Last night the President said it took one month to put together a response to the situation in Libya. During that time the President consulted with 28 member nations of NATO, 22 member nations of the Arab league and 15 members of the UN Security Council, ten of whom approved the resolution. There was also time for extensive coordination with France and Great Britain. The President had time to consult with the international community, but had no time to come to the United States Congress?
There is no question that the administration should have followed the Constitution and received the approval of Congress before starting a war. Consulting with a few members is not the same thing as following the Constitutional requirements of Article 1, Section 8.
Further complicating the administration's failure to come to Congress prior to ordering an attack is the fact that our primary partners in the war against Libya, France and Great Britain, had, according to a French military website, planned certain war games which now may have significance.
On November 2, 2010 France and Great Britain signed a mutual defense treaty, which paved the way for joint participation in a military exercise called 'Southern Mistral'. While war games are not uncommon, the similarities between 'Southern Mistral' and 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' highlight just how many unanswered questions remain regarding our own military planning for Libya.
The 'Southern Mistral' war games called for Great Britain-French air strikes against an unnamed dictator of a fictional country, "Southland." The pretend attack was authorized by a pretend United Nations Security Council Resolution. The 'Southern Mistral' war games were set for March 21-25, 2011.
On March 19, 2011, the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Muammar Gaddafi's Libya pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Scheduling a joint military exercise that ends up resembling real military action could be seen as remarkable planning by the French and British, but it also highlights questions regarding the United States' role in planning for the war. We don't know how long the attack on Libya has been in preparation, but Congress must find out. We don't know who the rebels really represent and how they became armed, but Congress must find out.
With so many unknowns, Congress' only path to protect both the Constitution and the institution of government of the people is to cut off funds for the war in Libya. A cutoff of funds would require the president to follow the Constitutional process with respect to going to war. He would have to seek Congressional approval.
Otherwise, we will have given our tacit consent to a policy that undercuts Congress' constitutionally-mandated role as a coequal branch of government. Moreover, since the Founders established Congress under Article 1 and the Executive under Article 2, Congress is first among equals, unless we refuse to be.
That is why I will propose an amendment to the next continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations bill that would prevent any U.S. funds from being used for the war in Libya.