By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
You may not have heard of PSD-10 because it has received no significant coverage from the major media. Yet, President Obama issued “Presidential Study Directive 10” last August 4, 2011, and posted it on the White House website. It amounts to a new and potentially far-reaching exercise of American military power cloaked in humanitarian language and conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
Under this new “Obama doctrine,” U.S. troops can be deployed to arrest or even terminate individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court, which is based on a treaty that has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate and isn’t even up for Senate consideration.
This “Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities,” another name for PSD-10, declares that “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” This is at sharp variance with the traditional role of the U.S. military—self-defense and protection of the homeland. Toward this end, an “Interagency Atrocities Prevention Board” is being formed to develop and implement this new Obama doctrine. However, it is apparent that the doctrine is already going forward.
Members of the public haven’t heard of PSD-10, but they may have heard of a decision Obama made on October 14, 2011, when he informed Congress that he had authorized “a small number of combat equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.”
Kony, a Ugandan warlord who runs the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is better known than most foreigners, since he is the subject of the viral “Kony 2012” video about the more than 30,000 “invisible children” he has allegedly murdered or abducted. His whereabouts are unknown, although it is believed he is no longer in Uganda.
Despite the name of his group, Kony is not a Christian and instead receives backing from the Islamic regime in northern Sudan. Although he poses no direct threat to the United States and has not carried out terrorist attacks on the U.S. or killed any American citizens, the Department of Treasury has designated him as a “global terrorist” under Executive Order 13224, a measure signed into law by President Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In regard to seeking Kony’s “removal,” Obama told Congress, “I have directed this deployment, which is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”
Obama noted that Congress, in passing the “Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009,” had “expressed support for increased, comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.” But it did not authorize deployment of combat forces. What’s more, a statement from Obama after signing the law did not give any indication any would be sent.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA), has subsequently introduced “Rewards for Justice” legislation (H.R. 4077) that would allow the State Department to offer a reward for the apprehension of Kony.
For his part, Obama is basically deploying the U.S. Armed Forces on behalf of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which indicted Kony for war crimes in 2005 and issued an arrest warrant for him. However, not only has the U.S. Senate not ratified the ICC treaty, Congress has never authorized the use of U.S. troops to carry out the ICC’s edicts. So where does Obama get the power to deploy U.S. troops in this manner?
The question is made more relevant because Obama has such an expansive view of his own executive power to wage war. He claims the power to kill American citizens overseas, on the grounds that they collaborate with foreign terrorist groups, and FBI Director Robert Mueller has told Congress that he is not sure whether the president also has the power to kill American citizens on American soil, inside the United States. Mueller testified, “I have to go back. Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not.”
In the case of Kony, Obama seems to be taking his cue from the ICC. Its prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, appears in the “Kony 2012” video, noting that Kony was the first person ever indicted by the court. The video also celebrates Obama’s decision to use U.S. troops to try to apprehend Kony. It does not take a big exercise in connecting the dots to arrive at the conclusion that Obama is using U.S. troops to carry out the orders of the ICC. But rather than seek ratification of the ICC and then obtain the approval of Congress to apprehend Kony, and perhaps even to kill him, Obama simply issues orders to U.S. troops and bypasses the Congress.
Last October Jake Tapper of ABC News asked Obama about the decision to deploy troops “to help eliminate Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.” Obama replied:
“Well none of these decisions are easy, but those who are familiar with the Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader, Mr. Kony, know that these are some of the most vicious killers. They terrorize villages, they take children into custody and turn them into child soldiers, they engage in rape and slaughter in villages they go through. They have been a scourge on Uganda and that entire region, eastern Africa. So there has been strong bi-partisan support and a coalition, everything from evangelical Christians to folks on the left and human rights organizations who have said it is an international obligation for us to try to take them on. And so given that bipartisan support across the board belief that we have to do something about this, what we’ve done is we’ve provided these advisors. They are not going to be in a situation where they are called upon to hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army or actively fire on them, but they will be in a position to protect themselves. What they can do is provide the logistical support that is needed, the advice, the training and the logistical support that hopefully will allow this kind of stuff to stop.”
Notice the use of the term “international obligation.” That is not the same as a declaration of war or resolution on the use of force from Congress.
Indeed, the Obama Administration seems to have the view that it has to seek authorization for military action against foreign regimes or individuals from the U.N. or NATO, but not from Congress. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently told a Senate committee that the U.S. military would have to seek “international permission” before intervening in Syria. Senator Jeff Sessions responded, “I’m really baffled by the idea that somehow an international assembly provides a legal basis for the United States military to be deployed in combat. I don’t believe it’s close to being correct. They provide no legal authority. The only legal authority that’s required to deploy the United States military is of the Congress and the president and the law and the Constitution.”
On top of this announcement, we now learn, also from Tapper, that “according to a senior administration official, President Obama first heard about the [Kony 2012] video the same way so many people have: from one of his children. In this case, it was from Malia, 13.”
Some liberals are now complaining that the “Kony 2012” video has become a “pretext for military intervention.” If so, it is after the fact. They fear the intervention may not really be designed to find Kony. Still, it is not too late for liberals and conservatives alike to question whether Obama has superseded his constitutional and legal authority. It is certainly time for the major media to examine what Obama is getting the United States into in Africa—and on what legal basis, if any, he is doing it.
While Obama had ordered U.S. troops to apprehend Kony, he has been careful not to order them to arrest and detain Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, a patron of Kony’s who has also been indicted by the ICC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Sudan is a member in good standing of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The crimes of Al-Bashir dwarf those of Kony.
It should be apparent what is happening here. The Obama Administration has what the United Nations Association calls an “evolving policy” of “positive engagement” toward the ICC. It doesn’t seem to matter that the administration isn’t seeking ratification of the ICC, also known as the Rome Statute, and has no plans to do so.
The policy is an open secret. Rosemary A. DiCarlo, the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has said, “Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, over the past several years we have sent observer delegations to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) sessions and the Review Conference in Kampala. In December, we cosponsored a high-level panel at the ASP to highlight the importance of ensuring protection for witnesses and judicial officers. We have engaged with the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registrar to consider ways to support specific prosecutions already underway, and we have responded positively to a number of informal requests for assistance.”
She spoke of the need for “transnational justice,” saying that the review undertaken as part of implementing Presidential Study Directive-10 would focus on “how we can work with our international partners to more effectively prevent and respond to atrocities. We look forward to working with our partners to strengthen the international community’s capabilities in this area.”
So while the Pentagon prepares for across-the-board cuts in national security and defense programs, plans are underway by the Obama Administration to use some of what’s left of our military to operate on behalf of the United Nations and the ICC. The “fundamental transformation” of the United States is now underway at the Department of Defense.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.