By Vani Kannan and Barbara Humphrey
On Feb. 11, President Obama sent Congress a proposed joint resolution to Authorize the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which would authorize and extend military action against ISIS for the next three years. The Syracuse Peace Council calls on Congress to say no to this new AUMF, rescind the 2001 AUMF, and stop an “endless” war on the people of the Middle East.
The U.S. has already spent more than $1 billion bombing Iraq and Syria since 2014 without any Congressional debate or authorization. Thousands of troops have been deployed in the last year. After nearly 12 years of military intervention, over 350,000 lives are lost, nearly $4.5 trillion spent, and Islamophobic attacks in the U.S continue to persist. This war needs to come to an end.
We also call on Congress to repeal the 2001 AUMF on al- Qaida, which the president has used to claim authority for an open-ended war on ISIS. Criticisms of the new proposed AUMF against ISIS draw attention to the vague language that would allow the president to go to war any place, any country deemed to be associated with ISIS.
While the widespread videos of ISIS killing hostages suggest a threat that demands action, it has already been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated that military force is not working. It is important to understand the connections between ISIS and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as also the direct role that the U.S has played in fostering this “new” menace. The U.S. policy of de-Ba’thification in 2003-04 eviscerated Iraq’s already-fragile public sector, exacerbated crime and social unrest, and helped lay the foundation for over a decade of sectarian tensions. Many say discriminatory policies of the U.S.-backed Maliki government fueled these tensions into civil war.
ISIS has emerged from the strongest insurgent force in Iraq that outlasted the U.S. occupation and departure, and also enjoyed de facto territory ownership in Syria beginning in 2013. The group leveraged its familiarity with the weaknesses and sectarian loyalties of Iraqi defense forces to successfully invade and capture Iraqi cities. The Iraqi military, weary from a decade of sectarian violence, generally proved unwilling to risk their lives defending Mosul, a primarily Sunni Iraqi city, in a conflict with ISIS.
In effect, the U.S. is bombing its own weapons, vehicles, and military equipment that were abandoned to ISIS forces in Mosul and other cities in Northern Iraq. The heavy weapons supplied to the Iraqi army are not the first American weapons wielded by ISIS. The Obama administration armed and trained several Syrian rebel factions in attempts to stack pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many of those weapons are in the hands of ISIS and the group has made military gains across the eastern part of the country.
In considering the president’s AUMF request, it is imperative that we explore alternatives to actions that have, unwittingly or otherwise, created groups like ISIS. We call on Congress to consider the following:
1. Do not arm anyone. The president himself has acknowledged that there is no military solution to this crisis. We agree. That is why we oppose sending weapons to the region and arming any faction.
2. No deployment of U.S. arms or personnel. This includes bombing raids as well as sending more troops to the region. The debacle in Iraq was not just a financial and military disaster; it helped create the situation that we now see in Iraq and Syria.
3. End torture and the use of drones. We call for an end to practices, such as torture and drone attacks, that not only harm and kill many innocent people, but, in doing so, become recruiting tools for groups like ISIS.
4. Fund non-military humanitarian aid. We support the provision of humanitarian aid administered by international agencies like the U.N.
5. Support diplomacy. We call for a diplomatic effort involving all stakeholders in the region that targets a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
History has shown us repeatedly that violence begets more violence. Rather than continuing on the path of endless war and dedicating increasingly scarce resources to violent means, we need a new foreign policy that acknowledges past mistakes and avoids repeating them ad nauseum.
Most importantly, in trying to resolve this crisis, we should take the lead from civil society groups in the region, such as the Organization of Women’s Freedom and the Federation of Workers Councils and Trade Unions in Iraq, and respect their right to determine their own futures.