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tv   Reps. Peter Meijer and Abby Spanberger on Authorizations of Military Force  CSPAN  December 11, 2021 7:30am-8:02am EST

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-- authorizations of military force. >> reasserting congressional oversight of the nation's wars, starting with a repeal of the authorizations of military force. peter meijer represents
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michigan's third district. abigail spanberger represents virginia's seventh district. they have really let this effort. when we were looking for someone to host this discussion, -- the co-editor who has also written widely on the subject. it is fair to say that much of what i have learned on the subject and what i have learned from congress' work on the subject has started with her. i'm going to turn things over. it is your show. take it away. >> thank you so much. it is wonderful to be here with these two members. you both have been steadfast in reminding us it is congress' duty to reclaim the war powers
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that have been largely ceded to the executive branch. you have been writing legislation, you have been cosponsoring legislation, you have been trying to get it passed, and you have remind us that both parties have been stretching unilateral authority. you have not been treating this as a partisan issue. i thank both of you for focusing on that. let's jump right in because our time is short. i want to start with what i think representative meijer -- a very good place to start, low hanging fruit, if you will. an effort for congress to reassert its war powers. to make sure everyone is on the same page with the 2002 war, the 1991 gulf war, and the war from
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the eisenhower administration. representative spanberger said removing days is a clear opportunity to show that congress is serious about reclaiming its war powers and representing service members and veterans. representative meijer has said colorfully these outdated aumfs are like zombies. they can be brought back from the dead and used in a way that is far from the original intent. it is an end run around congress' constitutional authority. i want to start asking you both, why now? why is now the time to repeal these outdated aumfs? both of you had distinguished service in the executive branch. what is your experience --
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rep. spanberger: thank you so much for the question. what has motivated me on this issue is my background in counterterrorism. i am a former cia officer. i know firsthand, much of what it is the united states has been engaged in in our larger, global war on terror. when i came to congress, focusing on aumf issues was very important to me for a couple of reasons. this is a very clear place where congress has walked away from its responsibility. it is a church will allow the executive to run roughshod, to go about utilizing these aumfs, extending these aumfs, the further we get from the time they were initially voted on, the fewer members of congress are there.
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the larger real change needs to happen with the 2002 and 2001, making sure people understand that we still have them from 1991. we still have one from many, many years ago, decades ago. let's start. as we are bringing aumf discussion to the larger congress, 2001 will be a really difficult conversation. we can start taking steps in the right direction by saying, do we still need a decades old aumf? the one that allowed us to go into iraq is no longer necessary. recognizing these zombie aumfs could be resurrected, and really
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pulling people together on the past toward contending with the reality that we still have the 2002 and 2001 on the books, which are from the congressional standpoint something we need to contend with. >> representative meijer, we would love to hear from you. i know you have written some similar points. rep. meijer: i think abby touched on some key elements well. i think there is recognition that the 2001 war on terror, the authorization that has been used in 19 countries, against al qaeda, against groups al qaeda was fighting, against groups the did not exist on 9/11, against groups that did not exist on 9/11 but al qaeda was fighting,
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it is very tricky, it has underpinned the war on terror. 2002 was used this millennium. it has been used -- it has been the secondary justification. there was a little bit of an argument, i am not persuaded by it, in terms of continuing it. our emphasis is if we would go about the tough work on the 2001, we should be laser focused. before you go and renovate your house, clean everything out that is dusty, filled with cobwebs, take it to goodwill, get rid of that stuff so you can deal with the task at hand instead of getting distracted by things that are no longer relevant or necessary, but could still pose a hazard. rep. spanberger: good constitutional hygiene, i think that is the way you put it
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before. >> let's make this more concrete. the phrase that representative spanberger used, it is easier to allow them to run roughshod that it is for congress to vote. we did not used to worry about zombie aumfs. it is only in recent decades when presidents started using aumfs for purposes that were not intended that this became a concern. forcing the president to remove forces from hostility, a super majority from both houses to make it work, never going to happen. let's make it concrete. president obama starting in 2014 argued that in 2001, the aumf covered isis. it did not exist on 9/11. president trump and 2020 relied on the 2002 aumf for the strike
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against soleimani. what should the president and congress have done? you think -- do you think those are two examples question ? should the president have let baghdad fall? what congress should actually do in those circumstances. maybe we will start with representative meijer this time. rep. meijer: just briefly on the soleimani strike, the 2002 aumf was a secondary justification. president trump said under the article ii powers he has, he was executing them to prevent a strike.
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i think there is a lot of fear, this is some of the concern around applying the 2001 aumf against the islamic state in 2014. there is this concern that if we take away these authorizations, we will be tying the president's hands and putting our country at a disadvantage. with a clarification on the 2002 aumf the president has capabilities, every strike we have conducted in iraq, to my knowledge, especially against malicious under president trump -- against militias under president trump. the article ii self-defense is still there and there is a longer conversation about what that looks like.
