Twenty years ago this weekend, on Oct. 16, 2002, Congress granted President George W. Bush the controversial authority to invade Iraq. That use-of-force authorization is still in effect and has been used as legal justification by several presidents for U.S. military ventures in the region.
Now a bipartisan group of senators wants to finally end it. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced an amendment last month to the massive defense budget process that would formally terminate the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) regarding Iraq.
“By failing to repeal outdated and unnecessary AUMFs, Congress is abdicating its responsibility to provide oversight over military action and leaving these war authorizations subject to abuse,” Kaine and Young said in a joint statement on Friday. “It is long past time to reassert Congress’ vital role in these decisions.”
They also claimed there was a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate to pass the measure and that it “deserves a vote” during the national defense budget process in November or December. The House passed its own bipartisan version of the bill in June.
The bill would not repeal the 2001 AUMF, which followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. and allowed the president to invade Afghanistan and continues to justify military action against terrorist groups worldwide.
But the Iraq authorization has still been used for military purposes far beyond what Congress envisioned in 2002. President Barack Obama declared the Iraq War over in 2011 and withdrew all U.S. troops, but he then sent American forces back into the country in 2014, relying on both the Afghanistan and Iraq use-of-force authorizations.
The Obama administration again relied upon the 2002 AUMF for military incursions into Syria, and the Trump administration later expanded its interpretation of the law and claimed it justified “threats to, or stemming from, Iraq” while relying upon it to carry out the Jan. 3, 2020, assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.