In this installment of “Why Aren’t We Talking About This?”, we’ll look at the “Authorization for use of Military Force” resolutions passed in 2001 and 2002.
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Shortly after the heart wrenching terrorist attacks America suffered on September 11, 2001, our federal legislature passed a resolution permitting the president to engage those responsible for the 9/11 attacks with military force. Honorable enough, and the 9/11 attacks certainly justified a violent response. Whether or not “war” should have been declared is worthy of debate, as it may have been possible to take a “law enforcement” approach to hunting, capturing, or killing Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda operatives directly responsible for planning and staging the attacks, but history proves that our approach was that of an invading force, waging a war against the Taliban government that harbored the Al Qaeda organization hiding in Afghanistan. In either scenario, 9/11 was not an event we should have taken lying down, and had I been a member of Congress at that time, I would have supported specified measures to act.
By “specified,” I mean that any declaration or authorization to commit U.S. troops to combat must specify how, when, where, and how long these forces are utilized. What we received, instead, was the “Authorization to use Military Force” in 2001. It sounds innocuous enough, right? The issue with the resolution, though, is found in the first sentence of Section 2, which reads:
(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Note that nowhere in this 60 word sentence (nor anywhere else in this short bill) was a time restriction given for use of force, nor a sunset date for the bill, nor a geographic restriction on where this action may take place. It is a very open-ended piece of legislation, essentially leaving the president very little restriction on where he may commit our troops to action. I italicized he in that sentence, because the resolution explicitly states “he determines…,” so the facetious side of me wonders if the resolution dies (or takes a four year sabbatical) when a woman presides over the Executive Branch.
The very fact that the bill places so little restriction on how, when, and where the president can commit U.S. troops and assets to wage this “War on Terror” has been noted by, and exercised by both our former Republican president, George W. Bush, and our current Nobel Peace Prize winner, Democrat Barack Obama. Despite popular rhetoric about one being a warmonger and the other being the “peace candidate,” the fact of the matter is that both are responsible for the thousands of U.S. troops killed, tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed, the destruction of private and public property, the infringement of the sovereignty of other nations, the indefinite detention and torture of both the peccant and the innocent, the profiteering, and the trillions of dollars spent on the “cause” under the guise of this resolution. The bill, as scrupulous as it may have seemed at the time, is nothing more than carte blanche for war at one person’s discretion.
President Obama (and the legislature that seems largely complicit in the matter) has only mentioned repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMF (which authorized the Iraq War and has no sunset provision) at opportune moments, while continuing to cite both resolutions to permit a global drone war, indefinite detention, enhanced interrogation, invading or bombing countries like Libya and Syria, funding, training, and supporting terrorist organizations and governments that we either were fighting or will be fighting, and more. The 2002 AUMF, in fact, is what would permit President Obama to wage an aerial campaign or commit “boots on the ground” in Iraq if he determines the situation warrants it. While a Republican Senator has in fact presented a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF, the Democrats comprising the majority have not acted on it, and here we are.
Your representatives must be held accountable on this issue, and every effort must be made to repeal these obsolete authorizations to wage war at a single person’s discretion. In order to prevent further violence and bloodshed, global American resentment, and public debt, these authorizations must be repealed at all costs, and any commitment of U.S. troops and assets to battle must first require a formal declaration through our legislature, and never be permitted to pass without a timeline or sunset provision.
Both parties can continue to point fingers and blame “the other team’s president,” but the fact of the matter is, a two party majority spanning over a decade, and two presidents, have been completely complicit in our global warfare campaign, and it must stop. While I pledge to author or sponsor legislation that repeals obsolete blank checks for war as a U.S. Representative and will fight to ensure that all appropriate avenues are taken before our young men and women are sent around the world to engage in violent warfare, I would be but one of nearly 500 other representatives with weight on the matter (the majority of which seem either derelict in their duties as keepers of our Republic, or complicit in the act, and continue to retain their seats with little difficulty). It is absolutely the duty of each and every American to ensure their representative represents them and upholds their oath. War, whether necessary or not, does not come without death and destruction, and requires every avenue of consideration. The helm of death and destruction does not reside in one person, regardless of what a malfeasant, dated resolution declares.
When Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying “A republic, if you can keep it” outside of Independence Hall after the deliberations on the new Constitution in 1787 to a curious woman waiting in the crowd, he meant exactly that; it’s your government, and you’re responsible for keeping it.
-Chris Mayo (L), candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (IN-7)