Steven Nelson / US News & World Report – 2015-10-07 23:02:43
(October 6, 2015) — Last October, the Obama administration blew past the 60-day deadline for an armed conflict to be authorized by Congress or ended and continued bombing the Islamic State group. Many scholars say the air war has since then been illegal. Now, a lawsuit seeking to prove the war is unlawful may be on its way.
The lawsuit, still a hypothetical, would be brought by an active-duty member of the US military challenging an order related to the campaign against the jihadi group in Iraq and Syria. Such a lawsuit could conceivably break new legal ground and result in either an end to the US military campaign or, perhaps more likely, prompt Congress to authorize it.
Yale University law professor Bruce Ackerman floated the idea in July and received a warm response from the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, whose co-director, Matt Howard, said they would be happy to help interested troops.
So did anyone bite? Yes, Ackerman says. “I’ve received some confidential expressions of interest, but I can’t go public on anything at this time,” he tells US News.
The potential lawsuit, he says, remains “a big if, at present.” But if it happens, the challenge may put to the test President Barack Obama’s controversial claim that dated war authorizations allow for the conflict.
Obama announced airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq on Aug. 7, 2014, as the jihadis approached Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and besieged members of the Yazidi religious minority on a mountaintop. The airstrikes expanded to Syria in September, after the group beheaded two US journalists.
The Obama administration claims it has legal authority to conduct the strikes through a 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) issued against the perpetrators of 9/11 and a 2002 AUMF passed to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The White House supports repeal of the 2002 AUMF and primarily leans on the anti-al-Qaida authorization, citing historical post-9/11 associations between the extremist groups. Al-Qaida and its Syrian affiliate, however, are involved in a bitter rivalry and on-the-ground fighting against the Islamic State group.
Administration officials say they would welcome a new authorization from Congress specifically for the current war, but that it’s legally unnecessary. Many scholars strongly disagree, particularly regarding strikes inside Syria.
Steven Nelson is a reporter at US News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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