This afternoon's remarks by the president may sound new or ad hoc to those who have not been paying attention, but they are consistent with views he has expressed in the past, most recently three months ago at the National Defense University.
Look at this...AUMF Repeal: Obama Once Again Stands Up For Democracy
[May 23, 2013], during a speech at the National Defense University, President Obama took an unexpected step towards the first real peace-time that America has seen since 2001 by advocating for a repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF.
“Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight, or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states,” stated Obama. “So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.”
The AUMF was passed in 2001 as a response to the 9/11 attacks. Then-President George W. Bush pushed for Congress to allow him to take any “necessary and appropriate force” against all international terrorism, but Congress, recognizing the boundless power that that would entail, limited the mandate to only actions that targeted those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.
Even with this caveat, the AUMF provided the executive branch with unprecedented powers that were easily abused. To name just a few of those abuses, the AUMF has been cited as justification for controversial drone attacks, holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, and warrantless surveillance of the American people by the National Security Agency.
Regardless, Congress is not only considering keeping the AUMF, but expanding it. Recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearings have seen many push to allow the executive to maintain this secretive use of force against all groups that potentially threaten the U.S., even if entirely unrelated to 9/11. What Congress found reprehensible and unconstitutional in 2001, it is now supporting in 2013.
Thankfully, President Obama is not the kind of politician to jump on the bandwagon. In his aforementioned speech, Obama defied Congress and even members of his own party, simply by stating the facts: Al-Qaeda has mostly been disassembled and is no longer a real threat to the U.S. The U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan. We are entering a peacetime state. With the lack of a real, concrete enemy, there is absolutely no need to drag this dwindling conflict into a perpetual and never-ending state of war. And in this vein, Obama is not only openly calling for a repeal of the AUMF, but is also successfully pushing Congress to begin drafting a bill to “sunset” the mandate.
More transparent military proceedings? Giving the American people back their constitutional rights? Ensuring that other countries aren’t too scared to share intelligence with us? And a president who isn’t afraid to limit his own powers to further democracy? Yes please.The full text of the president's speech is linked above. It includes these paragraphs:
Now make no mistake: our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. We must recognize, however, that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience to draw from, now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions – about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.
These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.This speech was more about the detainees at Guantanamo than conflicts elsewhere, but he cited the importance of not giving the chief executive, even when it is himself, a blank check.
All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.Here is a link to a transcript of this afternoon's statement to compare and contrast.
And while we are looking at interesting factoids, how about Syria's advancing the idea of making the Middle East a WMD-Free Zone?
That's right, but it was over a decade ago when circumstances were quite different.
Here's the link (April 2003)...
Syria has asked the UN Security Council to help transform the Middle East into a "zone free of weapons of mass destruction". Accused by the United States of developing chemical weapons, Syria insists it is not doing so but charges that Washington is ignoring Israel, which is widely assumed to have nuclear weapons.
Syria has circulated a draft resolution in the 15-nation Security Council, welcoming all initiatives to create a "zone free of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons".
But the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, says Syria is jumping the gun.
"We think the focus at the moment is the search for WMD in Iraq," he said.
"Secondly, we are conerned about Syria's own WMD and obviously, if a council member or any member of the United Nations proposes a resolution for consideration, we are prepared to consider it, that doesn't mean to adopt it, embrace it or endorse it in any way, shape or form," Mr Negroponte said.Israel not only is "assumed" to have nuclear weapons, I think she also is not a signatory of either the non-proliferation treaty or the UN chemical weapons convention.