Three cheers for my former boss Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Last night he sat silently on the floor of the United States Senate attempting to force the Senate to vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Force (AUMF). The time is now for those authorizations to end.
There is no doubt that the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was justified after the Taliban government harbored the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. President Barack Obama did the right thing on May 2, 2011 when he sent Seal Team 6 into Pakistan to find and kill the leader of the terrorist organization that carried out these attacks. That should have been the end of the war in Afghanistan.
Two presidencies later, Congress still has authorizations for the use of force against Afghanistan and Iraq on the books. Congress needs to reassess whether it’s justifiable to continue to have these authorizations in place. President Donald Trump had a chance, but he botched his explanation of why our troops need to be increased in Afghanistan. Trump mapped out a strategy for something other than victory. It seems unlikely that the American people would support any policy that puts American troops in harm’s way for anything other than a complete victory.
Until the supporters of endless wars can explain why we need a continued increased presence in Afghanistan, we need to get out. The AUMF for 2002 authorized troops to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” The government of Iraq does not currently pose a threat to the United States. The 2001 AUMF authorized the president to fight “those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” Does anybody really believe that the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs are relevant today?
Senator Paul Tweeted last night “Tonight, the Senate is attempting to move forward with the Defense Bill. I am seeking an amendment to end the AUMF in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Senator Paul then Tweeted that “Where is the anti-war left demanding the wars end? Where is the constitutional conservative right demanding Congress reclaim its war powers?”
Senator Paul is right to point out that the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties don’t want to have this debate. Republicans don’t want to admit that continuing the nation-building wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a failure. Democrats fear being exposed for being war supporters, with a hawkish Hillary Clinton as their standard bearer in the last election and a charlatan President Barack Obama who lied his way into office with empty promises of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are still in both countries.
Thankfully there is one Senator who takes the constitution seriously. Sen. Paul is demanding a vote to restore the power of Congress to declare war. Article I, Sec. 8 gives Congress the power to declare war. They need to take that seriously.
To add insult to injury, the National Defense Authorization Act is a mess. It contains several provisions that have caused the Trump Administration to object. According to a contributor at Red State, there is a provision buried in the bill that forces companies to hand over source codes to the federal government if the companies want to continue business with the feds. The bill is a train wreck. Using it to debate the wars seems like a good use for that legislative vehicle.
Why can’t the Senate allow Rand Paul to use this bill to start a national debate on the war powers of Congress, and whether increasing troop levels in Afghanistan is a good or bad idea? Not many Americans are aware of the dispute between Trump’s team and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who lead the drafting of the bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). Even fewer know about the obscure provision attempting to nationalize source codes in a way that will hurt national defense. Yet every American has an opinion on Afghanistan and the wisdom of invading Iraq. Let’s debate it!
Kudos to Senator Rand Paul.