Are US 'Forever Wars' About To End? U.S. House Pushes To Repeal The 2002 War Authorization 

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Are US 'Forever Wars' About To End? U.S. House Pushes To Repeal The 2002 War Authorization 

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday 268 to 161 in favor of revoking the 2002 'The Authorization for Use of Military Force' resolution which was used to wage war in Iraq. 

In general, AUMFs grant US presidents the authority to declare war or use military force without the approval of congress. There are several AUMFs including the 1991 Gulf War AUMF and the 2001 9/11 AUMF. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress. However, that power has eroded since the Gulf War 1991 AUMF and shifted to the Presidency in 2001, and it was later solidified in 2002 with the declaration of war on Iraq. AUMFs have been used to allow military deployment or force in Afghanistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Yemen, Somalia. It is estimated that between 480,000 and 507,000 people were killed by the United States' use of military force in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The 2001 AUMF 

The 2001 authorization for example officially grants the president the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. The only representative to vote against the Authorization in 2001 was Barbara Lee, "who has consistently criticized it since for being a blank check giving the government unlimited powers to wage war without debate". On June 29, 2017, Republicans and Democrats working on the House Appropriations Committee approved Barbara Lee's amendment to end the 2001 authorization within 240 days. The amendment was removed from the bill by the Rules Committee, and the AUMF remains in effect. 

The 2002 Iraq AUMF

In 2002 the US Congress passed the 2002 Iraq AUMF which authorized the war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. It permitted the president to use the military as “necessary and appropriate” to “defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to “enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” The legal justification for attacking Iraq was that the Saddam Hussein regime was in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions through its possession of weapons of mass destruction which was later exposed to be a lie. In 2021, Rep. Barbara Lee began another anti-AUMF push and drafted a bill to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, H.R. 256, and it has had significant support by many bipartisan co-sponsors. In the Senate, S.J. Res. 10 from Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN), which would repeal both the 2002 Iraq AUMF and the 1991 Gulf War AUMF, has at least 13 bipartisan co-sponsors.

How have AUMFs been used?

In 2007, the AUMF was cited by the DOJ in ACLU v. NSA as authority for engaging in electronic mass surveillance without oversight or permission from a special court as required by the US constitution. The Obama administration used the AUMF to justify drone strikes and the 'indefinite detention' program which disappeared individuals without due process, it was accompanied by the use of torture on detainees. The Trump administration used the AUMF to justify the occupation of Kurdish-controlled Syrian oilfields, and later on it cited it as justification for the assassination of Iran's top commander Qasem Soleimani. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, from 2001 to 2016, the 2001 AUMF had been cited 37 times in connection with actions in 14 countries and on the high seas. The report stated that "Of the 37 occurrences, 18 were made during the Bush Administration, and 19 have been made during the Obama Administration." The AUMF has been used several times since then by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Why should it be repealed?

The 2002 AUMF is no longer relevant since the Iraq war officially ended in 2011 and the Saddam Hussain regime has not existed since 2003. Repealing it would also prevent further abuse and 'legal' murder by the US Presidents that use it broadly to justify their actions. Their overbroad interpretation of the 2002 Iraq AUMF ignores congressional intent and justifies unauthorized new military actions. According to legal scholars, repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF would reassert the US Congress’s Article I constitutional duty to determine if and when the United States goes to war.

So What now?

At least 49 House Republicans have joined House Democrats in backing the repeal. To be enacted, the proposal must also be approved by the Senate and it would need 60 votes to get through the 100-member Senate which is currently divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Meaning that the vote to repeal needs the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass. Afterward, it would be signed into law by President Joe Biden, who supports the repeal. 

Opponents allege to be worried that the repeal of the 2002 AUMF would "dangerously limit the powers of the president" and signal that the United States is pulling out of the middle east after 20 years of war and destruction. However, supporters of the repeal, like Rep. Greg Meeks, say "I look forward to Congress no longer taking a back seat on some of the most consequential decisions our nation can make." A similar repeal is being drafted to also challenge the 2001 AUMF.


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