Why is the US repeal of the Iraq war authorization still relevant? | Conflicting news

The administration of US President Joe Biden as well as many bipartisan US lawmakers and supporters have said they want to Authorization for the use of military force against Iraq (AUMF) rejected.

The authorization was signed by former President George W Bush in 2002, allowing the United States to invade and occupy Iraq as the United States. The “war on terror” lasted two decades has come into full operation. It has been increasingly condemned by critics for giving the US executive branch menacing broad and vague military powers.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate launched their latest attempt to scrap the 2002 law, reintroducing a bill to repeal the mandate.

The effort follows a period from 2021 to 2022 that advocates say is the best opportunity to pass repeal. The path may have narrowed, however, with Republicans taking control of the House after last year’s midterm elections.

“All these groups are saying ‘enough’. Take this appeal out of the book. Heather Brandon-Smith, legislative director for Militarism and Human Rights at the Friends of the National Legislative Committee (FCNL), a Washington-based lobbying group, told Al Jazeera to bring Congress back. back to the job of making that tough decision when we go to war. .

She noted that the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 will take place in March.

“People with political divisions seem to really want to see Congress make decisions, not the president deciding when, where, and against whom the United States goes to war,” she said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Bush in a military jacket with the words "shrubs" on one side and "Our Army" on the other hand, at the microphone in the middle of the speech.  His face froze in a fierce expression.  Behind him, blurred out, was a group of American soldiers.
Former US President George W Bush addresses soldiers and their families in Fort Hood, Texas before the invasion of Iraq [File: Jeff Mitchell/AP]

Critics argue that the reason the AUMF became increasingly suspicious after the official end of the United States, in 2011, its combat operations in Iraq, which saw U.S. troop numbers in the country increased to a peak of 170,000 – as did combat operations against ISIS (ISIL) by 2021.

The abolition of the AUMF in 2002 – with broader and more geographical reorganization AUMF 2001 is full of politicsauthorizes US law enforcement to pursue military action against individuals or groups deemed to be involved in the 9/11 attacks – at the heart of legal restructuring efforts that have been guidelines for U.S. military action abroad in recent decades.

Why is repeal still relevant?

The United States Congress, the body with the only constitutional power to declare war, has not done so since 1941 when it passed statements against Japan after the Pearl Harbor attacks and a few days later. against Nazi-controlled Germany and Axis Italy.

Instead, to engage the U.S. military in foreign conflicts, presidential administrations have relied on Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which grants limited war powers to the executive branch and to the law. Congress passed – commonly known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. (AUMF).

According to Scott Anderson, a senior fellow at Columbia Law School’s National Security Law Program, the AUMF “permits great war.” They provide legal and political cover between nagging questions about the limits of presidential constitutional war powers and, most importantly, masking questions about whether presidents can “exercise actions that risk leading to a major war without congressional authorization.”

“AUMF 2002, at least as far as things related to Iraq are concerned, open up the possibility that the president could lean on it and start a major war without having to go back and check or make sure they have the support of the most democratic branch of government – ​​Congress – or a broader political support in general,” Anderson said.

“Now, will our presidents do that often? No, they are not. But there are cases where they can.”

Most recently, the administration of Former President Donald Trump used the 2002 Iraq AUMF, in part, to justify deadly drone attack about Iranian generals Qassem Soleimani on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in early 2020.

The murder resulted in US-Iranian gunfight threatens to escalate into all-out war.

The Biden administration has said it is not relying solely on the 2002 AUMF to justify any of its military actions in Iraq.

Anderson, who previously served as legal counsel for the US Embassy in Baghdad, notes that despite this, Iraq remains a particularly important arena when it comes to the possibility of broader escalation. That is largely due to the presence of Iran-aligned militias in Iraq, Iran’s excessive involvement in the neighboring country, and the ongoing political and economic crises.

The US has 2,000 troops in Iraq, operating in advisory role. Foreign forces are frequently the target of armed groups calling for their elimination.

Meanwhile, Anderson said, the executive branch in recent years has “clarified” the 2002 Iraq AUMF that authorizes the president to use military force to “fight terrorists” in the country or “address any threat to a stable government.” .

This creates a number of avenues that could lead to an escalation of tensions under a future administration, he said.

“I think the US relationship with Iran is one of those very challenging relationships where you can see a particular president feeling liberated by AUMF 2002, taking more risky actions. or push the envelope harder against Iran.”

Where does the abolition stand?

The repeal of the AUMF in 2002 has received particular bipartisan support in Congress in recent years, with an independent bill introduced in 2021 by Representative Barbara Lee passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives with the support of 49 Republicans.

While introducing the most recent legislation, which would also repeal the 1991 AUMF that allowed the United States to participate in the Gulf War, Lee said it was “too long to put decisions on military action back into the hands of the United States.” people, as the Constitution intended. “.

Previous congressional efforts have made some interesting associates, with several pro-Trump lawmakers on the far right of the Republican Party – including Representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert – join the Democratic majority in pursuing repeal.

In 2021 in the Senate, Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican, also introduced an independent bill that attracted 11 Republican cosponsors, making it poised to cross the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a movie in a congressional session where Democrats still control both houses.

Kaine and Young collaborated again on introducing the latest legislation in the Senate.

In 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also enthusiastically supported repeal, promising to put the bill to a vote, and with the Biden administration approving the effort, progress appears to be on .

However, according to analysts, a vote on the floor of the Senate on repealing independence was never passed, possibly due to concerns that debate over the law would be limited to how long. While Senators Kaine and Young sought to include an amendment to the Senate’s 2023 version of the NDAA – as passed in the House – the effort was unsuccessful.

In the closing days of 2022, antiwar groups issued a last-minute appeal to Schumer.

“By repealing the Iraq AUMF in 2002 – whether by independent means or through a multimedia spending package – Congress will ultimately regain its constitutional war power in a way that is both profoundly meaningful and meaningful. has become increasingly uncontroversial,” the 37 groups said in a letter to top Democrats.

“We advise you to seize this opportunity to get rid of it forever.”

‘Opportunities still exist’

Despite the new set of obstacles, hope remains in the new congressional term, with Democrats maintaining a 51-seat majority in the Senate and Republicans holding 222 seats, analysts and advocates say. in the House of Representatives, giving them a slight majority to 212 of the Democrats.

In the Senate, all 11 Republicans who co-sponsored the 2022 repeal bill remained in office, while 40 of the 49 Republicans who supported the 2021 House bill kept their seats. .

However, observers say it is not yet likely that House Republicans will put such legislation to a vote, with the majority of Republicans still opposed.

That means pressure will almost certainly have to come from the Senate, with FCLN’s Brandon-Smith saying the best possible chance would include repeal as an amendment to the so-called “must-have” law. through”, such as the NDAA or other aggregate spending packages.

Despite missed opportunities for repeal last year, she struck an upbeat tone.

“The reality is that there is still a bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate that want this AUMF off the books… So we’re still in a pretty solid position of support in Congress,” she said. say, “which brings opportunity”.


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