White House Backs Repeal of 2002 Military Force Authorization

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The White House announced its support for legislation that would revoke the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War on Monday, days ahead of an expected House vote.

“The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities the rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” the White House commented in a statement Monday.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee, would rescind the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) invoked to justify intervention in Iraq. After a similar repeal failed to advance in 2019, there is renewed congressional interest to put it back on the table after President Biden deployed airstrikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria in February in retaliation for militia attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

In March, the House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed Lee’s bill forward on a 28-19 vote, with Republican Representatives Ken Buck and Peter Meijer joining the Democrats in support.

Those in favor of repealing the AUMF argue it is now an unnecessary framework, since it already served it original purpose of approving the U.S. military’s mission to combat and oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. They claim that the provision exists as a never-ending mandate for counterproductive military involvement overseas. Lee, the bill’s author, was the the only member of Congress to vote against the original AUMF on September 14, 2001, citing concerns that she was being asked to vote for “an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.”

The repeal legislation’s critics, however, believe the 2002 AUMF should not be removed until a replacement is offered in its stead, fearing that it could constrain the U.S. from pursuing anti-terrorism military efforts in the future.

The 2002 AUMF stipulates that military action must “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

“The president is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” Monday’s statement read.

“As the administration works with Congress to reform AUMFs, it will be critical to maintain the clear authority to address threats to the United States’ national interests with appropriately decisive and effective military action,” the statement continued.

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