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The United States has launched airstrikes, land invasions, and drone strikes around the world since 9/11 under the auspices of keeping us safe from terrorism. These wars have resulted in the deaths of approximately 800,000 people, including more than 335,000 civilians, and have cost $6.4 trillion.

Violent extremism won’t be stopped by “killing bad guys.” More bombs cause local populations to turn against the United States, fuel the propaganda and recruitment efforts of extremist groups, and keep us in an unwinnable cycle of endless war.

The AUMFs

For nearly two decades, three successive administrations have conducted ever-expanding wars across the globe without congressional approval by relying on two laws that were passed in 2001 and 2002.

Congress should repeal the 2001 AUMF and 2002 Iraq AUMF and take back its authority to determine where and when the United States goes to war.

Known as the “blank check” for endless war, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was passed by Congress three days after the attacks of September 11. Since this time, this single law has been used to justify military interventions around the globe against groups, like ISIS, that did not exist in 2001, as well as indefinite detention, an illegal torture program, and lethal drone attacks both in and outside of war zones. The 2001 AUMF has been called “the most dangerous sentence in U.S. history.”

Congress passed the 2002 Iraq AUMF to authorize war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime under the erroneous guise of defending the United States against Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. The 2002 Iraq AUMF lay dormant for several years until the Obama administration asserted that it provided an “alternative statutory basis” to the 2001 AUMF for its campaign against ISIS in Iraq. Most recently, President Trump further stretched the scope of the 2002 Iraq AUMF, claiming that it authorized the January 2020 assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

When Congress has to vote on wars — when their constituents can hold them accountable for war-making — the United States is less likely to pursue military action. Congress should repeal the 2001 AUMF and 2002 Iraq AUMF and take back its authority to determine where and when the United States goes to war.

 

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