60 Words

60 Words

Update: 2020-01-0796
Share

Description

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

Last weekend President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. The news had us thinking about an episode we produced in 2014. We pulled apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.


In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."


In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.


Finally, we check back in with Wittes, to see how the AUMF has trickled into the 2020s.


Produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. 


Watch Congresswomen Barbara Lee's speech here

Comments (13)

Maria Manjelo

At least today something happened and not just words and promises.

Feb 27th
Reply

LivinIn America

Buzzfeed isn’t biased at all....just saying

Feb 17th
Reply

riley

you sound concerned that we a re killing scumbag terrorists. why?

Feb 11th
Reply

Bincent

Very informative

Jan 24th
Reply

aaa dot

great info and background.

Jan 10th
Reply

Cory Acosta

of course you end with a jab on the president......👎

Jan 9th
Reply (6)

Jon Ferry

5 gi

Dec 23rd
Reply
loading
In Channel
Dispatch 1: Numbers

Dispatch 1: Numbers

2020-03-2734:08

The Other Latif: Episode 4

The Other Latif: Episode 4

2020-02-2501:02:49

The Bobbys

The Bobbys

2020-01-3149:42

Body Count

Body Count

2020-01-2447:28

60 Words

60 Words

2020-01-0701:06:27

Man Against Horse

Man Against Horse

2019-12-2859:28

There and Back Again

There and Back Again

2019-12-1846:14

Things

Things

2019-12-1201:03:16

Breaking Bongo

Breaking Bongo

2019-11-2701:05:48

Breaking News

Breaking News

2019-11-1951:09

loading
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store
00:00
00:00
1.0x

0.5x

0.8x

1.0x

1.25x

1.5x

2.0x

3.0x

Sleep Timer

Off

End of Episode

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

15 Minutes

30 Minutes

45 Minutes

60 Minutes

120 Minutes

60 Words

60 Words

WNYC Studios