My wish for Memorial Day is having less people to memorialize.
We’re still sending troops into harm’s way under an authorization passed right after 9/11.
Bush invoked the AUMF on 18 occasions and Obama invoked it on 19, to justify action against terrorists—though many of them had nothing to do with 9/11 and some did not even exist at the time. The Trump administration has also cited the AUMF to argue that U.S. troops can stay in Syria without any new authorization from Congress.
This argument originated with Obama. In 2014, a “senior administration official” laid out the case in an email to the New York Times. The official argued that the AUMF justified military operations against ISIS in Syria because the Islamic State—as the group was also known—had a “longstanding relationship with al-Qaida” and because its leaders regarded ISIS as “the true inheritor of Osama bin Laden’s legacy.” Therefore, the president could rely on the AUMF as authority for the use of force against ISIS, “notwithstanding the recent public split” between ISIS and al-Qaida’s senior leadership.
As the Bipartisan Policy Center observed in an analysis of the law’s history, “Critics of the expansive use of AUMF argue that the last sentence”—noting the split between ISIS and al-Qaida—“is most telling.” The analysis added: “Though ISIS came into being as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), it was disavowed by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in February 2014. … Furthermore, ISIS did not come into being until 2004—three years after the AUMF’s passage.”
In other words, the notion that the president has presumptive authority to keep troops in Syria or any other country—other than Afghanistan—has a flimsy foundation.
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan amendment that would repeal the AUMF and give Congress eight months to draft new legislation addressing the ongoing wars.
the move to repeal or revise the law doesn’t necessarily mean that Congress will resist Trump’s—or any other president’s—march toward war. According to the Congressional Research Service study, on the 19 occasions when Obama mentioned the AUMF in reports to Congress on the use of force, he often emphasized his executive authority under Article II of the Constitution, noting almost in passing that his decision was also “consistent with” the AUMF. He was reporting the military operations to Congress, as required by the War Powers Act—which gives Congress 60 days to vote against a military operation, if it so desires. There was never a vote—nor did anybody expect one.
Will this time be different?
The truth is, whatever the fate of AUMF, most members of Congress don’t want the responsibility of going to war—or of stopping a war from happening. They would rather let the president, even a president they don’t much like, take the heat.
The bill reflects House Democrats’ desire to curtail Trump’s recent moves in foreign policy and along the border, most notably through Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to retire the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). The provision would sunset the AUMF – used as legal justification for military operations against terrorist groups 41 times in 18 countries since it was passed – eight months after the bill is enacted, giving Congress time to debate and vote on a new AUMF.
The AUMF debate comes as Trump has threatened Iran with military force.
But GOP lawmakers argued ending the current war authorization without a new one already approved could hamper military operations.
“I can think of few things more dangerous and ill-conceived than removing a fundamental underpinning for US military operations without having consensus agreement on what is to replace it,” said the Defense subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas).
Oh, and I hope you all are having an excellent Memorial Day!
I’m heading outside, but I hope to check in later. Please share whatever’s on your mind below.