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Rand Paul vs. the 'Forever War'

March 12, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

The cruelest thing about politics is that it occasionally gets your hopes up. Sometimes, just when you’ve almost concluded that the best D.C. has to offer is ringside seats at the latest legislative catastrophe, you get an unexpected outbreak of political courage and common sense.

So it was a cruel trick Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., played last Wednesday with his 13-hour filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan. For a not-so-brief moment, it seemed possible to restore “normalcy” and bring an end to endless war.

The immediate subject of Paul’s marathon session — whether the administration could legally execute an American citizen on American soil via flying kill-bot — is, admittedly, an unlikely scenario. Still, I had to laugh when, amid the filibuster, I saw a blog post from the Obamaphilic Center for American Progress, breathlessly warning that the “Number of Radical Anti-Government Groups ‘Reached an All-Time High’ in 2012.” Homeland Security isn’t serious enough about fighting “patriot” groups, who fear federal policies “aimed at taking away American freedoms.” So send in the drones, already!

Sen. Paul has done Republicans — and the Republic — a great service by reminding us that there’s nothing conservative about perpetual war.”

But Paul devoted considerable time to a more pressing issue: the increasingly tenuous legal authority for our ever-expanding war on terror. More than a decade after Sept. 11, the legal basis for that war is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001, empowering the president to go after those responsible for that atrocity and anyone who “harbored” them.

As Paul noted, “they take that authorization of use of force to mean pretty much anything.” We need a serious debate, he said, about “whether that use or authorization of force is open-ended, forever.”

Indeed, on the morning of Paul’s filibuster, the Washington Post’s front page blared: “Administration debates stretching 9/11 law to go after new al-Qaeda offshoots.” Actually, they’ve already stretched it beyond recognition.

As Paul pointed out Wednesday, counterterror mission creep has led to “war in Yemen, Somalia, Mali. It is a war in unlimited places” against increasingly marginal groups that didn’t exist on Sept. 11. In Mali, the Post reported, “unarmed U.S. Reapers scour the deserts … to search for so-called patterns of life — communications and movements deemed by the U.S. to be telltale signs of militant activity.” The targeting information we’ve …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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