Joe Biden has launchd his first airstrike, against targets in Syria, killing 22 people.
The Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, John Kirby, said the location of the strikes was used by Kataeb Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, two Iraqi pro-Iran groups operating under the Hashd umbrella. “This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners,” Kirby said. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.”
Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, criticised the US attack as a violation of international law. “The United Nations charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible,” she said. “None of those elements is met in the Syria strike.”
Once again, the US sends its troops into other countries and when they are attacked, claims it must retaliate in self-defense. It is part of the persistent mindset that pretty much the whole world is American territory so they are never invaders, only other countries are.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki back in 2017 sent out a tweet questioning the legality of bombing Syria.
Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) April 7, 2017
But that was when Trump was president. Now that she is working for Biden who ordered the recent bombing, it will be interesting to see how she responds to questions about the bombing.
Biden has used, as have all the presidents before him, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Act of 2001 as a blank check for justification. This is an old story where Congress passes what it says is a limited authorization for military action in response to an emergency (in this case the attack on 9/ll) that the administration then asserts that it gives them sweeping powers. This was done during the Vietnam War with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that Lyndon Johnson used to vastly expand that war.
Daniel Larison sums it up nicely.
To sum up, we have to bomb targets in Syria without authorization to protect the troops that are in Iraq without authorization in order to pursue an unauthorized anti-ISIS mission that is really just an excuse to keep troops in the country for anti-Iranian reasons.
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) February 26, 2021
The repeated abuse of the AUMF has prompted some Democrats to push for a repeal of the act.
The Biden administration is taking heat from fellow Democrats as lawmakers pressure the White House to provide a legal justification for an airstrike launched Thursday against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria.
The White House is pledging to provide a classified briefing early next week and argued the airstrike was consistent with Biden’s constitutional authority to defend the U.S. But the attack has given new ammunition to lawmakers who want to roll back broad presidential war powers authorized two decades ago.
Two Senate war powers critics — Democrats Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Murphy of Connecticut — argued Friday that lawmakers need to know why President Joe Biden ordered the attack without first consulting them.
Kaine and Murphy have long pushed to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and the 2002 Iraq War authorization and institute new guidelines for Congress to approve military action.
Progressive Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only lawmaker to vote against the 2001 authorization in the days following 9/11, said the Syria strike highlights the need to remove old war powers from the books and return to nuclear talks with Iran.
“The strike in Syria underscores the urgent need to get back to the table with Iran and revive the JCPOA,” Lee said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. “It also underscores the urgent need to repeal the blank check for endless wars — the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs — which are now almost 20 years old.”
“Let’s be clear: this is not about this president or any other president, it is about the need to restore the balance of power with Congress in the use of military force,” Lee said.
Lee, who chairs the House panel that controls funding for the State Department and foreign aid programs, is leading an effort with other senior House Democrats to convince Biden to team with Congress to kill the 2002 Iraq authorization and craft a suitable replacement for the 2001 authorization, which underpins numerous U.S. counterterrorism operations worldwide.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive member of the House Armed Services Committee, slammed Biden following the attack. Khanna, who pushed legislation to curtail Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, argued there was “absolutely no justification” for the Syria strike.
Presidents love to have the freedom to bomb countries. It enables them to look tough and to provide distractions from domestic problems.