Foreign Policy

Would Arming the Libyan Rebels Violate U.S. Law?

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Firedoglake's Marcy Wheeler raises a very interesting question. Let's say the Obama administration provides arms to the Libyan rebels, a group whose ranks may include members of Al Qaeda. Would that action count as offering material support to terrorists?

After all, according to Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project any help to a terrorist group—even counseling on how to make peace—is material support. And no matter how we try to spin arming rebels as an act of peace, it's a good deal more help than legal counsel.

The American Prospect's Adam Serwer extends the line of questioning a little further:

If we start arming the rebels, some of whom may have ties to extremists, and some impressionable American Muslim goes abroad to assist them in battle, have they broken the law? Or are they just complying with the U.N. resolution to help protect civilians?

Watch Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie discuss the problems with Obama's "kinetic military action" below:

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  1. Yes. Next question.

  2. some impressionable American Muslim

    Huh?

  3. Would Arming the Libyan Rebels Violate U.S. Law?

    Ha ha ha! Oh, Damon! You’re such a cad! Please, don’t worry about such things, your government knows better! They will take care of everything and you just have to sit down, shut up and watch some NBC. Please, stop worrying so much!

    1. US law is not germane to this matter, since this operation is either a UN operation or maybe NATO, but not US, since the US was not consulted.

      All hail our commander in chief chief!

  4. Would Arming the Libyan Rebels Violate U.S. Law?

    Well, arming us (ourselves) seems to be, so….

  5. Petard hoisting at its finest. Too bad the government doesn’t actually have to suffer the effects of its own laws.

  6. It’s not illegal when the government does it.

      1. You know, he looks nothing like Frank Langella.

        1. I’ve heard that you do, though. Well, a retarded Frank Langella.

          1. You look like the Medusan on that TOS episode with the blind pre-Dr. Pulaski. And don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

            1. I know things the public doesn’t.

        2. I thought Dan Hedaya looked a little more like him, but Langella knocked the mannerisms out of the park.

      2. oh damn, i should have read the comments.

  7. “FEET DRY”

  8. Providing aid to an enemy of the US is still treason, right?

    1. And yet millions of people donate to presidential campaigns with no consequences whatsoever.

      1. +1

        except, I don’t think there are no consequences. We all get ****ed by those who get elected… even the ones who donate and vote for the idiots.

    2. Treason is so 18th century.

      We like to call it “principled opposition”, now.

    3. “Providing aid to an enemy of the US is still treason, right?”

      Only if there is evidence that you are, in fact a citizen of the US

      OTOH, if one isn’t a citizen of the US, but instead a citizen of, say England because of your colonial Kenyan father, then giving your country’s nuclear codes to the Russians would still probably qualify

      1. There are those who would claim that England does not have “citizens” as such.

  9. no no no Damon, it’s a different set of rules for them. c’mon we’ve been over this a thousand times.

    obligatory: fuck the DOJ

  10. Rules are for little people.

    1. Well, that’s a relief. I’m 6’2.

  11. Fuck me, Damon? No, fuck you.

  12. We do know that the one person who will not violate U.S. law is the lawyer who wrote Obama’s covert order to supply the rebels with arms.

    1. Retroactive immunity from prosecution?

  13. Here we go again!

  14. Nixon taught us the “when the president does it, its not illegal”

  15. Maybe if Obama works it Reagan style. He always did (even if he doesn’t admit it) like Reagan.

    Like sell US-MIL surplus arms to Libyan rebel-terrorist-camel herders then take slush-fund to arm Congolese rebels to fight…America’s latest straw-man?

    Then lie to Congress about the whole thing while keeping the slush-fund as an off-book Enron-type financial vehicle? That was kinda legal way-back-when. Get Ollie North on the case!

    1. Of course, the US was not at war with the Contras and they hadn’t flown airplanes into buildings, blown up our servicemen, kidnapped our diplomats, raped our news-reporters etc.

      But, other than that, Obama’s arming islamic terrorists is exactly the same as what Reagan did.

      1. Actually, Hispanic terrorists had detonated explosives in the US (La Raza, PR independence activists, etc).

        1. Completely missing the point.

          CONTRAs

          Not Obama’s buddies La Raza (or Bill Ayres)

          1. The LIFG has as strong a connection to al-Qaeda as the Contras did to La Raza. That is, similar goals in different countries and not much else.

  16. Of course it is; now hoist these scumbuckets on their own petards.

  17. Well, the story just broke that the President signed an EO authorizing support for the rebels. Two or three weeks ago.

    So, if the Saudis wish to give us guns that we then give to the rebels, we’ll be fine.

    1. I don’t get it though. How the hell are civilians – kept ignorant and unarmed for years – going to figure out how to use Western crew-served weapons and the like to any kind of proficiency?

