Its actual headline is, “Obama’s history-defying decision to seek Congressional approval on Syria.” As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds noted a short time ago: “You can read this entire article about Obama going to Congress over Syria without seeing any mention that Bush went to Congress over Iraq and Afghanistan.” After the jump, readers will get as much as (or maybe more than) they can stand, complete with the “There were no WMDs in Iraq” lie (bolds are mine):
President Barack Obama, according to background briefings by his aides, reached a fateful decision late Friday afternoon as he strolled along the White House lawn with his chief of staff Denis McDonough. Contrary to every expectation by his national security team, Obama concluded that he should ask Congress for authorization to bomb Syria.
The full reasoning behind the president’s turnabout remains murky. He may have wanted to share responsibility for a risky strategy to punish the barbarous regime of Syrian strongman Bashir al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people. Obama may have recognized the political dangers of attacking another Middle Eastern country without popular support at home.
And the president, a former part-time constitutional law professor, may have also belatedly recalled the wording of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution that grants Congress the sole power “to declare war.”
But whatever Obama’s underlying motivations and however the Syrian vote plays out on Capitol Hill, the president’s decision to go to Congress represents an historic turning point. It may well be the most important presidential act on the Constitution and war-making powers since Harry Truman decided to sidestep Congress and not seek their backing to launch the Korean war.
Just a few days ago, before Obama’s decision was known, legal scholars from both the right and the left were in agreement that waging war over Syria – no matter how briefly – without congressional approval would bend the Constitution beyond recognition.
Virtually no one in politics, the press or the academic community expected Obama to go to Congress for approval. …
For more than six decades, the war-making powers of Congress have been eviscerated by presidents of both parties.
… Truman’s assertion of vast executive power as Commander in Chief set a template for future presidents. Even when presidents have gone to Congress for approval of major military engagements, these blank-check authorizations have often been based on deceptive arguments.
Lyndon Johnson premised the entire Vietnam war on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was designed to permit a limited response to two minor and maybe mythical naval skirmishes with North Vietnam. Similarly hyperbolic were George W. Bush’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
So our hero Obama is the first guy to go to Congress for a military force authorization in over 60 years with clean hands and pure motives. Oh, brother.
Let’s take of the “There were no WMD’s in Iraq” lie first.
Since the left won’t believe anything originating from center-right sources (here and here, for those who haven’t been similarly poisoned), I’ll go straight to what was in the Wikileaks documents, as reported in 2010 by Noah Schachtman at Wired.com (related contemporaneous posts: NewsBusters; BizzyBlog):
WikiLeaks Show WMD Hunt Continued in Iraq – With Surprising Results
By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But for years afterward, WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins, and uncover weapons of mass destruction.
An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.
… The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.
Cute attempt at minimization by Schachtman, except for one thing: the argument of the left, and the one repeated by Shapiro above, is that there were no WMDs. Zero. Zip. Nada. That claim is a lie.
As to Obama’s nobility and transparency, let’s just say that there is more than a little information indicating that the Syrian rebels may (emphasis may) have been the ones who used chemical weapons.
So Walter Shapiro can crow all he wants, but the issue of Obama’s purity — unlike the issue of whether or not there were WMDs in Iraq — is far from settled.