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Shank and Southworth write: "It is time to send the 2001 AUMF into the sunset, and to return the checks and balances that policy-makers put in place: the executive and legislative branches must deliberate before waging war. We are making enemies through a feckless, dangerous approach, and it is time to return some censure to our defense apparatus."

NATO troops have been in Afghanistan for over a decade. (photo: AFP)
NATO troops have been in Afghanistan for over a decade. (photo: AFP)

Repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force: A Blank Check for War Without End

By Michael Shank and Matt Southworth, Guardian UK

07 May 13


For both fiscal and ethical reasons, it is time Congress cancelled AUMF and reclaimed oversight of US military engagements

handful of Democratic and Republican senators are considering a rewrite of 60 of the most consequential words to ever pass through Congress. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed after the attacks of 11 September 2001, and provides the legal cornerstone for the so-called US "war on terror". Only one brave Congress member opposed it. It allows the US government to wage war at anytime, any place and on anyone deemed a threat to national security - with remarkably little evidence needed.

The consequential nature of these words is self-evident: the AUMF opened the doors to the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; attacks on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Mali; the new drone bases in Niger and Djibouti; and the killing of American citizens, notably Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old noncombatant son. It is what now emboldens the hawks on the warpath to Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Rather than doubling down on war policy, as some senators are inclined to do, Congress should repeal the 2001 law. This "blank check" approach to warfare has to stop. And while the rewrite is being framed by members of both chambers (Senators John McCain and Bob Corker, Representative Buck McKeon and others) as an act of congressional oversight, it is doubtful that these hawks will curb any military authority. They have only ever called for more wars, not fewer. That means more Libyas, Yemens and al-Awlaki's.

It is time for members of Congress who truly care about rule of law, oversight and the financial security of this country to speak up. Why? Because, first and foremost, the AUMF continues to contravene congressional oversight. For example, when the Obama administration sent 100 "military advisors" to Uganda in the name of counterterrorism in 2011, Congress received a simple note from President Obama. No oversight.

More recently, after unilaterally negotiating a "status of forces" agreement with Niger, the administration sent a note to Congress saying that it was sending 100 troops to the country. This week, we sent troops to Mali. Again, no oversight.

This is the new normal. Statistics provided by Special Operations Command (pdf) indicate that special forces groups were operating in 92 different countries in March 2013. The AUMF premise, no matter how it gets tweaked, is enabling a system of eternal warfare, a reality that is not only financially untenable for a nation in deep debt, but also ethically indefensible.

Second, the AUMF continues to undermine rule of law. There are clear laws that apply to wartime situations or imminent threats, and a broadened AUMF could undermine these further. That the US already broadly categorizes individuals and groups that are loosely or tacitly associated with extremists - in secret and sometimes without evidence - is already setting a dangerous precedent.

As counterterrorism technologies, like drones, expand, the US and international community may soon see these tactics used in intra-state conflicts, with possible violations of human rights law. If targeted killings by drones are justified as acts of war, they must be subject to international law on the use of lethal force within the borders of another sovereign nation. Without a clear showing of permission to use lethal force within another nation, or an imminent threat from that nation, these killings seriously undermine prohibitions in international law against the use of deadly force.

Third, given the lack of campaign finance reform, too often defense policy is driven not by military strategy or legitimate threats, but by the defense contractor's bottom line. This is the case with the AUMF and the defense industry. The defense industry spent over $130m on lobbying efforts in 2012 alone, and in the first quarter of 2013, weapons maker Northrop Grumman spent $5.8m on Congress, posting its third biggest lobbying quarter in company history.

There's a reason why unnecessary weapons systems like the F-35 joint strike fighter, a program that now costs the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, never go away. It's the same reason why new systems will be developed to drive policy decisions: money. The industry continues to claim the need for new weapons to face new threats. It is becoming clear that the defense industry's loyalty is first to the financial security of its shareholders, and only secondarily to the security of this country.

It is time to send the 2001 AUMF into the sunset, and to return the checks and balances that policy-makers put in place: the executive and legislative branches must deliberate before waging war. We are making enemies through a feckless, dangerous approach, and it is time to return some censure to our defense apparatus. Otherwise, the AUMF will continue to make us hemorrhage - both blood and, especially, treasure. your social media marketing partner


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+19 # Jack Gibson 2013-05-07 17:03
Obviously, the AUMF should have been repealed at least ten years ago, especially after the truth about all of the "justifications " for the illegal war of aggression against Iraq being nothing but lies came out (not that the attack, invasion and occupation of Afghanistan wasn't also nothing but an illegal war of aggression as well). But to continue to have the AUMF in force to allow further illegal wars of aggression by the U.S., is unconscionable. End ALL of the aggression NOW, including the war of aggression against the American people through the eradication of their domestic human rights and civil liberties, and unconstitutiona l criminalization of free speech and dissent, all of which are not only rights, but are also duties under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Right (and Duties)! [For proof, see the last portion of the First Amendment (Article One of the Bill of Rights) which gives us the right and the duty to seek redress of grievances from the government; and read the Declaration of Independence, joined to the Constitution and Bill of Rights by the Supremacy Clause, and therefore just as much law as the latter, which gives us the DUTY (actually using the word, "duty") to dissent and to seek to right the government when it becomes the extremely despotic tyranny that it has become today.]
+16 # mdhome 2013-05-07 17:24
Enough already! Stop the massive waste on useless weapons.
+7 # Rick Mason 2013-05-08 07:58
This is why America is in economic trouble and why the rest of the world is beginning to hate us. We have gone from feeding the world and being it's biggest protector to arming the world and being it's biggest bully. Enough hegemony already!!!
+3 # songman 2013-05-08 08:01
agree with the article and add my own Memorial Day
Let’s honor our present veterans with the funding that will be needed to fulfill the promise that we will never, never, abandon them. Let’s honor our future service people in general by promising we will never go to war without a declaration of war from the congress. Let us further honor them by creating a draft that exposes the entire population to the possibility of serving their country. Having served as an enlisted man I can tell you it is not the worst experience in my life, in fact it may be one of the more satisfying times I’ve experienced.

On this Memorial Day write your Congressman and tell him to exercise the power of war or peace that he constitutionall y has in his hands.
Ernie Fazio
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-05-08 11:12
Military "Austerity" -ABSOLUTELY!
And direct the funds to helping the deeply damaged surviving vets and a universal health care program
Give life and hope instead of destroying it -and the Planet.
0 # RMDC 2013-05-09 03:56
The AUMF is really just a declaration of US imperialism, the right to invade and colonize any nation on earth. If the US invaded the moon, we would be told that al Queda was there and was building terrorist training camps. It would LAQ - Lunar al Queda.

The US is an empire. Empires invade and colonize other nations. Empires steal the wealth of other nations. All of this is what the US is. If the AUMF were repealed, the US would still be an empire, still invading and colonizing other peoples, and still stealing wealth. Congress needs to repeal and renounce imperialism. But it never happens that way. Empires collapse as they get over-extended. They go bankrupt. The colonies rebell and the empire spends itself into exhaustion trying to suppress the rebellions. We are almost at this phase. Latin America has rebelled and has pushed most of the US out. Obama is trying to re-militarize Asia as a preventative measure against rebellion there.

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