Yesterday, Army officer Capt. Nathan Michael Smith sued President Obama over the war against the Islamic State, challenging the President’s claim that he already has the legal authority to wage war against ISIS. The lawsuit comes on the tails of the death of the third American service member killed in the war, as well as Obama’s announcement that we’re sending an additional 250 special forces into Syria.
While the administration has asked Congress to enact a new authorization for the war against ISIS, it has plowed ahead with the war effort in the interim, arguing that because ISIS was originally Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War cover the campaign. Many legal experts beg to differ however, some of whom point out that ISIS didn’t exist when Congress passed the 2001 and 2002 authorizations, and that the Islamic State is at odds with Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, Congress has avoided debate on the war like the plague, abdicating one of its most important duties to debate and vote on whether or not the U.S. goes to war.
At the heart of Capt. Smith’s decision to file suit was his concern that the American people hadn’t had their say. Smith expressed that concern in writing in the lawsuit:
We at Camp Arifjan closely follow the news about our operation. But while we were all cheering every airstrike and every setback for ISIS, I was also noticing that people at home were torn about whether President Obama should be carrying out this war without proper authorization from Congress. I began to wonder, “Is this the administration’s war, or is it America’s war?” The Constitution tells us that Congress is supposed to answer that question, but Congress is AWOL.
Only time will tell if Capt. Smith’s lawsuit against one of the most powerful figures on the planet will succeed, but regardless of the outcome, Smith is admirably fulfilling his oath to defend the Constitution by challenging the President’s authority to wage an ever-expanding war that lacks Congressional approval.