OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

Republicans Pushing for Permanent War on Terror

May 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One might think the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan would lead to more talk in Congress about winding down the war in Afghanistan, and to some extent it has. Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-1], for example, is petitioning for an accelerated withdrawal. But the Republican House leadership, which is really the locus of Congress’ decision-making as a whole, is pushing in the other direction. They are using the must-pass 2012 Defense Authorization Act as a vehicle to expand the President’s authority to use military force against virtually anybody suspected of terrorism, anywhere in the world, at any time.

The language was added to the Defense bill last week by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon [R, CA-25] via the chairman’s mark. It’s taken verbatim from his “Detainee Security Act,” a bill designed primarily to restrict detainees held under suspected terrorism from attaining legal counsel or trials outside of military courts. The language added to the Defense bill “reaffirms” that the President has congressional authority to engage in armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and anyone who is part of or substantially supporting "associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.” This is clearly an expansion of the 2001 war authority from Congress, which authorized military force only against people and organizations that were involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to the ACLU, the expansion…

…would allow a president to use military force wherever terrorism suspects are present in the world, regardless of whether there has been any harm to U.S. citizens, or any attack on the United States, or any imminent threat of an attack. The legislation is broad enough to permit a president to use military force within the United States and against American citizens. The legislation contains no expiration date, and no criteria to determine when a president’s authority to use military force would end. [link]

It also gives the military power to detain “belligerents” until the “termination of hostilities.” Of course, the language seems to authorize a perpetual war with very little chance of termination, so this seems to authorize indefinite detention of suspects, including U.S. citizens. This, of course, is what congressional war hawks have been aiming for for years.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14] and 32 Democrats have written to the Republican leadership asking them to remove the language from the bill. The language “By declaring a global war against nameless individuals, organizations, and nations ‘associated’ with the Taliban and al Qaeda, as well as those playing a supporting role in their efforts, the language] would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval,” the Democrats write. Some Republicans have begun pushing back too. On Facebook, Rep. Justin Amash [R, MI-3] called the provisions “among the most dangerous […] ever proposed.” In a comment he added: “Who are ‘associated forces’? What are ‘hostilities’? There’s a reason our Constitution requires Congress to declare war—to prevent one person, a President, from making all of these judgments unilaterally.”

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.


  • jsimsnewchapter 05/18/2011 3:25pm

    Good god, we were discussing constitutionality on the last article. This one, there’s no doubt. It would take a constitutional amendment to do this. Otherwise, you’re going to have to have it renewed every year, or at least, every Congress. Checks and Balances are there for a reason. If this Congress wants to give up that power for now, that’s their decision, but they can’t take it away from future Congresses.

  • valleri 05/18/2011 10:26pm

    It seems some in D.C want to pass laws that give away some of their responsibilities. We need checks and balances, which is why each branch of government has its role in our Democracy. No act of Congress should pass its responsibilities onto another branch of government without a vote of the entire country. What they have proposed is nothing short of absurd.

  • eth111 05/19/2011 7:52am

    Unfortunately, the Congress has been in the habit of giving up it’s responsibilities to the Executive branch for at least a couple of decades now. Most of the “alphabet soup” agencies fall under the Executive.

    If the conjecture that Mr. Shaw is reporting is accurate, and it may well be, the Congress is not only extending the perversion that is the War Powers Act, but shirking their Constitutional authority and responsibility to grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal (Article I, Section 8).

    If you look at the schedules posted on this site on Mondays, it is obvious that Congress is busy schmoozing and not doing their job. These schmucks get paid $175G per year for what amounts to about 2 days a week with copious week long breaks. Pass a couple bills renaming post offices, get in some photo ops, schmooze the lobbyists, and pretend that you give half a crap about your constituents. Move them to hourly pay for the time that their butts are in the chair and you will see real change.

  • Spam Comment

  • Naame 05/19/2011 10:27am

    This is far too much power for any single person to have. I don’t care what party sponsors or supports this legislation. Proper checks and balances trump all of that nonsense.

    For those that support this idea, just think about how you might feel if a President that you highly disagreed with decided to use that power to its fullest extent?

  • fakk2 05/19/2011 10:31pm

    You know, this is eerily reminiscent of the original SMURFS cartoon, whereas the President is the evil Gargamel, the “terrorists” (using the term loosely) are Azrael (making fun of the leader), and the American people are the smurfs. Everyone’s on the same page except us and is telling us to just accept things the way they are, and if we don’t, then we become traitors to our country (throwback to the Red Scare & McCarthyism). We can’t afford to let this man, or any man (or woman), have so much power for the pure fact we will take a LARGE step towards tyranny.

    BTW, when did it become politically correct and more entertaining to trade in Vanity Smurf for a Scottish smurf? Vanity was a staple during the show, he should’ve been a staple during the movie!

  • dianambowman 05/20/2011 4:52am

    Republicans Pushing for Permanent War on Terror
    May 18, 2011 – by Donny Shaw
    The way our laws are set up, a permanent war on terror is a permanent war on our privacy!!!! KNOW the fine print, and what it all means. The lobbyists behind this are aimed at stealing our american ways of life, pharaceutical companies getting all of our medical info…for free…foreign countries and corporations taking OUR ideas and making money off of them themselves. WAKE UP. ~signed a Republican for the American way of life!

  • AnnieJames 06/01/2011 4:23am

    The article sounds like the bill is designed to keep Obama and crew from being tried by other countries for war crimes against what they did to Bin Laden. Republicans Pushing for Permanent War on Terror……As it well should be. No one in there right mind should “push” for this. It should be an automatic thing.
    We need to end both wars and start fixing the infrastructure of this country.Annie

Due to the archiving of this blog, comment posting has been disabled.