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The War in Mali: What's at Stake for Congressional War Powers?

France has launched a major military intervention in Mali. The U.S. is supporting the French intervention politically and to some extent, militarily. According to press reports in the Los Angeles Times ["Mali conflict exposes White House-Pentagon split," Jan. 18] and the Washington Post [“U.S. weighs military aid for France in Mali,”, Jan. 16], to what degree the U.S. should support the French intervention militarily has been a cause of dispute between the Pentagon and the White House, with the Pentagon advocating for greater U.S. military action and the White House resisting a direct role in combat.

To date, according to press reports, the U.S. has supported the French with intelligence, communications, and transportation, but has not decided to send armed drones to Mali; it has been reported that plans for sending armed drones were being reviewed [“U.S. weighs military aid for France in Mali,” Jan. 16].

If the Administration were to carry out drone strikes in Mali without Congressional authorization, that would have significant implications for Congressional war powers.

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We Can Do Something About the Drone Strikes If We Focus on Where They're Politically Vulnerable

[Adapted from a talk given for Chicago Area Peace Action, January 17, 2012.]

I'd like to begin by asking you all two questions about your current opinions on U.S. drone strike policy and what we can do about it. Be honest in your responses, because for Just Foreign Policy, understanding how people view these questions is crucial to understanding how to engage more Americans in reforming the drone strike policy. There's no wrong answer. No-one is going to be judged or compared favorably or unfavorably to anyone else based on their answers. It's not an exam. It's an opinion poll or focus group for people trying to engage more Americans in the task of reforming U.S. drone strike policy. Your answers are going to shape Just Foreign Policy's activity on these questions going forward. And they're also going to shape my presentation this evening.

Here is the first question:

Is it your current opinion that there are significant ethical, legal, or political problems with the current drone strike policy?

The responses I'm looking for are either yes, I think there are significant problems, no, I don't think there are significant problems, or I don't know, I'm not sure. Ignore any peer pressure you might perceive in this room. What was your opinion was when you woke up this morning? The mainstream media claims that according to opinion polls, 80% of Americans, including the majority of liberal Democrats, support the current policy. Are you more like the 80%, or are you more like the 20%?

Shut your eyes and cover them with a hand, a scarf, a book, or piece of paper, so we can have something like a secret ballot and you won't be intimidating the people around you.

Raise your hand if your current thinking is that there are significant ethical, legal, or political problems with the current drone strike policy.

JFP 1/21: Pentagon Pressing White House for More U.S. Military Action in Mali

Just Foreign Policy News, January 21, 2013
Pentagon Pressing White House for More U.S. Military Action in Mali

Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

** Action: No drone strikes in Mali without Congressional authorization
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Pentagon is pressing the White House for greater military action in Mali (see #2 below.). Earlier reporting in the Washington Post indicated that such action would likely include drone strikes (see #1 below.) Such action should not happen without Congressional debate and authorization. If U.S. drone strikes happen in Mali happen without Congressional authorization, it means 1) extension of the drone war to a new country and 2) violation of the War Powers Resolution or 3) a unilateral extension by the Administration of the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force to Mali, despite the fact that Mali had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. Urge your Representative and Senators to speak up.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/mali-drones

**Action: What will happen in Palestine on Friday?

The last two Fridays, nonviolent Palestinian activists against the Israeli occupation have established protest villages on Palestinian land that is threatened by Israeli land confiscation [see #3 below.] What do you suppose will happen in Palestine this Friday? A reasonable guess is that there will be a new protest village. Mark your calendar for Friday morning. On Friday morning, look for news on Twitter or the web of the new Palestinian protest village and spread the news around.

**Action: Urge Senators to Challenge Brennan on Drone Strikes

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No U.S. Drone Strikes in Mali Without Congressional Approval

France has undertaken a major military campaign in Mali. U.S. officials are talking about the possibility of supporting the French military campaign with U.S. drone strikes.

Congress hasn't authorized US military intervention in Mali. In particular, Congress hasn't authorized U.S. drone strikes in Mali.

Urge your Representative and Senators to publicly insist that the Administration obtain explicit Congressional authorization before conducting drone strikes in Mali.

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/mali-drones

The Washington Post reports: [1]

[A senior U.S.] official said contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated.

Without explicit Congressional authorization, the only U.S. legal authority the Administration could claim for conducting drone strikes in Mali is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the September 11 attacks. This is the legal authority the Administration has invoked for conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia is already very controversial. The invocation of the 2001 AUMF to justify drone strikes in Mali should be even more controversial.

Indeed, on November 1, the Washington Post editorial board, which supports the drone strike policy overall, and believes that US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are legal overall, wrote: [2]

US Equates Palestinian Nonviolent Protest With Israeli Settlement Activity

Time to make yet another entry to the list of US hypocrisies!

Over the weekend, Israeli army and police units forcibly evicted a group of Palestinian activists from Bab al-Shams, a tent village that had been erected on what is reportedly a Palestinian-owned parcel of land in the area of the West Bank known as E1. The village—which included a library, kitchen, media room, and a medical center staffed by two doctors, two nurses, and six other health professionals—was established by the activists as a nonviolent protest against Israeli intentions to build thousands of new settlements in E1, an action which would effectively cut-off Palestinians from Jerusalem, threaten the viability of any future Palestinian state in a two-state solution, and, of course, trounce upon the Palestinians' rights to their own land.

In a statement, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon called Israel out on their impending settlement plans and on disrespecting the Palestinians' right to peaceful protest. But, of course, we can't expect so much from the US.

