License to Kill (Pretty Much Anyone)

Donald Trump has the ability to kill almost anyone in the world, and has. So did President Obama. So did George W. Bush. Other Presidents before them have dragged us into wars, willingly or unwillingly, but these three men have had greater power than anyone in history to execute groups and individuals on a global scale.

That power is granted in just 60 words of legislation, passed unanimously but for one opposed, by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001.

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future act of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or persons.” — The Authorization for Use of Military force (AUMF)

We have been living with the consequences of that vote ever since.

Radiolab produced a podcast that looks at how these words impact law, but I am concerned with how it impacts lives.

This law, an emotional knee jerk reaction to the tragedy of 9/11, has left us with an ambiguous state of war that leaves all parties uneasy.

What is force? Are there any limitations on “all necessary and appropriate”? Why does the President have power to authorize military force and how does that stand in the face of Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution?

I’m not a lawyer — I don’t play one on TV. I’m a guy who gets worried about the kind of world that this policy decision will have on my life, and the liberty of future generations.

Because it gets worse.

The 2001 AUMF has raised questions and concerns — especially as people in 2018 seek answers to why we are now in year 17 of an undeclared war. The solution being proposed is horrific, and “bipartisan.”

It’s called the Kaine Corker AUMF and has been proposed by Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) and Bob Corker (R- Tennessee). This is a legal measure that would allow what The Atlantic dubbed the “forever war.” They go on to say that the Kaine Corker AUMF “would authorize multiple existing wars without even debating them individually. It would empower Trump and his successors to unilaterally wage war in new countries, expand their ability to indefinitely detain prisoners without charges, and empower them to unilaterally kill individuals even inside the United States.”

The impact of these words on the world in total is immense and devastating. Those sympathetic to social justice should feel their hearts bleed at the thought of how much death this measure has caused. Those with a mind toward the law should shudder at the potential impact of this shift in power from the legislative to executive branch. If we can reframe the constitution so easily, it is another step towards authoritarian leadership. Both sides of the aisle should be scared.

The impact of the existing and proposed updated AUMF on the citizens of the United States is significant, and largely unseen. We are only at the beginning of understanding how much it will cost us in trust, respect, and personal safety.

These few words give enormous power to a small group of people who are as fallible and biased as the rest of us. There is not enough transparency in our government for the average person to make a judgement call about right and wrong for the protection of this country.

As citizens, both of the United States and of the world — we shouldn’t stand for unjust laws. Moreover, we have an obligation to raise objections when we are at risk of being subjugated.

The Kaine Corker AUMF allows indefinite detention of suspects without charges filed, and suspends the right to a trial. That applies to anyone deemed a threat, including United States citizens. You may love your elected officials today, but history shows that we restrain government because absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

If you believe in the goodness of all humans without exception — please don’t hesitate to skim to another article. If you have ever met one person you wouldn’t trust with access to a nuclear arsenal, don’t hesitate to make your voice heard.

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pro liberty. Director of Comms and Development at a law firm. Adjunct Professor at a university. all opinions are my own.

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