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Time to End the AUMF

Given the omnipresence of John McCain and Lindsey Graham on the Sunday morning talk shows, it’s easy to believe everyone in Washington wants to resume the Iraq War. But some lawmakers actually want to bring the war to a formal and legal conclusion, over two years after American troops departed.

Last week, Rand Paul joined with two Democratic senators—Ron Wyden of Oregon and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—in introducing a resolution to repeal the Iraq authorization of military force. The cosponsors included Republican Mike Lee of Utah and prominent Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Montana’s Jon Tester.

“Two years ago, President Obama declared the war in Iraq over,” Paul said in a statement [1]. “With the return of our troops and practical side of the mission concluded, I feel it is necessary to bring the war to an official and legal end.”

“I was one of 23 senators who voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2002 because I was never presented with compelling evidence of a clear and present threat to our domestic security,” Wyden concurred. “Now that American troops have come home, it makes sense to bring this chapter in our nation’s history to a close.”


Isn’t this formality unnecessary, since the troops withdrew at the end of 2011? The recent saber-rattling by the likes of McCain and Graham, who point to the fall of Fallujah and blame the Obama administration for not successfully negotiating to keep the troops in place, suggests that it is not.

“I’ve heard members of Congress suggest this but if members are suggesting Americans should be fighting and dying in Fallujah, they should say so,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney [2]. “The president doesn’t believe that.”

Neither do the American people. According to a Rasmussen poll [3], only one in four favor taking military action even if Fallujah is a harbinger for the rest of the country. On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Gallup found [4] that 53 percent believed the war was a mistake. This included nearly a third of Republicans. By the time the withdrawal began, 78 percent of Americans were supportive.

But that doesn’t mean no future president will try to buck public opinion. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, briefly the 2012 Republican frontrunner and a possible candidate next time around, floated the idea [5] of reinvading Iraq during the campaign. McCain worried it was too late [6].

It is possible that some crisis would generate interest in returning to Iraq, with the outstanding authorization of force used as legal justification. In the run-up to the Iraq war, some argued [7] an invasion was already authorized by the 1991 Persian Gulf War resolution. This reportedly included some lawyers for George W. Bush.

Paul said the repeal bill “ensures that our military involvement in Iraq is officially closed and that any future engagement will require Congressional authorization and support, as required by the Constitution.”

Wyden added, “While sectarian conflict and violence still persist in Iraq, it must be the Iraqis—not the men and women of the U.S. military—who now make the difficult choices, forge a stable and inclusive political order and steer their country to peace and prosperity.”

The last time the Senate voted on repealing the Iraq war resolution, the bid failed 67 to 30. Lee is a Republican convert to the pro-repeal side, having voted no in November 2011. But two other Republicans who voted to end the war—Olympia Snowe of Maine and Jim DeMint of South Carolina (and, more recently, the Heritage Foundation)—are gone. Dean Heller of Nevada remains.

Warren makes a crucial point: “This bill is a reminder that Congressional authorization for the use of force should be limited and that military action is always a last resort.” It’s a reminder many politicians need, as hawks shift their focus to Iran.

In a thoughtful Federalist piece, David Harsanyi pushes back [8] against equating support for additional Iran sanctions with support for war. Some senators probably genuinely hope sanctions will bolster nuclear negotiations with Iran. Indeed, Gillibrand is a sponsor of the Paul-Wyden Iraq repeal resolution and a co-sponsor of the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill.

But it doesn’t escape notice that many Kirk-Menendez supporters seem dubious of diplomacy. If they are unwilling to tolerate Iranian nuclear weapons, what option does that leave if they are developed? Graham has outlined what his view of diplomacy looks like: “Once you get them to the table you let them know what the final deal will look like and say take this or else.”

How likely is that approach to succeed? Graham is already on record as supporting another authorization of force—this time for Iran. McCain has famously sung songs about bombing that country. Some of the most prominent Democratic sanctions supporters, including Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer, previously backed the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, Paul is one of only two Republicans senators who aren’t co-sponsoring the Iran sanctions bill. Wyden signed [9] a letter opposing sanctions at this time. And the language coming from sanctions supporters isn’t exactly sanguine. “The path of appeasers always leads directly to war–it just increases the appetite of the other side,” said [10] Republican Mark Kirk of Kirk-Menendez fame. “Appeasers always lead directly to war.”

