Kucinich assails Obama's 'Libyan war' as unconstitutional

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) railed against the “Libyan war” in a 40-minute floor speech Thursday, saying President Obama has brought about a “constitutional crisis” by usurping Congress’s authority to declare war.

Kucinich raised legal reasons why Congress should have been consulted before Libyan operations began and moral reasons why the U.S. should restrict the use of its increasingly stretched military forces.

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"Today we are in a constitutional crisis because our chief executive has assumed for himself powers to wage war which are neither expressly defined nor implicit in the Constitution, nor permitted under the War Powers Act," Kucinich said, according to his prepared remarks. "The president has no right to wrest that fundamental power from Congress — and we have no right to cede it to him."

Kucinich, who has been among the sharpest Democratic critics of the U.S. intervention in Libya, reiterated his complaint that the War Powers Resolution allows the president to use military force without congressional assent only when the U.S. faces "imminent danger."

While that threshold has not been met in Libya, Kucinich said, the Obama administration has gone even further by asserting a right to intervene because Libya’s government threatened its people with violence.

"This administration is now asserting the right to go to war because a nation may threaten force against those who have internally taken up arms against it," he said. "Our bombs began dropping even before the U.N.’s International Commission of Inquiry could verify allegations of murder of non-combatant civilians by the Gaddafi regime."

He also said the U.S. appears to have exceeded the powers of the Constitution and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone, by providing Libyan rebels with air cover.

"Thus this war against Libya violated our Constitution and has even violated the very authority which the administration claimed was sufficient to take our country to war," he said. "If the criteria for military intervention in another country is government-sponsored violence and instability, overcommitment of our military will be virtually inevitable and our national security will be undermined."

Kucinich accused the administration of a premeditated strike against Libya, saying "it is clear" that operations were planned a month in advance — giving Obama ample time to consult Congress.

Kucinich also questioned the humanitarian grounds of military intervention.

"What is humanitarian about providing to one side of a conflict the ability to wage war against the other side of a conflict, which will inevitably trigger a civil war, turning Libya into a graveyard?"

He added that while civilian casualties of a civil war can be costly, "these local conflicts can become even more dreadful if armed intervention in a civil war results in the internationalization of that conflict."

Kucinich closed by asking colleagues to heed the words of George Washington. He quoted the first U.S. president as saying that only Congress can declare war after it has "deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."

Kucinich noted that Washington also said, "My wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the Earth."

This story was initially published at 12:47 p.m.