House repeals ‘endless war’ resolution; Senate panel to act June 22
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. | House Television via AP

WASHINGTON—With backing from the Democratic Biden administration, the Democratic-run U.S. House voted—in a bipartisan way—to repeal the 2002 “Authorization to Use Military Force” (AUMF) that approved the “endless wars” in Iraq and elsewhere. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the repeal on June 22, Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., the only lawmaker to vote against the 2001 AUMF which sent the U.S. into the Afghan War, and who led the House foes in 2002, again won her long fight to repeal that second open-ended pro-presidential measure. The 2001 AUMF stays in force. Biden was silent on its repeal but backed repeal of the 2002 AUMF, which OKd GOP President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

The debate centered around that repeal, which passed 268-161, including “yes” votes from 219 Democrats and 49 Republicans. The other 160 Republicans voted “no,” as did Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who represents a swing district filled with military bases and people.

“The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” Biden said.

He also supported replacing AUMFs with “a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.” Biden did not specify the threats.

Instead, Biden—who served for decades in the Senate, including chairing the Foreign Relations Committee—said Congress should be in on the takeoffs as well as the landings, so to speak, of activating the military.

“The administration seeks to ensure Congress has a clear and thorough understanding of the effect of any such action and of the threats facing U.S. forces, personnel, and interests around the world,” he said.

Still, repeal of the 2002 AUMF was a victory for Lee and her backers, including progressive groups, peace groups, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., and the CPUSA. Lawmakers’ next step is the session of the evenly split Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Almost two decades and $6 trillion later, it’s become clear national unity was exploited to launch a series of endless wars that proved enormously costly in human, economic, and strategic terms and that gave rise to xenophobia and bigotry in U.S. politics—the brunt of it borne by American Muslim and Arab communities,” Sanders said, as part of a May 17 op-ed warning the foreign policy establishment against launching a new Cold War, against China.

The establishment was wrong in 2001 and 2002, Sanders said, and they’re wrong now.

Lee reminded her colleagues of the history of the two AUMFs “because 87% of” current U.S. representatives “were not here” in 2002. “For almost two decades we have failed to revisit these AUMFs. To this day, our endless wars continue, costing trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in a war that goes way beyond any scope Congress conceived or intended.”

After saluting veterans for their service, the veteran lawmaker from Oakland noted “many veterans support this repeal.” So did groups ranging from the ACLU to the American Legion.

“Repeal can prevent our country from entering another protracted engagement under this outdated authority,” Lee added.

That threat arose during the GOP Trump regime when the Oval Office occupant sent an armada into the Persian Gulf. He appeared on the brink of using the 2002 AUMF to justify a war on Iran. His saber-rattling sent peace groups, including J Street, VoteVets, CodePink, and the Friends Committee for National Legislation, into the streets. Donald Trump backed down.

Menendez, who is a Cold Warrior against Cuba, still says the AUMFs should go.

“The decision to authorize the use of military force is the most important vote any Member of Congress can take. It is a vote to send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way, and we must never take that responsibility lightly. Similarly, the weight of rescinding that decision also demands our full attention and timely consideration,” he said.

U.S. troops in Iraq “completed their authorized combat mission with distinction more than a decade ago,” he claimed. “As someone who voted against the war in Iraq, I believe it is well past time for Congress to meet its obligation by repealing these open-ended AUMFs that are subject to abuse

The majority of House Republicans, led by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, tried to derail Lee’s repeal of the AUMFs by inserting an exception for U.S. military aid, and, if necessary, interference, on behalf of Israel.

That continued the GOP’s campaign to cater to the Israeli far right and their U.S. Jewish allies, a minority. The Israelis are led by longtime but now-ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and include new Prime Minister—from a shaky coalition of Netanyahu foes—Naftali Bennett. The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a mouthpiece for the Israeli right, leads the U.S. Jewish contingent. McCaul and the GOP failed.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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