The executive branch cited the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (2002 Iraq AUMF) as a legal justification for the strike—a claim rejected by respected legal scholars. Congress passed the 2002 Iraq AUMF to permit the president to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. No such weapons were ever found, and Saddam Hussein is long gone from this world, but the 2002 Iraq AUMF remains law.
We urge President-elect Joe Biden to repeal the outdated, unnecessary, and dangerous 2002 Iraq AUMF in his first 100 days.
The anniversary of the Soleimani strike reminds us of the urgent need to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF—an outdated and dangerous law vulnerable to expansive interpretation by the executive branch. Congress has made over twenty legislative attempts to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF since 2011, when Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) proposed a bipartisan amendment to repeal the authorization in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In the past two years, members of Congress have taken significant bipartisan action to finally take it off the books. The House first voted to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF in July 2019, as an amendment to the NDAA. The repeal passed on a bipartisan basis by a vote of 242-180. Following the Soleimani strike last January, the House voted again to repeal the law as part of the No War Against Iran Act; that bill passed the chamber by a vote of 236-166. Most recently, in July 2020, a year after the House first voted to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to the annual defense spending bill to repeal it.
Although none of these provisions were ultimately enacted, they demonstrate the growing will of Congress to reassert its authority over war and peace. The public outcry against endless war has led a growing body of lawmakers to gather at the floodgates to war and slowly draw them closed.
The 2020 Democratic party platform said that a Democratic administration would “work with Congress to repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force.” We urge President-elect Joe Biden to keep this promise and work with Congress to repeal the outdated, unnecessary, and dangerous 2002 Iraq AUMF in his first 100 days.