Congress Must Repeal Trump’s Blank Check for Permanent War : The 2001 AUMF

By Elizabeth Beavers, Security with Human Rights Senior Campaigner with Amnesty International USA

Perhaps you’ve heard of “the AUMF” — that is, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The AUMF is a resolution that Congress passed just three days after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The resolution was meant to give then-President Bush authority to go to war in response to 9/11, but it didn’t include much specific detail. In fact, the entire authorization was only 60 words long:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against 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, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Nearly sixteen years later, this same authorization is still on the books. In fact, it’s still in use. Three presidents now — Bush, Obama and Trump — have cited the authorization as justification for the “global war” against armed groups. By adopting the viewpoint that the globe is a battlefield where human rights are dispensable, the U.S. government has cited the AUMF to excuse its most destructive national security policies.

Locking people away at Guantanamo without charge or fair trial, engaging in torture and other ill- treatment, conducting broad-ranging surveillance and potentially unlawful killings, including using drones– these policies are just a few examples of human rights abuses that the U.S. government has justified by citing the broad-ranging AUMF as legal authority.

Amnesty International has long called for repeal of the AUMF because of the human rights abuses it has been used to justify. Human rights apply to all people in all places, at all times. It is unacceptable to claim that human rights do not apply in times of war. The AUMF has become an all-too easy tool for perpetuating the “global war” approach and damaging human rights as a result.

When Congress first voted on the AUMF on September 14, 2001, only one Representative voted against it. Rep. Barbara Lee urged her colleagues, “let us not become the evil we deplore.” Last week, nearly sixteen years later, Rep. Lee introduced an amendment to repeal the AUMF and force Congress to debate and vote on the “global war” and its resulting policies. Rep. Lee has introduced this amendment continuously since the AUMF passed, to no avail.

But last week, the amendment passed. The House Appropriations Committee approved it as part of its annual defense spending bill. The fight is by no means over — the language still must survive intact through the full House and Senate in order to become law.

This is a big — and long overdue step — toward AUMF repeal in Congress. Amnesty International welcomes this development and urges Congress to repeal the AUMF immediately without delay.

Take action today — call your Member of Congress at (202)224–3121.

· Tell them your name and where you live, to demonstrate that you are their constituent, and explain that you are a member of Amnesty International

· Tell them you support the House Appropriations Committee’s decision to adopt Barbara Lee’s amendment repealing the 2001 AUMF and that it should be repealed immediately

· Ask them to support keeping that language in the final bill

· Tell them you are concerned that, if the 2001 AUMF is not repealed, it will be used by the Trump administration to justify more human rights abuses in the name of national security

As we celebrate this important step, we will remain vigilant in pressing for more progress on human rights. It is vital that Congress repeal the AUMF and reject any new authorization that could similarly be used to harm human rights. This is the first step.