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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/7/13

Barbara Lee And Dick Durbin's "Nobody-Could-Have-Known" Defense

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Source: The Guardian

The standard Beltway excuse to justify bad acts fails to explain the radically overbroad 2001 AUMF


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Congresswoman Barbara Lee, speaking on the House floor on September 14, 2001, in opposition to the AUMF. Photograph: screen grab

Various senators are reportedly considering changes to the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in light of how far beyond its scope US military action is now routinely deployed. That may seem like a welcome development, but as Marcy Wheeler notes, the officials involved and the "experts" on whom they're relying strongly suggest that any changes would entail expanding and broadening this authorization, not narrowing or rescinding it. One of the Senators who is pushing for changes is Democrat Dick Durbin, who said this:

"None of us, not one who voted for it, could have envisioned we were voting for the longest war in American history or that we were about to give future presidents the authority to fight terrorism as far flung as Yemen and Somalia. I don't think any of us envisioned that possibility."

This is a common tactic in Washington political and media circles: whenever they do something destructive and wrong, they exonerate themselves with this "nobody-could-have-known" formulationyes, we turned out to be horribly wrong, but nobody could have known at the time that this would happen. But almost always, not only could someone have known, and not only should someone have known, but someone -- usually many people -- did know. They just weren't the kind of people that those making this claim believe are worth listening to.

Immediately after the 9/11 attack, Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California knew exactly that which Durbin now says nobody "could have envisioned." She not only knew it, but she stood up on the floor of the Congress a mere three days after the 9/11 attack in order to cast the lone vote against the AUMF, citing precisely these dangers:

"[W]e must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes.

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In a September 23, 2001 interview with the LA Times, as controversy continued over her 434-1 lone vote, she elaborated on the rationale for her opposition even as she made clear that she did not oppose the use of any and all military force as a response to the 9/11 attack:

"I'm opposed to granting that broad power to any president. I believe Congress has got to be part of the decision-making process when we're talking about going to war against sovereign nations. This resolution, even though it was focused on the World Trade Center attack, is open-ended. It doesn't have an exit strategy; it does not have any reporting requirements. And the president already has authority to use force [internationally for 60 days without congressional approval] under the War Powers Act. So what was this about?. . .

"I agonized over this vote. We're all mourning. We're angry and frustrated. I felt that [someone] in this environment of grief needed to say let's show some restraint in our response. Let's not do anything that could escalate this madness out of control. Let's know the implications of our actions, and let's make sure that our system of checks and balances is maintained. We need to figure out a way to stamp out international terrorism and bring these perpetrators to justice without creating more loss of life. ... We need to know where we're going and who we're going after."

In an Op-Ed she wrote for her hometown Oakland Post on September 26, she further explained her vote this way, again presciently warning of exactly the dangers that Durbin now claims nobody could have foreseen:

"Some believe this resolution was only symbolic, designed to show national resolve. But I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war.  It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 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."

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[Subscribe to Glenn Greenwald] Glenn Greenwald is a journalist,former constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times bestselling books on politics and law. His most recent book, "No Place to Hide," is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. His forthcoming book, to be published in April, 2021, is about Brazilian history and current politics, with a focus on his experience in reporting a series of expose's in 2019 and 2020 which exposed high-level corruption by powerful officials in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, which subsequently attempted to prosecute him for that reporting.

Foreign Policy magazine named Greenwald one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. He was the debut winner, along with "Democracy Now's" Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work breaking the story of the abusive (more...)
 

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