Rep. Barbara Lee Sunsetted the AUMF but the Sun Rose Again

(L) Rep. Barbara Lee, (R) Louis Fisher

by Mary Maxwell, current candidate for the US Senate in Alabama

This is a short report on matters related to the US justification for striking Syria in May 2017 and perhaps in future.

I do not know what the corresponding position is, in regard to Australian forces. First, backtrack to 2001. As we know, the US decided after the collapse of the Twin Towers that this was sufficient justification to strike at Afghanistan (because a Saudi national was allegedly hiding there. i.e., the brother of Salem bin Laden who was at that moment on the board of the Carlyle Group with Poppy Bush, but never mind that.)

Of course the US Constitution grants to Congress, not to the President, the power to decide on war. Persons on The Hill must have thought there was too much criticism of Congress abdicating that role (which is un-abdicatable, of course). So they invented a bill called Authorization for the Use of Military Force (The AUMF ACT). Only one person in 2001, Rep Barbara Lee (D-CA), said Uh-uh. (That was on SEPTEMBER 14, mind you).

Yes, you read that right, one out of 535 members of the US legislature (who each get a base salary of $174K, by the way) had the gumption to stick up for the Constitution. It’s probably amazing that “they” let her continue in Congress – she’s still there! Maybe they figure she is not a worry.

Yes, you read that right, one out of 535 members of the US legislature (who each get a base salary of $174K, by the way) had the gumption to stick up for the Constitution. It’s probably amazing that “they” let her continue in Congress – she’s still there! Maybe they figure she is not a worry.

Anyway she has always pleaded for the repeal of AUMF, and this year she hit pay dirt. She is on a committee (House Appropriations) that voted to sunset the bill after 8 months, and come up with something better. Even jaded old me was surprised to learn, however, that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) prevented her amendment from getting into the National Defense Authorization Act, the dreaded NDAA. So Lee’s work is now defunct, I guess.

I found the following at


“Following a U.S. fighter jet shooting down a Syrian government warplane on June 18, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the State Department to provide legal justification for that action and others.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Syrian Government or pro-Syrian-Government forces,” the State Department responded Wednesday in a letter provided to TPM. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportional force to defend U.S., Coalition, or partner forces engaged in the campaign against ISIS.”

(If anyone can follow the logic there, please email me.)

I am not here to say “Don’t hit Syria.” I am here to inspect the Barbara Lee item and the original AUMF.  So we start by googling “AUMF, USC” to be brought into the USC, the United States code, which is always properly conveyed at the website of Cornell University.  We find:

50 USC 1541:

(a)Congressional declaration

It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfil the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.

(b)Congressional legislative power under necessary and proper clause

Under article I, section 8, [Clause 18] of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. [See? Congress gets into the act even where the Prez has power.]

(c)Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

Hmm, that does not exactly explain the AUMF. Let’s go back to 1973 when Congress had the unmitigated cheek to pass the War Powers Resolution. Ah, I see, the above a,b,and c sections of 50 USC 1541 are from the 1973 thing, not the 2001 thing.

Next we visit the website of Prof Louis Fisher, who worked for Library of Congress as an advisor on Balance of Power issues. At we see him quoting himself and colleague David Gray Adler from an article they wrote in Political Science Quarterly in 1998, entitled The War Powers Resolution: Time To Say Goodbye”:

Although the media and many members of Congress described the War Powers Resolution (WPR) of 1973 as strong evidence of legislative “reassertion,” the statute represented a clear surrender of legislative power to presidential initiatives to use military force anywhere in the world, for any reason, for up to 90 days. This article begins by describing the constitutional values and objectives of the framers. It then explains why passage of the WPR, with its many compromises, ambiguities, and contradictions, violates the framers’ intent and the Constitution’s promise of republican government.

Fisher’s website also leads us to an article he wrote in 2013 in The Constitution Daily, about Obama’s threat to attack Syria:

President Obama has encountered a series of roadblocks after deciding to use military force against Bashar Assad’s Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians. Many of those obstacles resulted from statements made by the President and prominent administration officials; a principal one was the failure to talk candidly and plainly to Congress and the American public about the likely scope of planned military attacks.

Repeatedly, Obama and other officials called the military actions as limited, tailored, surgical, and proportional, and they downplayed the level of violence.

The adjectives were unpersuasive because the administration contemplated sending in dozens of cruise missiles into Damascus, followed perhaps by aircraft bombings. Many lawmakers and their constituents found the administration’s over-optimistic. And an unrealistic word play to be deliberate efforts to mislead and deceive.

I recall that day in September 2013 — I happened to be in the United States. I made the following video and if you wonder why my speech is not up to par it is because I was so sad about what seemed an imminent world war (to be sparked in the Middle East) that I could hardly get the words out:

–Mary invites you to her campaign website The election is only 8 days away.



  1. The blame is on the idiots and war criminals leading all the so called NATO countries.

    • Try this one, Mal:

      • From USA Today, April 2016:

        The Pentagon reported Friday that 265 active-duty servicemembers killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years.

        The number of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase until more than doubling to 321 in 2012, the worst year in recent history for servicemembers killing themselves.

        • Message to Mike Prysner of the Winter Soldiers conference:

          Ephesians 6: 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

          Isaiah 59:17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.

  2. It can all be a lot better.

  3. Was I thrilled when a Teenage Republican club asked me to address them? yes. But in case they are reading this article I need to clarify:

    First, how is it possible that the extreme majority of Congressmen yield up their bread and butter? (I mean their job of declaring war). And if you get elected 7 years from now, will you do the same?

    Second, if decisions get made under AUMF (there have been a few, altho some also “relied on” UN Security Council Resolutions as well), and these are bad decisions, and if those decisions lacked a debate on the Hill (that’s the whole point of AUMF), who the heck is responsible for the consequences?

    Examples: Iraq is in ruins, millions died; Libya is in ruins; the flow of refugees from Syria is allegedly causing strife in Germany. Who should cop the blame?


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