by Ivan Eland
November 29, 2016
The Obama administration has decided to stretch the 15-year-old congressional authorization for war against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, or those harboring them, to include an illegal war against a group in Somalia – al-Shabab – that wasn’t even in existence at the time of the attacks in 2001.
In fact, as with many of its Islamist terrorist opponents worldwide – including the original al Qaeda, the perpetrator of 9/11 that arose from U.S. arming of Mujahideen guerrillas against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and al Qaeda in Iraq, which arose to combat the US invasion there and morphed into ISIS – the United States inadvertently helped create al-Shabab in the first place. Al-Shabab did not arise until after 2007, long after 9/11, when the US sponsored an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to wrest control of the country from a milder Islamist council. The more virulent al-Shabab was rose to attempt to repel this foreign invasion.
More generally, after 9/11, rather than following the congressional authorization and focusing like a laser beam on countering the original al Qaeda group and their patrons, the Afghan Taliban, the George W. Bush administration launched a general “war on terror,” which covered all terrorist groups of international scope, regardless of whether or not they focused on attacking US targets. In the end, this massive Bush administration violation of the narrow 2001 authorization led to illegal US drone wars and airstrikes in countries all over the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Somalia (against al-Shabab), Yemen (against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), Pakistan (against the Pakistani Taliban), and Iraq, Syria, and Libya (against ISIS). The Obama administration then accelerated all these unconstitutional wars. Now Obama is trying shore up the already thin legal fig leaf, so that it can pass such travesties – which actually make Islamist groups more rabid each time the US intervenes – onto the incoming Trump administration. When Obama took office, he complained that he inherited from the Bush administration an economic meltdown and a military quagmire in Iraq, but he in turn is bequeathing a legal quagmire to his successor.