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Ocasio-Cortez says that US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 was a 'mistake'

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, awaits the start of the 116th Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol on Jan. 3, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/TNS

By MICHAEL MCAULIFF | New York Daily News | Published: March 6, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dropped a startling social media bomb Tuesday, arguing that not only was the post-9/11 war on Afghanistan a "mistake," but that "non-intervention" might have been an appropriate answer to the terrorist attacks.

The New York congresswoman was defending fellow Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from another member of Congress who had tweeted that Omar's "questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable."

Omar, whose remarks have been deemed anti-Semitic by some and have prompted the House to plan a vote condemning such comments, is highly critical of U.S.-Israel policy.

Ocasio-Cortez has risen to Omar's defense, arguing that simply questioning U.S.-Israel should not be counted as anti-Semitism. By way of example, she pointed to the outcry back in 2001 when Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was the only member of Congress to vote against an authorization of the use of military force against al-Qaida and Afghanistan – and that was deemed "unacceptable."

"All of Congress was wrong, including both GOP & Dem Party, and led my generation into a disastrous + wrong war that virtually all would come to regret, except for the one member who stood up: Barbara Lee," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

Noticing that she mistakenly wrote the Iraq War instead of Afghanistan, she corrected herself and added, "But honestly we shouldn't have been in either, and we should end the AUMF now while we're at it."

Asked by ABC News' Jake Tapper what she would have supported after 9/11, Ocasio-Cortez offered three vague options.

"I think that our decision to enter unlimited engagement in Afghanistan, particularly through the AUMF + Congress' abdication of power + decision-making w/ passage of the AUMF, was a mistake," she tweeted. "Other options: targeting the network itself, limited engagement, non-intervention."

The congresswoman did not elaborate on the first two options, which were to at least some degree already being deployed against Osama bin Laden and his network.

Challenged on not intervening, she said that didn't mean doing nothing.

"It means not invading an entire nation without end," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "Doesn't mean 'do nothing,' it means perhaps we could have leaned more on the larger role of other agencies (intelligence, state dept, diplomatic teams, etc) before Congress decided to invade a nation without a concrete end plan."

Asked by the New York Daily News about her positions, a spokesman referred to that tweet. Asked if "non-intervention" was just a poor choice of words, he did not answer.

The authorization to use force that passed just three days after the attacks has indeed been stretched well past its original meaning – a likelihood that Lee predicted in opposing it.

The measure allowed then-President George W. Bush 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 by such nations, organizations or persons."

Since then, it has been used to justify strikes as far afield as Africa and Syria against groups that did not exist in 2001.

A growing, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers has sought to repeal the old AUMF, but many disagree on what should replace it. The effort remains stalled.

Members of New York's delegation who voted for the war, including current House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, did not answer emailed requests for comment on whether they agreed with Ocasio-Cortez.

The only member of the New York City delegation who answered was the only one who fought in Afghanistan, Democratic Rep. Max Rose.

He agreed with his colleague that American forces need to come home – but not that sending them was any kind of mistake.

"I believe it's long past time we end the war in Afghanistan, but I strongly disagree with the idea that the invasion was wrong on moral or national security grounds," said Rose, who was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after serving as a combat infantry officer in the war zone in 2012 and 2013.

"After our city and country were attacked we were very clear with the Taliban – either they give up Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, or we would come and get them ourselves," he said. "They chose to protect Osama bin Laden, and they rightfully paid the price."

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