A near two-decade old act authorising US military intervention across the Middle East and beyond will appear before the Senate for a critical vote today, which could have a huge bearing on America's capacity to launch wars in the future.
Known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the bill passed in 2001 to provide the legal basis for the so-called "war on terror" has been used to justify American military intervention, which critics say went way beyond its original target which was Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both Republicans and Democrats have been accused of stretching interpretation of AUMF to include the ever-growing list of America's enemies.
Over the years, questions have mounted about whether Congress has delegated too much war-making authority to the White House in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, particularly as AUMF, which was passed in the wake of the tragedy, had been used far beyond what many viewed as its original scope.
The administration of President Barack Obama for instance cited AUMF in 2014 when it started bombing Daesh as did President Donald Trump's administration in 2020 when it killed Iran's most important general, Major General Qassim Suleimani.
Though President Joe Biden has also used AUMF to justify military action, his term, however, sparked a serious conversation in Congress over the future of AUMF which critics have denounced as having granted the license for disastrous wars. In June the House of Representatives got its first chance to vote on the issue. With a 268-161 vote, there was broad bipartisan support in the House to end war powers granted to the president. A vote in the Senate was the only thing that stood in the way of repealing the act.
At yesterday's hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members of the Biden administration argued in favour of repealing the act, insisting that the authorisation for the use of military force against Iraq has outlived its usefulness.
Reporting on the hearing, the New York Times cited the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Senator Bob Menendez, who opened the discussion arguing that he had voted for the 2001 law after the Sept. 11 attacks but added: "We never could have imagined it being used as a justification for airstrikes in Somalia or against groups that did not even exist at the time."
Mendez said that the Justice Department's expansive interpretation of presidential war powers "is a self-serving, one-way ratchet" and that "Over time, it has enabled the executive branch to justify large-scale uses of military force without any congressional involvement, stretching the Constitution in ways that would be unrecognizable to the framers."