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 President Obama pictured during his first visit to the Pentagon since becoming President January 28, 2009. (Photo: DOD/public domain)

President Obama pictured during his first visit to the Pentagon since becoming President January 28, 2009. (Photo: DOD/public domain)

Obama's Claimed War-Making Authority for Syria and Iraq Called 'Preposterous'

Administration official says War Powers requirement for congressional vote does not apply

Sarah Lazare

The White House is facing criticism for its declaration on Wednesday that it can continue to escalate war in both Iraq and Syria without approval from Congress because it is granted authority from two pieces of legislation passed 12 and 13 years ago.

"These are illegal underpinnings for what is a new war in the Middle East," Stephen Miles of Win Without War told Common Dreams.

Under the War Powers Resolution, the president is forbidden from unilaterally waging military hostilities for more than 60 days without authorization from Congress. But October 7 marked 60 days since the U.S. began launching air bombardments on Iraq, which have since spread to Syria, and White House and Pentagon officials this week warned that the war is likely to last years.

On Wednesday, over a week after the expiration of the 60-day window, a top administration official declared that the limit does not apply to this current war. “Because the 2001 and 2002 [Authorizations for Use of Military Force] constitute specific authorization within the meaning of the War Powers Resolution, the War Powers Resolution’s 60-day limitation on operations does not apply here,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, as quoted in the Guardian.

The 2001 AUMF was passed by Congress to authorize the president to use military force against those who waged or enabled the 2001 September 11th attacks. The 2002 AUMF authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq and use of force against Saddam Hussein. Critics say that these pieces of legislation, themselves highly controversial, do not amount to blanket approval for the expanding war against ISIS.

"It's absolutely preposterous to use the 2001 AUMF about September 11th, or the 2002 AUMF to authorize war on Iraq," said Miles,echoing arguments from legal scholars issued before this most recent war began.

Ackerman writes for the Guardian, "Both resolutions long predate the existence of Isis, which al-Qaida has specifically excommunicated and denounced. Before the launch of Operation Inherent Resolve, Barack Obama supported the expiration of both AUMFs."

In a speech issued May of last year, Obama warned that the 2001 AUMF could be interpreted as a green light for endless war. He stated:

The AUMF is now nearly 12 years old. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.


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