Obama asks Congress to approve war against ISIS militants

Daily News Article   —   Posted on February 12, 2015

Obama asks Congress to approve war against ISIS
(by Justin Sink and Kristina Wong, The Hill) – President Obama on Wednesday sent Congress draft legislation authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), warning that if the terror group was left unchecked, it would “pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.”

The proposed legislation limits Obama from the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” deliberately vague language intended to win over those on the left wary of mission creep and those on the right who don’t want to restrict possible military action against ISIS.

“The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces,” Obama said in a letter transmitted to Congress along with the legislative proposal.

The president delivered a statement about the draft legislation at 3:30 p.m. from the White House on Wednesday.

The legislation would also authorize the use of U.S. forces for intelligence gathering operations, missions to enable airstrikes or in situations where military personnel can help advise and assist coalition forces.

The White House bill limits the use of military force against ISIS to three years, unless Congress reauthorizes the resolution. And the legislation would also repeal the 2002 legislation authorizing the use of military force against Iraq – although not broader 2001 legislation enabling the use of force against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

“I remain committed to working with Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF*,” Obama said. [*AUMF: Authorization for Use of Military Force. The 2001 AUMF, passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001.]

Obama would also be required to provide Congress with periodic updates on specific military actions taken against the ISIS terror network.

The proposal would allow U.S. troops to go after ISIS “or associated persons or forces,” which means the administration would have the authority to chase down other terrorist groups. “Associated persons or forces” are defined as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.”

The White House cast support for the legislation as an important symbolic gesture of unity in combatting ISIS, noting the “horrific acts of violence” – including killings of American captives – undertaken by the group.

“I can think of no better way for Congress to join me in supporting our nation’s security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL,” Obama said, using an alternative abbreviation to describe the terror group.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) pledged to “quickly begin to hold rigorous hearings where the administration will have an opportunity to provide Congress and the American people greater clarity on the U.S. strategy to address ISIS.”

“Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat,” Corker said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, said he had “concerns” the draft legislation did not give “military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people.”

“If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options,” Boehner said.

Obama may face the most difficulty in convincing members of his own party – especially in the House – to back the measure. Many Democrats are expected to want tougher language ruling out the use of ground troops.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he would carefully review the AUMF proposal, but said he has “two serious concerns” about the draft.

“First, it provides overly-broad, fresh authority for the deployment of U.S. ground forces in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, and any other countries in which ISIL or its affiliates may be operating,” he said.

“Second, it leaves in place indefinitely the blank check authority granted to the Executive in the 2001 AUMF,” he added. “It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the Executive’s war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere.

“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with the White House and my colleagues in Congress to pass an SUMF that provides the authority necessary to degrade and defeat ISIS without dragging the United States into another unnecessary ground war in the Middle East.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), among the Senate’s most vocal advocates for passing an AUMF targeting ISIS, said he was “concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language and will seek to clarify it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that his conference would meet later Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Sens. Corker and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are expected to lead the meeting.

“Because Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force, the Senate will review the President’s request thoughtfully,” McConnell said. “Individual senators and committees of jurisdiction will review it carefully, and they’ll listen closely to the advice of military commanders as they consider the best strategy for defeating ISIL.” 

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Hill. Visit the website at thehill.com.

Questions

1. What is President Obama asking Congress to do in his proposed legislation?

2. Why is the President’s request “deliberately vague,” according to The Hill reporters?

3. a) What would the legislation authorize the President to do? (List at least 3)
b) For how long would the AUMF last?

4. What type of information would the legislation require the President to give Congress?

5. What persons or groups would the AUMF allow U.S. troops to go after?

6. What concerns does Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner have with the draft legislation?

7. What concerns does Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen have with the AUMF proposal?

8. What will Senators do when considering President Obama’s draft legislation, according to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

9. Consider the following: ISIS terrorists are expanding their reach in the world and their numbers continue to grow. They have taken over large areas of Iraq and Syria, and operate in other countries as well. Some think they can just be “contained” or defeated without using U.S. troops on the ground – maybe just through continued airstrikes. Others say they must be completely destroyed either with or without sending in U.S. troops to defeat them. Most agree if they are not stopped/destroyed, they will stage attacks on Americans in the U.S.
a) Do you think this terrorist group can be completely destroyed without sending in U.S. troops? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.


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Background

When can the president wage war?

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the president has the power to wage war for 60 days before an AUMF or a declaration of war is needed from Congress. Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS on Aug. 7, so to carry out what he called a “sustained counter-terrorism strategy” against the Islamic State, he will need some sort of legislation from Congress.

That’s what Bush did in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Congress passed an AUMF that gave the Bush the power to use “appropriate force” against anybody behind the attacks. That’s been understood to mean al-Qaida, and while the Islamic State used to be part of al-Qaida, they’ve since split over ideological differences and spats over leadership. Congress passed another AUMF in 2002 authorizing the Iraq War.

But in his Sept. 10 speech about the Islamic State, Obama said, “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL,” meaning he believes that attacking ISIS is permitted under an existing AUMF, either from 2001 or 2002.

Obama made a similar statement during a Sept. 7 Meet the Press interview, but in neither case has Obama explicitly said that he’s using the 2001 or 2002 AUMF to justify his actions.

Obama wants the 2001 AUMF repealed.
(from Tampa Bay Times politifact.com)

Resources

Read President Obama’s draft legislation to Congress for AUMF whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/aumf_02112015.pdf
(and his cover letter to Congress: whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection)