A single vote against the Authorization to Use Military Force

Mere days after 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization to Use military Force (AUMF).  Now, 12 years later, we’re still at war bombing multiple countries and some Senators, Dick Durban for one, are complaining that military force has gone way past the scope of the AUMF.  They are saying, no one could possibly have known this would happen.  But, it’s pretty clear at least one member of Congress knew exactly would could happen and was the only person to vote against AUMF cautioning Congress a mere three days after 9/11:

“[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.

“In 1964, Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to ‘take all necessary measures’ to repel attacks and prevent further aggression. In so doing, this House abandoned its own constitutional responsibilities and launched our country into years of undeclared war in Vietnam.

“At this time, Senator Wayne Morse, one of the two lonely votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, declared, ‘I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the Constitution of the United States. I believe that with the next century, future generations will look with dismay and great disappointment upon a Congress which is now about to make such a historic mistake.’

“Senator Morse was correct, and I fear we make the same mistake today.”

And what was the reaction to her stand against the AUMF?  Greenwald explains:

To say that Lee was vilified for her warnings is a serious understatement. She was deluged with so many death threats that she was given around-the-clock police protection.

For Congress to suggest that no one could have known the risk posed by the AUMF is ludicrous.  They only need look at their own history to realize the predictability of their behavior in time of crisis and the disastrous results that follow.  Of course, Congress rarely acknowledges it’s mistakes, especially when those mistakes result in thousands of dead bodies.  And the media does nothing to take up the slack.  Last night, Stephen Colbert was fondly remembering the great LBJ who is responsible for about 30,000 dead U.S. bodies.  Oopsy.  Just a mistake.  Who could have known?

Greenwald sums it up nicely:

Barbara Lee’s lone vote against the 2001 AUMF – three days after the 9/11 attack – was an act of incredible and rare courage that is worth commemorating in its own right. But it was also prescient and wise, using America’s past bad acts to warn of the dangers likely to be unleashed by enacting it. If Dick Durbin wants to acknowledge his gross error in voting in favor of such a blank check for presidential war-making – one that led to 12 years of war in numerous nations with no end in sight – he should do so honestly. Instead of pretending that nobody could possibly have known this would happen as a deceitful means of excusing his bad acts, he should instead acknowledge that there were people who did know and tried to warn the nation about it, but those weren’t the types of voices to which he paid any attention because they weren’t emanating from the Pentagon, the Brookings Institution and the columns of Tom Friedman. That is the mistake he should acknowledge and learn to rectify.

Congress doesn’t attract the kind of people with the integrity to acknowledge their own culpability for what government does.  It’s always someone else’s fault.

There are no bad people in Congress, just people with a great capacity to rationalize.