News Release

Does Trump Decide on War?

NBC News reports today: “Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is demanding the release of a secret memo outlining President Trump’s interpretation of his legal authority to wage war.

“Kaine, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, sent a letter Thursday night to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeking a 7-page memo the administration has kept under wraps for months. …

“There is a new urgency to obtain the memo given increasing U.S. involvement in Syria and recent Trump administration rhetoric on North Korea. Shortly after the 2017 bombing raid [on Syria], several members of Congress called on Trump to justify it under U.S. and international law. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. …

“‘The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable,’ Kaine said in the letter to Tillerson, obtained by NBC News.”

The Washington Post reports in “U.S. troops may be at risk of ‘mission creep’ after a deadly battle in the Syrian desert“: “The Syrian government accused the United States of ‘aggression’ in launching the strikes, which it said killed ‘scores’ of people. Russia denounced the U.S. presence in Syria as ‘illegal’ and accused the United States of seeking to seize Syria’s oil.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “There’s no ‘mission creep,’ it’s clear the U.S. government has been using ISIS as a pretext to illegally intervene in Syria. None of the stated rationales for U.S. military involvement — including the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force or alleged ‘self-defense’ or buttressing the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq — are remotely legally valid. Syria has a sovereign government, the U.S. government should get out. The AUMFs should be rescinded.

“This memo that Kaine refers to was likely written by these Federalist Society lawyers that Trump has surrounded himself with, just like George W. Bush did.”

In September 2001, Boyle warned on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release that the 2001 AUMF would be like the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which the Johnson administration used to provide dubious legal cover for massive escalation of the Vietnam War.”

Last year, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. claimed that the authority to attack Syria stemmed from the 2001 AUMF, Boyle stated: “What the U.S. government is getting away with here is incredible. Gen. Dunford is citing the 2001 AUMF to go after Al Qaeda as justification to go after a secular government — Syria — that is actually fighting Al Qaeda, as well as ISIS.” See “Need to ‘Repeal the Perpetual Illegal Wars.’”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (Duke University Press).