The Cato Institute’s Gene Healy asks about the Obama administration’s attack in Somalia. How is it justified?
Before dawn Saturday, U.S. Navy SEALs launched an amphibious assault on an al Shabaab facility in Somalia, turning away under heavier-than-expected fire.
The SEALs didn’t get their man, a top commander of the Islamic terrorist group that carried out the horrific massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, two weeks ago. But the aborted raid raises an important question: Are we now at war with al Shabaab?
It’s not clear, and President Obama likes it that way. As legal justification for the raid, administration officials point to the post-Sept. 11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, empowering the president to go after those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocities and anyone who “harbored” them.
That could mean one of two things: one, that the target of the raid, an al Shabaab commander, alias “Ikrima,” has “dual membership” in al Qaeda, in which case, targeting him was business as usual.
Or two, that the administration has designated the group itself — al Shabaab as a whole — one of al Qaeda’s “associated forces,” all members of which are thus wartime targets.
If it’s the latter, the president has unilaterally opened “a major new front” in the war on terror. But good luck finding out. The Obama team keeps the list of the organizations we’re at war with on a need-to-know basis — and you don’t need to know.