So do congressional authorizations to use military force. Let’s hope that Congress repeals the Iraq war authorization—and gives serious thought to what such a resolution would mean for Iran.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [11]

Follow @jimantle [12]

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Time to End the AUMF"

#1 Comment By HeartRight On January 20, 2014 @ 6:46 am

‘“The path of appeasers always leads directly to war–it just increases the appetite of the other side,” said Republican Mark Kirk of Kirk-Menendez fame. “Appeasers always lead directly to war.”’

If I were told that appeasers always lead indirectly to war, I would have been presented with a claim might stand or not.
But when I’m told that appeasers directly [as opposed to indirectly] lead to war, I’m presented with bunque.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 20, 2014 @ 9:19 am

While, it should be obvious that pushing for increased tensions in the region is unsound. The Arab Spring which some say is the direct result of Iraq has turned out to be a regional mess complicating the previous complex. The press for power by groups we would find wholly objectionable has been more like an Irish game of ‘hot potato’.

But on closing the door on Iraq. That is a much tougher question. A mistake to go in, in my assessment. More of me is inclined to leave it in the hands of those Iraqis who had free reign promoting the endeavour. They wanted it — we gave to it to them, they got it – they should be allowed/forced to live with it.

Two problems:

1. it’s untrue that we have withdrawn. We still have troops guarding the Kurds. I have no idea why. Pres. Hussein is gone. And the Kurds are sitting on property that does not belong to them. They have been there as guests. Apparently, not happy guests, as they have supported invasions by Iran and even fomented their own attempts to overthrow the government. As it is unlikely that Iraqis will take to kindly to their guests getting huge benefits from Iraqi oil – I am sure this will be a problem. Moreover, our occupation could hardly signify an end to operations. Sen. Rand Paul and company are playing fast and loose with the truth in my view.

2. While I am inclined to allow the Iraqi cabal coalition stew in their soup. I also recognize that Iraq remains of important strategic value to the US and have little doubt that Iran is encouraging factions of the increasing level of violence. Perhaps, if not yet a civil war — it appears to be teetering past that brink into one. For all my opposition to Iraq — I won’t pretend that it’s value may not force our return – not merely for issues of oil — it’s hard to imagine a civil war in Iraq not roiling into a full scale regional mess/disaster.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 20, 2014 @ 9:21 am

A mess for which we are culpable of unleashing and may (do) bear some burden to quell.

And that is an incredibly painful comment

#4 Comment By Puller58 On January 20, 2014 @ 11:55 am

This is yet another round in the old War Powers debate that the Executive and Legislative branch have been engaged in for many years. It would be nice if Congress could confine themselves to approving treaties and trade deals rather than trying to usurp war making powers.

#5 Comment By Clint On January 21, 2014 @ 5:28 am

George Washington,
“The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress,therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.”

#6 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On January 21, 2014 @ 7:26 am


How can Congress “usurp” war powers, when it is the Constitution that grants Congress the power to declare war? It is the executive branch that has been engaged in usurpation of war powers, not Congress.

#7 Comment By William On January 22, 2014 @ 3:36 pm

Repeal the Iraq AUMF. Even “hawks” should be in favor of doing so. The basis for invasion in 2003 is now moot. Any future use of force in Iraq (whatever your position on it)should be debated in Congress as part of a new AUMF.

Of course, the post-9/11 “War on Terror” AUMF is the bigger issue. Should it not be curtailed at least? Will withdrawal from Afghanistan prompt some debate?

#8 Comment By Rossbach On January 24, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

If the president wants a war, he should ask congress for a war declaration. Except for dire emergency situations, no US troops should be sent into combat without a declaration of war. The US has not been at war since 1945, yet over 100,000 US troops have been killed in combat. Our citizens have paid a heavy price for allowing their government to ignore the constitution and the rule of law.

#9 Comment By Philo Vaihinger On January 27, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

Surely the AUMF, fairly interpreted, does not pertain to Iran?