Panetta: Obama Can Unilaterally Use Military to Protect ‘National Interests’

June 14, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, US News

Monday, June 13, 2011

 

(CNSNews.com) – CIA Director Leon Panetta, who President Barack Obama has nominated to be secretary of Defense, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that he believes the president can unilaterally use military force, without congressional authorization to “protect our national interests.”

Panetta’s claim of broad unilateral presidential power to initiate U.S. military action absent an attack or imminent threat to the United States came in response to a question from Sen. John McCain—who said he agreed with Panetta.

The U.S. is now involved militarily in Libya even though Congress has never authorized that involvement.

“Does it worry you if the Congress begins to tell the commander in chief as to exactly … what the president can or cannot do in any conflict?” asked McCain.

“Senator, I believe very strongly that the president has the constitutional power as commander in chief to take steps that he believes are necessary to protect this country and protect our national interests,” said Panetta. “And obviously, I think it’s important for presidents to consult, to have the advice of Congress. But in the end, I believe he has the constitutional power to do what he has to do to protect this country.”

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution says Congress “shall have Power … to declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”  At the constitutional convention in 1787, James Madison of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts proposed that the word “declare” war be inserted in place of “make” war in this passage so that it would leave the president the limited power to “repel sudden attacks.”  Madison’s proposal was adopted.

Madison notes from the Constitutional Convention clearly indicate that the drafters of the Constitution meant to deny the president the power to initiate military action by the United States except when necessary for self-defense. “The Executive should be able to repel and not to commence war.”

President Barack Obama expressed this same interpretation when he was a presidential candidate. On Dec. 20, 2008, he told the Boston Globe: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

However, with the ongoing Libyan operation, President Obama has maintained that he does not need explicit congressional authorization because he has sufficient authority as commander-in-chief to attack Libya, even though he admits that Libya did not attack the United States nor did it pose any direct military threat.

Instead, Obama contends that the civil war currently underway there threatens regional stability and thus endanger U.S. national interests in the region. Obama also contends that his administration has sufficiently consulted with Congress by briefing key members on the details of the operation, arguing that in doing so he has secured congressional consent for the attacks.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Panetta that while there was no question about the president’s authority to defend the country in case of an attack or to fulfill treaty obligations, a “unilateral” military decision such as Obama’s attacks on Libya “needs to be subject to the review and direction of the Congress.”

Panetta said it was “very important” for the president to consult with Congress after he takes military action, saying that “hopefully” Congress will agree that military action is necessary.

“[O]nce those [military] decisions are made, in order for those decisions to be sustained,  that it’s very important to work with the  Congress and seek the best advice and counsel of the Congress and hopefully get the Congress’ support for those actions,” said Panetta.

Critics of American involvement in the NATO-led attacks on Libya have argued that Obama lacks the constitutional authority to commit U.S. forces there, claiming that while the president is commander and chief, he must first seek congressional authorization before deploying any military forces, except in the case of an attack on the United States.

 

 

New WikiLeaks ‘may endanger lives’ ?

October 22, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, US News, World News

Toby Harnden, The Daily Telegraph

Published: Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pentagon was braced on Friday night for the release of more than 400,000 secret documents about the Iraq war in a move that Nato said could endanger lives.

WikiLeaks, which specialises in publishing classified material, announced that there would be a “major WikiLeaks announcement in Europe” at 10 a.m. GMT on Saturday.

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The website has not commented publicly on the material but as many as 500,000 documents, thought mainly to be incident reports compiled after the 2003 Iraq invasion, may be released.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s Secretary General, said any release of intelligence reports would create “a very unfortunate situation” for American forces and Iraqis.

“I can’t comment on the details of the exact impact on security but in general I can tell you that such leaks may have a very negative security impact for people involved,” he said.

The Pentagon has set up an “Information Review Task Force” of 120 people to assess the potential implications and damage of the disclosure of the documents, which promises to eclipse the release in July of more than 70,000 -classified U.S. military files relating to the Afghanistan war.

