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It's Past Time to Stop Endless War

President Obama last month hosted members from Capitol Hill including (from left) House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat; House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Obama has shown leadership by sending Congress his proposal for a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) on ISIL and by recommending a repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF. Now my Republican colleagues no longer have an excuse to prevent a debate on the ongoing half-year war in which the U.S. is currently involved.

The president's proposal acknowledges the reality that the current authorizations amount to open-ended, blank checks for endless war. Because of congressional inaction, these AUMFs have provided authority for presidents to take unchecked military action.

Congress must live up to its constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. For more than a decade, Congress has abdicated this role.

President Obama's proposal to repeal of the 2002 AUMF, which I have long fought for, is a positive sign, but we must address the root of the problem. Congress must repeal the 2001 AUMF, which allows any president to wage perpetual war, in any place and at any time.

Ultimately, Congress has the responsibility of crafting any new authorization. Unfortunately, the president's proposed AUMF is overly vague, and by failing to repeal or reform the 2001 authorization, it would leave a blank check for war in place.

Congress has to go back to the drawing board.


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Any debate in Congress must include a comprehensive solution to ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL. National security experts have been clear: There is no military solution to ISIL. We simply cannot neglect the political, diplomatic and economic strategies that are central to ending violent extremism.

In 2001, I was the only member of Congress to vote against the original AUMF. Days after the vote, I wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle explaining, "Some believe this resolution was only symbolic, designed to show national resolve. But I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war."

In the ensuing decade, we have seen this authorization used over 30 times, including to legitimize warrantless surveillance, drone strikes around the globe, and unlawful detention in Guantanamo Bay.

It is abundantly clear that this resolution was not symbolic. It catapulted us into a global and endless war. Well over a decade later, we are still grappling with the consequences of our haste.

Let's not make the same mistake again. Congress needs to do its job by repealing the open-ended authorizations and seriously considering the costs and consequences of another open-ended war in the Middle East.

It's time to stop endless war.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a Democrat representing California's 13th Congressional District. In 2001, Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the original AUMF which authorized President George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan and has served as the legal basis of the so-called "Global War on Terror" ever since.

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