Tell Congress: No blank check for endless war
Just three days after 9/11, a panicked Congress, unsure of the nature of the terrorist threat facing the United States, passed an overly broad and poorly drafted law known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
Progressive champion and congresswoman Barbara Lee (the only member of Congress with the foresight and courage to vote against it) has called the AUMF “a blank check for endless war …that gives any president the nearly unlimited authority to wage limitless war at anytime, anywhere, for any reason, in perpetuity.”
Now, nearly 13 years later, it’s time to repeal this blank check for war. Osama Bin Laden is dead, Al-Qaeda is a shell of its former self, and our involvement in Afghanistan is quickly diminishing. We must repeal the AUMF once and for all. And Rep. Lee has introduced bipartisan legislation to do just that.
Tell Congress: It’s time to end the blank check for endless war.
The heart of the AUMF authorized the president 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.”
When it was passed, its supporters insisted that it was not, as Rep. Lee insisted, a “blank check.” But in the 13 years since its passage, time has sadly proven Rep. Lee right.
Since its passage, the AUMF has become the legal lynchpin for many of the worst abuses of executive power. In an editorial calling for repeal of the AUMF, the New York Times editorial board explains:
Mr. Bush used the authorization law as an excuse to kidnap hundreds of people — guilty and blameless people alike — and throw them into secret prisons where many were tortured. He used it as a pretext to open the Guantánamo Bay camp and to eavesdrop on Americans without bothering to obtain a warrant. He claimed it as justification for the invasion of Iraq, twisting intelligence to fabricate a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.
Unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama does not go as far as to claim that the Constitution gives him the inherent power to do all those things. But he has relied on the 2001 authorization to use drones to kill terrorists far from the Afghan battlefield, and to claim an unconstitutional power to kill American citizens in other countries based only on suspicion that they are or might become terrorist threats, without judicial review.1
The AUMF has no expiration date. So if Congress fails to repeal it, President Obama or any future president can fall back on the AUMF’s expansive delegation of war-making authority to wage war without any further input or authorization from Congress.
This represents a major abdication of Congress’ responsibility to provide a check and counterbalance to executive power. It’s long passed time for Congress to rectify this mistake and repeal the AUMF.
1 "Repeal the Military Force Law," New York Times, March 9, 2013.