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even if in that case with isis in 2014, a court would have ruled the 2001 aumf did not apply, majorities in both houses think we should be fighting against these folks and it is not a defense of much can be justified under article ii self-defense, the simple answer is to pass a new aumf. if there is not the political will and congress to pass a new one, that is sending a different message. that is what the constraint could and should be. rep. spanberger: i would add to this, i think the question is not, for me, is not necessarily what we should have done in 2014, or what we should have done in the case of the soleimani strike, my challenge
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is not what was done then -- it is, but the real issue is the landscape is what should be different. the fact it exists as a possibility, 13 years after the 2001 aumf, there exist a possibility there is an open aumf, and the president can say, actually, isis came out of al qaeda -- and 13 years later, that congressional authorization is utilized for this purpose. that is in and of itself the problem, that that aumf is even available for that use. and arguably, the same with the 2002 aumf being available for use as a secondary, just in case i need an extra reason for going after soleimani. that is the landscape issue that is the problem.
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we should be having conversations all along the way about 13 years later, 2014, we are looking at what the isis threat is. what is the action the u.s. should take? as peter noted, this is not the self-defense piece of it, but this is the offense of, what is the action the u.s. should take? what did the american people want us to do? what is congress willing to authorize? in the landscape where these aumf hang out there, available for use, none of those conversations have to happen. that, to the detriment of our national security, to the detriment of the responsibility. you should have to take those votes and be accountable for them, rather than pointing to this president, that president,
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and as we get further and further from the aumf, so too do we get further from the responsibility of it all. rep. meijer: if i can build on that, it is an important distinction from saying, and the 2001 aumf, if we had had a two-year sunset requiring authorization, you could make the argument it should have been reauthorized every year since 2001. it would be the same impacts from an authorization standpoint, but procedurally from an oversight standpoint and from a congressional attention and focus standpoint, it will be different. every two years, each member of congress had to be asking the tough question. not just congress asking those questions, but the executive being forced to articulate exactly what they were doing, being in the hot seat, being forced to sharpen and in a most difficult fashion communicate
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this is what our strategy is, this is why we need you to reauthorize it, rather than just, trust us. >> you have both made a forceful and elegant -- for outright repeal. i know neither of you actually said that. the main points you are emphasizing, how do you have a aumf hang around for use, having this idea congress does not need to vote because the president can rely on what is out there. self-defense strikes that are not already authorized. let's just take these things off the books. i think that is a compelling argument. i want to give you a chance to argue for the alternative if that is what you think.
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i want to frame it differently than is usually framed. people are used to asking, should the aumf be repealed or replaced? if replaced, with what? i think the more direct way to phrase the question with some of what you have been saying about congress needing to take votes, should we still be at war at all 20 years after 9/11? do we need to have a standing force authorization for something that looks like war? if so, whom should the united states be fighting in a war in 2021, 2022? if you think the aumf should not just be repealed. i will start with representative spanberger first. rep. spanberger: to piggyback my answer on what peter was giving as an example to why in 2001 had there been an authorization, two
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years, three years, subsequently congress into to reauthorize in that scenario, there would be a constant pace of oversight, of knowing exactly where our service members were or were not deployed, understanding the full scope of whatever those operations were. however, in the absence of that, in the case where these aumfs have been stretched, indicates whether 2001 has been stretched. operations are in multiple countries on various fronts, operated in many different ways. we find ourselves in a place, there happen congressional oversights, they have not been at the level, or with the focus that it have otherwise been it was constantly a question of, do we continue this military operation?
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i think we are in a place where there is not necessarily all of the information available for people to make a very, very finite decision. at this point in time, i advocate for a discussion for replacement. in that process of replacement, where do we currently have people deployed? where are we currently in increased wartime options against a terrorist entity or organizational threat in that process of determining where we might be to continue, what we might need to authorize in a replacement aumf? there is a possibility we could determine we no longer need one at this point in time, we are deployed in some different places, so many different concurrent counterterrorism efforts, my priority is having this conversation toward, in the
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case we are saying 2001 aumf is outdated, what do we need right now to keep our country safe? in doing that, we will be so find that, ideally, that will answer many questions that have frankly gone unanswered for 20 years. in that process, create an aumf that is a sink, focused and driven by what our priorities are. importantly, with some sort of deadline so we do not fall into this pattern of every 20 years, we have a conversation about 20 years' worth of oversight, thoughtfulness, examining what threats exist. i will stop there. i think this question can continue quite a bit. >> plenty more to say on that
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that was a helpful way to think about it. what do we even know to make that determination. -- in order to make those decisions. i want to give representative meijer a chance to respond. rep. meijer: i think clearly, we need a replacement with a sunset and much more narrowly defined set of targets. i am not one to say, you should have al qaeda on their but not al-shabaab. this is a fundamental problem. what is a strategy? what is our goal?
