air strikes

House members seek congressional authorization for Syria intervention

UPDATE: Rigell’s office now reports that 140 House members have signed the letter. An update copy of it can be found below. The story has been updated to reflect the current number of signatories.

Scores of members of the House of Representatives are urging President Barack Obama to seek congressional authorization for any military action that his administration plans to take in Syria.

The White House has said that President Obama will consult leaders in Congress about the planned air strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime, which is the administration’s response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. But that’s not enough for House members who note that a president is legally required to seek authorization from Congress before using force overseas.

“We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,” wrote Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), who has circulated the letter to his colleagues in the House, gathering 140 signatories from members of both parties.

Rigell noted that the Founders gave the executive branch the power to take action during emergencies, but he pointed out that Syria doesn’t represent a direct threat to the security of the United States.

Syria intervention would come at a real cost

Even as Congress is contemplating military action in Syria, few are asking questions about the cost of even a brief campaign against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

During yesterday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, a few representatives brought up the cost of limited strikes in Syria. But those concerns were hardly the focal point of the hearing, nor will it play a factor for many members when they cast their votes on the issue in the next week or so.

We know from the Obama Administration intervention in Libya that even a limited airstrike campaign can come with a hefty price tag. In 2011, the administration spent over $1 billion to help depose Muammar Gaddafi. That was a seven month air strike campaign that didn’t involve troops on the ground.

CNN Money reported yesterday that the budget implications of military strikes against Syria would be relatively small, provided the United States doesn’t get sucked into a broader campaign involving troops on the ground. And despite what the Obama Administration is saying, no one guarantee that American soldiers won’t eventually be pulled into the conflict.

Biden floated impeachment for unilateral military action in 2007

If only Democrats held the same standards by which they held George W. Bush, maybe President Barack Obama would think twice about many of his unconstitutional usurpations of executive power.

During a forum in 2007, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) told a crowd that he would move to impeach then-President George W. Bush if he bombed Iran without congressional authorization:

Biden spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 100 at a candidate forum held Thursday at Seacoast Media Group. The forum focused on the Iraq war and foreign policy. When an audience member expressed fear of a war with Iran, Biden said he does not typically engage in threats, but had no qualms about issuing a direct warning to the Oval Office.

“The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach,” said Biden, whose words were followed by a raucous applause from the local audience.

Biden’s criticism was completely valid at the time, just as it is today. He noted the limitations President Bush under the War Power Resolution, and pointed out that he had to come to Congress to get authorization before launching any attack on Iran.

This wasn’t a one-off comment either. Biden further explained to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews why impeachment was possible over an unauthorized strike.

Rand Paul: There is no national security interest in Syria

In a statement this afternoon from his office, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) weighed in on the potential military action that the Obama Administration is weighing against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. He also said that President Barack Obama must seek congressional authorization for launching any military action against the Middle Eastern nation.

“The United States should condemn the use of chemical weapons. We should ascertain who used the weapons and we should have an open debate in Congress over whether the situation warrants U.S. involvement,” said Paul, who has been a critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of the Washington establishment. “The Constitution grants the power to declare war to Congress not the President.”

“The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States and victory by either side will not necessarily bring in to power people friendly to the United States,” he added.

Paul joined Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to introduce legislation that would prohibit the Obama Administration from providing military aid to Syrian rebels, which includes the al-Nusra Front, an organization connected to al-Qaeda.

John Kerry’s call for war in Syria

The drums of war are getting louder in Washington. The Obama Administration, facing pressure from war hawks in Congress, has begun drafting plans for air strikes against Syria due to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the civil war that has ravaged the Middle Eastern country.

During a press conference yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the case for action against Assad’s regime, though, as some observers have noted, it sounded like he was talking more to world leaders instead of a skeptical, war weary American public.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” Kerry told members of the press. “By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed doubt that chemical weapons have been used in Syria and opposes any military intervention from outside nations in the ongoing civil war between rebels and Assad’s regime.

U.S. looking at options in Syria, drafting plans for air strikes

After another round of reports that Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens in the bloody civil war raging in Syria, President Barack Obama has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to begin drawing up plans for air strikes in the Middle Eastern country:

A U.S. official said the Pentagon has crafted military options for limited U.S. air strikes in Syria that would send a message to the regime of President Bashar al Assad not to continue using chemical weapons against its civilians.  There has been no presidential decision to use the military options,  and U.S. intelligence continues to investigate an apparent large-scale chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime this week that may have killed as many as 1,000 civilians.

The official said the military options developed for consideration by the White House are limited in scope and would be intended to “deter or prevent” the Assad regime from the further use of chemical weapons.  The options are not intended to remove the Syrian president,  who has tenaciously hung on to power as Syria’s two-year civil war has raged on.

Traveling on a plane to Malaysia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed to reporters that Obama had asked the Pentagon to provide military options in Syria in light of the reported use of chemical weapons against civilians by the civilian government.

United States conducts airstrikes in Somalia

The Washington Post reported late last night that the United States had launched airstrikes targeting militants in Mogadishu, Somalia:

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them, a senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation said Wednesday.

The strike last week against senior members of al-Shabab comes amid growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.

The airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. And it comes as the CIA is expected to begin flying armed drones over Yemen in its hunt for al-Qaeda operatives.

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