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

Lucy Steigerwald, May 07, 2013

President_George_W._Bush_address_to_the_nation_and_joint_session_of_Congress_Sept._20The September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), ostensibly a vehicle for the U.S. 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 and still-unknown levels 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. In 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. Sen. Bob Corker is also touting the “update” AUMF line heavily. And has McCain met a warmaking power 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 there will be a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on this matter.

Noted Politico, 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 U.S. 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 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.  (Similar agenda, or just terrorists in general, the point is why have broad powers of war stifled by the need for a tie to 9/11?)

In March, Slate reminded us 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.


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 to do with the AUMF is repeal it.

21 Responses to “John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Others, Mull Possible ‘Update’ to AUMF”

  1. […] Senators Discuss Revising ‘Use of Force’ […]

  2. It should be noted that Senator McCain, Lindsey Graham are well known opportunists, whom, if i were one of bereaved relative of any terrorist attack on Americans, I would ask not to mention it in their conspiracies for more powers or more points for their AIPAC karma, since they are globally known to be part of the problem, NOT solution to it.

  3. FYI: I attended the "Stand with Rand" Senate Judiciary committee meeting on targeted killing and drone laws. I did not take notes but Graham was against any restrictions on drone use. He even praised Obama for his drone policy. A number of others want the law updated so that they get a blank check to do what they want. This is not good people.

  4. Planet earth — A sports mentality

    Whether one believes in evolution or creation, earth most certainly is undergoing a moral evolution and our Empire from birth to downfall, from our nuke cremations in Japan to terrorize the world, to our drone killing of any freedom fighter who appears to be a leader, surely our society has reached the ultimate conclusion of what happens when a nation kills for no other purpose then the thrill of winning.

  5. As Ms Steigerwald says, the only solution is to repeal the AUMF. It never should have seen the light of day to begin with. If cooler heads had been involved the reasons for not doing this would have been very clear. Foremost was the transfer of power from the Legislative Branch to the Executive.

  6. …and just to think that the AUMF, and the entire war on terror are all based lies and deceptions. On an event (9/11) that was conceived, carried out, and to this day, covered-up by highly placed foreign and domestic enemies and double agents residing within the US government itself. Every scrap of creditable evidence that has ever been revealed about 9/11 and it's aftermath proves the above statement as true beyond any reasonable doubts.

  7. Graham is a lying oily snake and not to be trusted with anything.

  8. […] Anti-War – by Lucy Steigerwald […]

  9. […] Antiwar The September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), ostensibly a vehicle […]

  10. […] John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Others, Mull Possible ‘Update’ to AUMF […]

  11. I think that whole crowd have holiday reservations booked for them at GITMO………………………..

  12. The Congress already controls war IAW our Constitution. It is a fact that Congress has not been doing its job for over a decade. Congress had no business what so ever giving Bush the decision making on attacking Iraq or Afghanistan: neither were a threat to this country in any way. Now that over 600, 000 people are dead, Congress is going to create another document that will encourage war. They need to first investigate the 911 attack and find out who was responsible: experts have proven the US story is a fraud. Who is the US supporting in Syria? Who are they? Congress needs to address this matter before it starts another undeclared war.

  13. A lot longer than ten years. The last time Congress declared war was 1941, WWII. The US has been almost perpetually at war since WWII, and not one time has Congress declared it. The US constitution today carries roughly the same weight that the Soviet Constitution carried in 1953.

  14. From a vantage point outside the USA, McCain and Graham appear as the most war mongering and immoral persons that continue to be elected to the US Congress. What does this tell you about the American electorate or the rules of election is this bastion of democracy?

  15. I really like it when folks get together and share views.
    Great blog, continue the good work!

  16. […] Lucy Steigerwald: Don’t Update the AUMF — Repeal it. […]

  17. […] John McCain, Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, Others, Mull Possible ‘Update’ to AUMF « B… […]

  18. […] previously discussed in these spaces by Kelley Vlahos, Lucy Steigerwald, and myself, a group of senators are mulling a revision to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of […]

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  20. I think that whole crowd have holiday reservations booked for them at GITMO………………………..

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