Army Captain Sues Obama for Fighting ISIS

Nathan Michael Smith says he needs to honor his own oath
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2016 1:49 PM CDT
Army Captain Sues Obama for Fighting ISIS
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One on Wednesday at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Flint, Mich., to talk with community members about the ongoing water crisis.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It's not that Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith doesn't want to take out the Islamic State. It's just that he doesn't think President Obama has the authority to wage war against ISIS without Congress' OK. That's the crux of the 28-year-old intelligence officer's lawsuit filed Wednesday in US District Court in DC, in which he cites his "conscience" and the promise he made as a serviceman to uphold the Constitution, the New York Times reports. "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," he says in the 53-page document. Smith, who's currently stationed in Kuwait, lodged his complaint on the heels of the president's recent announcements that he's sending more troops to both Iraq and Syria.

Obama has said before that he doesn't need Congress' approval because the current campaign falls under the umbrella of 2001's Authorization for Use of Military Force, put into place to authorize the president (then George W. Bush) to go after any "nations, organizations, or persons" that had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates. But it gets sticky with ISIS: Although the group is an al-Qaeda offshoot, it didn't exist in 2001 and has since been officially cut loose by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. But a senior analyst with the RAND Corporation said in 2014 that it's a little more involved than that, and that although ISIS may not be part of al-Qaeda anymore, "they are organizations from the same swamp." What could make Smith's case difficult to win, a Harvard Law School professor tells the Times: the fact that Congress has appropriated money to put toward the current ISIS conflict, which could signify it's on board with the president's initiative. (Some New Yorkers probably won't mind if we keep up the fight.)

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