June 5, 2013
Source: New American
President Obama has pledged he will not sign any law to expand the president's war-making authority under the joint resolution known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed by both houses of Congress three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
What's more, the president said in the major foreign policy address he delivered at National Defense University nearly two weeks ago that he looked forward to "engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate." Yet in rejecting the concept of a "boundless 'global war on terror,'" Obama promised a continued "series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America." These efforts will continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in places such as Yemen, Somali, and North Africa, he said.
The question he did not acknowledge, not to mention answer, is where does the president find the legal basis for wielding that military force in all those far-off places if the congressional authority for using it has been repealed?
The AUMF says:
Under the Bush and Obama administrations, it has been claimed as authority for everything from the invasion of Afghanistan to extensive bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and covert operations in who knows where. The Bush administration claimed its authority to defend the United States covered warrantless monitoring of Americans' international phone calls, and Obama has claimed the power to target individuals overseas, including American citizens, for killing by drone attack. Both administrations have claimed the power to imprison terror suspects, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely and without trial, and Congress has codified that power in sections of the National Defense Authorization Act. The enemy has been redefined to include not only al-Qaeda and those who harbored or assisted the 9/11 attackers, but "associated forces," some of which, such as the Pakistani Taliban and al-Shabaab in Somalia, were not yet in existence in on September 11, 2001.
In recent congressional hearings, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) pointed out that "associated forces" appears nowhere in the AUMF, while Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has argued the authorization applies to organizations that have since allied with al-Qaeda and have "joined the fight against us." Sen. John McCain, seldom bashful about the use of military force, has called the inclusion of associated forces "certainly a liberal interpretation of AUMF." McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he was considering offering amendments to the defense spending bill for Fiscal Year 2014 to make changes in the counterterrorism law. "It's something whose time has come," he said.
But change in what direction? Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is usually allied with McCain on defense and foreign policy issues, made clear the direction he thinks he thinks the Congress should move. "I just think we need to broaden the definition," said Graham, "and look at who is the enemy and where is the war in 2013."
Broadening the definition of the enemy would necessarily mean broadening the war, which is what the president has been doing anyway, despite his statements about wanting a narrower focus and an end to the "global war on terror." A recent Washington Post editorial warned of "a danger that dropping the AUMF — as opposed to tailoring it to the new conditions Obama described — will result in less restraint on presidential power, not more." That, the Post explained, is because "top legal advisers at the State and Defense departments" have publicly said that absent the AUMF, "military attacks on terrorists can still be carried out under Article II of the Constitution, which grants the president power to defend the country against imminent attack. Most legal experts agree with that view," the Post informed its readers. Finish reading>> TheNewAmerican