Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — Marc Scaringi, candidate for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, released the following statement today regarding Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding taking the nation to war on the basis of “international permission” not Congressional authority:
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent comments concerning what legal authority the President needs to take this country to war shows a glaring disregard for the United States Constitution and is yet another reason why we must replace our elected officials in Washington, D.C., and those who serve them, with men and women who maintain their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and the United States of America.
When asked by U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) whether Secretary Panetta thinks he can act without approval from Congress to establish a no-fly zone over Syria, he responded, “Our goal would be to seek international permission, and we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this – whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress…I think those are issues we would have to discuss as we decide what to do here.” How kind of Secretary Panetta to stop by Congress and let them know of his decision whether to wage war on behalf of the American people! (See linked video at minute 2:57).
When pressed by Senator Sessions as to what legal authority Secretary Panetta would use to justify U.S. military action in Syria, the Secretary failed or refused to name the U.S. Constitution. This exchange is a profound revelation of how the Obama Administration views the Constitution and the limits it imposes on presidential power – it just does not consider the Constitution at all. But, the Constitution is the legal authority that creates the Office of the Presidency in the first place and the President, and his officers, takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
Secretary Panetta’s comments are wrong on many fronts. First, the Secretary stated that he would seek “international permission” before he would have the U.S. military establish a no-fly zone over Syria. The Secretary forgets that he works for and reports to the United States government, and thus, the American people, not some conglomeration of foreign governments and foreign peoples. Secretary Panetta and the Obama Administration apparently put the will of the “international community,” whatever that means, before the will of the American people.
Second, the Secretary forgets that neither he nor the President has any authority to impose a no-fly zone without a declaration of war from the United States Congress. A no-fly zone in which the U.S. invades and controls the airspace of a sovereign foreign nation, such as Syria, and threatens to attack and shoot down Syrian airplanes is an act of war. It is the United States Congress pursuant to Article 1 Section 8 Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution that has the power to declare war – not the President of the United States or his Secretary of Defense.
Third, Secretary Panetta’s belief that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace is an action in defense of America is patently absurd. Secretary Panetta states, “I’ve also served with Republican presidents and Democratic presidents who always reserved the right to defend this country if necessary.” America is not under attack in Syria. To suggest that a civil and tribal war in Syria between the ruling party and the party who wants to rule is an attack on America defies reality. There is no vital U.S. national security interest at stake in Syria.
Secretary Panetta’s comments reveal he, and the President he serves, have a complete disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the limits it imposes upon presidential powers. That is why we must replace President Obama, and his top ally in the U.S. Senate Robert Casey, who is helping lead the push for U.S. involvement in Syria, and restore the Constitutional Republic created by our Founding Fathers. After all, it is the American people who have to fight and pay for these wars, so it is the American people who should decide whether to wage them.