‘A Great Start’: Peace Advocates Cheer Senate Repeal of Iraq War Authorization

“A larger and far more consequential challenge remains: repealing the 2001 AUMF which authorized the global war on terror,” said one activist.

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 3-29-2023 by Common Dreams

Activists call for an end to endless U.S. wars during a demonstration marking the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and calling on Congress to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that enabled the war. (Photo: Yasmine Taeb/Twitter)

Peace campaigners cheered Wednesday’s vote by the U.S. Senate to repeal the authorizations for the 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq, while calling on the House of Representatives to follow suit.

The Senate voted 66-30 in favor of a bill to rescind the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF), with 18 Republican senators crossing the aisle to support the legislation, which now heads to the House. An amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would have empowered the president to attack Iran was defeated on Tuesday.

It is uncertain if the lower chamber’s GOP leadership will take up the measure. In 2021, the Democrat-led House passed a repeal of the 2002 AUMF, with the support of 49 Republican lawmakers. The Biden administration supports the repeal.

The more sweeping 2001 AUMF greenlighting then-President George W. Bush’s global war against terrorism—which has been waged in at least eight countries at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives—remains in place and unendangered. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the author of the 2021 repeal bill, was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF.

“Today, the Senate made the belated but critical decision to repeal the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs,” Win Without War government relations director Eric Eikenberry said in a statement. “This appropriately comes days after the 20-year anniversary of the Iraq War—the horrific end result of Congress handing then-President Bush a blank check to wage war at the expense of the people of Iraq and the United States.”

“The Trump administration amply demonstrated the risks of leaving outdated military authorization on the books,” Eikenberry continued, likely referring to the January 2020 drone assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, which was carried out under the AUMF.

Former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both invoked the AUMF when the former launched, and the latter escalated, the U.S.-led coalition campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“We cannot gamble again by allowing the next irresponsible and short-sighted president to abuse their executive power to destroy lives around the world,” Eikenberry added. “We now call on the House of Representatives… to immediately take up repeal and send it to the president’s desk. The Iraq War deserves justice and accountability, and the people of the United States deserve elected leaders that will end our endless wars.”

Common Defense political director Naveen Shah related that “as a veteran of the War in Iraq, I saw firsthand the utter devastation the war had on ordinary Iraqis, and the ordinary troops who were sent there.”

“Keeping these war authorizations open after all these years is a sad reminder of our country’s mistake,” Shah argued. “We need to ensure it never happens again, and that begins with this repeal and continues by requiring congressional authorization, after a full public debate, before America ever sends our troops into harm’s way again.”

Bridget Moix, general secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said that “Quakers know that war is not and never has been the answer. Not today. Not tomorrow. And certainly not 20 years ago.”

“The 2002 Iraq AUMF, as we stated at the time, should have never been passed and signed into law,” Moix continued. “A congressional repeal of the law is a vital step to help heal our country’s addiction to war and end endless wars. What we can invest more in to build a safer world is peacebuilding and global cooperation.”

“True peace is more than the absence of fighting. It is addressing the root causes of war and managing conflict nonviolently,” she added. “As long as the U.S. can still attack and kill with impunity in Iraq, neither its people nor ours will know true peace.”

Roughly 2,500 U.S. troops—over 4,000 of whom died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq—remain in the country today.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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