A libertarian, a liberal, a veteran, and a pacifist walk into a bar. This sounds like an old joke. What do they hold in common? Actually, a lot more than you would think. We have had real conversations with people in all these categories in our state. While reasons differ, they all agree that it is time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority in war and military action.
West Virginians have always been at the forefront of service and defense. We recently lost another service person and just sent 500 Guardsmen into murky theaters of conflict. Yet there has been no official Declaration of War by Congress since 1942. Since then, Congress has used Authorized Use of Military Force resolutions to give the president authority to commit military forces in the Persian Gulf (1991), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2002).
An AUMF is meant to be targeted and specific within a time frame. The Gulf and Iraq wars are officially over. All these AUMFs are still in force; the 2002 AUMF is being touted as statutory justification to attack Iran, and the 2001 AUMF has been used by the executive branch in three administrations to justify 41 military actions in 19 countries, some against forces that did not even exist in 2001. This includes the 18-year-old “endless war” in Afghanistan today — our country’s longest conflict, by far.
Libertarian, liberal, veteran or pacifist can describe many West Virginians. Since our federal representatives are not with our friends in the bar, they need to hear from citizens. There are now several legislative proposals in the House and the Senate to repeal these outdated AUMFs. Doing so would not prevent the administration from responding to attacks, and would give Congress eight months to determine where, when, how and to what purpose our forces may be used, as the Constitution mandates, without putting current operations in jeopardy.
If you believe that Congress should uphold the responsibility given to them by the Constitution, please contact Sens. Shelly Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to tell them. Ask Reps. McKinley and Miller to join Rep. Mooney in co-sponsoring a repeal of the 2001 AUMF and to be vocal on the repeal of the others.
Let’s put our joke analogy aside. We should initiate military action sparingly and go to war rarely; and when the decision needs to be made, it should be made and overseen by Congress, as the Constitution specifies. It’s no laughing matter.