When President Barack Obama was running for office, he promised to scale back American military involvement around the world. Though fewer Americans have died in combat during his administration than under his predecessor George W. Bush, he didn’t keep his promise. In 2016, the United States dropped bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Now, the Council on Foreign Relations has calculated an estimate of the number of bombs that were dropped by the United States in 2016. They put the number at 26,171 bombs, which were dropped in those seven countries.
Here’s the country-by-country breakdown:
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko warns that this is likely a low estimate of American military operations overseas, “considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.”
There is another problem with these bombing campaigns, one that too often goes unmentioned: most of them are illegal. In fact, more than 24,500 bombs were dropped in countries that Congress did not give the Obama administration permission to wage war against, including Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Obama has been relying on the same Authorization for Use of Military Force passed after 9/11, even though that document only provides for war against al-Qaeda and its enablers, and the target of our latest operations, ISIS, is distinct from al-Qaeda.
The last congressional authorization for the use of force was passed in 2003 for the Iraq war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan might be covered under the 2001 authorization of the use of force, but conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere are not.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is given the sole power to declare war. Yet our last declared war was concluded in 1945 when Japan surrendered. Since then, Congress has instead authorized the use of force, which is supposed to have the same effect. Now, it doesn’t even do that anymore.
Simply put, the Obama administration’s war against ISIS is illegal under the Constitution. It is also illegal under the War Powers Resolution that only allows a president to commit military forces to combat for 60 days unless specifically authorized by Congress. Yet the bombs continue to fly.