Decades on from America’s 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq, the US Senate has withdrawn congressional authorizations for the wars to keep future presidents from using them to launch more military conflicts.
Lawmakers voted by a 66-30 margin on Wednesday to repeal the two authorizations for use of military force (AUMF). The 2003 Iraq War, which was illegal under the UN Charter, was started by then-President George W. Bush’s administration on the false assertion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the US.
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“The United States, Iraq, the entire world has changed dramatically since 2002, and it’s time the laws on the books catch up with those changes,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said before Wednesday’s vote. “These AUMFs have outlived their use.” He added that keeping the authorizations in force creates the risk that a future administration will abuse them to circumvent congressional authority over war powers.”
The repeal legislation will next need to pass in the House of Representatives before going to President Joe Biden’s desk for enactment. The White House has said Biden supports ending the AUMFs. Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, said a broad coalition of House members backs the bill, which he co-sponsored with Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine.
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“The 4,500 [US troops] who died, the 3,100 who were wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians – what we have to contemplate is the reality that we rushed into a war,” said Kaine, who was not a member of Congress when the authorizations were approved. “This body rushed into a war.”
However, members of the Senate have rejected efforts by Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, to push through a repeal of a separate 2001 AUMF authorizing Bush’s war on terror. That authorization still provides the legal basis for US counterterrorism operations around the world. Paul argued that by keeping the AUMF in place, Congress was keeping the door open for “war everywhere, all the time.”
Then-President Donald Trump used the 2001 AUMF to help justify a 2020 airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, while he was in Baghdad.