Nov 16 2010

Suprise! Forever War

Nothing new here, just more of the same, reinforced.

Coming Soon: Congress Revisits the Authorization to Use Military Force

By: Spencer Ackerman Monday November 15, 2010

As I tweeted and wrote for Danger Room today, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, briefly argued in a speech today that Congress should “reaffirm – in statute – the Authorization to Use Military Force of 2011.” To expand on that: McKeon mentioned the AUMF in the context of detainee policy – that is, to keep terrorism detainees out of federal courts. But it clearly goes beyond that. Here’s what a McKeon aide told me:

The objective wouldn’t the “drop a new Authorization to Use Military Force, but to reaffirm and strengthen the existing one,” says an aide to McKeon who requested anonymity, “recognizing that the enemy has changed geographically and evolved since 2001.” Sounds like the shadow wars may get some sunshine.

For the Obama administration, AUMF has operated like an Emergency Law, providing blanket authorities for things like drone strikes beyond Afghanistan that are never mentioned in the brief 2001 language. A new AUMF would at least be more specific about what powers Congress actually intends the president to have to conduct a war against al-Qaeda – as well as, perhaps, what the boundaries of those authorities might be. It’s still not a declaration of war – my understanding is there’s not an appetite for that in Congress – but it also would represent the first congressional reconsideration of the scope of a war that, in practice, is endless. That could go in any number of directions, but at least it’ll be debated.

This is a means to justify the drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen or any other country the US deems a threat, as well as, to “justify” the illegal, indefinite detention of persons that the US decides is too dangerous to release.

We Will Always Be at War against Everyone

By: emptywheel Tuesday November 16, 2010

But there are two other aspects to a “reaffirmed and strengthened” AUMF. As McKeon’s aide notes, the enemy has changed geographically, moving to Yemen and Somalia. A new AUMF will make it easier to build the new bases in Yemen they’re planning.

The U.S. is preparing for an expanded campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, mobilizing military and intelligence resources to enable Yemeni and American strikes and drawing up a longer-term proposal to establish Yemeni bases in remote areas where militants operate.

And I would bet that the AUMF is drafted broadly enough to allow drone strikes anywhere the government decides it sees a terrorist.

Which brings us to the most insidious part of a call for a new AUMF: the “homeland.” The AUMF serves or has served as the basis for the government’s expanded powers in the US, to do things like wiretap Americans. Now that the Republicans know all the powers the government might want to use against US persons domestically, do you really think they will resist the opportunity to write those powers into an AUMF (whether through vagueness or specificity), so as to avoid the quadrennial review and debate over the PATRIOT Act (not to mention the oversight currently exercised by DOJ’s Inspector General)? The only matter of suspense, for me, is what role they specify for drones operating domestically…

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