      The problem isn’t weaponry, its the people wielding them not being a very effective fighting force in all the human elements that count in such a situation. Only way to fix that is you put some USMC in there to win. Or dick around with SF to ‘train’ some camel-herders how to work 105mm arty and the like…and watch the hijinks ensue (just like in the sandbox).

      Obama’s digging another hole. ‘One more shovelful should do it’ you say. And before long you can’t see the Sun anymore because you buried yourself in your own stupidity and a lot of other people’s blood.

      They say history repeats itself, but in our internet age it seems to liveblog itself on TMZ so fast the same mistakes are repeated.

      1. How the hell are civilians – kept ignorant and unarmed for years – going to figure out how to use Western crew-served weapons and the like to any kind of proficiency?

        Isn’t that kind of the Special Forces’ stock in trade? I thought that was a primary mission of units like the Green Berets: go and teach large numbers of primitives, modern small-unit tactics and use of military ordnance? And given that we already have people on the ground—how else are the bombs knowing where to go?—it would seem a natural next step. Unfortunately.

        How long does it take to teach raw recruits how to use “simple” weapons like heavy machine guns, man-portable ATGMs, and mortars? (Aside from the whole Al Qaeda thing, I doubt we’d be giving them MANPADS, if only because the only thing flying right now is our stuff, and these guys like shooting into the air at the best of times…)

        1. “””How long does it take to teach raw recruits how to use “simple” weapons like heavy machine guns, man-portable ATGMs, and mortars?”””

          I don’t know but it seem to take years in Afghanistan and Iraq since we are still trying to train them. Though it does not help when the soldiers run off and join the other side or sell their weapons on the black market or strap a bomb to themselves and blow up their American trainers.

          1. “Though it does not help when the soldiers run off and join the other side or sell their weapons on the black market or strap a bomb to themselves and blow up their American trainers.”

            Aw, Obama claims to know which side we’re supporting!
            Think maybe he’s full of it?

        2. How long does it take to teach raw recruits how to use “simple” weapons like heavy machine guns, man-portable ATGMs, and mortars?

          The shooting part, about a week. It takes longer for company-grade officers to teach those recruits the tactics to move and communicate while in combat. It takes much longer to train the company-grade officers to teach and lead small-unit combat. Meanwhile, you have to train people to run supply operations to keep the combat units in beans and bullets. Then there’s strategy.

          Combat is more than position, aiming, breath control, trigger squeeze, and followthrough.

  18. Sovereign Immunity.

    Legal; illegal; in this case, it’ll be the same damn thing if Congress doesn’t pull its thumb out of its butt and do something to stop it.

  19. Sovereign immunity doesn’t protect from impeachment.

    1. I’m game! I wanna be President next! My turn!

      1. We’ll impeach you first for being such an embarrassment. Then we go for big O.

        Welcome to John Boner America, bitches.

  20. Dunno if it’s legal but if they do it, our government will once again prove the definition of insanity to be correct.

  21. OK, so if illegally and unconstitutionally waging war isn’t impeachable, would sending arms to Al Qaeda qualify?

    And if that doesn’t clear the bar, just what the fuck would?

    1. You just don’t seem to get it. This is a new era we’re in here.

      He’s not getting impeached because he (re)writes the rules.

    2. Considering the Dems control the Senate, Obama could rape a baby polar bear on live TV before drowning it in the Lincoln Room bathtub and he wouldn’t be convicted.

  22. “Would Arming the Libyan Rebels Violate U.S. Law?”

    More importantly, would arming the Libyan Rebels be good or bad for the U.S.?

    1. Jesus Christ will somebody shut him up?

      1. I find it…ironic…that so many of my fellow libertarians are seemingly obsessed with everyone following the letter of the law on this–and a few other issues.

        God forbid my local police department ever enforced the speed limit as tenaciously as some of you seem to wanna…

        I don’t know whether arming the rebels is good for the U.S., but the larger point really is that if a law is bad for the U.S.? It should be struck down.

        We’re libertarians fer Pete’s sake… We think stupid laws should be struck down! Not that people shouldn’t be allowed to do smart things because because of stupid laws!

        1. But a more primary concern is that the government is not above the laws, whatever they may be. Libertarians of the minarchist variety want good, efficaceous laws, but not if government employees can get away with breaking them.

          1. I will agree that the rule of law is important.

            But, especially since the Bush Administration, I’ve grown really sick of people justifying stupid policy with the argument that the policy was “legal”.

            Libertarians: “Isn’t what you did, Mr. President, like shooting ourselves in the foot?”

            George W. Bush: “I checked with my lawyers, and they said it’s perfectly legal to shoot ourselves in the foot!”

