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Topic: chemical weapons
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November 20, 2013 at 6:15 AM
International observers did a double take when Albania said “no” to the U.S. request to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons supply. “What happens now?” is one question, but Albania’s refusal to its U.S. ally caused heads to turn as well.
As a prior blog post explained, Albania and the U.S. are close, and the country on the Adriatic Sea has bailed America out of some awkward diplomatic spots.
This looked like another opportunity. Albania even has experience cleaning up its own 16-ton chemical weapons arsenal, with U.S. technical and financial support, as explained by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
This time Albanians rallied to oppose the clean-up request, even as organizers made clear they respected and valued the friendship of the U.S.
The “what happens next?” phase is not clear. Belgium was on the short lists of candidates, and that country said no. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons, a Nobel Peace Prize winner this year, had a timetable for removal and disposal of the weapons from Syria. Reuters reports the U.S. still hopes to meet that schedule. (more…)
August 30, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Prime Minister David Cameron asked the British Parliament to approve a military attack on Syria and it voted no, 285-272. Britain is staying out. France, the former colonial power, is the Obama administration’s only pal. And what does the U.S. Congress have to say?
Nothing. It’s not in session. Keith Koffler at Whitehousedossier.com made the cynical comment that the real reason for no vote is, “They’re on vacation.” Members of Congress don’t want to have to drop everything and come back to Washington, D.C., and listen to endless speeches and have to vote. “Do not underestimate the power of this,” Koffler writes.
In the House, 116 members have signed a petition for a vote. But that’s only a quarter of the opposition-controlled chamber. When it comes to U.S. military action in places like Syria, Libya and Somalia, Congress has been constitutionally on vacation for a long time. It’s used to letting presidents make war.
Time magazine asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whether the Obama administration should wait for Congress to return and vote. Her answer. “There have been consultations.” But “consultation” is not a vote. British Prime Minister David Cameron could have skated through on “consultation.” On a vote, he lost.
The Constitution is unclear on this. It gives Congress the power to declare war. It makes the president the commander of military forces. Everyone agrees that the president can use the military to defend against an attack, or an imminent attack on American soil or forces. But Syria does not threaten us. U.S. forces would be committing an act of war—a “discrete and limited” act as Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest says, but still, blowing stuff up and killing people to punish Syria’s government for using weapons Obama told it not to.
Congress should vote on this. If the British people, who don’t have a written constitution, can have this sort of check-and-balance on the warmaking of their leader, Americans should have it too. We could have it if Congress called itself back from political vacation and insisted on it.