Friends Committee on National Legislation Washington Newsletter – 2013-11-26 16:58:40
Four Steps Congress Can Take to End the Endless Wars
Friends Committee on National Legislation Washington Newsletter
1. Repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force
This broad authorization allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against any entity deemed responsible for the September 11 attacks. It has been used to justify everything from warrantless wiretapping to remote drone strikes.
Urge your representative to support legislation to repeal this authorization. Rep. Adam Schiff’s bill (H.R. 2324) would end the authorization at the end of 2014, when the US military withdraws from Afghanistan. Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill (H.R. 198) would end the authorization within 180 days after passage.
2. Disclose the Rules for Using Drones: No More Secret Wars
The US needs to have a public discussion on the impact of drone strikes and how our country’s foreign policy can promote peace in the world.
In response to a letter from 11 senators, President Obama has disclosed some details about his administration’s legal justification for using armed drones against US citizens. But much of this program remains shrouded in secrecy. Ask your members of Congress to endorse the letter to President Obama and support proposals to require greater accountability and transparency about the secret drone wars.
3. Repeal the Patriot Act
Passed soon after the September 11 attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act (PL 107-56) significantly encroaches on the civil rights and liberties of people in the United States.
This legislation revised the nation’s surveillance laws, expanding the government’s ability to spy on its own citizens. At the same time it reduced checks on powers including judicial oversight and the ability to challenge government searches in court. While originally justified as a necessary tool to keep US citizens safe, the Patriot Act has become an indication of the permanent militarization of our domestic life.
Congressional support is growing to repeal some or all of this legislation. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ) has introduced H.R. 2818 to repeal the Patriot Act and other legislation authorizing domestic surveillance. In July a House amendment to rein in the National Security Agency’s domestic spying powers was narrowly defeated by a 205-217 vote.
In September, Sens. Ron Wyden (OR), Mark Udall (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Rand Paul (KY) introduced the Intelligence Oversight and Domestic Surveillance Act to reform domestic surveillance laws and the secret surveillance court.
Urge your senators to support the Wyden-Udall-Blumenthal-Paul legislation. Urge your representative to support H.R. 2818, the Surveillance State Repeal Act.
4. Close the US Prison at Guantanamo Bay and End Indefinite Detention
Despite promises from President Obama when he took office, 164 people remain imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as of October 2013. This indefinite detention is a gross violation of human rights and dignity.
Congress has narrowly failed to pass several proposals to address these detentions. Late this year, your senators will likely have the chance to vote on this issue again. Urge them to support amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred or released.
Repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force
Friends Committee on National Legislation Washington Newsletter
Any gardener knows a weed must be pulled from the root in order to be removed from a thriving garden. Endless war too, like a stubborn weed, can only be removed by its root. The root of the endless wars our country is pursuing is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or “AUMF” (Public Law 107-40), which passed nearly unanimously in the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The AUMF’s broad and vague language authorized the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against any nation, organization or person deemed responsible for those attacks, which includes harboring or assisting those responsible. As Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) accurately stated, it “gives any president the authority to wage war at any time, in any place, for nearly any purpose.”
Rep. Lee cast the lone vote of dissent against the AUMF in 2001. Explaining her vote, she warned that such a sweeping allocation of authority could lead the United States to “become the evil that we deplore.”
The AUMF has indeed led to a state of near-endless war. It has also been used to justify policies, such as the indefinite detentions in Guantanamo Bay and unmanned drone attacks, that would have been previously unthinkable. From warrantless wiretapping to assassinations of US citizens, the AUMF is frequently cited as the legal authority. Presidents Bush and Obama have invoked the AUMF at least 30 times to justify their activities.
What Congress Can Do
By repealing the AUMF, Congress would take a significant step toward ending the endless wars. This repeal would scale back or eliminate some of worst policies that have become standard over the last decade.
FCNL supports two current bills to repeal the AUMF.
* Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) has introduced H.R. 2324 to sunset the AUMF at the end of 2014 — timed with the end of US combat operations in Afghanistan.
* Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) and 31 other representatives have introduced H.R. 198 to repeal the AUMF, effective 180 days after the legislation’s passage.
Repeal efforts have been steadily gaining support for both moral and financial reasons. When a variation of Rep. Schiff’s legislation was offered as an amendment to the military appropriations bill in July, 185 representatives — 30 Republicans and 155 Democrats — voted in favor. With enough support from constituents, we are optimistic that the House could approve a repeal of the AUMF next time it comes to a vote.
The rejection of the Obama administration’s proposal to conduct military strikes in Syria is a hopeful sign of our country’s willingness to look for nonviolent ways to solve the problems we face in the world. Constituent voices played a significant role in this rejection. This same swell of public opinion should now be directed at Congress to repeal the AUMF. Members of Congress should listen to a war-weary nation and close this dark chapter of US history. We can, and should, bring the endless wars to an end.
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