A U.S. Army Captain has decided to sue President Barack Obama, claiming that the war on ISIS is illegal. His actions have reignited hot-button issues between Congress and the president.
Capt. Nathan Michael Smith was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months in 2012 until last fall when he was deployed to Kuwait with the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation that is responsible for overseeing the fight against ISIS.
According to court documents, Smith, a military intelligence officer, is “asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress” in order to “wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
Citing the 1973 War Powers Resolution, Smith says that because the president “did not get Congress’s approval for his war against ISIS in Iraq or Syria within the sixty days,” and also “did not terminate the war… The war is therefore illegal.”
Smith says he is acting “out of conscience because fighting an illegal war forces him to violate his oath to ‘preserve, protect, and defend’ the Constitution.” While he believes that ISIS is “an army of butchers,” and that fighting against them “is what I signed up to be part of when I joined the military,” he wants to ensure there is a checks and balance system between the president and Congress.
While Smith believes strongly in the fight against ISIS, it boils down to the fact that he does not believe in fighting a war that was not approved by Congress—thereby becoming illegal.
This suit comes shortly after U.S. officials acknowledged a third American died a "combat death," in a firefight with ISIS, but they have continued to deny the U.S. campaign in Iraq is a combat mission.
The New York Times points out that Obama “has argued that he already has the authority he needs to wage the conflict against the Islamic State under the authorization to fight the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, enacted by Congress shortly after the attacks,” but that argument is controversial.
Simply put, not only is ISIS at odds with the leadership of Al Qaeda and the Nusra Front (its’ Syrian affiliate), they weren’t around in 2001. Many argue that it’s a stretch to then use that authorization to wage a war against ISIS.
In a counterargument, the administration said that the “Islamic State used to be an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq during the Iraq War,” adding that the 2002 authorization President George W. Bush obtained from Congress for the invasion of Iraq also applies in the war against ISIS.
Regardless of their defenses, former as well as current members of the administration explained that back in 2014, when ISIS was gaining territory in Iraq, President Obama was presented with a choice; he could either say that he was continuing the existing Iraq War or he could start a new war—either action is defensible, but they each had their own downsides.
Obama chose to say that this was part of an existing war because he believed that it was important to act quickly and swiftly—and he believed that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was too dysfunctional to come back with a decision in 60 days.
Capt. Smith and his lawyers, David Remes and Bruce Ackerman, believe that this is something that needs to be brought back to light—doing so will ensure that the checks and balances between the president and Congress stay in place.
This is an important balance to ensure before a new president is elected, especially with Trump inching his way to the White House.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters