The two men who represent Dorchester and Mattapan in the US House of Representatives offered stinging rebukes of President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force against Libya this week. Ninth district Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) blasted the US intervention as “reckless” while Eighth district Rep. Michael Capuano said that the president had violated the Constitution by not seeking Congressional approval before authorizing military force.
Lynch (D-South Boston) blasted the armed intervention during an appearance on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney on Monday night.
“This was an operation of choice. We chose to do this. We don’t have a keen national security priority in Libya. They weren’t even on the map until we had this rebellion,” Lynch told Rooney. “I just think we are being reckless in a way and cavalier with a volunteer military.”
Lynch has been to Afghanistan and Iraq more than a dozen times since taking office in 2001 and voted to support the use of force in both countries.
Lynch told Rooney that a briefing he raeceived from US military officials— including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chief— on Sunday contradicted the Obama administration’s initial claim that the US would take only a supportive role in the Libya strikes.
“We were told that the US would not be in the preeminent position here, that we would merely be in a supportive role,” Lynch said. “Our military acknowledged that we are running this operation...That wasn’t what they said they were going to do.”
On Tuesday, Congressman Michael Capuano told the Reporter that, in fact, the White House has not given Congressional leaders any formal briefing about the Libya actions.
“Right now, all I know about the operation is what I’ve seen in the media,” Capuano said, adding, “And, the Constutition requires the approval of Congress, not a briefing. I take the Constitution kind of seriously and it’s very clear. It doesn’t presume I wouldn’t support it, but I don’t see how you can say shelling an independent country is not an act of war.”
In an e-mail sent out to constituents on Monday, Congressman Michael Capuano elaborated on his position: “This operation, “Odyssey Dawn” may well prevent a despot from slaughtering civilians who have rebelled against him. I certainly do not question this goal, but how is it different from Darfur? Why do we support dissidents in Egypt and not in Iran? Why do we protect rebels in Libya and permit our allies, the Saudis, to reinforce a monarchy in Bahrain?
“The post-Cold War, post-9/11 world raises new issues and presents new problems. It has never been simple and it will never be simple to protect our interests and uphold our principles. The President must engage with Congress to strike the right balance in Libya and for future situations,” said Capuano.
The Commonwealth’s two Senators— John Kerry and Scott Brown— have both supported the Obama administration’s actions in Libya to date.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The goal of this mission is not to get rid of [Moammar] Gadhafi. That’s not what the United Nations licensed and I would not call it going to war. This is a very limited operation that is geared to save lives.”
On Tuesday, Brown’s office sent the following statement when asked to comment on the latest developments: “Based on the continued violence in Libya it is very clear that Qadhafi never intended to abide by the UN-mandated cease-fire imposed to protect his own citizens,” Brown said. “He now needs to realize that every action has consequences. I stand with the Administration and the international community in enforcing UN Resolution 1973 by all means necessary. Ensuring the safety of innocent civilians is paramount.”
Capuano said he was not sure whether his critique— and those of other members of Congress from both parties — would impact the administration’s decision.
“Once US troops are engaged, the American public and Congress tends to support them and some will present any questions as undermining our troops,” Capuano said. “I was an early and ardent Obama supporter and still am. But it doesn’t mean I give up my responsibility to represent the people of my district as required by the Constitution. I am truly taken aback by all this.”
Lynch says that while he thinks going into Lybia is a bad decision “regardless” of the sequence in which Congress is consulted, he agrees that there should have been a “full and fair debate.”
“To his credit, the president has been honest,” Lynch told the Reporter on Tuesday. “He’s not alleged that there’s an imminent threat posed to us by Lybia. President Bush tried to create those facts with the spectre of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama to his credit did not try that- he’s using the threat of a humanitarian disaster.
“But he had almost a month — this began shortly after the Egyptian rebellion and Tahir Square. So we’ve had some time and they could have had us discuss this and say, ‘We’d like to be ready.’”
Now you’re sending a signal to other rebel groups — in the Congo and Ivory Coast and Bahrain, which looks a lot like this. Is this the new standard? It could really destabilize things.
“It was a poor decision,” Lynch said.