By Reginald Johnson
Like his predecessor, George Bush, Obama has no regard for international law or the United Nations. He also puts very little value in the views of the American people or their elected representatives in Congress.
The oath that every new president takes upon entering office states that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
In planning an attack on Syria, carrying out the intervention in Libya two years ago and bombing Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with drone strikes, Obama has violated the norms of international law, which put strict limitations on when it is permissible to attack another nation. These rules are spelled out in treaties and convenants, all or which have been signed onto by the United States and incorporated into our law.
At home, he pushed for the passage of a repressive law contained in Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the military to arbitrarily arrest and indefinitely detain anyone in the United States they deem to be terrorists or their associates.
The NDAA seriously undermines rights guaranteed in the First and Sixth Amendments and in the habeas corpus provision of the Constitution. Critics believe the wording of the statute may open the door to the disappearing of activists and dissidents.
Obama’s administration has waged a relentless campaign to stifle the free flow of information about government activity by prosecuting whistleblowers and hounding reporters. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who released classified information to expose U.S. war crimes, was brought up on charges, tried and sent to jail for 35 years. Computer specialist Edward Snowden, who also released secret documents to reveal a massive and secret system of phone wiretapping and Internet monitoring on millions of Americans by the National Security Agency, is being sought for arrest and is now living in exile.
Reporters from the Associated Press have had their phones tapped. James Risen, a New York Times investigative reporter and author, has been ordered to testify in a case involving a CIA analyst who gave him classified information about the agency’s role in disrupting Iran’s nuclear program.
The government actions in these cases undermine the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Snowden’s revelations further show how the U.S. has become a surveillance state under the Obama administration, with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to privacy and protection against warrantless searches rendered almost a dead letter.
In the case of Syria, the administration is planning to launch a military attack while disregarding the two requirements that must be met before a country can wage war. The conditions are these: a nation must be acting in self-defense after it has been attacked, or that nation must get authorization for military action from the Security Council of the United Nations.
If the attack on Syria takes place, America will be totally flaunting international law as outlined in the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles, passed after World War II.
The same kind of violations of law took place two years ago with Libya. The U.S. took part in an air invasion of that country, with a relentless bombing campaign that killed thousands of both military personnel and civilians. The Obama administration dubbed this campaign a “humanitarian intervention” aimed at removing the admittedly despotic Libyan leader, Mohamar Gaddafi. But Libya, a sovereign nation, had not attacked the United States. Further, the administration had no war authorization from Congress, as required by the Constitution, and no full approval from the UN to take part in this attack.
With Syria, Obama is now seeking congressional approval for a bombing campaign aimed at punishing the Syrian government for the alleged use of chemical weapons. The administration claims that government forces killed over 1400 civilians in an August attack on rebels fighting in a civil war.
But neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry, who is testifying at congressional hearings, have pledged the U.S. will drop plans for military action if Congress fails to pass a war resolution.
And again, Obama is making no moves to get UN approval for an intervention.
Prof. Francis Boyle, who teaches law at the University of Illinois College of Law, believes the U.S. has broken the rules of international law on numerous occasions under Obama. He believes it is imperative that the president be impeached immediately.
“We need to fight back,” he said during an interview with Scott Harris on the show “Counterpoint” on WPKN radio. “He’s made it clear he’ll attack, no matter what Congress does.”
Boyle thinks the Syrian situation is fraught with danger given the alliances involved --- Russia, China and Iran with Syria, the U.S., Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia with the Syrian rebels.
“We have very little time to head off a regional catastrophe,” he said.
Boyle, the author of numerous books, said an impeachment drive is the one thing that will make Obama stop and hold off on military action.
The law scholar also maintained, as do many, that the claims that the Syrian government engaged in a chemical weapons attack --- only days after a UN team arrived to investigate previous claims of poison gas use --- are phony.
“This is nothing more than a pretext,” he said.
Boyle didn’t get into the prospects for actually gaining a successful impeachment vote. So far, only Republicans, particularly tea party Republicans, have talked of impeachment, citing things of doubtful merit like the alleged mishandling of the Benghazi embassy attack or administration misuse of the IRS. But there’s also been talk of two areas that do have merit --- the illegality of drone strikes and the unconstitutional surveillance by the NSA.
I don’t know of any liberal or progressive groups, except for Veterans for Peace, who have advocated impeachment.
It’s time to start talking about this. This administration has done too much to undermine domestic and international law and our Constitution to not talk about it.
There has to be a break on an executive branch which is constantly getting this nation involved in illegal and costly wars abroad and at the same time restricting constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties at home.