1. Update
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Representatives Stand Up Against Unchecked Military Escalation in Syria

By Rebecca Harris, Yasmine Taeb, April 5, 2017

As the United States intensifies its use of military force in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, FCNL welcomes representatives' bipartisan efforts to push back against endless, unauthorized war.

In the face of escalating US military action around the world, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Walter Jones, and other members of Congress have boldly stood up against this tide of unchecked militarism by reasserting Congress’s ultimate authority to determine when and where our nation goes to war. These representatives have introduced legislation designed to restrict the executive branch’s use of force, written letters to President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan demanding consultation with Congress on military matters, and worked to use Congress’s budgetary power to push back against escalation in Syria.

“FCNL is deeply concerned by the current administration’s escalation of conflicts from Syria to Afghanistan,” said FCNL Lobbyist for Human Rights and Civil Liberties Yasmine Taeb, “but we are heartened by these representatives’ decision to stand up and speak out.”

Sliding Deeper into War

Since taking office, President Trump has intensified the use of military force in a number of countries and given the Department of Defense and military advisers more authority to determine the scope of US military action. He has already authorized the deployment of 400 additional troops to fight ISIS in Syria, and the Pentagon reportedly plans to send hundreds more to the country in coming months. In doing so, President Trump has deepened US involvement in an intractable military conflict into which we have already waded too deep.

The Trump administration is also giving the Department of Defense freer rein to conduct military operations in Yemen, purportedly to counter Al Qaeda in the region; recent actions include a botched raid that killed 14 civilians, including nine children, in January and a massive wave of airstrikes in March. The administration is also discussing intensified military action specifically against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country. Meanwhile, the administration has reduced restrictions on the use of lethal drones and air strikes in Somalia and the top US commander in Afghanistan has requested thousands of additional troops.

Already, this escalation has led to higher rates of civilian casualties: “While the increase in civilian casualties began under President Barack Obama,” the New York Times writes, “it has accelerated under Mr. Trump.” FCNL has already commented on the "remarkably high" death toll resulting from recent US airstrikes. Looking to the future, the administration is discussing relaxing rules designed to minimize civilian casualties from drone strikes and other military operations. According to some within the administration, the standard of “near certainty” that a strike will not kill civilians is unreasonably high.

All this is taking place without Congressional authorization. Despite claims made by the Obama Administration, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks does not cover current military actions against ISIS. In Yemen, no one could reasonably claim that the 2001 AUMF justifies military action against the Houthis. President Trump should not be able to proceed with military action in Iraq, Syria, or Yemen without Congressional input. Concerned about the unchecked escalation of US military operations, a number of members of Congress have rightfully taken it upon themselves to step into the discussion.

Standing Up and Pushing Back

By reasserting Congress’s exclusive power to authorize use of military force, Rep. Lee, Rep. Jones, and other members of Congress have been working across party lines to counter our nation’s steady slide into endless war. Rep. Lee has also introduced a series of bills that cut to the heart of this issue: H.R. 1229 would repeal the 2001 AUMF, which she has called “a blank check to wage war anywhere, at any time,” and H.R. 1473 would prohibit the deployment of additional ground troops in Syria. Rep. Lee, Rep. Jones, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus also hosted a press conference on March 21st on “Prohibiting U.S. Involvement in Ceaseless War.”

Strongly opposed to the unchecked use of military force, FCNL applauds these representatives’ resistance to endless, unauthorized war.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lee, Rep. Jones, and a total of more than fifteen other representatives have signed bipartisan letters to President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan affirming that the power to authorize military force rightfully lies with Congress. The letter to President Trump, spearheaded by Rep. Lee, also declares that any future military authorizations should come with substantial limitations.

Strategizing around Congress’s budgetary powers, Representatives Ted Yoho, John Conyers, Jones, and Lee have also sent a letter to House appropriators urging them not to appropriate any funds that could be used to deploy additional U.S. troops to Syria without a formal declaration of war.

Strongly opposed to the unchecked use of force by the executive branch, FCNL applauds these representatives’ leadership and resistance to endless, unauthorized war.

Statement Appalling Chemical Weapons Attack Underscores Urgency for Diplomacy and Accountability 

We are shocked and saddened by the horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria. Our hearts go out the victims, their community, and the Syrian people who have witnessed years of destruction.

Rebecca Harris

  • Program Assistant for Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Rebecca Harris works closely with Legislative Representative Yasmine Taeb on issues including the Syrian refugee situation, the United States’ “War on Terror,” military use of lethal drones, and the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. As Program Assistant, she conducts research, meets with congressional staff, and drafts letters and other materials.

Yasmine Taeb

  • Legislative Director for Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Yasmine directs FCNL’s work on a number of human rights and civil liberties issues, including lobbying for increased resettlement of refugees, more transparency and oversight of the U.S. lethal drones program, calling for the closure of Guantanamo, and for the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, among other issues.