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Lawmakers are taking another stab at repealing the post-9/11 AUMF amid tensions with Iran
With the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a gaggle of B-52 Stratofortress bombers flexing their muscles in the Middle East, lawmakers are mounting yet another effort to repeal the post-9/11 legislation that could be used as a potential legal justification for a military conflict with Iran.
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted along party lines to add an amendment to the annual defense budget that would roll back the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that, passed just days after the September 11th attacks, provided a legislative blank check for the U.S. military to pursue terror groups around the world.
Tuesday's amendment was proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-Calif.), who was the only member of the Congress to oppose the 2001 AUMF. A similar amendment, also proposed by Lee, made it out of committee in June 2017 before the Republican-controlled House removed it from the larger National Defense Authorization Act.
"In the last 18 years, it really has become increasingly clear that the AUMF has essentially provided the president, and that's any president, the authority to wage war anywhere in the world at any time," Lee said on Tuesday, per The Hill. "It has already been floated as a possibility for using this AUMF as the legal basis to go to war with Iran, a war, again, that Congress has not debated or authorized."
Lee' concerns about the AUMF and Iran are warranted. A February Washington Times "exclusive" report citing anonymous administration officials and congressional sources suggested that the 2001 AUMF — which explicitly justifies authorizes military action against "nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided" in the 9/11 attacks — could justify "striking Iranian territory or proxies" given a purported alliance between al Qaeda and Tehran.
The White House appears to be making that case. "They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly stated last month. "There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop."
According to the U.S. intelligence community, however, this purported al Qaeda-Iran alliance doesn't really exist — at least not enough to justify war under the mantle of the 2001 AUMF. Multiple reports indicate that the senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed Congress on the Iranian threat on Tuesday found minimal evidence that al Qaeda was actively collaborating with Tehran on the latter's recent aggression across the Persian Gulf.
This isn't to say that the current U.S. military build-up in the Persian Gulf isn't based on a total delusion. As Task & Purpose previously reported, U.S Central Command chief Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie requested the Lincoln strike group and bomber task force because intelligence did show indications that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its proxies were planning some manner of direct attack against U.S. troops in the Middle East.
"We're in a period where the threat remains high and our job is to make sure that there is no miscalculation by the Iranians," Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters before briefing Congress on Tuesday. "The most important thing we can do as the [Department of Defense] is avoid miscalculation and control escalation. Our posture is for deterrence."
But for veterans of the Iraq War, the tenuous link between al Qaeda and Iran bears too close a resemblance to the run-up to that 2003 invasion. Indeed, Marine Corps veteran and 2020 presidential hopeful Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has argued that "certain people in the administration" — namely Pompeo and White House National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton — are simply "pushing for regime change" in Iran.
In the 18 years since 9/11, the 2001 AUMF has justified U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Niger, and other countries. Lee's repeal amendment, should it actually become law as part of the NDAA, will provide the most substantial brake on the ever-expanding Global War on Terror in years, even if it takes months to actually become law
In the meantime, the Trump administration may want to listen to Shanahan when he says that the U.S. military build-up in the Middle East has one simple goal: "Not to go to war with Iran."
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Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.