Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VI), have submitted a bipartisan bill to revise the Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs), which were approved in 2001 and 2002 following the September 11 attacks.
While the bill purportedly seeks to reinforce Congress’s right to limit the president’s ability to declare war, some critics argue that the new AUMF will accomplish exactly the opposite.
Supporters of the new AUMF argue that because the new version requires a congressional review every four years it will close the loophole that has allowed the U.S. to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan for 17 years.
Proponents also laud the inclusion of a mandate that requires that the president report to congress within 48 hours of deploying troops into a new country. Congress would then have 60 days to pass legislation to prevent the deployment if they don’t agree. Should congress choose not to act, the president’s authority will remain in place.
“For too long, Congress has given Presidents a blank check to wage war. We’ve let the 9/11 and Iraq War authorizations get stretched to justify wars against multiple terrorist groups in over a dozen countries, from Niger to the Philippines. Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war.” – Senator Tim Kaine
The new AUMF expands the president’s authority to combat Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS), and the Taliban regardless of their geographic location, as well as against any forces “associated” with those groups.
The bill specifically lists five groups as “associates;” 1. al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), 2. al-Shabab, 3. al-Qaeda in Syria, 4. The Haqqani Network, 5. al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and offers a definition for “associated forces:”
“(2) the term ‘‘associated forces’’ means any organization, person, or force, other than a sovereign nation, that the President determines  has entered the fight alongside and is a co-belligerent with al Qaeda, the Taliban, or ISIS, in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, or that  has been a part of al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, or an associated force designated pursuant to this authorization and is engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners;” – The Lawfare Blog
The bill also includes a provision allowing the president to identify and designate additional associated forces as long as the president submits an explanation to Congress.
It does not, however, require that the public be provided with an unclassified notification of the addition of a new designation.
“The Corker AUMF would reportedly authorize force — without limitations — in at least six countries and against a long list of organizations. The president would be able to add additional countries as well as additional enemies, including groups that do not even exist yet. The president could even add the U.S. to the list of places where lethal military force can be used. The additions — which are very similar to new declarations of war — would simply have to be reported to Congress to take effect.” – Christopher Anders, Deputy Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argue that, in its current wording, the proposed AUMF would essentially hand the president a blank check to engage in war wherever he or she sees fit.
“That is exactly what is happening, that this legislation, in effect, is abdicating congressional responsibility. And to give Senators Kaine and Corker a little bit of credit here, they’re coming at it with good intention. They have recognized that the 9/11 AUMF has been abused. And it is an embarrassment to Congress that it has done nothing while the president and the executive branch expand worldwide operations under that now-17-year-old authorization. So they’re saying, “OK, well, Congress should wade into this and actually create a new AUMF.” In doing so, what they’re saying is “We’re just going to justify all the current ongoing operations and just give de facto authorization from Congress to go carry it out for as long as you’d like.” – Faiz Shakir, national policy director for the ACLU
This is a pivotal point for the U.S. as tensions between our government and countries such as Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, and Iran continue to escalate.
We as a nation are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to repent for our irresponsible handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to show the world that we are committed to pursuing a more ethical approach to international conflict.
Whether or not that will be the ultimate outcome is yet to be determined.
For an in-depth examination of the new AUMF draft broken down in easy-to-understand laymen’s terms, check out The Lawfare Blog’s breakdown and assessment, written by Robert Chesney.
To listen to the full interview with Faiz Shakir with DemocracyNow!, click here.