As the 20th anniversary of the controversial Iraq invasion approaches, Congress is pushing to regain control of the war powers handed over to the executive branch in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq under the leadership of President George W. Bush, citing the need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) allegedly possessed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, no such weapons were ever found, and the war dragged on for over a decade, costing trillions of dollars and claiming the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and countless Iraqi civilians.
The disastrous consequences of the Iraq War have led to calls for accountability and reform, including the restoration of Congress’s constitutional authority to declare war. In the years following 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president broad powers to conduct military operations against any country or group deemed a threat to national security.
However, critics argue that the AUMF has been abused and stretched far beyond its original intended purpose. Under the AUMF, the U.S. has engaged in military operations in at least seven countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Niger. The lack of clear guidance and limitations has led to endless wars that have strained U.S. resources and eroded civil liberties.
Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to repeal or replace the AUMF with a new authorization that would require congressional approval for any future military action. The effort gained new momentum last year when President Joe Biden pledged to work with Congress to revise the AUMF and end the “forever wars.”
However, some lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have opposed efforts to restrict the president’s war powers, arguing that it could weaken national security and harm America’s ability to respond to emerging threats. They also point to the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities by Iran-backed militants as evidence of the ongoing threat posed by foreign adversaries.
Despite the opposition, the push to reassert congressional authority over war powers is gaining steam. Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF, which authorized the invasion of Iraq. The Senate is expected to take up the issue soon, with bipartisan support for reforming the war powers.
As the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War approaches, the debate over war powers is a reminder of the need for accountability and oversight in U.S. foreign policy. By restoring congressional authority over military action, the U.S. can avoid costly and unnecessary wars and focus on diplomacy and multilateral solutions to global challenges.