Der Spiegel, The New York Times and The Guardian, the same publications that released the Afghanistan “War Logs”, as well as Al Jazeera, are expected to publish the information simultaneously. A Defence Department spokesman said that once the documents appeared publicly U.S. forces would “jump into action and take whatever mitigating steps” might be needed.

An official told the Wall Street Journal that the task force was identifying Iraqis named in documents who might need to be protected or take additional security measures if their names are released.

“We are prepared to take steps to notify people named in the documents.”

The official said it was possible that WikiLeaks would redact the documents themselves in the light of the furor over names of Afghans being released. “There are a lot of names,” the official said. “We can’t chase every single person. And we have to see what happens. Maybe no one’s name will be released.”

Iraqis who have co-operated with the U.S. military have been warned by the Pentagon that their lives may be endangered by the release.

“By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

He said the documents were “essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story”, although he added that the period covered by the reports had been “well-chronicled” and their release “does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past.”

The Pentagon believes the documents were leaked by Pte Bradley Manning, who is being held after being charged with supplying WikiLeaks with a video of suspected Iraqi insurgents being killed by fire from a helicopter.

After the July disclosures, officials were worried that the leaked documents could have been used by the Taliban to kill informants and intelligence sources, though the Pentagon later indicated that this had not happened.

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Iraq early voting shattered by deadly blasts

March 5, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, US News, World News

By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer Rebecca Santana, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 22 mins ago

BAGHDAD – A string of deadly blasts shattered an early round of voting in Iraq Thursday, killing 17 people and highlighting the fragile nature of the country’s security gains ahead of crucial parliamentary elections this Sunday.

Iraq security forces were out in full force, trying to protect early voters in an election that will determine who will lead the country through the crucial period of the U.S. troop drawdown and help decide whether the country can overcome its deep sectarian divisions.

But three explosions — a rocket attack and two suicide bombings — showed the ability of insurgents to carry out bloody attacks. They have promised to disrupt the voting with violence.

“Terrorists wanted to hamper the elections, thus they started to blow themselves up in the streets,” said Deputy Interior Minister Ayden Khalid Qader, responsible for election-related security across the country.

Thursday’s voting was for those who might not be able to get to the polls Sunday. The vast majority of early voters were the Iraqi police and military who will be working election day — when the rest of the country votes — to enforce security. Others voting included detainees, hospital patients and medical workers.

A spokesman for the Independent High Electoral Commission, Muhammad Al-Amjad, said about 800,000 people were eligible to vote Thursday, although he had no figures on how many actually cast ballots.

Many of the blast victims were believed to be security personnel, targeted by suicide bombers who hit police and soldiers lined up to vote.

Convoys of army trucks and minibuses ferried soldiers and security personnel to and from polling stations. Many stores were shuttered, and normally crowded streets were nearly empty, as people stayed home on a holiday declared by the government.

In Washington, senior administration officials said a number of potential attacks were headed off by security forces on the perimeter of polling places Thursday. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House assessments of the voting, would not elaborate on attacks that were prevented.

They also said that so much was at stake in the election that the administration “would not be surprised to see violence” in the remaining days leading up to the election, on voting day or in the period during which a new government is being formed.

The officials also predicted it would be a matter of months before a new government is formed, but that would not affect long-standing U.S. plans to withdraw all combat forces by the end of August. There currently are under 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. After the combat pullout, the plan calls for 50,000 troops to remain in place as a protective force through the end of next year.

“We’ve seen nothing that would divert us from the track we’re on,” one of the officials said.

About 19 million of Iraq’s estimated 28 million people are eligible to vote in the elections, and Iraqi expatriates can cast ballots in 16 countries around the world.

In the first attack, a Katyusha rocket killed seven people in the Hurriyah neighborhood about 500 yards (meters) from a closed polling station, police said.

The second attack hit the upscale Mansour neighborhood, where a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest near a group of soldiers lining up at a polling station, killing six and wounding 18, police said.

