Pentagon officials today claimed President Obama and future presidents have the power to send troops anywhere in the world to fight groups linked to al-Qaeda, based in part on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Speaking at the first Senate hearing on rewriting the AUMF, Pentagon officials specifically said troops could be sent to Syria, Yemen and the Congo without new congressional authorization. Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, predicted the war against al-Qaeda would last at least 10 to 20 more years. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) challenged the Pentagon’s interpretation of the Constitution and that the entire world is a battlefield. "This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today," King said. "You guys have invented this term 'associated forces' that’s nowhere in this document. ... It’s the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void."
This excerpt of the hearing includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield_, discussed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force during a recent Democracy Now! interview.battlefield
Jeremy Scahill: The Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was passed after 9/11 is technically the law that President Obama and his administration point to when they say they have a right to drone strike in Yemen, because these people are connected to the 9/11 attacks. But in reality, one of the enduring legacies of the Obama presidency is going to be that he solidified this 'Cheneyesque' view of the U.S. government, which says that when it comes to foreign policy, that the executive branch is effectively a dictatorship and that Congress only has a minimal role to play in oversight. I mean, Cheney didn’t want Congress to have any role in it. Obama’s administration plays this game with Congress: Certain people can go into the padded room and look at this one document, but, oh, not this other document, and you’re not allowed to bring in a utensil to write with, and you can’t ever tell anyone what you said. That’s congressional oversight on our assassination program. But they have doubled down on this all-powerful executive branch perspective. And that’s why we see this stuff expanding.