September 27, 2017

Our Troops Need a New War Resolution From Congress

Source: Wall Street Journal


Most people would run away from gunfire, but our nation’s servicemembers run towards it. They watch their brothers and sisters die. They’ve been tired, hungry, frustrated, broken down and pissed off. They miss holidays, anniversaries, births and funerals before coming home with the physical and emotional scars of war. They laugh and cry about it all – a gallows humor only those of us who have deployed can appreciate.

Despite the toll, our men and women in uniform continue to deploy time and again, shouldering a heavy burden on behalf of their nation. Silently and professionally, they have always—always—done their jobs defending our Constitution and our values.

Congress, on the other hand, continues to neglect the Constitution our troops defend by refusing to replace outdated Authorizations for Use of Military Force – an AUMF passed in 2001 to go after the perpetrators of 9/11 and another passed in 2002 to begin the war in Iraq, a war I disagreed with but am proud to have fought in.

I couldn’t have imagined that both AUMFs would still be in place more than 15 years later, used to justify a seemingly endless war, without recent public debate about America’s objectives or what we’re still asking of those we’ve sent into harm’s way. U.S. troops downrange need to know they have the moral support—and legal backing—of their country. Congress hasn’t given them that.

That’s why this month I joined a bipartisan group of 36 senators supporting Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s amendment to the defense authorization bill that would gradually repeal the current AUMFs and provide Congress with an opportunity to debate a new authorization of military force against today’s enemies.

As both a combat Veteran and U.S. Senator, I know one of Congress’s most solemn responsibilities is deciding when and how we choose to send Americans into combat. The AUMF—in setting the legal framework, the parameters and Constitutional basis under which we go to war—represents that responsibility. It is not something we should shirk.

Debating an AUMF serves a moral purpose as well. With fewer Americans choosing to serve in uniform and a growing divide between civilians and our military, the public is becoming more removed from those on the battlefield. That lets Americans distance themselves from the moral burden of sending servicemembers off to die. By ignoring the AUMF for 16 years, each of us—not just lawmakers—fails to do our part of the shared responsibilities of being an American citizen.

Though we failed to force this conversation, we came closer than ever. I hope the nation soon engages in this long-overdue debate with an honest, sober accounting of the true costs of war—in dollars and in lives—and provides our military a clear set of objectives it can take into the field.

American troops will carry out any mission they’re asked to. They always have. But the courage our troops show every day is not being matched by those sworn to represent them in Washington. If we can’t even tell the troops who risk their lives for us what we need them to do, what the hell are we doing in Congress?

By:  Senator Tammy Duckworth