The blast left a small crater in the middle of the street, and debris from the explosion splattered around the crater. Pools of blood and burnt human flesh littered the ground along with broken glass, rubble from buildings and the remnants of shops signs.

In the third blast, another suicide bomber blew himself up near policemen waiting to vote in the Bab al-Muadham neighborhood in central Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 14 others, according to police and hospital officials.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Sunday’s elections are only Iraq’s second for a full parliamentary term since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein, leading to the eventual creation of the Shiite-dominated government in power today, headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

At a high school in Baghdad’s Karradah neighborhood, police and military officers crowded into the building to cast their ballots, displaying the now-iconic purple ink — used to prevent people from voting twice — on their fingers.

Many expressed frustration at the government and a desire for change. That was echoed in the northern city of Mosul, where Mohammed Ali Hassan said he voted for the list headed by (former premier Ayad) Allawi, “… because I hope for change, and the people on the list are capable of change.”

In the Christian town of Qara Qosh in the northern Ninevah province, a line of blue-uniformed Iraqi police officers snaked out the door of a middle school by midmorning, waiting to vote. To ensure security throughout the day, police officers voted in the morning and then switched places with military officers to let them get to the polls.

Iraqi policeman Haytham Amer, 25, whipped through the balloting in about six minutes, having already decided for whom he would vote before he disappeared behind the privacy of the cardboard walls of the voting booths.

“This process is very good, it was very fast and very organized,” Amer said.

In Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Abdul-Hamza said he did not vote in the 2005 election but decided to vote this time, saying, “this election will be a decisive one in Iraq’s history because the coming government will lead Iraq when the U.S. forces leave.”

There were scattered reports across the country Thursday of people showing up at the polls and not being able to find their name on the voting records.

A senior electoral commission official, Qassim al-Aboudi, said during a news conference that people who are not able to find their names on the voting records will be able to cast a provisional ballot.

>____

Associated Press Writers Steven R. Hurst in Washington, Hamid Ahmed, Hamza Hendawi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sameer N. Yacoub and Ben Hubbard in Baghdad and Lara Jakes in Nimrud, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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Fallujah birth defects blamed on US weapons

March 5, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, World News

By Daniel Tencer
Thursday, March 4th, 2010 — 1:26 pm

Iraqi doctors reportedly warn women not to have children; Doctors pressured not to ‘embarrass the United States’: claim

Birth defects in the Iraqi city of Fallujah have soared in recent years, with doctors saying advanced US weaponry such as white phosphorous and depleted uranium shells may have caused a “massive, unprecedented number” of congenital health problems.

A BBC investigative report has found that the incidence of birth defects in Fallujah has reached a rate 13 times higher than that found in Europe. One doctor at a US-built hospital in the city says the number of birth defects has spiked from one or two per month prior to the Iraq war to two or three per day today.

“I am a doctor. I have to be scientific in my talk. I have nothing documented. But I can tell you that year by year, the number [is] increasing,” Dr. Samira al-Ani told the BBC.

Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, was the site of a brutal 2004 battle that was arguably the largest campaign of the Iraq war.

The Pentagon admitted in 2005 that it had used white phosphorous munitions during the battle, as well as depleted uranium shells, which contain radioactive material.

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said the Fallujah hospital’s maternity ward is “absolutely packed” with babies suffering from congenital heart defects. He says he was shown a picture of a three-headed baby, and saw children suffering from paralysis and brain damage.

Researcher Malik Hamdan told the BBC he had seen footage of “babies born with an eye in the middle of the forehead, the nose on the forehead.”

Iraqi officials ‘anxious not to embarrass the Americans’

Simpson admits he can point to no concrete evidence of a spike in birth defects — principally because no study has ever been carried out on the situation in Fallujah.

And he reports that the Iraqi government is seeking to downplay the medical problems. Simpson says the Fallujah doctors who raised the alarm about birth defects were “well aware that what they said went against the government version, and we were told privately that the Iraqi authorities are anxious not to embarrass the Americans over the issue.”

Simpson further reported that he had “heard many times” that women in Fallujah were being warned not to have children.

