Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Cites Authority to Fight Islamic State. Why Some Lawmakers Don't Buy It

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Cites Authority to Fight Islamic State. Why Some Lawmakers Don't Buy It

Article excerpt

Behind President Obama's call at the United Nations on Wednesday for the world to help the United States fight the Islamic State (IS) lies the question: What authority does he have to use US military force in this fight?

Mr. Obama referenced it in a letter to the leaders of Congress on Tuesday. He cited his constitutional authority as commander in chief and then, in parentheses, pointed to two authorizations passed by Congress.

But both are more than a decade old. Their applicability to today is stirring debate with the force of a Tomahawk missile.

Officially, each law is referred to as an Authorization for Use of Military Force - or AUMF, an acronym as ugly as its lethal purpose. The first AUMF, in 2001, was passed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It allowed the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against nations, groups, or individuals associated with the attacks, to prevent future attacks.

The second, passed in 2002, gave the OK for force against Iraq - to enforce UN Security Council resolutions related to Iraq and to "defend" the US against the "continuing threat posed by Iraq." The following spring, the US invaded Iraq.

In the past, the Obama administration has argued for rescinding both authorizations for being too broad, open-ended, or outdated. Now, as it relies on them, some lawmakers are the ones arguing these points.

The White House's use of old authorizations is an "extremely creative stretch by extremely creative lawyers," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia, at the liberal Center for American Progress on Tuesday. He and other members of Congress - both Democrat and Republican - say Congress must approve a new authorization specific to IS, also called ISIS or ISIL. He, and others, have already introduced authorizing legislation in both the Senate and House.

Here's their line of argument. IS is not associated with the perpetrators of the 2001 attacks, so it doesn't fit under the 2001 AUMF. …

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