Mark Pfundstein: Repeal the blank check for war

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks Congress passed a broad authorization to use military force (AUMF) that has given three presidents a virtual blank check to wage war worldwide (41 operations in 19 countries) without needing further approval by Congress. The staggering costs include: more than 15,000 U.S. military and contractor personnel killed and over 55,000 wounded; 20 suicides, on average, by U.S. veterans every day; and $1.6 trillion in appropriated funds as of September 2014 (over $2 trillion now). This list does not include the costs to society caused by broken families and homeless veterans. Nor does it include the more than 200,000 foreign citizens, many innocent civilians, killed or wounded by U.S. combat actions.

Are these costs worth it when we are, in reality, waging a war for which there is no military solution? Whether one believes, as I do, that our national security policies have become too militarized, I hope we can agree that “We the people,” as represented by Congress, have a responsibility to know about, debate, and approve the use of our armed forces.

The 2001 AUMF has no geographic restrictions, no time limit, no constraints on which kinds of force may be used, and does not clearly name the groups with whom we are at war. Congress must reengage.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill in the House, co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Joe Neguse and Diana DeGette, to revoke the 2001 AUMF in one year unless Congress passes a more precise replacement. Republican Rep. Ken Buck wrote a sterling op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last September arguing eloquently for repealing and replacing the 2001 AUMF. I urge Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to actively support meaningful AUMF replacement.

Mark Pfundstein

Boulder