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my frustration with our foreign policy apparatus as it stands right now, our interventions and so many places of a military context, all around dropping ammunition on someone, dropping hellfire or whatever. if we kill this guy who was a bad guy, things will be safer. that is a tactic, is it aligned with the strategy or is a futile exercise for someone's promotional report? i think we saw this encapsulated well in that airstrike that was purportedly against isis in downtown kabul. the evidence showed it struck an employee, killing his family, including a cousin or brother that was a visa applicant. does he work for u.s. forces?
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if there is anything that illustrates how warped and unintelligible these conflicts have become, those targeting operations. not only are they not achieving an objective, they might very well be encouraging recruitment by terrorist organization, turning away natural allies and making us less safe. that is where i would be more than happy, if i felt like you had good information from the executive, if there was a strategy, here is what we are setting out to do. you can align tactics to an overall initiative and know where we are going. if we don't know where we are going, any road will get us there. rep. spanberger: when you know what your strategy is, then you can move with the tactics. we are talking about authorization of use of military
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force, we clearly need to be talking about diplomatic efforts, we need to talk about intelligence sharing efforts outside of the operational aspects. if we are looking to get at a terrorist threat that exists in the world, part of that can be achieved through diplomacy. part of finding who our allies are, making sure we are optimizing those relationships. that is part and parcel of what needs to be that longer-term strategy that, yes, in many cases it does involve military engagement, but not in a silo, not on its own. absent that strategy that is clear and defined and with a roadmap forward, i think it is much easier to fall back on, this is an aumf, so it is military force. all the other factors that can
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be beneficial to our nation's ability to project strength, engage allies, keep our country safe, thwart the recruitment of organizations around the world. we are giving up elements of what should be a diversified portfolio of programs and tools we can use. >> that is important to think about long-term goals. what should your overall strategy be and how can it be sustainable? we have limited time left. i think you are both rightly pointing out that the tactic of lethal strikes, especially over the horizon, remotely piloted vehicles, these non-boots on the ground forms of the use of material force are what presidents from both parties have been gravitating toward lately. it seems to reflect in part that
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the american people do not want to see big interventions with a lot of boots on the ground. how do you bridge this gap? on the one hand, tactical strikes or we do not have boots on the ground, we don't have firsthand intelligence of our own because we don't have boots on the ground, and we do not have the resources to be doing this, how do you bridge that with the desire? is it something where we are trying to have it both ways? what kind of principles would you think about us trying to find that middle ground? rep. meijer: i think it is incumbent on politicians, elected officials, leaders, to communicate to their constituents why they are making this decision.
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what you mentioned was essentially the casualty fatigue component on the public side. i have heard, not alleging you were saying this, but i have taken great umbrage with the notion that it was sustainable given that there were not many u.s. service members getting killed in afghanistan. our casualties might have been low compared to others -- pushing debt burden onto air support. at the same time, we might to find lower rate of military fatalities, we had spiking civilian fatalities, larger civilian casualties. we had afghan national security forces getting killed. from 2015 onward, on a per capita basis similar to u.s.
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fatalities in world war ii when it comes to percentage of population. it is an important consideration, that political dynamic, that is where the job of members of congress, the president, our senators should be to articulate why we need to do this to keep the country safe. if they cannot articulate that, why are we doing it in the first place? >> i want to let you know this is the last word. rep. spanberger: thank you so much for putting this discussion together. what peter's point was, the tactics are not what should drive 20 authorization should be. if we are authorizing military force, whether you drop a bomb and nobody is on the ground, or an entire battalion, it is still military force, and it still needs to be authorized. what we have seen throughout the
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past 20 years, that has stabbed and slowed. there was the search -- that has ebbed and flowed. when we are counting what is the utilization of u.s. forces that does not take into consideration what is happening on the ground, as peter so correctly mentioned. no matter this sort of military tactic we are employing. at the end of the day, if we are utilizing military force, there should be authorization of military force. we should as the united states congress debating whether to utilize that force. whether it is a soldier with a gun or a drone flying overhead. congress is not doing right by constituents. it is not doing right by the safety and security of our country, long term. speaking for both of us, we have
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been so passionate about this issue because it really is what we choose to do now, it either hits reset into the future or we choose to accept into the next 100 years and this is just how we function, and i don't think that's acceptable. tess: thank you both for this incredibly rich conversation. i wish we could keep going for another half-hour. this has been the key moment to be grappling with these issues. i will turn it back over to our organizer and host. thank you again. chris: thank you so much, tess, and thank you so much to everyone who joined us online. we extend a special thank you to representative meijer, and representative spanberger for joining us and their leadership on this important issue. if you liked this, please mark your schedule for our event on october 5.
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