Lake Oswego resident lobbies Congress for peace
Mountain Park resident Louise Merkens wants to make a difference — and she wants to do it peacefully.
Last month, Merkens spent five days in Washington D.C. lobbying members of Congress for the repeal of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized the use of the United States Armed Forces against the Iraq government.
"The one in Iraq is truly no longer relevant because we stopped our military actions in Iraq (in) 2011, so that's quite a few years ago," Merkens said. "It's not needed for any other existing operations ongoing in the world and it creates the potential for abuse."
While the 2002 AUMF was created for the Iraq War, its power has very few limitations.
"The current system of how an AUMF is designed never has a very clear end point, very clear goals, and these really need to be put in place," Merkens said "We need to repeal the ones that are no longer useful."
Merkens joined the Friends Committee on National Legislation — a nonpartisan organization formed in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends to lobby Congress and promote peace — in 2017.
"Their values are peace and justice, strong community and earth restored, and they were in the process of setting up advocacy teams all over the country to focus on particular issues," Merkens said. "We are in the process of building relationships."
She said the group focuses on different issues each year.
The first year Merkens joined, the group focused on Pentagon spending, and last year the focus was on encouraging negotiations with North Korea to prevent war.
In D.C. this year, Merkens said there were workshops and lobby visits scheduled with Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden — though due to an illness, Merkens only attended the visit with Merkley.
Merkens said one of the highlights on her trip was during a meeting with all of the advocacy team members. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) introduced her War Powers Reform Resolution, which would ensure no AUMF is used to continue the seemingly never-ending wars, like the AUMFs passed in 2002 and the 2001 AUMF, which covered any military actions against terrorists responsible for 9/11.
"Our situation with these endless wars we are involved in (is) very discouraging both in terms of life lost and money wasted," Merkens said.
While Merkens said the next step might be to lobby for Gillibrand's resolution next year, the repeal of the 2002 AUMF may be imminent.
She said the House of Representatives included the repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is a bill that must be passed every year.
"It's in committee now. We're excited this actually might happen," said Merkens, adding that two years ago she never thought she'd be talking about important military issues. "I just feel I have to do something to make things better."
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