War Corps & Hawks Want to Expand Washington’s War Powers

May 8th, 2013 - by admin

Lucy Steigerwald / AntiWar.com & Michael Shank and Matt Southworth / The Guardian – 2013-05-08 00:46:01

John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Others, Mull Possible ‘Update’ to AUMF

John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Others, Mull Possible ‘Update’ to AUMF
Lucy Steigerwald / AntiWar.com

WASHINGTON, DC (May 7, 2013) — The September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force [1] (AUMF), ostensibly a vehicle for the US to go after the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC., turns out to have been a whole hell of a lot more than that nearly 12 years on. That simple joint resolution has been stretched very thin during the War on Terror.

The original text gives the President permission 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.” Fair enough (ish).

But since September 2001, we’ve had 12 years of war in Afghanistan. The Bush administration also used the AUMF to justify Gitmo [2] and still-unknown levels [3] of NSA spying on Americans. Bush began the drone program cautiously (relatively speaking), and the Obama administration’s drone strikes have continued and dramatically increased the scope and scale of those attacks — branching out into strike in Yemen, Somalia, Mali, and elsewhere [2]. I

n short, the AUMF has served as a sturdy pillar of support for the potentially endless and apparently geographically limitless War on Terror.

So, knowing that, it’s almost tempting to take talk of an “update” to the resolution as good news. Could it be any worse?

Sure could. Most of the folks wanting to fix AUMF are notoriously hawkish. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham being the most obvious — and alarming — examples of powerful folks who believe the president’s war powers are being forever constrained. Graham seems to miss no opportunity to clamor for more powers for the president.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, he repeatedly demanded that surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be treated as an enemy combatant. [4] Sen. Bob Corker is also touting the “update” AUMF line heavily [5]. And has McCain met a warmaking power [6] he doesn’t like, at least in the past 13 years?

Today it was reported that McCain, Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin, along with Graham and Corker, gathered for the initial planning stages of a potential new AUMF. On May 16 [7] there will be a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on this matter.

Noted Politico [8], optimistically:
A new resolution could call for military action only against al Qaeda or affiliate groups, or organizations designated by Congress as terror backers, according to sources close to the talks. Obama would still be authorized to hold terror detainees, but there would be more congressional oversight of the US struggle against such terror threats, a particularly sensitive issue in light of the recent Boston Marathon bombing.

The problem with messing with the AUMF has been pointed out by various sources in the last few months, including Antiwar’s Kelley B. Vlahos [9] who wrote “Beware of Lawyers Bearing AUMF Fix” in April.

Vlahos noted that various Senators, unnamed Obama sources, and the Brookings Institution are all repeating the line that the AUMF is “obsolete” and needs to be updated in order to explicitly authorize new foreign adventures against groups with — at best — tertiary ties to Al-Qaeda. [10] (Similar agenda, or just terrorists in general [11], the point is why have broad powers of war stifled by the need for a tie to 9/11?)

In March, Slate reminded us [12] that Congress may be asking for new definitions of Obama’s war-fighting power in order to control it, but they have a laughable track record in that particular area. (See: a large chunk of the 20th century, the start of this one.)

The killing takeaway from the Politico article was also spotted by Empty Wheel, who noted the disturbing overlap between those who crafted the indefinite detainment portion of the 2012 NDAA and those who think the AUMF isn’t strong enough. [13]

Some Democrats, for their part, worry that vocal Obama critics like [Sen. Rand] Paul and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — or dozens of House Republicans — would use such a debate to attack the president’s policy on all military and national security issues, not just terror-related topics.

Can you imagine what Paul or Cruz would do with this?” said one top Democratic aide. “It could be a disaster. And it would be worse in the House.” [emphasis added]

There you have it. Nobody hankering to rewrite the rules of war should be trusted in this task, especially not these guys. The only thing [2] to do with the AUMF is to repeal it.

URLs in this post:
[1] The September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: http://antiwar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/President_George_W._Bush_address_to_the_nation_and_joint_session_of_Congress_Sept._20.jpg

[2] AUMF to justify Gitmo: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/05/authorization-use-military-force-blank-check

[3] still-unknown levels: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/04/telephone-calls-recorded-fbi-boston

[4] as an enemy combatant.: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/lindsey-graham-bombing-boston-suspect_n_3118731.html

[5] touting the “update” AUMF line heavily: http://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/news?ID=2be33f18-0fb4-4cd6-91c8-f792515aa055

[6] met a warmaking power: http://www.salon.com/2011/12/01/congress_endorsing_military_detention_a_new_aumf/

[7] On May 16: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/event.cfm?eventid=dff260f50b247719c4fa9f1e3daf7232

[8] Politico: http://antiwar.com/blog http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/senators-discuss-revising-911-resolution-90989_Page2.html#ixzz2SfHvtC5A

[9] Antiwar’s Kelley B. Vlahos: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/04/09/beware-lawyers-bearing-aumf-fix/

[10] tertiary ties to Al-Qaeda. : http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-06/world/37500569_1_qaeda-drone-strikes-obama-administration

[11] terrorists in genera: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

[12] Slate reminded us: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/03/congress_shouldn_t_give_president_obama_new_power_to_fight_terrorists.html

[13] think the AUMF isn’t strong enough.: http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/05/07/the-folks-who-brought-you-military-detention-in-the-ndaa-are-rewriting-the-aumf/



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

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

Michael Shank and Matt Southworth / The Guardian

LONDON & WASHINGTON (May 5, 2013) — A 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 $130 million on lobbying efforts in 2012 alone, and in the first quarter of 2013, weapons maker Northrop Grumman spent $5.8 million 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.

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