John Stanton and Kate Nocera of Buzzfeed write this excellent original article reporting that Harry Reid Backs Reexamination Of Post-9/11 Military Authorization Law. The Authorization of Use of Military Force, AUMF, provides one of the foundations for our expanded and aggressive war-of-terror policies, including those for drone strikes, and "secret" special forces operations going on in many countries such as Yemen, Somalia, and Niger, capture and kill policies, and the kinds or raids "similar to the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama Bin Laden" at the discretion of the President.
Ernst quotes Senator Tim Kaine saying “I don’t think Congress thought passing that AUMF Sept. 14, 2001, that 13 years later we’d be still engaged in war,” a sentiment I agree with. I also do not believe Congress had any idea of intention that we would be conducting secret ongoing wartime operations 13 years around the globe not just confined to two countries.
Although anti-war elements in Congress have long complained about the broad scope of the scant 60-word law, over the last several years members on both sides of the aisle increasingly have raised concerns with the law, worried that it can be used for attacks across the globe against people or groups that were never intended by Congress.
“We are still operating in a war declared on Sept. 14, 2001,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said Wednesday during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And both the Bush and Obama administrations have determined that that war can be carried out against members of al-Qaeda, against anyone who associates with affiliates or associates of al-Qaeda, no matter when those associates pop up … so long as the al-Qaeda or affiliated organizations have violent intentions against the U.S. or coalition partners. That’s sort of a vague phrase.”
Kaine is working with Sen. John McCain to reform the broader War Powers Act to drastically narrow the ability of the White House to essentially declare war on groups or individuals. The bill would include tighter definitions of against whom a president could declare war, requiring greater formal consultation with Congress, and setting strict rules for when a president can take action without congressional authorization.
Kaine admits that any final reforms may not be coming this year. He is working for he longer-term.
I support such a review, but believe this review should be occurring in open hearings. Too many of our military and intelligence policies are conducted behind closed doors with the public hearing less and less about the issues discussed, or even the findings which are increasingly classified except for superficial summaries.
For example, most U.S. citizens are probably unaware that U.S. special forces and drone units have been conducting ongoing military operations, aka "war" in Yemen, and Somalia, and at least drone surveillance operation in Western Africa from a U.S. base in Niger, as has been reported in the last few weeks in reporting related to the Boco Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.
Senators Harry Reid and Tim Kaine should initiate a bipartisan blue ribbon public hearing on the AUMF so Americans understand the who, what, when, where, and whys of our military and foreign policy especially with regard to the grounds and process by with our nation declares, conducts, and concludes war - one of most serious and rare conditions we should be in. We can not allow ongoing war to become a perpetual state we become accustomed to as normal operations as we have done now. An "emergency status" that is then used to justify conducting critical public policy discussions like this one in secret and only informing the public when the Senators have agreed what the new policy will be and what they will tell the public.
Public hearings such as this will be costly in terms of time, but should be considered necessary investments to maintain an educated citizenry required for the functioning of a constitutional democracy in modern times. These hearings should not be a partisan issue but an American issue. The advantage of democracy is not that it the most efficient, most convenient, or least inexpensive form of government.
We the people have chosen this form of government on purpose. Our representatives should make their best efforts to keep us informed and encourage our maximum participation in our collective decision-making processes by holding public hearing on thus AUMF bill - one of the singularly most important bills authorizing the President to use military force and emergency war time powers to protect our national security. Do our Congressional leader really want to stand behind the a collective statement to the people of the United States of America that yet another public investigation of Benghazi is more important than a first public investigation into the AUMF in 13 years?
Wed May 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM PT: Please check out my other post of today and late last night.
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