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Posted: March 26, 2011 7:30 p.m.

Harwell: Keys misplaced to doors, power

There are so many issues confronting citizens who try to keep abreast of what's going on that it's dizzying.Take what's going on in the Executive Mansion, for example. The 44th President managed to do something last Thursday that no other inhabitant of the Oval Office had ever done before.

He locked himself out of the White House.

When I quit laughing out of disbelief at the headline, I realized that I'd never imagined there being locks on the White House doors at all. I mean, isn't it kind of like a Waffle House? Open 24-7-365? And aren't there enough guards watching the entrances to make locks unnecessary? I mean, how does one go about locking oneself out in the first place?

Come to think of it, why are there locks on Waffle House doors?

Listen, I'm having a little problem with something. How was it that after terrorists had attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush had to jump through legal hoops for months lining up an international coalition and eliciting near-unanimous approval from the United States Congress to allow us to retaliate against the enemy, first in Afghanistan, and subsequently in Iraq, and yet when a bunch of rebellious nomads in machine-gun equipped pickup trucks foment a civil war in Libya, the 44th president can, of his own volition, commit United States military forces to action in support of the rebels?

How is that?

When I was a teenager, President Lyndon Baines Johnson used a highly contentious report of two supposed attacks upon the U.S.S. Maddox, a World War II-era destroyer, in the Gulf of Tonkin by two torpedo boats belonging to North Vietnam to wrest powers tantamount to that of a Roman Caesar to wage war by presidential decree.
LBJ used his new powers to escalate America's involvement in Vietnam to what it became, a political nightmare with no clear mission and no way to win but to conquer and rule North Vietnam, which was against all the published United Nations rules of waging war.

Through the intervening four decades the righteous might of the American people, not to mention the seared collective conscience of our nation, ruled without exception that American forces would never again be committed to battle without a clear mission.

No American boy or girl would be sent into harm's way for politics. Period.
Well, hello.

There's a bunch of gangsta wannabes in pickup trucks armed with weapons seemingly available to everyone in the world except me, who decided to overthrow Libya's dictator, Madman Muammar Gaddifi.

So the 44th president, overseeing two wars already raging, decided to commit American air forces to enforce a "no fly zone" in the air space over a sovereign foreign nation to protect gangstas in pickup trucks who want to overthrow the government. He doesn't bother to ask Congress for permission to do this, although the sovereign foreign nation has perpetrated no attack upon The United States of America.

This is the same man who, when campaigning for office, castigated President George W. Bush for taking America into war after we were attacked?

While all of this played out on a world stage, President Obama headed to South and Central America on a junket to solidify foreign relationships which will supposedly pay dividends for decades to come.

Wonder what he told those heads of state when he met with them, even as our B-2 Stealth bombers were flying 25-hour roundtrip missions to bomb Libya from Missouri?

Listen, for those of you who may think I'm being overly critical of President Obama, let's review the last 30 years of interactions between Libya and the USA.

Just so you'll understand that I'm not shooting from the hip here.

There was once a President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who held office from 1980-1988. "Madman Mo-Mar" drew an imaginary line across the Gulf of Sidra and decreed it his new definition of Libya's territorial waters. He threatened to sink any foreign vessels which invaded his new domain.

President Reagan immediately ordered a battle group across the line. We shot down the Libyan air force, both planes. We sank the Libyan navy, both boats.

In retaliation, Gaddafi ordered the clandestine bombing of a European nightclub frequented by Americans. Later he orchestrated the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Gaddafi is a bad guy. I know that. One day he will die.

Who knows? Perhaps Libyans will even one day establish a democracy.

But a United States president has no business committing American military forces to settle the internal affairs of a sovereign foreign nation.

Especially a president who locks himself out of the White House.

Nat Harwell is a Covington resident. His column appears Sundays.

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