Why Democrats Are Wary About Obama's Proposed AUMF
Tuesday I blundered into putting on MSNBC before Chris Hayes' show started and the ghost of yesteryear political journalism was barking away happily. Appropriately enough, Chris Matthews' guest was Alabama racist throwback Mo Brooks who was eager to get on TV and accuse President Obama of being-- at best-- weak and, at worst, a traitor. Brooks and Matthews are from another generation, a generation where brain growth ceased many decades ago. Both were positively salivating at the thought of "extermination."
"Personally," said Brooks, "I think this needs to be the standard-- America should not go to war unless we're committed to do the things that are necessary to win, which means that we should not restrain our commander in chief if in fact that is what America wants to do. In that regard, the President of the United States has to show that he has a strategy that can result in the extermination of the Islamic State... The president has to show a willingness to be committed to the cause. There will be casualties, American casualties, and as we have seen from the Islamic State, we might as Americans be confronted with some very horrific events that are on the internet or on TV. We have to be prepared for that if we're going to embark in this endeavor." Matthews, if anything, seemed even more unhinged, confused and bloodthirsty than Brooks.
They were both reacting to Obama's formal request Tuesday for a new-- albeit retroactive-- Authorization for the Use of Military Force. (Obama, on thin ice, claims he already has authority to wage war against ISIS based on the overly-broad 2001 AUMF.) His request Tuesday was for 3 years, had no geographic restrictions and repeals the 2002 Iraq War AUMF while leaving the broader 2001 AUMF in place. This morning Alan Grayson used a committee hearing to explain why he isn't willing to give the president a blank check and why he sees the AUMF as just that; this is a short but fascinating video:
Predictably, Republicans are demanding less restrictions and their statements seem indicate that nothing will make them happy until military officers are allowed to do whatever they think is best... even if Boehner and McCarthy don't use words like "extermination" the way misfits like Mo Brooks and Chris Matthews do. Nancy Pelosi has said that she and House Democrats also have questions about what Obama's AUMF language actually means. She says some Democrats feel "burned" by the Iraq War experience and are reluctant to support vague AUMF language. One of the first progressives out of the box opposing the AUMF was freshman Ted Lieu, a military officer in the Air Force National Guard himself. "I oppose White House AUMF," he tweeted Wednesday morning." Authorizes massive ground troops against ISIL. But then ties their hands. Recipe for disaster. Makes ZERO sense." This is what Lieu told his Los Angeles area constituents yesterday:
President Obama has shown consistent thoughtfulness and care in dealing with national security challenges as our Commander in Chief. However, as currently drafted, I cannot support the Administration’s proposed authorization for the use of force against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Administration’s proposal potentially authorizes the deployment of unlimited ground troops in Iraq and Syria (and anywhere else in the Middle East) by this President and our next President for the next three years, while at the same time restricting the actions of those ground troops. As a member of Congress, a graduate of Air War College and a former active duty Air Force officer, I believe we can only put American daughters and sons in harm’s way to confront the gravest of threats. ISIL’s actions are repugnant and should be confronted. At present, however, I do not believe the Administration has made the case that ISIL represents a direct, grave threat to our nation. I look forward to continuing this discussion with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress.Since then MoveOn.org has come out strongly against the AUMF and urged Members of Congress to oppose it, calling it "a recipe for endless-- and costly-- war. It does nothing to repeal the sweeping 2001 AUMF, which 14 years later, is still be used to justify ongoing military action. Congress must not abdicate its responsibility to oversee U.S. war-making by giving the president a blank check to pursue multiple years of war, in Iraq, Syria, or any other nation, against an open-ended array of possible targets. And it certainly must not allow the president to leave open the real possibility of deploying U.S. ground troops, as the proposed AUMF does."
UPDATE: Congressional Progressive Caucus Gives The AUMF A Thumbs Down
This is the joint statement issued by CPC co-chairs Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison and CPC Peace and Security Task Force chair Barbara Lee:
“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF.
“The Administration has argued that the 2001 AUMF, which was designed to declare war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban shortly after the attacks of 9/11 but has since been broadly applied more than 30 times, provides the legal authority for any existing and future operations against ISIL. Until Congress declares that the 2001 AUMF does not apply to ISIL, any limitations or restrictions in the AUMF proposed by the president are irrelevant.
“An AUMF debated by Congress should also be comprehensive, and include the political, economic, and diplomatic solutions that will ultimately degrade and dismantle ISIL. We should work to cut the flow of money, weapons, and fighters to ISIL. We should push the United Nations to start negotiations to end the Syrian civil war. Most importantly, we should ensure that our humanitarian aid is not eclipsed by our military efforts.
“In the coming weeks, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will be holding hearings and meetings on the AUMF. One thing is clear now: the conflict in Syria and Iraq requires a comprehensive solution. ISIL’s barbaric tactics are designed to pull the United States into another endless conflict. We must provide careful consideration to an AUMF, but lasting peace and stability will only come with a regional political solution.”