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A unilateral declaration of endless war against anybody

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This post was written by Sharon Miller, San Francisco intern for CODEPINK

On May 11, 2011, the House Armed Services Committee voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill includes, among other things, an expansion of the legal basis for the so-called War on Terror. It passed the committee by a vote of 60-1. The sole dissenting vote was that of John Garamendi (D-CA).  Garamendi explained his vote:

The Armed Services Committee voted to continue the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. Because I wholeheartedly support our soldiers and their families, I cannot in good conscience vote to extend a war without an endgame. To continue  to risk the lives of 100,000 American troops in support of the corrupt Karzai government in Afghanistan’s internal civil war is not in the long-term national interest of the United States.

CODEPINK thanks Representative Garamendi for his vote against this ominous legislation, which reminds us of Representative Barbara Lee’s dissenting vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) following 9/11. She foresaw the consequences of that dangerous legislation, and explained her vote against it:

It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events—anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration. I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk.

Many of the things Lee predicted on September 14, 2001–endless war, loss of life, abuse of power, and so on—have come to pass. If the NDAA passes, the situation could deteriorate further, in ways that those who voted for it have not adequately considered.

The title of the “FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act” doesn’t even begin to hint at how disastrous it really is. Specifically Section 1034, “Affirmation of Armed Conflict with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Associated Forces,” an alarming proposal that could trap us in an endless war against unspecified targets:

This section would affirm that the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note). This section would also affirm that the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force includes the authority to detain certain belligerents until the termination of hostilities.

This language expands the president’s war powers outlined in the AUMF that led to the so-called War on Terror. Section 1034 of the NDAA allows the United States to wage war without end wherever the president chooses, against any country or entity in the world.

CODEPINK, along with 20 other national organizations, will be participating in a Week of Action to End the Afghanistan War starting Monday. Next week is when the full House of Representatives will discuss the military spending bill as approved by the Armed Services Committee and amendments. Watch this space for more information on how to get involved in these efforts. And don’t forget to tell your representative to support HR 780, the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan!

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