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Republican Senator John McCain glimpses “a bit of partisanship” behind much of his party’s opposition to the president’s Libyan campaign, while GOP Senator Lindsey Graham advises that “Congress should sort of shut up” about the venture to oust Qaddafi. Democrat Dennis Kucinich is suing the Obama administration over Libya and favorably juxtaposes the last president with his successor: “President Bush came to Congress…. President Obama doesn’t feel like he needs to come to Congress.” This wasn’t what Arthur Vandenberg had in mind when he observed that politics stops at the water’s edge. But the weakness of traditional partisan alliances when it comes to the Libyan campaign infuses new meaning into the Michigan senator’s aphorism.
If Boehner regards the legal justifications in the 32-page White House as unintentional comedy, then other aspects of “United States Activities in Libya” may strike him as perplexing, as well. The report confidently says that Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), a body less than six months old, has “dedicated itself to paving the way for an inclusive, democratic process” and seeks “to build a democracy that reflects the will of the Libyan people.” The tone is less certain in discounting connections between the TNC and terrorist organizations: “We are not aware of any direct relationship between the TNC and al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) or any other terrorist organization.” The report strangely describes Egypt and Tunisia, despite uncertainty in the wake of revolutions just months ago, as “key U.S. allies.”
The administration outlines the costs for military operations through June 3 at $715.9 million dollars. This includes personnel pay, expended munitions, supplies, and the operation of aircraft. With 112 tomahawk missiles at more than $1 million each fired on the mission’s first day, and an F-15 with a pricetag approaching $100 million lost to mechanical failure a few days later, expenses of $715.9 seem remarkably low. Could the administration be writing off war-related expenses to existing Department of Defense outlays to hide costs?
It may seem indecent not to take the administration at its word. But this is a president who calls a war a “military operation” divorced from “hostilities.” One so cynical in his use of words might be inclined to manipulate numbers, as well.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of Blue Collar Intellectuals: How the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America, forthcoming this fall from ISI Books, 2011. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.
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