US takes the first step to limit the use of force by its presidents against potential enemies

US takes the first step to limit the use of force by its presidents against potential enemies

USA took the first step on Thursday to limit the power of its presidents to use force against possible enemies, a capacity that constitutionally falls on Congress but that was partially transferred to the Presidency after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

With the support of both parties and the current president, Joe Biden, the US House of Representatives struck down legislation passed in 2002 to allow the use of force in Iraq and which gave the president greater power as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

Specifically, that 2002 legislation authorized then-President George W. Bush to take whatever actions he deemed “necessary and appropriate” to defend US national security against the threat posed at the time by Saddam Hussein, whom the US accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction.

When the US withdrew from Iraq, that law remained in effect and has been used by different presidents – including Barack Obama and Donald Trump – to attack terrorist groups in Iraq, although there was no longer any link to Hussein.

Over the years, support for that legislation has waned, especially among Democrats, who believe that Congress should reclaim the power that the Constitution gives it to declare war.

“This is something that has been expected for a long time”, said before the vote in the lower house the promoter of the initiative, the democrat Barbara Lee, one of the representatives of California.

“It is the responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force and that authorization cannot be blank checks that each Administration uses as it sees fit”, he asserted.

After the bill’s repeal in the lower house, the ball is now on the roof of the Senate, which could begin considering the measure next week.

Even if the 2002 law is repealed, other legislation passed in 2001 to authorize the invasion of Afghanistan and which, since then, has been used by all US presidents to justify attacks against terrorist groups throughout the world, including the Islamic State (IS), would still be in effect.

The debate around that law is more complex, as some lawmakers believe it could fuel terrorist attacks and weaken the US position in the world.

Ben Oakley
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