A report at the UK’s Guardian last fall stated that the rise in birth defects “may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting,” but, lacking further research, the increase is “unprecedented and at present unexplainable.”

“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” hospital director Dr. Ayman Qais told the Guardian. “Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.”

Fallujah is not the only place in Iraq where medical researchers are alarmed by high rates of childhood disease that they believe may be linked to the war.

US and Canadian researchers have found that leukemia in children has nearly tripled in the southern city of Basra over the past 15 years. Basra was the site of armed conflict even before the US invasion, and was a frequent site of violence during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. But much of the increase in leukemia came in the three years after the 2003 US invasion, the researchers found.

“It’s impossible to say without further study why (rates in Basra) are going up,” researcher Tim Takaro said. “But this may be an unintended result of armed conflict.”

Blair to Face Inquiry Into Iraq War

January 25, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, World News

By CASSELL BRYAN-LOW

LONDON—Tony Blair will undergo a public grilling this week over the U.K.’s role in the Iraq war, raising questions about the former prime minister’s legacy and his value to the Labour Party he once led as it prepares for a tough election battle.

In a much-anticipated appearance on Jan. 29 before a five-member panel investigating the war, Mr. Blair is expected to face questions about the legitimacy—and even legality—of the U.K.’s involvement in Iraq. He will be confronted about whether he committed to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before the immediate run-up to the war, and quizzed about criticisms of the U.K’s preparedness for the invasion and its minimal influence over U.S. allies.

The spotlight on Iraq is the latest in a series of dents Mr. Blair’s reputation has sustained since leaving office in 2007 after a 10-year run. One of modern Britain’s most influential and popular politicians, he led the seemingly unelectable Labour Party to power in 1997.

Now, however, the war and Britain’s deep recession have soured voters on the Labour regime.

The former prime minister has taken a series of hits: the rejection by European governments of Britain’s attempts to install Mr. Blair as the European Union’s first president, questions about his effectiveness as a U.N. special envoy to the Middle East, and his acceptance of lucrative consulting work from companies such as the U.S. bank J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., leading to accusations—including from within his party—that he has cashed in on his status.

Mr. Blair has long said it was right to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein because of the threat he posed to the region. A spokesman for Mr. Blair declined to comment on the coming hearing.

The spokesman said Mr. Blair remains focused on his charitable foundations, governance initiatives in Africa, advocacy for climate change and his work in the Middle East. On the latter, the spokesman said progress was being made in the West Bank, including a growing economy and the reduction of restrictions to movement, and that Mr. Blair also helped secure significant investment in the Palestinian Authority.

It is Mr. Blair’s efforts to involve the U.K. in Iraq that may prove most problematic to his legacy and determine whether he can play any role in helping his successor, Gordon Brown, fight off a challenge from the resurgent Conservative Party in a general election that must be held by June. Mr. Brown is due to appear before the panel in late February or early March.

The conflict, from which Britain withdrew in July, left 179 British military personnel dead and resulted in massive public protests. Mr. Blair has been accused of war crimes by some relatives of the dead, who say he engaged in Britain in a war that broke international laws, which Mr. Blair denies.

The Iraq inquiry panel already has heard from a parade of military and intelligence officials and government ministers, sparking a slew of negative headlines in the U.K. about Mr. Blair, 56 years old.

Many details to emerge from the hearings already have surfaced during earlier Iraq-related inquiries in the U.K., of which there have been several. And some former advisers have painted the picture of a prime minister who was working to secure a peaceful solution via the United Nations and to steer the U.S. away from pursuing conflict right up to just before the military invasion.

Shortly after the hearings began in late November, Mr. Blair spoke out about what he perceives to be the British media’s negative slant toward him generally.

“They don’t approach me in an objective way,” Mr. Blair said in a December interview with The Sunday Times of London, which is owned by The Wall Street Journal parent company News Corp. “Their first question is how to belittle what I’m doing, knock it down, write something bad about it.”

—Alistair MacDonald
contributed to this article.