Rarely during these times of partisan politics does a policy choice present itself so indisputably as the most reasonable that it garners support across the political spectrum. But Congress is debating one such choice: whether to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force — a law that both Democratic and Republican presidents abuse in ways that needlessly endanger world stability and our soldiers’ lives.
Yet as of this writing, Congressman Riggleman has not publicly supported repeal, even though a crucial window of opportunity to do so is closing fast.
The 2002 AUMF, which authorized President Bush to use force against the Saddam Hussein regime, is no longer needed; it’s been eight years since that mission was declared over. Nor is it needed to continue ongoing military engagements. A former (2001) AUMF covers those.
Most important, as long as it remains active, presidents will misuse the 2002 AUMF to extend their war powers — as when Barack Obama bombed Syria without congressional approval, thus muddling the wise division of war powers laid out by our Constitution. Furthermore, given the current president’s saber rattling in recent months regarding Iran, it’s essential that expansive interpretation of presidential war powers be restrained.
Both Democrats and Republicans recognize the urgency here. Sen. Tim Kaine has joined Republican Sen. Todd Young in cosponsoring SJ Resolution 13, additional legislation aimed at repeal.
Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s August report notes “Repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF is good policy as it is no longer necessary; its primary purpose has been accomplished. Congress needs to get back in the business of exercising its constitutional duty of deciding on whether to authorize wars.”
This critical decision will be made in congressional conference committee. In the context of such widespread backing, our hope is that Congressman Riggleman — who has proclaimed his admirable intent to “reach across the aisle” when it’s the right thing to do — will support all efforts to finally lay to rest the outdated 2002 AUMF.
Carol DiCaprio Herrick
Carol DiCaprio Herrick is a spokeswoman for the Charlottesville Advocacy Team, which is supported by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.