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DeFazio On Congress And War In Syria

Congressman Peter DeFazio said he doesn’t think it is a good idea to “lob cruise missiles for an unspecified objective” when it comes to dealing with the question of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. Speaking at a press conference Aug. 30, DeFazio argued that congressional war powers have been eroded. President Barack Obama is now seeking congressional approval to attack Syria, without a United Nations mandate. 

Though Obama is asking for a vote of Congress in this case, unless the War Powers Act is strengthened, Obama and future presidents could continue to send U.S. troops into conflict without congressional approval. DeFazio says that his legislation would strengthen the 1973 War Powers Resolution by requiring the president to seek advanced congressional approval before sending U.S. armed forces into conflict, except in the case of “an immediate threat to the territory and possessions of the United States, its troops or its citizens overseas.”

DeFazio said there are a “lot of steps that could be taken, similar to what we’ve taken against Iran” and that a unilateral response will resolve little while resulting in possible unintended consequences. Sarin gas, a neurotoxin was believed to have been used against civilians by the Assad regime, killing 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, according to a report released by the White House. DeFazio called the use of chemical weapons “war crimes against humanity” but pointed out there are war crimes committed regularly in other countries as well.

When asked if congressional approval acts as a check on whether or not the U.S. sends troops into war — George W. Bush did get congressional authorization for the Iraq war in 2003 after claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and connections to al-Qaida terrorists, which was later proven false — DeFazio said, “Bush lied” and “that was Congress being sheep.”

According to DeFazio, “Under the U.S. Constitution, the solemn war-making powers were granted to the legislative branch, not the executive.” He said he plans to introduce the legislation strengthening of the War Powers Act in the near future.

The Community Alliance of Lane County has been protesting a war against Syria. The group has a Peace Day fundraiser at 6 pm Thursday, Sept. 5, at Cozmic featuring EW Next Big Thing winner Sol Seed and Mayor Kitty Piercy, and the Friday, Sept. 6, Freek-Nite at Cowfish dance club will benefit CALC as well. For more info go to CALC’s Facebook page at http://wkly.ws/1jh.