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Person protesting the Iraq War

Anti-war activists gathered on the 18th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in New York. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

After Decades-Long Grassroots Push, Key Senate Panel Votes to Repeal Iraq War Authorization

Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of the U.S. House to vote against the AUMF in 2001, called the vote "a major victory in our fight to end forever wars."

Julia Conley

Anti-war organizers credited a decades-long grassroots effort on Wednesday after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to repeal two authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, putting the chamber further on the path to ending the United States' "forever wars" that have seen the U.S. military fighting in the Middle East for over three decades.

Three Republicans joined all 11 Democrats on the committee in voting to repeal the authorizations that were passed in 1991 and 2002, which started the Gulf War and the Iraq War and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians
 
The last authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that was terminated was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the U.S. to use military force in Vietnam. 
 
The historic vote followed "unwavering" advocacy and persistence by grassroots groups, said the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). 
 
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that he plans to bring the AUMF repeal to a full vote on the Senate floor later this year, saying "there's a real danger to letting these legal authorities persist indefinitely." President Joe Biden has said he supports terminating the authorizations. All 50 Senate Democrats are expected to support the measure along with enough Republicans to surpass the 60-vote threshold needed with the filibuster in place.
 
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who was the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against the AUMF three days after the September 11 attacks and who has repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization, called the vote "a major victory in our fight to end forever wars."
 
Lee received death threats in 2001 for her opposition to giving "a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events—anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit." Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee echoed Lee's concerns as they pushed for the repeal.
 
"Allowing outdated authorizations to persist in perpetuity invites the prospect of serious abuses in the future," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who co-sponsored the resolution.
 
Win Without War, which has long called for a repeal of the AUMF, noted that the authorization was used by former President Donald Trump to justify the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in 2020.  
 
"It is nothing short of absurd that the authorization for a war that never should have happened, and which formally ended ten years ago, remains on the books today," said Erica Fein, president of Win Without War. "The continued existence of these outdated laws does nothing to make us, or the world, safer. Quite the opposite: it only heightens the chance of future presidents abusing these laws."
 
The committee rejected attempts by opponents of the repeal to secure loopholes; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposed language making clear that the U.S. is still authorized to use military force against Iran, but supporters of the resolution argued the amendment would "[build] on past abuses."
 
The anti-war organization Peace Action and others called on Schumer to promptly bring the resolution to the Senate floor.
 
“The Biden administration, the House of Representatives, the people of the United States, and now the SFRC, all agree: repealing the 2002 AUMF is a necessary step toward reining in the president’s expansive war powers and ending our nation’s endless wars," said Fein. "We urge the Senate to do its duty and see the overdue repeal of these, and all outdated war authorizations, including the 2001 AUMF, through."

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