Summary of 60 Words and a War Without End

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Award-winning journalist Greg Johnsen explains how a law Congress hastily passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks has given rise to a new set of presidential powers that the country’s founding fathers never wanted a US president to have. getAbstract recommends this eye-opening piece to the general reader interested in the historical and legal background of America’s seemingly unending war on terrorism. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why the US Congress almost unanimously passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
  • How the AUMF has given US presidents unprecedented powers to use force anywhere in the world and
  • Why US president Barack Obama failed to limit the AUMF’s sweeping mandate.

About the Author

Greg Johnsen is a writer at large for BuzzFeed News and is based in Istanbul. 



Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez’s team drafted a resolution authorizing the US president to go after the perpetrators of the attack. After a short back-and-forth between members of Congress and White House lawyers, the two parties settled on a resolution that gave the president the power to “use all necessary and appropriate force” against the 9/11 perpetrators “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” The resolution, known as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), was only 60 words long and specified no end date. Still in shock about the terrorist attacks and eager to see the US retaliate, the US Congress almost unanimously approved the resolution. Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the only person who voted no, citing the unprecedented, sweeping powers it gave the president to combat terrorism anywhere in the world without congressional approval.

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