Article by Andy Worthington.
With the death of Osama bin Laden, there is a perfect opportunity for the Obama administration to bring to an end the decade-long “war on terror” by withdrawing from Afghanistan and closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The justification for both the invasion of Afghanistan (in October 2001) and the detention of prisoners in Guantánamo (which opened in January 2002) is the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, just three days after the 9/11 attacks.
Under the AUMF, the president is “authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
In 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court confirmed that the AUMF also authorizes the detention of those held as a result of the president’s activities, although, as law professor Curtis Bradley explained last week on the Lawfare blog, “Justice O’Connor’s plurality opinion in Hamdi made clear that the Court was deciding only the authority to detain in connection with traditional combat operations in the Afghanistan theater.” Bradley also noted, “As for the proper length of detention, O’Connor largely avoided the question, although she did refer to the traditional ability under the international laws of war to detain individuals until the ‘cessation of active hostilities.’”
With bin Laden’s death, the route should now be open for the president to assert that he has used “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,” and to get out of the unwinnable morass that is the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan.