Missed amid the partisan fervor following the death of terrorist leader Qassem Suleimani was the unique opportunity it presented Congress to come to a national consensus about the U.S. presence in the Middle East. After 18 years at war without so much as a debate in Congress about the extent to which our men and women in uniform are deployed overseas, President Trump’s decision to take out the Iranian general last week catalyzed a national conversation between Republicans and Democrats.
Setting aside opinions about whether the president was correct in his decision to take out Suleimani, I and colleagues on both sides of the aisle raised concerns about our mission, strategic objectives, and presence in the dozen countries we now operate in under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
As you may recall, the 2001 AUMF was passed in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The men and women who have deployed under the AUMF have bled around the globe to protect liberty and the national security of the United States and our allies. They’ve accomplished a great deal, too.
Osama bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussein is dead. 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is standing trial next year. Afghanistan is holding democratic elections. We have pummeled al-Qaeda and kept attacks away from American soil.
But the question many of my colleagues raised over the past week did not materialize into action in the House. Instead of having the debate many of us in Congress are eager to see, my colleagues and I were presented a resolution Thursday that focused on the president’s decision to take out a terrorist leader.
Despite the efforts of a few of my Democrat colleagues, including author Rep. Elissa Slotkin, to de-politicize the text of the resolution, the timing of its vote and its structure as a messaging resolution inherently questions the recent strike against Suleimani. So I was forced to vote no, despite wanting to have an actual debate about war powers. As Americans, we should be unambiguous that the death of Suleimani was justified considering present and future threats to our men and women in uniform, as well as our national security interests.
Effectively, congressional leadership did what the American people have come to expect from us—put politics and party above what is best for the nation. America should be firm and clear in our conviction that Iran should not have nuclear capability, and should no longer be allowed to spread terror around the world while specifically targeting Americans, not to mention our allies.
Now, as we consider the future, I would welcome a debate in the U.S. House in which we consider the formal end of the 2002 AUMF regarding Iraq. I believe Speaker Nancy Pelosi would agree with that, since she voted against the ’02 AUMF on the floor some 18 years ago.
Furthermore, I would welcome a review of the 2001 AUMF in light of current circumstances in Afghanistan and the deaths of those responsible for 9/11, including many of their spawn. We should then review our counterterrorism authorities that Congress has given in light of these events, including but not limited to Iran’s historic and ongoing hostilities to our national security interests.
Our nation will be stronger and more unified if we debate, vote on, and pass an updated 2020-relevant AUMF with a clear mission and strategic objectives, perhaps with time limits on the authorization to force congressional input.