Via Gabe Malor, a bipartisan group of Senators are initiating a discussion about revising the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I think it’s long overdue, especially since it has had problems from the get go.
First off, it wasn’t strong enough; it wasn’t a declaration of war. President George W. Bush wanted America to return to normalcy as soon as possible, something not possible under an official declaration. While noble, it was foolish. Because if you think about it, normalcy against such an intractable enemy is not possible. The completed and attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil (the underwear bomber, Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood, tha attack on our consulate in Benghazi, etc.), culminating with the recent bombing in Boston, show this to be true. One of the reasons World War II ended as quickly as it did and in a broader arena had everything to do with the federal government involving every American in the effort. With the 2001 AUMF, Bush said the role of winning the war was to solely go to the Executive Branch, with minimal input from Congress and the people when necessary. What Bush failed to understand is that a war of that magnitude must involve all Americans, not just a select few. Worse, Barack Obama has done the same thing and extended it further. To add to this mistake, both men worked on policies that unnecessarily expanded the domestic reach of the federal government when winning the war should have taken top priority. It’s no wonder we are nearly a dozen years into the 2001 AUMF.
The second problem with the AUMF is it allowed Congress to get away from having any responsibility. Yes, the PATRIOT Act was enacted, which was appropriate at the time (and still is while the AUMF is in effect). But Congress was happy to let both the Bush and Obama administrations go about the business alone; plus, Congress was anxious to move on whatever domestic policies hit their fancy at the time, usually with fringe benefits to its members. In my opinion, it was a dereliction of duty, one that continues to this day. Oh sure there are some in Congress who have made and are making complaining noises when pressed by certain groups. But by and large Congress has abrogated its responsibility for most of these twelve years.
The third problem had to do with how both Bush and Obama decided to declare victory in Afghanistan before there was one, a mistake Bush repeated in Iraq. Before the military job was finished, Bush (and he gets the lion’s share of the blame) began implementing the reconstruction of Afghanistan before it was close to being ready; he did the same in Iraq. Look at the government in place now, with the crooked Hamid Karzai barely hanging on while the Taliban licks its chops to take over once the U.S. leaves. The whole of Afghanistan needed to be punished for its role in 9/11. Is that outrageously brutal, especially on the people who were horribly oppressed by the Taliban? I would counter that if Afghans believed they were horribly oppressed by the Taliban, why didn’t they do more to get rid of them before 9/11, which would probably have been the end of Al Qaeda there and bin Laden as well? Following the overthrow of the Taliban, the U.S. occupation should have declared martial law indefinitely until the Afghans decided they had had enough of war, conflicts that had been going on in Afghanistan since 1979 when the Communists took over, followed by the Soviet invasion. Someone with the absolute power of MacArthur in Japan following WWII was needed. Reconstruction can only occur after the military is done with their work, a lesson Bush failed twice, and a lesson Obama is now failing.
The fourth problem is that the AUMF didn’t target the right enemy. It said it would go after those responsible for the 9/11 attacks; in effect, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The problem is, the government of Afghanistan was part of it. Can you imagine on December 8, 1941, Congress declaring war on just the militarists of Japan, or a couple of days later targeting just the Nazis? And here’s the other thing; neither Al Qaeda or the Taliban were the first Islamists to conduct an illegal war against the United States. From the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Baathists (under Saddam Hussein) running Iraq to Hamas and the PLO in Israel, from the Iranian terrorists running Iran and the Baathists running Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, there isn’t a group there that hasn’t committed a terrorist act, an illegal act of war, against the U.S. and its people. Add on top of that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the huge number of terrorists infesting Pakistan and its government, and this war isn’t going to end soon. Had the AUMF been an official declaration, it should have included every single terrorist-supporting nation in the Middle East, starting with Afghanistan and moving west. If Pakistan was to be an ally, it needed to brutally shut down its terrorists, just as Egypt under Mubarak had done. Yes, there would have been issues regarding the oil in the Middle East; that problem would have been solved by taking over the oil fields in those countries and only the oil fields, leaving the rest of those countries to rot until they had gotten their acts together. The U.S. could have made sure the oil flowed and taking a cut to help finance the operation. It would have also cowed the nations in the Arabian peninsula and forced them to deal with the terrorists in their midst. A declaration against this enemy would have allowed the federal government to include all Americans, the one necessary ingredient to winning the war.
So yes, it is time to reconsider the AUMF. It should also be the time to reconsider the PATRIOT Act, along with the FISA updates that allow, for lack of a better phrase, warrantless wiretaps. It would also force the hand of the Obama regime to get off the pot about trying the terrorists in Gitmo.
Since the takeover of Iran by the terrorists running that country, all subsequent administrations from Carter through Clinton have dealt with terrorism as criminal acts instead of illegal acts of war. The U.S. was at war but the federal government refused to believe it. That changed on 9/11. But thanks to how badly the war has been fought, terrorism will revert to mostly being criminal acts again, with a few exceptions that will be in place in a new AUMF, if passed. And thanks to Obama’s decision to help get rid of Mubarak in Egypt, Qaddafi in Libya, and potentially arming terrorist trying to overthrow Assad in Syra, the enemy is expanding their territory.
As it is, the 2001 AUMF left the people of the U.S. subject to frequent and unnecessary terrorist attacks from Islamist radicals, attacks that are still continuing. Until such time that the U.S. government gets its act together to deal with them, the threat of more attacks will remain in place regardless of whether the 2001 AUMF remains as is or is modified to be less onerous on our rights in so-called “peacetime”.