Adios, AUMF

Saddam Hussein was executed at the gallows in 2006 — but the Authorization for the Use of Force used by the US military to topple his regime in Iraq is still alive and kicking, a legacy the Pentagon has been loath to bury along with that war.

That legislation, passed in October ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Baghdad, authorized then-president George W. Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States ‘as he determines to be necessary and appropriate’ in order to ‘defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq’.

The war stretched on for years after Hussein was killed and morphed into a sectarian conflict that drew in al-Qaeda, gave birth to the Islamic State in Iraq, and long outlasted its original mandate. For more than five years there have been efforts on Capitol Hill to repeal the 2002 AUMF so it couldn’t be used to justify more military actions overseas that were not explicitly approved by Congress — like when the Trump administration used it in part to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. It’s obvious now that the Pentagon has been a big impediment to repeal, with top officials saying they needed the AUMF to ‘windup’ operations long after the war ended. Clearly the US military hates to give up its weapons, even the obsolete paper ones.

But it looks like it’s finally losing its grip. The votes and the stars appear aligned to sweep away the legislation, which has given the White House and military a virtual blank check for operations in Iraq for nearly two decades, along with the rest of the bad war memories. And it’s got bipartisan buy-in. The House is set to vote on a measure by Rep. Barbara Lee — who voted against the original bill in 2002 — on Thursday that would repeal the authorization for good. Joining her among 139 current co-sponsors are 10 Republicans. That short list includes freshmen Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Peter Meijer of Michigan, an Iraq War veteran who says repealing the measure is ‘constitutional hygiene’.

Read the full article in The Spectator.