Obama Fails To Inform Congress On The Drone Wars in Yemen And Pakistan
The center of the US drone war has shifted to Yemen, where 23 American strikes have killed an estimated 155 people so far this year. But you wouldn’t know about it — or about the cruise missile attacks, or about the US commando teams in Yemen — by reading the report the White House sent to Congress about US military activities around the globe. Instead, there’s only the blandest acknowledgement of “direct action” in Yemen, “against a limited number of [al-Qaida] operatives and senior leaders.”
The report, issued late Friday, is the first time the United States has publicly, officially acknowledged the operations in Yemen and in nearby Somalia that anyone with internet access could’ve told you about years ago. But the report doesn’t just fail to admit the extent of the shadow war that America is waging in the region. It’s borderline legal — at best. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires the president to inform Congress about any armed conflicts America is engaged in. Friday’s report isn’t just uninformative about Yemen. It doesn’t even mention the US campaign in Pakistan, even though the Defense Secretary says America is “at war” there.
“The American people are well aware of the threat that al-Qaida poses, and in a democratic society, they have a right to know what actions their government is taking in an effort to protect them. A well-informed public is critical to maintaining the legitimacy of, and in turn our ability to sustain, our ongoing counterterrorism efforts.” These are the words not of some good government crusader or some critic of the president, but of an administration official, explaining the White House’s recent report in an email to Danger Room.
The report does exactly the opposite, however: obscuring the shadow wars that America is waging in the region, rather than illuminating them; actively undermining the public’s right to know, rather than reinforcing it.
Since it was passed in the 1970s, White Houses have routinely ignored the War Powers resolution, which requires the president to get Congress’ authorization if he keeps troops in a hot zone longer than 60 days. President Clinton never got that permission when he sent US forces in Kosovo in the 1990s; Obama did the same sidestep last year when he dispatched American jets and ships to help take out the Gadhafi regime in Libya.
The Obama administration argues that the operations in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and countless other locations are kosher, because Congress authorized military force against al-Qaida 11 years ago, right after 9/11. But many of the groups that US forces are now fighting didn’t exist in their current form back then. And the White House won’t say when we’ll know how this war against al-Qaida is won.
More on the drones.