A 28-year-old Army captain brought a lawsuit against President Obama on Wednesday for his “illegal war” against the Islamic State.
In his complaint filed in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., Capt. Nathan Michael Smith, an intelligence officer, contends that Obama never received the authority from Congress to prosecute a war against ISIS.
“Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, when the President introduces United States armed forces into hostilities … he must either get approval from Congress within sixty days to continue the operation, in the form of a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, or he must terminate the operation,” the complaint reads.
“The President did not get Congress’s approval for the war against ISIS in Iraq or Syria within sixty days, but he also did not terminate the war. The war is therefore illegal,” the plaintiff adds.
Smith explains in his complaint that the reason he brought the lawsuit is because his “conscience” bothered him.
“When I was commissioned by the President in May 2010, I took an oath to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. … How could I honor my oath when I am fighting a war, even a good war, that the Constitution does not allow, or Congress has not approved?” he states. “To honor my oath, I am asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress, under the War Powers Resolution, to wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
The soldier is currently serving in Kuwait as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the aim of which is to defeat the Islamic State. Smith supports the fight against ISIS but believes it must be done lawfully. He previously served in Afghanistan.
Obama has sought congressional authorization to use military force (AUMF) to fight ISIS, but Republicans have contended the AUMF the administration seeks is too narrowly drawn. It specifically prohibits “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats believe the proposed AUMF grants too much authority.
Without a specific AUMF to fight ISIS, Obama has relied on the 2001 congressional authorization to wage war against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks. As further backup, the administration also cites the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war.
Smith, in his complaint, points out that ISIS did not even exist at that time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Further, the United States ended the Iraq war in 2011 with the withdrawal of its forces.
There are currently approximately 5,000 military personnel in Iraq. As reported by Western Journalism, three American service members have been killed in the country since last October, including a Navy SEAL this week.
If the court accepts Smith’s argument that Obama does not have the authority to wage war under either the Sept. 11 or Iraq war resolutions, the soldier’s legal team must still clear one final hurdle.
Congress has “passed military appropriations bills that earmark funds for the effort against the Islamic State, which could suggest that lawmakers have acquiesced to the executive branch’s” actions, the New York Times reports.