Monday, April 10, 2017

AAPI Congress members react to U.S. missle attack on Syria

Many of the victims of the chemical weapons attack were children.

WHAT NEXT? Does Donald Trump's missile attack against a Syrian airfield constitute a change of his stated "America First" policy or was it just an emotional response to the horrific videos and pictures of child victims of Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons? 

Was Trump's use of military force constitutional? Are the victims of chemical attacks more sympathetic than the thousands who have been displaced because of the civil war in Syria; many who have washed up on shore (including children) because of the hazardous crossings of the Aegean Sea separating Syria from Europe?

Those are critical questions being asked by AAPI members of Congress and their peers that need to be answered.

The morning after the attack, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, appeared on MSNBC. “Clearly, the president can take limited actions that the Congress has authorized such as going against terrorists who were involved with 9/11 or in terms of Iraq when Congress authorized the use of force in 2002, but there’s been no congressional authorization to launch 59 cruise missiles at a country that has not attacked us. Donald Trump’s action ... was unconstitutional. He should not do it again,” he told interviewer Katy Tur.

Rep. Ted Lieu was a guest on MSNBC.
Lieu, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, was asked if he would have voted for authorization if Trump had come to Congress. “I might have if he would have articulated a strategy, and that is one of my fundamental problems with what he did. There has been no coherent strategy from the Trump administration. Last week, they signaled they were OK with Assad even though he had previously killed hundreds of thousands of people in Syria and used chemical weapons. Last night, they attacked the Assad regime. We need to know what is the Trump administration thinking and what is their long-term strategy in Syria?”

“Saying that it’s a proportional response ignores the fact that any kind of a response that involves military use should have come to congress for us to talk through," added Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA. "You’re ignoring the ramifications of what happens after this response.”

The Trump administration has no Syria plan. The administration’s message has been inconsistent on Assad with U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley saying one thing, then Sec. of State Rex Tillerson saying another, then a somewhat different perspective coming from the White House.
“We as a nation must begin an in-depth discussion on behalf of our men and women in uniform regarding our role in this conflict.," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. "Now that we find ourselves in this position, it is my duty as a U.S Senator—and as a combat Veteran—to raise several fundamental questions: What was the legal justification for last night’s strike? Is our goal to prevent future war crimes against the Syrian people or to remove Assad from power? What should our military and political strategy to achieve that goal be? What are the true costs of that strategy—in both dollars as well as human lives? And finally, are the American people as well as our allies prepared to support our efforts if things go wrong? Because in war, they always do.

“All of us were appalled to see Syrian children foaming at the mouth—dying—as a result of Assad’s use of chemical weapons," said Duckworth."We should not forget that this Administration made it harder for the victims of Assad’s barbarity to escape their suffering by slamming our doors on those fleeing this humanitarian crisis.

"After weeks of sending dangerously mixed signals on Syria, the President owes it to our troops who are now in greater danger to clearly and unequivocally outline the long-term strategic end state he is seeking to achieve in Syria and the region. He owes it to the American people to answer each of these questions and he must ensure they have a voice, through their representatives in Congress, in any further use of force in carrying out his strategy.” 

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed with Duckworth. "President Trump must present a coherent strategy for addressing the ongoing situation in Syria, including our own responsibility in confronting the humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis.” 

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a progressive first-term member who represents Silicon Valley, broke with Democratic leadership led by Rep. Nancy Peolosi and Don Shumer who seemed to approve of the action. 

“Let's be blunt: The problem with process arguments is it's not the substantive question,” Khanna said. “The question is: Where do you stand on issues of war and peace? Do you believe it's more unilateral military intervention? Did we learn the lessons of Iraq and Libya and that we should not be engaged? I wish the Democratic Party would speak to the substance of that issue.”

Califoria's Rep. Ro Khanna was interviewed by MSNBC's Joy Reid about the missile attack on Syria.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, broke from the general assumption that Assad had ordered the chemical weapon attack on his own people. She appeared on CNN, telling Wolf Blitzer that she’s “skeptical” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical weapons attack in the province of Idlib in an area of northern Syria that is controlled by al-Qaida-linked rebels.

On Thursday, she issued a statement: “If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court,” she said in the statement. “However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”

However, the next day on CNN, she went even further in expressing her skepticism of Assad's culpability.

For her statements, she was criticized by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden. They called on Hawaiians to vote Rep. Tulsi Gabbard out of office.