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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who introduced the measure to repeal the 2001 AUMF, said she wants to "force a debate on this war...its costs and its consequences." (Photo: Reuters/Enrique De La Osa)

Thanks to U.S. Congress, Endless War Will... Not End

Attempt to repeal the 2001 authorization for a war with no apparent time or geographic limit fails in House of Representatives

Lauren McCauley


An attempt to repeal the 2001 congressional authorization that provides the legal basis for the ongoing wars in both Afghanistan, Iraq, and the global war on terror was voted down by the House of Representatives on Wednesday night.

As the Huffington Post reports:

In a 138-285 vote, the House rejected an amendment Wednesday night that would have repealed the sprawling 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force passed in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The amendment would have revoked the 2001 AUMF within 90 days of the president signing the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed Wednesday night, 277-147. adds:

Rep. Lee said she aimed to force debate on the current war and end the 2001 “blank check for endless war.” Rep. Pete Sessions (R – TX), one of only a handful of Republicans to cross the aisle, said Lee had “a really good argument.”

Years into the war, Congress has never voted on it. In 2014, the deadline for voting was ignored by Congressmen seeking to avoid a debate ahead of the mid-term elections. As the war continued to grow, there have been a handful of half-hearted efforts to “authorize” it, with President Obama offering an AUMF the White House publicly bragged was so “deliberately vague” they could use it to justify anything, and fighting fiercely against other authorizations that had actual limits on the conflict.


After years of bombings and a new, protracted conflict in the Middle East, the U.S. House on Wednesday is expected to vote on a measure that could end or extend President Barack Obama's "blank check" for war, which is now currently used to sanction attacks against the Islamic State (or ISIS).

"Since 1991, the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars, dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs and lost thousands of brave servicemen and women in Iraq. Do you feel any safer? Are we any safer?"

The legislation, proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), "would require the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed to allow operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, within 90 days of the defense policy bill’s enactment," Washington Post explains.

Included in a roster of other defense policy measures, Lee said last week that she wants to "force a debate on this war and repeal the 2001 blank check for endless war that got us into these perpetual wars."

"Let us debate this war," she said on the Senate floor, "its costs and its consequences."

There are multiple AUMF-related proposals included in the 181 amendments to the defense bill, the Hill reports, including:

a proposal from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)  that would have repealed the current 2001 and 2002 war authorizations and replaced it with a three-year one. There is also an amendment from Rules Committee member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) that would have prohibited funds for operations in Iraq or Syria after April 30, 2017, if Congress hadn’t enacted a new AUMF. However, the Lee proposal is the most straight-forward. It simply ends the 2001 authorization, leaving intact a separate 2002 authorization but offering no other alternative.

Votes are expected Wednesday evening while proceedings are being aired live on C-SPAN. Indeed, both Lee and McGovern took to Twitter on Wednesday to underscore the importance of the AUMF debate.

Obama's war against ISIS began in early August 2014. And since that time, the U.S. has dropped more than 25,000 bombs in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere, Guardian columnist Trevor Timm noted on Tuesday.

Barring a "peace miracle" before he leaves office, Timm observes, Obama "will be the only president who ever served two full terms in office while constantly being at war."

Just last month, the president announced an additional deployment of 250 additional troops to Syria to allegedly aid in the fight there.

Following that announcement, Lee issued a memorandum titled "Unanswered questions about yet another war in the Middle East."

Noting that the "U.S. mission in Iraq and Syria creeps closer and closer toward all-out war," Lee asks the following questions:

  1. Since 1991, the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars, dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs and lost thousands of brave servicemen and women in Iraq. Do you feel any safer? Are we any safer?
  2. The last four U.S. Presidents have bombed Iraq. Will Congress allow a fifth President the same blank check to continue this open-ended war?
  3. How many Americans or associated military personnel are actually in Iraq and Syria? How many contractors? How many sneakers on the ground?
  4. For 25 years, the Pentagon has pursued a “bombs, bombs, bombs” agenda in the Middle East. Why will it be successful this time? Why hasn’t the Pentagon made the case that more bombings will bring stability and security?
  5. ISIL is an heir to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Do we have a plan to support the needed political reforms in Iraq and Syria that will prevent an ISIL heir from emerging?
  6. For months, the U.S. has been training and equipping different factions.  Do we know who these individuals are? Can we guarantee that their training and new weapons won’t be used against U.S. troops or our interests? How much does this program cost?
  7. In January, both Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell called for an AUMF debate and vote. Why have neither moved anything to the Floor? Why have they decided to take potshots at the President for their own inaction and inability to control their caucuses?

As Timm notes, when it comes to the current war against ISIS, "Congress has shown itself to be cowardly in upholding its constitutional responsibility, content with the president taking all the blame when things go wrong."

But Obama has "redefined" what it means to be at war, Timm argues, from his "hallmark" drone strikes to his defense team's "secrecy and word gymnastics in all facets of its war policy."

This, he concludes, has set a dangerous precedent for a country on the verge of an election between "an unpredictable maniac," referring to Donald Trump, and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who "supported virtually every aggressive U.S. military action in the past 15 years and has already promised more military intervention than Obama."

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