Six U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to terminate a pair of longstanding authorizations for past wars on Iraq, reviving an ongoing effort to reaffirm Congress’ role in deciding whether to approve the use of military force.
Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Chip Roy (R-Texas) led the latest campaign to rescind the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs).
“Three presidents have come and gone since Congress last voted to authorize a U.S. invasion of Iraq over twenty years ago; a fourth is now in office,” Lee said in a statement. “Yet the legacy of these horrific forever wars lives on in the form of the now-obsolete 2002 and 1991 AUMFs.”
“It’s far past time to put decisions of military action back in the hands of the people, as the constitution intended,” she declared.
Kaine added that “the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs are no longer necessary, serve no operational purpose, and run the risk of potential misuse.”
“Congress owes it to our servicemembers, veterans, and families to pass our bill repealing these outdated AUMFs and formally ending the Gulf and Iraq wars,” he said.
“The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs are no longer necessary, serve no operational purpose, and run the risk of potential misuse.”
The U.S. Constitution grants Congress, not the president, the right to declare war.
Many members of Congress have long warned that by passing and then failing to repeal open-ended AUMFs, the legislative branch has ceded too much decision-making power to the White House over whether to send troops into combat.
Although the House voted to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs in June 2021 and Kaine and Young’s bill has garnered strong bipartisan support since it was first unveiled in the Senate in 2019, lawmakers have so far failed to rescind the bygone war authorizations, with some arguing in favor of keeping them intact to give Pentagon officials more flexibility.
Lee, for her part, was the only federal lawmaker to vote against the 2001 AUMF that greenlit the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and remains in effect more than a year after American soldiers withdrew from the war-torn country.
A recent analysis by the Costs of War project warned that while necessary, repealing the 2001 AUMF would be insufficient to end the so-called “War on Terror” that has killed nearly one million people and cost more than $21 trillion since it was launched in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The report explained that as the executive branch’s power to authorize military activities has metastasized under four administrations since 9/11, so-called “counterterrorism operations” have exploded across the globe with little to no oversight, necessitating further congressional action to rein in Pentagon aggression.
Kevin Snow, program assistant for militarism and human rights with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, wrote Thursday that the 2002 AUMF is “outdated” and “ripe for abuse.”
“In 2020, Trump administration lawyers argued that the 2002 Iraq AUMF provided a legal basis for the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani,” Snow observed. “The Biden administration has confirmed its obsolescence and publicly supported repeal, but that is no guarantee that a future administration won’t abuse it again.”
Stephen Miles, president of Win Without War, echoed Snow.
“Our endless wars are underpinned by the absurdity of endless military authorizations,” Miles said in a statement. “Already, these authorizations risked catastrophic war when former President Trump used the 2002 authorization to assassinate an Iranian general. We cannot roll the dice with innocent lives, whether here or abroad, ever again.”
“The last time Congress repealed a war authorization was 1971,” Miles continued. “Clearly, giving the executive branch complete power to wage war has backfired and led to mass suffering under the baseless talking point of national security.”
“Next month will mark the 20-year anniversary of the Iraq War, a war launched on false pretenses and the consequences of which we are still experiencing today,” he added. “By passing this new bill, Congress can use this anniversary to start the long path towards justice by stopping the next war of choice.”
This article has been updated to include a statement from Stephen Miles, president of Win Without War.