Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Mexican Drug Cartels AUMF Goes Far Beyond Mexican Drug Cartels

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Earlier this year, United States House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) selected Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to lead a House task force focused on dealing with Mexican drug cartels. Many Republican presidential candidates have over the last few months voiced support for US war on Mexico to counter Mexican drug cartels and in response to fentanyl entering the US from Mexico. Crenshaw, though, seems to want to take things much further.

Instead of just sending the US military to fight in Mexico, Crenshaw wants Congress to authorize President Joe Biden to start a Global War on Fentanyl and, to boot, authorize the president to use military force against a variety of nations, organizations, and individuals the president may decide have otherwise done wrong around the world. It is a much more expansive authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) than one authorizing action only against Mexican drug cartels.

This congressional handing off of vast war authorization to Biden and whoever else may be sworn is as president after the 2024 presidential election is laid out in Crenshaw’s AUMF CARTEL Influence Resolution (H.J. Res. 18). Crenshaw introduced the resolution in the House in January. The resolution has 21 cosponsors.

US presidents have had a good run of death and destruction across the world under the previous AUMF that Congress enacted over twenty years ago in the name of countering terrorism. With that Global War on Terror long in the tooth, now Crenshaw’s resolution offers the executive branch a sequel. Death and destruction need not end, and a rebranding can keep it fresh for public relations.

Crenshaw’s resolution would authorize the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those foreign nations, foreign organizations, or foreign persons affiliated with foreign organizations that the President determines” have in violation of US drug law taken action — or even just attempted or conspired to take action — involving trafficking into the US fentanyl or “a fentanyl-related substance,” have trafficked such outside the US with the intention that it will be trafficked into the US, or have produced or trafficked “a substance that is a precursor to fentanyl or a fentanyl-related substance” with the intention that “such precursor, fentanyl, or fentanyl-related substance” be trafficked into the US.

Note the lack of mention of Mexico. This is an authorization for action across the world.

In addition, Crenshaw’s resolution authorizes three more independent and broad bases the president can pick from that establish military force authorization. All that is required is that the president determine that the targeted “foreign nations, foreign organizations, or foreign persons affiliated with foreign organizations” did one of the following:

(4) have engaged in kinetic actions against United States Federal, State, local, tribal, or territorial law enforcement personnel operating in the territory of the United States or abroad;

(5) have engaged in kinetic actions against law enforcement, military, or other governmental personnel of a country with a common border with the United States or any other country in the Western Hemisphere; or

(6) have used violence and intimidation for the purpose of establishing and controlling territory to be used for illicit means.

That is extremely broad authorization. Note that none of these three bases requires any connection to fentanyl, any other drug, or Mexico.

Crenshaw’s resolution gives Biden or the next president a leg up on starting military actions abroad by listing nine foreign organizations that, along with all their members, the president is directed to deem as meeting the criteria included in the resolution to justify attacking them. Thus, some death and destruction can be delivered day one while the president starts work on adding additional targets at will. The organizations listed are Mexican drug cartels. But, remember, nothing in the resolution limits the president’s exercise of power to Mexican drug cartels; the list is just a starting point.

The push by Republican presidential candidates for war on Mexico in the name of countering Mexican drug cartels and fentanyl is disturbing. Also disturbing is that the leader of the House task force charged with dealing with matters related to Mexican drug cartels is trying to use this particular concern as cover to hand over to the executive branch an authorization for the use of military force that can be used to support that war on Mexico plus much more military action having no relation to Mexico, Mexican drug cartels, or fentanyl.

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