            If we turn questions of whether what Obama is doing is in our best interest into questions of whether what he’s doing is legal? We’re gonna lose.

            That’s his strategy after he does something stupid–trying to make us all think that even if it was stupid, it was legal. Why do his bait and switch dirty-work for him?

            1. The question of whether blowing people up who are no threat to the US is in the country’s best interest is both deceptively simple to answer, and a separate question from whether said action is legal.

              It’s perfectly reasonable to criticize Obama on both fronts. Ignoring the question of legality is like saying that Obama is right, and that laws don’t matter.

        2. “… We think stupid laws should be struck down!”

          When the law is struck down by SCOTUS then we won’t cite it.

          The police have the power of discretion; they can either give you a ticket or give you a warning.

          When the laws are designed to rein in the government, I don’t want that type of discretion.

          Laws on the governed vs. laws on the governors.

          See the difference?

          1. If arming the rebels is stupid because it makes us more likely to get sucked deeper into this thing on the ground, it’s stupid regardless of whether it’s legal.

            Do you see the difference?

            1. Then change the fucking law. Ignoring the law when convenient TO YOU is no better than how politicians have been raping the Constitution lo these many years.

            2. Ken Shultz|3.30.11 @ 6:32PM|#

              If arming the rebels is stupid because it makes us more likely to get sucked deeper into this thing on the ground, it’s stupid regardless of whether it’s legal.

              Do you see the difference?

              The cool thing about laws that limit the scope of government is they are written with the intent of stopping government from doing stupid things.

        3. God forbid my local police department ever enforced the speed limit as tenaciously as some of you seem to wanna…

          We like laws that limit the scope and power of government and like them even more when they are enforced.

          Laws that limit individual liberty (not that the speed limit one is a good example but i get your point) we don’t like so much.

          Does that clear up your confusion?

          1. If the Egyptians sell American hardware to the rebels, will it be illegal if we subsequently sell more American hardware to the Egyptians?

            Because my understanding is that we’ve been selling hardware to the Egyptians for a long time, and I don’t see why that would suddenly be illegal–now that they’re no longer under the boot of a vicious dictator.

            The point is that even if arming the rebels were done legally, that wouldn’t erase the question about whether it’s wise to do so.

            The overriding question remains the same. …and it isn’t about legality. If arming the rebels is a good decision for the U.S., then we should get rid of that law, and if arming the rebels is a bad decision, then being perfectly legal won’t make it a smart decision anyway.

            1. Because my understanding is that we’ve been selling hardware to the Egyptians for a long time, and I don’t see why that would suddenly be illegal–now that they’re no longer under the boot of a vicious dictator.

              Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

              Oh shit. You were serious?

              1. Is Mubarak back in Cairo or something? Have events there taken a turn for the worse?

                My point stands regardless.

                1. Have events there taken a turn for the worse?

                  Well, military rule is usually considered a bad thing, unless you’re in the military that’s doing the ruling.

            2. There are restrictions up the wazoo for Egypt to continue receiving military aid. I’m sure “no resale” is near the top of the list.

        4. Ken Shultz|3.30.11 @ 6:15PM|#
          “I find it…ironic…that so many of my fellow libertarians are seemingly obsessed with everyone following the letter of the law on this…”

          I find it amazing that someone so callous about the Constitution is ignorant enough to presume the title of ‘libertarian’.
          You’re a scum-bag war monger trying to find a fig leaf.

          1. Being against stupid laws (if they’re stupid) makes someone a non-libertarian?!

            Got it.

            If the U.S. arming the rebels is stupid? Then it’s stupid regardless of whether it’s legal. Congress passing a law against something doesn’t make it stupid; in fact, congress passes some really stupid laws sometimes. Most libertarians are aware of that!

            Why aren’t you? What are you? …some kind of law and order libertarian?!

            Oh, and by the way? I’m leaning against making the U.S. responsible for arming the rebels–but it has nothing to do with whether it’s legal. Arming the rebels doesn’t seem like a smart move to me if we want to avoid getting sucked into a ground war–somebody will need to train the rebels to use all that American hardware, and I don’t want that to be us.

            For future reference though, can you give us an example of another law that libertarians should support…even if it’s stupid?

            1. Laws that violate individual rights should indeed be opposed, and perhaps resisted, by libertarians.

              Other laws should be obeyed until changed or struck down. If you think a non-rights-violating law is stupid then work to change it.

      2. Would arming Ken Shultz be good or bad for the US?

        What about shutting him up?

        What about arming those who would like to rebel against Ken Shultz, would that be good or bad for the US? I think Hugh would like to rebel against Ken Shultz.

        At this moment there are no particular laws for or against the man. But that’s not to say it has to stay that way.

