As I listened and watched Senator Sessions, I was reminded of a quote by President George W. Bush during his 2004 State of the Union address:
“America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country”.
WASHINGTON, March 7—Under question from Sen. Sessions at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey indicated that “international permission,” rather than Congressional approval, provided a ‘legal basis’ for military action by the United States.
First, the exchange between Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Senator Sessions:
Sessions: General Dempsey, you…in one of your criteria for determining what we might do militarily, you say you have to ask the question of whether the action is worth the cost and is consistent with law. What law does the United States military look to?
Dempsey: I would like to address both because they are related, so: Cost, resources, risk incurred elsewhere by the use of force one other place. So it’s a zero sum game. We take it from some place else, we use them for how long and that’s the kind of issue of cost. And of course, in blood and treasure. The issue of legal basis is important, though. We act with the authorized use of military force either at the consent of a government—so we’re invited in—or out of national self-defense and there’s a very clear criteria for that. And then the last one is with some kind of international legal basis; an UNSCR…(United Nations Security Council Resolution)
Sessions: Wait a minute, let’s talk about an international legal basis. You answer under the constitution to the United States government, do you not? And you don’t need any international support before you would carry out a military operation authorized by the commander-in-chief…
Dempsey: No, of course not that’s the second one I mentioned…
Sessions: I just want to know that because there’s a lot of references in here to international matters before we make a decision. And I want to be sure that the United States military understands, and I know you do, that we’re not dependent on a NATO resolution or a U.N. resolution to execute policies consistent with the national security of the United States.
Then he let loose on Panetta.
From a transcript of the hearing provided by Maggie’s Notebook.
SESSIONS: We worried about International Legal Basis but no one worried about the fundamental Constitutional legal basis that this Congress has over war. We were not asked, stunningly, in direct violation of the War Powers Act, whether or not you believe it’s Constitutional, it certainly didn’t comply with it.
We spent our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO and too little time worrying about the elected Representatives of the United States.
Do you think you can act without Congress and initiate a No Fly Zone in Syria, without Congressional approval?
PANETTA: Again, our goal would be to seek international permission and we would come to the Congress AND INFORM YOU and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress, I think those are issues I think we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.
SESSIONS: Well, I’m almost breathless about that, because what I heard you say is, we are going to seek international approval and then we’ll come and tell the Congress what we might do, and we might seek Congressional approval.
I want to say to you, that’s a big deal, wouldn’t you agree? You served in the Congress. Wouldn’t you agree that would be pretty breathtaking for the average American, so would you like to clarify that?
PANETTA: I’ve also served with Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents who have always reserved the right to defend this country if necessary.
SESSIONS: But before you do this you would seek permission of the international authorities?
PANETTA: If we are working with an international coalition and we’re working with NATO we would want to be able to get appropriate permissions in order to be able to do that. That’s something that all of these countries would want to have – some kind of legal basis on which to act.
SESSIONS: What kind of legal basis are you looking for? What entity?
PANETTA: If NATO made the decision to go in, that would be one. If we developed an international coalition beyond NATO then some kind of U.N. Security Resolution…
SESSIONS: So you are saying NATO would give you a legal basis…and an ad hoc coalition of the United Nations would provide a legal basis?
PANETTA: (blather – more about coalitions and justifying being a part of a coalition)
SESSIONS: Well who are you asking for the legal basis from?
PANETTA: If the U.N. passed a Security Resolution as it did with Libya, we would do that. If NATO came together as it did in Bosnia, we would rely on that, so we have options here IF WE WANT TO BUILD THE KIND OF INTERNATIONAL APPROACH for dealing with the situation.
SESSIONS: I’m all for having international support but I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States Military to be deployed in combat.
I don’t believe it is close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that is required to deploy the United States Military is the Congress and the President and the law and the Constitution.
PANETTA: Let me for the record be clear again…when it comes to the national defense of this country, the President of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country and we will.
If it comes to an operation where we are trying to build a coalition of Nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia, for that matter Afghanistan, we want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.
That’s how Obama rolls. Better ask the U.N. “pretty please” before we do anything that offends the international community. Obama already disgraced himself on the world stage at the U.N.; which functions as a tool for muzzie extremists, China, Iran, and communists, some of whom get to be U.N. General Assembly President.
It would be nice to get rid of the SCOAMF-in-Chief and maybe get some military leaders who don’t need to be reminded that the U.S. Constitution takes precedence over the consensus of international effetes.