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Questionable progress

When 19 al-Qaeda terrorists (15 of which were from Saudi Arabia) attacked the United States of America on Sept. 11, 2001 and took thousands of American lives, we Americans were filled with sorrow and anger. Days later, the U.S. Congress passed their first Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) instead of a formal Declaration of War by Congress, as had always been done in the past and is required in Article 1 of the Constitution.

In the passing of the 2001 AUMF, the Legislative Branch handed their Constitutional duty of declaring war over to the Executive Branch to deploy the U.S. military against those responsible for the 911 attacks and any “associated forces”.

The nebulous nature of the 2001 AUMF, and the following AUMF against Iraq in 2002, gave the Executive Branch the authority to wage war against whomever it wishes, and for however long.

Eighteen years later, U.S. forces operating under these AUMFs are still in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and 73 other countries around the world. The United States has poured $6 trillion of its dollars and thousands of American lives into wars in the Middle East, wars that Congress has never declared.

Past wars that America has fought have had a definite conclusion, an endgame — the defeat of an opposing military. Against the Global War on Terrorism, there is no path to victory — there is no opposing army to defeat. There is only a pervasive ideology that spreads from individual to individual, ignoring national origin, skin color, or uniform.

I was a senior in high school when 911 happened and began meeting with an Army recruiter, but I delayed enlisting until much later, in early 2008. I deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and my life would never be the same.

The morale of the American service member has been broken, in large part due to fighting in these Middle East conflicts with no resolution or endgame — with no way to “win”. One can’t help but to feel the echoes of the Vietnam War in the current quagmires the U.S. military is currently embroiled in. I have a teenage daughter, born in 2005, who intends to enlist in the Army when she graduates high school. My daughter could deploy to the Middle East under these same AUMFs that were passed to answer for 911, a terrorist attack she wasn’t even alive to witness.

Bring Our Troops Home, and its state affiliates including Wyoming Bring Our Troops Home, is a veteran-run, nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to ending the endless wars in the Middle East. It was begun by Idaho veteran Dan McKnight. The organization urges Congress to repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and believes a “sunset provision” should be mandatory on an AUMF so that wars don’t drag on in perpetuity with no end goal. Bring Our Troops Home, which receives no government or corporate money, seeks a full review of U.S. military overseas deployments, with an eye toward an “America First” policy, in lieu of our forces serving as the global police. The mission and goals of Bring Our Troops Home are supported by President Trump, the majority of Americans, and the majority of veterans.

In November, veterans and state politicians from around the nation, representing Bring Our Troops Home, descended on Washington, D.C. to bring our message to Congress and the media. We left D.C. proud and satisfied with the work we’d done, the awareness we’d raised, and the conversations we’d had. And I, for one, look forward to what’s next in this cause — this effort to support our troops by bringing them back home from war, after 18 years of courageously fighting it despite the lack of a clear overall objective for victory.

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Nicholas Trandahl lives in Wyoming. A longer version of his guest opinion was published in the Weston County (Wyo.) Gazette and through Medium.com.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.