By Margaret Kimberley, BAR Exec, Editor & Senior Columnist

September 13,  2023  Black Agenda Report


On September 11 remember how legal rights were destroyed under the Patriot Act and how plots for worldwide endless war were hatched.

Everyone should know what happened in Washington on September 14, 2001, even though there is an exhortation to remember the attacks which took place on September 11, 2001. On September 14 the Senate and the House of Representatives passed joint resolutions which resulted in the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001  (AUMF) , which President George W. Bush signed into law on September 18.

Just three days after September 11, when senators and members of Congress should have been asking hard questions about what happened on that fateful date, they instead chose to give President Bush carte blanche to wage war whenever and wherever he chose. In so doing they gave the same permission to his successors and established a new doctrine that the U.S. not only can but should wage endless warfare around the world.

Section 2 of the AUMF gives the president the authority “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.” The vague and broad language has led to Barack Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia, and to an attempt to wage war on Syria. Obama claimed that the AUMF of 2001 authorized a continuation of war in Afghanistan and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. Presidents have been given blank checks for kill lists, drone strikes, assassinations, and joint military exercises because of this legislation. They merely claim some effort is being made against ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any other international players to be named later.

Congress has the power to declare war but hasn’t done so since World War II. They have handed over their prerogatives to president after president and willingly made themselves irrelevant. Of course, war making is bipartisan and Congressional irrelevance is part of a larger plan. The degree of public silence about elected representatives doing just what presidents want them to do is quite tragic. That acquiescence resulted in another AUMF in 2002 which authorized war against Iraq. Donald Trump’s assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was justified on the grounds of this 2002 AUMF authorization.

The so-called War on Terror , which was in fact a war of terror, began in full force after September 11. In the intervening years more than 4.5 million people have died as a result of US post-9/11 wars. 38 million more have been displaced as refugees in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and the Philippines. No president is going to raise these inconvenient truths, nor will their errand boys and girls who toil on their behalf in corporate media and in the halls of congress.

The AUMF of 2001 was quickly followed by the Patriot Act which Congress also passed hastily on October 25, 2001. The Patriot Ac t rendered moot decades of legal precedent regarding surveillance of individuals. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can issue National Security Letters without a judge’s approval, which give access to email, phone, and bank records. The Patriot Act also prohibits recipients of NSLs from revealing to anyone that they received them. So-called “sneak and peek” searches are allowed under the Patriot Act. A home or business can be searched, and the target doesn’t have to be notified until after the search takes place. Let’s not forget that an entire new agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was formed in the wake of 9/11 and it encompasses everything from immigration laws to air travel.

It would appear that the terrorists won after all. The word democracy may be elevated to sacred status, but in 20 years congress has not managed to repeal the AUMF of 2001 or the Patriot Act. It appears that DHS is also here to stay.

Remembrance of September 11 should be elevated above flag waving, and maudlin sentiment expressed by the same politicians who make wars and increase control over our lives. This columnist suggests that the dates September 14 and October 25 be added to the pantheon of solemn commemorations.


-Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents.