We Need To End the Disastrous Failure Of The War On Terror
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Barbara Lee implored her colleagues not to "become the evil we deplore," but she was the only Member with the clarity and courage to vote "No" to the AUMF. Twelve years later, she has 31 co-sponsors for H.R. 198, a bill to finally repeal the 2001 AUMF. They include former civil rights leader John Lewis, who said recently, "If I had to do it all over again, I would have voted with Barbara Lee. It was raw courage on her part. So, because of that, I don’t vote for funding for war. I vote against preparation for the military. I will never again go down that road."
From the outset, few Americans understood that the "war on terror" was not legally a real war in which the civilian rule of law was suspended. Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned as Deputy Legal Advisor to the British Foreign Office in protest at the U.K.'s "crime of aggression" against Iraq in 2003. A year later, she told theIndependent, "This rather extraordinary war on terror, which is a phrase that all lawyers hate… is not really a war, a conflict against terror, any more than the war on obesity means that you can detain people."
As the Obama administration took office in 2009, an Eminent Jurists Panel convened by the International Commission of Jurists, and headed by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson issued a report on the U.S. response to terrorism since 2001. The report concluded that the U.S. government had confused the public by framing its counter-terrorism activities within a "war paradigm." It explained,
"The U.S.' war paradigm has created fundamental problems. Among the most serious is that the U.S. has applied war rules to persons not involved in situations of armed conflict, and, in genuine situations of warfare, it has distorted, selectively applied and ignored otherwise binding rules, including fundamental guarantees of human rights laws."
Like Ben Ferencz, the ICJ panel insisted that established principles of law "were intended to withstand crises, and they provide a robust and effective framework from which to tackle terrorism."
But Barack Obama was an unlikely candidate to restore the rule of law to U.S. policy, to demilitarize the "war on terror" or to derail the gravy train of the largest military budget since World War II. His long-term ties to General Dynamics CEO Lester Crown and his thorough vetting by Crown and other military-industrial power-brokers ensured that the 2008 election was the first in 14 years in which Democrats raised more campaign cash from the weapons industry than Republicans, even after the Republicans almost doubled the military budget in 8 years and nominated industry darling John McCain for president.
A persistent part of the Obama myth is his description of himself as a "constitutional law professor." While serving as an Illinois State Senator, Mr. Obama did have a part-time job as a lecturer teaching 3 two-hour seminars per year at the University of Chicago in a program that brought politicians and other prominent people into the law school to give students a taste of the "real world." Most of the seminars were on public interest law or racism, not constitutional law, but in the looking-glass world of Obama mythology, this has transformed him into a "constitutional law professor" for political purposes.
Obama has failed to close Guantanamo, escalated the longest and most unpopular war in U.S. history in Afghanistan, maintained the largest military budget since World War II, conducted 23,000 air strikes (mostly in Afghanistan), launched or expanded covert and proxy wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria, and deployed U.S. special forces to 120 countries.