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Op-ed: There are no ‘winners’ in war

The United States has been at war for the last 18 years.

While the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war, the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) have allowed three U.S. presidents to expand our military presence across the globe.

I am certain that we will continue down this path unless Congress takes back their responsibility to decide if our troops should be sent to war.

It’s clear that there is a financial cost to war.

Endless war has caused our federal budget deficit to soar to a startling one trillion dollars per year. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone have cost us more than $6 trillion with no end to the violence in sight. Yet and still, the Trump Administration and lack of congressional action to repeal the AUMF are inching us closer and closer to another dangerous conflict — one with potentially more devastating stakes — with Iran.

Though the Middle East may seem like it is worlds away for many of us, war and its resounding impacts feel closer to home. Whether you were alive during the Korean or Vietnam Wars, or born after 9/11 and have never lived in a conflict-free world, war has become eerily familiar, if not normal.

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Nightdippers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 transports cargo to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln during a Sept. 20 replenishment-at-sea with the fast combat support ship Arctic in the Arabian Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt/Navy)
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Nightdippers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5 transports cargo to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln during a Sept. 20 replenishment-at-sea with the fast combat support ship Arctic in the Arabian Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt/Navy)

I’ve personally witnessed the human cost of war, of veterans physically and emotionally scarred for life. My brother was killed in 1967, six months after his arrival in Vietnam. He was loved, West Point-trained, and he had a bright future.

Then in 1984, twelve years after he served in Vietnam, my nephew snapped and shot both his parents and himself.

But this only part of the story. As a person of faith, I can’t in good conscience only look at how war has affected us in the United States.

Countless civilians in war-torn areas worldwide have endured starvation, witnessed traumatic devastation and violence, and lost everything they had.

The U.S. has been complicit in exacerbating the turmoil in many of these areas. We have withdrawn foreign aid, weakened trade, left NATO and abandoned nuclear treaties and environmental efforts. We no longer recognize allies but create enemies.

Lately, the “art of the deal” supersedes civil diplomacy.

But with sanction after sanction intended to force Iran’s hand, we are instead promoting corruption and engaging in a dangerous game that has us teetering towards nuclear war.

Frighteningly, the administration said the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs could be used to justify potentially going to war with Iran.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Pukin' Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron 143 launches on Sept. 17 from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. The warship was operating in the Arabian Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tristan Kyle Labuguen/Navy)
An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Pukin' Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron 143 launches on Sept. 17 from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. The warship was operating in the Arabian Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tristan Kyle Labuguen/Navy)

Thankfully, lawmakers are paying attention and working to prevent this from happening. Our own U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, has shown leadership on this issue.

She supported the bipartisan Khanna-Gaetz amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit an unauthorized war with Iran and help us avoid unnecessary, violent confrontation in the future.

That amendment passed the House by a vote of 251-170.

House leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer will be looking to her as they negotiate the final version of the NDAA with the U.S. Senate.

We a looking to Rep. Luria to work with her colleagues in Congress to ensure that the final NDAA contains provisions that prohibit unauthorized war with Iran and repeals the 2002 AUMF to help reassert Congress’s authority over war and peace.

War is never the answer. The human toll at home and abroad, as well as the ballooning financial burden of these endless wars are too much to bear.

Congress and the administration must shift the focus from military intervention to diplomacy if we are to achieve lasting and sustainable peace.

How would Iran's military fare in an armed conflict with the U.S.? In this Feb, 11, 2019, file photo, Iranian Revolutionary Guard members arrive for a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, or Freedom, Square, in Tehran, Iran. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
What war with Iran could look like

Military Times interviewed more than a dozen military experts, including current and former U.S. military officials, about how a conflict might begin and how it could play out. This is what they said could happen:

Mary Pelham White is a Quaker living in Virginia Beach. Her views are not necessarily shared by Navy Times or its staffers.

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