On this weekend, 21 years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which sent us to war in Afghanistan.
Despite President Biden declaring in September 2021 that the United States is no longer at war, his administration continues to claim that this 60-word resolution justifies ongoing U.S. military operations worldwide.
The 2001 AUMF might be the most consequential piece of legislation of the last half-century for my community.
The 2001 AUMF might be the most consequential piece of legislation of the last half-century for my community. I grew up in a small town in Washington State. It’s about an hour south of Seattle. If you drive south, west, or east in any direction from my home, you inevitably come up against the fences of one of the U.S. military’s largest bases on the Pacific coast—Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
This joint military base is home to 110,000 soldiers, civilian workers, veterans, and their families. It is a significant presence in our daily lives, so I think a lot about what the 2001 AUMF has meant for my community. I think about my friends who could go years without seeing parents or siblings deployed to battlefields abroad. I think about classmates who lost relatives to those wars abroad.
In 2017, I attended a Memorial Day event. It was organized by a group called “wear blue: run to remember,” a nonprofit founded to honor those from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who died while deployed to Afghanistan. During the event, there were moments of silence. Children spoke about parents they lost before they ever met them.
More than two decades of American military engagement have had a devastating impact on my community. And while the cost at home has been grievous, the consequences in the countries we’ve intervened in have been even more ghastly. More than 363,000 civilians have died as a direct result of violence in post-9/11 military operations. Millions more suffered, and many died due to the side effects of war, such as ruined infrastructure, hospitals, roads, and schools.
The madness of these wars will continue until some guardrails are implemented. Congress must act to rein in the forever wars now.
FCNL’s recent report on the failures of the war on terror makes clear how counterproductive the fighting has been. In six countries where U.S. troops were deployed for combat, terror attacks have risen by more than 1,900% . The equipment and training we provided to partner states, such as Burkina Faso, to counter terrorism instead have been repurposed to repress and massacre minority groups and political opposition.
Yet the fighting goes on. The Biden administration continues to conduct lethal strikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria, which have done nothing to deter their retaliatory attacks on U.S. troops. The administration recently sent hundreds of troops back to Somalia, where terrorism and instability have only increased since the United States began intervening in the country in 2006.
The madness of these wars will continue until some guardrails are implemented. Congress must act to rein in the forever wars now. To stop the bleeding abroad and at home, the 2001 AUMF must be repealed. Any other course guarantees more blood and more bitter failure for ourselves and the world.