JFP 1/15: Wyden demands drone info from Brennan; Hagel survives neocons; Iraq surge redux

Just Foreign Policy News, January 15, 2013
Wyden demands drone info from Brennan; Hagel survives neocons; Iraq surge redux

I) Actions and Featured Articles

**Action: Urge Senators to Challenge Brennan on Drone Strikes
President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA. Human Rights Watch - and the Washington Post editorial board - have called for the CIA to stop conducting drone strikes, because of the CIA's lack of transparency and accountability to international law. Urge your Senators to question Brennan on drone strike policy and the demand that the CIA get out of drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

**Action: Senators: Confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense
President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel will push to end the war in Afghanistan, cut the Pentagon budget, and avoid war with Iran. Right-wing pro-war groups are trying to obstruct Senate confirmation. 30,000 people have signed a Just Foreign Policy petition at SignOn urging the Senate to confirm Hagel.
http://signon.org/sign/senators-confirm-chuck-1?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
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JFP 1/14: Neocon attack on Hagel re-fights Iraq; Haass rebukes Abrams; #BabalShams

Just Foreign Policy News, January 14, 2013
Neocon attack on Hagel re-fights Iraq; Haass rebukes Abrams; #BabalShams

I) Actions and Featured Articles

NYT: Palestinians Rally Support Online for West Bank Protest Camp
Collects photos, twitter feeds, from the #BabalShams protest camp against Israeli settlement construction in "E1" in the West Bank. Supporters of the protest fear that Israeli settlement plans will cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. [See also #2 and #3 below - JFP.]
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/palestinians-rally-support-online-for-west-bank-protest-camp/

** Action: Jewish Voice for Peace: condition US aid to Israel on compliance with U.S. human rights laws
50,000 have signed this letter initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace (Just Foreign Policy is a co-sponsor.) The letter tracks the recent statement by Christian leaders calling for U.S. aid to Israel to comply with U.S. human rights laws. Wednesday deadline. The letter will be delivered as part of the inauguration festivities.
http://www.obamaletter.org

**Action: Urge Senators to Challenge Brennan on Drone Strikes
President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA. Human Rights Watch - and the Washington Post editorial board - have called for the CIA to stop conducting drone strikes, because of the CIA's lack of transparency and accountability to international law. Urge your Senators to question Brennan on drone strike policy and the demand that the CIA get out of drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

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JFP 1/11: CFR's Elliott Abrams Smears Chuck Hagel on NPR

Just Foreign Policy News, January 11, 2013
CFR's Elliott Abrams Smears Chuck Hagel on NPR

Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

**Action: NPR, CFR: Don't Enable Elliott Abrams' Smear Campaign on Chuck Hagel
Elliott Abrams, a "fellow" at the Council on Foreign Relations (yes, the same Elliott Abrams who pled guilty of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal) went on National Public Radio and publicly smeared President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, as an "anti-Semite." The charge itself is completely outrageous and preposterous: if there were a molecule of reasonable doubt, would Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. Dianne Feinstein be strongly backing Chuck Hagel's nomination? Abrams's smear campaign only has a chance of reaching the broad public because CFR and NPR give him a public platform for his smears. Would they give Rush Limbaugh a public platform to call Sandra Fluke a "slut"?

Urge CFR and NPR to stop enabling vile smears of a decorated war hero and public servant, by signing and sharing our petition:
http://signon.org/sign/npr-cfr-dont-enable-elliott?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

**Action: Oliver Stone: End Haiti's Killer Cholera Epidemic -- UN Action Now!
As the third anniversary of the earthquake approaches, more than 25,000 people have signed Oliver Stone's petition to the UN to fund and implement their announced plan to wipe out cholera in Haiti.
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/End_Haitis_Cholera_Epidemic_with_UN_Action_Now_1/

**Action: Urge Senators to Question Brennan on Drone Strikes

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JFP 1/8: Obama taps war-skeptic Hagel for Defense; Question Brennan on drone strikes

Just Foreign Policy News, January 8, 2013
Obama taps war-skeptic Hagel for Defense; Question Brennan on drone strikes

I) Actions and Featured Articles

Urge Senators to Question Brennan on Drone Strikes
President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA. Human Rights Watch - and the Washington Post editorial board - have called for the CIA to stop conducting drone strikes, because of the CIA's lack of transparency and accountability to international law. Urge your Senators to question Brennan on drone strike policy and the demand that the CIA get out of drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

Senators: Confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense
President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel will push to end the war in Afghanistan, cut the Pentagon budget, and avoid war with Iran. Right-wing pro-war groups are trying to obstruct Senate confirmation. 16,000 people have signed a Just Foreign Policy petition at SignOn urging the Senate to confirm Hagel.
http://signon.org/sign/senators-confirm-chuck-1?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

Juan Cole: Top Ten Reasons Chuck Hagel Should be Secretary of Defense

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Senators: Question Brennan and Other Admin Nominees on Drone Policy!

President Obama has announced his new national security team: Chuck Hagel at Defense, John Kerry at State, John Brennan at the CIA. Each of these officials will have a say in whether U.S. drone strike policy will be further entrenched than it is today, or whether U.S. drone strike policy will become more transparent and accountable, and be brought into full compliance with U.S. and international law.

Each of these nominees must face a confirmation hearing in the Senate. When the President's nominees appear before the Senate, they should answer questions from Senators about current drone strike policy, and that should happen in open session, so the questions and answers can be reported in the media, and the public can exercise its right to know.

Sign our petition to the President and the Senate here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

In an editorial, the Washington Post called for the CIA's removal from the drone strike program. [1] Human Rights Watch has been calling for the CIA to be removed from the drone strike program for a year, noting that the CIA is less transparent than the U.S. military and less accountable to U.S. and international law, and that there is no program to compensate civilian victims of CIA paramilitary actions. [2]

The Post has also reported that the Administration has made moves to institutionalize the current program, suggesting the program could be at its midpoint—in other words, the program could go on for another ten years. [3]