Thursday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed a suit, filed by a bipartisan group of congressmen in June, challenging the Obama administration’s legal justification for military action in Libya.
According to a massive Rolling Stone profile of President Barack Obama’s controversial decision to take action in Libya, when Congress got wind of the air strikes Democratic representative Dennis Kucinich asked “Is this an impeachable offense?”
Despite securing the backing of NATO, The Arab League and the United Nations, Obama had not requested permission from Congress before authorizing “limited kinetic action.”
Kucinich was one of the congressmen who asked U.S. District District Judge Reggie Walton for an injunction to block the president and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates from proceeding in Libya without congressional approval. However the U.S. Justice Department successfully responded that the claim raised political questions that, essentially, went above Judge Walton’s pay grade.
Walton was also strident in his denial of the congressmen’s claim of precedent, writing, “While there may conceivably be some political benefit in suing the President and the Secretary of Defense…the Court finds it frustrating to expend time and effort adjudicating the relitigation of settled questions of law.”
The judge’s ruling came on the same day as the death of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The man who ruled Libya with an iron fist for four decades was poised to put down a fierce rebellion with devastating military force, but the U.S. and NATO intervened and helped to cripple the Libyan army’s technological advantage.
In effect, Obama’s decision to move swiftly and without congressional approval killed Muammar Gaddafi.
That news will no doubt overshadow the court’s ruling. However down the line, as the reconstruction of Libya’s political scene and Obama’s political victories and losses are tallied, the fact that this case was filed at all is likely more important than that it was struck down. If Libya becomes some sort of quagmire, or a haven for anti-US sentiment, these congressmen will be able to point to their suit as documentation of their disfavor.
Compared to the expansion of Executive power under the Bush Administration, Obama’s decision to invade without putting “boots on the ground” seems minor. However, it is a somewhat disturbing precedent that the Executive, in concert with military leaders, can unleash cruise missiles on the other side of the world without so much as a peep from elected representatives.
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