On Tuesday, the day after the 20-year anniversary of the Iraq War, Sen. Rand Paul introduced an amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
To recap, the 2001 AUMF was used for the U.S. to go into Afghanistan after 9/11. An earlier 1991 AUMF was used to implement the Gulf War. The 2002 AUMF was used by the U.S. to invade Iraq.
These authorizations all remain open-ended even though those missions have been completed. Being still open, various presidents in both parties have claimed these authorizations allow them to strike or wage wars in other places, something the executive was never intended to do based on the Constitution.
Sen. Paul sees the obvious danger in an opening for war at any time based on the whims of one person.
As we vote to repeal the 1991/2002 AUMFs, we need to take the additional step of also repealing the Authorization for the war in Afghanistan. That's why I again introduced an amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF. https://t.co/A97G6ZSerL
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) March 21, 2023
Constitutionally, only Congress has the power to declare war. Paul has long wanted all of these authorizations and unconstitutional excuses for presidents to unilaterally wage wars repealed.
“As we vote to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, we need to take the additional step of also repealing the Authorization for the war in Afghanistan,” Paul said in a statement on Tuesday. “The 2001 authorization to bring the 9/11 terrorists to justice was warranted, but like the Iraq war, the Afghan war has long ago ended – yet its authorization remains on the books.”
“War is sometimes necessary, but going to war should not be the decision of one person,” the senator added. “Ending congressional authorization for the Gulf war, Iraq war and Afghanistan war returns the war power to the American people and their representatives.”
In February, Paul co-sponsored legislation that would sunset the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs.
This is not remotely new territory for Paul. The entire time he’s been in the U.S. Senate, over a decade, Paul has pushed back against presidents in both parties who believed they could ignore Congress and just go to war unilaterally.
By using Obama’s own words.
Before he became president, Obama said in 2007 that “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Despite Libya obviously not being an “actual or imminent threat” to the U.S., the Senate, of course, defeated Paul’s resolution that year reclaiming Congress’s war powers in a vote that was 90-10.
Don’t you think Congress should have a debate over the question where and when we go to war? https://t.co/Y4A9VI2YFa
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 17, 2023
President Obama had already bombed Libya a month before this resolution failed, and U.S. intervention in that country only destabilized the region further and many believe helped create the terrorist group the Islamic State.
Obama would eventually call his Libya actions the worst mistake of his presidency. It’s almost as if there are almost always unintended consequences to war and that fact is why the Founders made it so hard for presidents to wage it on their own.
If only Obama had listened to the Constitution and Paul at the time—or even himself from four years prior.
In 2016, in attempting to repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs again, Paul observed how wildly they had been abused by the tail end of Obama’s last term, “Because these authorizations to use military force are inappropriately being used to justify American warfare in 7 different countries. Sunsetting both AUMFs will force a debate on whether we continue the Afghanistan war, the Libya war, the Yemen war, the Syria war, and other interventions.”
Paul was denied. Again.
That never meant he stopped trying.
— Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 13, 2017
Rand Paul's lonely AUMF battle https://t.co/guTMV8udUj
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) September 12, 2017
And in different ways.
Rand Paul tried to get Pompeo on record saying the 2001 AUMF doesn't allow the Trump administration to go to war with Iran. Pompeo said he wants to leave that question to lawyers, then added ‘’Iran’s connections to Al Qaeda is very real”
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) April 10, 2019
And here we are today.
Here’s Sen. Rand Paul’s proposed amendment to the AUMF repeal resolution moving in the senate this week.
Underlying resolution: repeals 1991 & 2002 AUMFs (Iraq)
Paul amendment: To add a repeal of the 2001 AUMF (Afghanistan just after 9/11) pic.twitter.com/COpoLtXHLV
— K Tully-McManus (@ktullymcmanus) March 21, 2023
The Constitution should matter, especially when it comes to war. Somebody’s gotta fight for it.
And Rand Paul still is.