    2. If it’s bad (and I’m 99% sure it will be) they’ll find some way to deflect the blame from Obama. They’ll not mention the U.S. arming the rebels and hope that everybody forgets. “Oh, it’s such a surprise! Why do they hate us so much?” etc.

  23. “More importantly, would arming the Libyan Rebels be good or bad for the U.S.?”

    No. More importantly, would Arming the Libyan Rebels Violate U.S. Law?

    1. I support jury nullification.

      1. And random, illegal wars.

      2. So do I.

        But I don’t take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and its laws.

        1. Neither did Obama. It says preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution only, to the best of his ability.

          1. “Neither did Obama. It says preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution only, to the best of his ability.”

            So the best of his ability is pretty lame?

            1. Bingo!

      3. Thanks for making the connection between lawlessness and jury nullification.

    2. More importantly, would arming the Libyan Rebels be good or bad for the U.S.?

      It depends on who the rebels are and who is arming them.

      If the rebels are in fact the good guys and it is someone else arming them then it is good for the US.

      If the rebels are the bad guys and/or it is the US arming them then it is bad for the US.

  24. More importantly, would arming the Libyan Rebels be good or bad for the U.S.?

    “Rebels were armed, planes were shot down, oil was improperly sold, billions of dollars went unaccounted for, investigations were stalled, blah blah blah. Total win.”

    1. A system where political point-scoring is not only more important than reality, it supplants reality, is doomed to failure.

      1. No, it’s destined for re-election.

        You’re so behind-the-times.

  25. Firedoglake’s Marcy Wheeler raises a very interesting question.

    Can someone suggest to Joe from Lowwel to stop posting on Balloon Juice and start posting on at Firedoglake.

    The team blue cheerleading at Balloon juice is so unbearable that i am unable to stop the vomit from flowing whenever Tulpa links to joe comments over there.

    Firedoglake are lefties but at least they have integrity.

    1. This should brighten your spirits:

      cbear – March 30, 2011 | 6:59 pm ? Link

      @joe from Lowell:

      I don’t understand why the concept that the UN military mission and the US non-military policy are two different things is so difficult for people to understand, and I don’t understand why I’m supposed to feel differently about the non-military means being used to try to oust Gadaffi and the non-military means used to try to oust Mubarak.

      There’s a lot you don’t understand Joe, as you have made so painfully obvious to virtually everyone that has had to suffer through your endless ruminations on virtually every aspect of virtually every subject for what seems a very long fucking time now.

      Perhaps you should take a break, go on a Vision Quest or maybe an Odyssey, and then you can come back in several years and share you’re newfound understanding with the group.

      salacious crumb – March 30, 2011 | 7:16 pm ? Link

      @cbear: agreed. Its pointless to talk with Joe from Lowell. he makes up his own facts..in the previous, he just starts blathering about how the the United States had nothing to fear wrt to Muslim Brotherhood and how they renounced violence?its clear nothing short of Obama worship is gonna cut it for him

      cbear – March 30, 2011 | 7:25 pm ? Link

      @joe from Lowell:

      So, in other words, you can’t rebut a single thing I’ve written, but your gut tells you I’m wrong.

      There is no rebuttal for someone like you, Joe. You’re in love with the sound of your own voice and engaging with you is like trying to reason with a shit-flinging monkey?-the monkey enjoys the attention and all you end up with is more flung shit.

      1. So joe = rather?

  26. You have heard of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) right? It is listed on the DOS list of terrorist organizations. So US gov, from Obama down are entirely guilty of violating the statutes against material support of designated terrorist organizations.

    1. Certainly no defense of Obama, but there’s the pretty strong chance that listing that group as “X” is so much horseshit to begin with.

      1. For all joe’s faults, no one would confuse him with rectal.

        1. Not having the ‘pleasure’ of reading joe, I can’t say.
          But rather has yet make a comment that isn’t about rather in some form or other. The linked comments seemed to suggest that sort of idiotic egotism for joe.

          1. Well, it’s been almost two years now since he took his blue ball and went home, yet we’re still talking about him. So perhaps he was a special person.

            As he always used to say, “I loom large.”

          2. But rather has yet make a comment that isn’t about rather in some form or other.

            With self-deluded “fat-postives,” that’s typically the case.

  27. I’ve surpassed Dubya, almost caught up with Tricky, and fast approaching LBJ.

  28. Obama could simply turn the problem over to the BATFE. They’re the ones running Project Gunrunner, and arming the Mexican gangs.

  29. If we start arming the rebels, some of whom may have ties to extremists

    I’m assuming we actually need to prove the part in bold; although, speculation that it might be true or that the New York Times says it’s true is good enough right?

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