Radiolab’s recent podcast examine 60 words, one sentence, written on 14th September 2001 that have been the basis for America’s foreign policy ever since. Extraordinary rendition, Guantanomo, drone strikes: everything has been hung on this one sentence, a rather vague, dry sentence at that. As ever, with anything fiercely controversial, the language is deliberately muted and legal, to mitigate the drama that lies just beneath the surface.
This one sentence, signed into law by Bush called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
I’m ill-equipped to cover the political nuances or implications of this vague language on future foreign policy, as the US is embroiled in, arguably, the longest war in its history, however, the point of my post, as ever: words matter. This example is perhaps the most important and devastating of our time, of the power of words and what they can do.
The 60 words in question? Transcribed at the foot of this post.
For further reading, try Gregory D Johnsen’s article, 60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History.
The President is authorised to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organisations or persons he determines planned, authorised, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th 2001 or harbored such organisations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations or organisations.