have managed to survive the experience. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I tend to believe that dropping explosive-tipped bombs on foreigners is a phenomenon that falls well within the definition of hostilities. And that working within a military coalition (at a projected cost to U.S. taxpayers, this September, of $1 billion) to force the ouster of a foreign dictator somehow satisfies the dictionary definition of hostilities.But that’s not how Obama sees it. On page three of the letter he sent to Congress yesterday, he stressed that we are only providing “non-kinetic support” (such as military intelligence), and “precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clear NATO-led coalition’s efforts.” In his determination, none of this constitutes hostilities.I assume that many of you are rather more excited today about the long-overdue resignation of Anthony Weiner, so I’ll just cut to the chase: Obama’s stance on Libya and the War Powers Act is classic imperial president behavior. If George W. Bush had ever tried to pull something like this, the Democratic leadership and the rank and file would have collectively gone ballistic. This Orwellian exercise in wordplay is an insult to the English language, and, meanwhile, the war in Libya is perpetuated with scant regard for checks and balances.Obama would be wiser to heed this particular assertion: “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”So said Obama himself, as a candidate, in 2007.But wait, I think I get it now: All he authorized in Libya was “non-kinetic support” and “precision strikes” – and those are surely different from “a military attack.” I’m so glad he cleared that up.

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