After years of sitting back and letting Congressional authority to declare war transfer to the Executive Branch, it appears that some leading Members of the House and Senate are finally waking up to the consequences of their failure.  On February 27, the House Progressive Caucus and the House Liberty Caucus joined forces to hold a hearing on the illegal wars raging in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, demanding that Congress take back the war powers authority.  The succession of regime change wars of the post 9/11 period have all been justified by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.

The same day, 100 House Members wrote to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan demanding a new debate on an AUMF related to the ongoing US military operations in Syria.  Among the lead signers of the letter was Tom Cole, the fourth ranking Republican in the House.  The next day, Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy and Mike Lee sponsored a resolution demanding an immediate debate and vote on an AUMF on the US engagement in Yemen, which the sponsors asserted was clearly a military action under the War Powers Resolution.

Whether these actions go anywhere is anyone's guess at this point.  The more immediate question is:  What caused the sudden wake up?  Could it be that the ongoing US engagement in Syria is bringing the United States closer by the day to a confrontation with Russia?  The situation on the ground in Syria has gotten more and more hazardous in the wake of the routing of ISIS in Raqqa.  It is hard to tell, day to day, whether a major incident is going to take place, involving rival parties Turkey, Iran, Israel, Hezbollah, the Shia militias, the remnants of ISIS and Al Qaeda, who still have well-armed forces on the ground.  Both Russia and the United States have maintained air and ground forces in Syria.  The recent incident involving Shia militias, with Russian mercenaries attacking a Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters with US Special Forces present, resulted in US bombings of the pro-Assad forces, with an unclear number of Russians killed.

How much closer do we have to get to an incident which escalates out of control before Congress finally decides to end the string of illegal wars?  It was one thing to illegally invade Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen–who possess second rate military forces at best.  It is another thing to be engaging in a conflict that could draw the United States and Russia into a direct confrontation.

I cannot say for certain that this is why more than the usual handful of Members of Congress are sounding the alarm.  But I hope so.

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  1. outthere says:

    re: “US bombings of the pro-Assad forces, with an unclear number of Russians killed.”
    Der Spiegel sent a team of journalists to sort this out, they stayed there for 2 weeks. Their report is here:

  2. I think some in the deep state or the people who really run pax-amaericana might of just got the message fromPutin’s last address to the douma. Fuk with us or any of our allies IE IRAN,SYRIA,CHINA we will screww you six way of SUNDAY Hypersonic style.

  3. Harry says:

    Its lucky so many ex CIA officers are seeking congressional office. Otherwise the peeple might put an end to us always being at war with East Asia.

  4. Phodges says:

    It’s anti-Trump optics.
    Obama starts wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc…give him peace prize!
    Trump fights wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc…stop the mad man!
    If Trump was ending these wars like he said he would, they would have to attack him for being weak and giving in to Putin

  5. Bill H says:

    I would love to think that this is Congress waking up to its responsibility, but I suspect it is nothing more than a move to take a swipe at President Trump; to reduce his power and/or weaken him politically.

  6. aka says:

    It would be great even if it is done as a swipe at the President.
    BTW is anyone following the strange poisoning case of Sergei_Skripal.
    Background is he was double agent who was jailed in Russia, swapped in a spy deal and settled in UK.
    He and his daughter was poisoned using a nerve agent recently. The UK media and politicians are blaming Putin.
    But there are few things that I do not get here.
    For an example, there is a claim that this person was in contact with the Russians.

  7. robt willmann says:

    Regarding Syria, early today (12 March), I was suffering through a few minutes of the MSNBC Morning Joe television program, when I thought I heard David Ignatius, a de facto publicity man for the CIA (and perhaps others), make the astonishing statement that he was recently in Syria at the time of the February incident involving alleged mercenaries from Russia, or Russian soldiers, or something like that, who were claimed to have attacked a “coalition” position there in the Deir ez Zor area. U.S. military planes and other flying weapons attacked the alleged attackers. I understood Ignatius to say that he was with U.S. military de-confliction or other personnel involved in the incident while it was happening! It sounded as if Ignatius was a real-time observer of the event. Did he overhear or see “classified information”? I have not yet found a video clip of that part of the TV program to study it.
    As is known, the February 2018 event in Syria was publicized and is referred to here–

  8. Lefty says:

    Sen. Kaine (D-VA) has been agitating for a Congressional vote to replace the original AUMFs for more than a year. It is not clear he wants us out of wars not authorized by those AUMFs. It is clear that he wants a Congressional sign off.
    It can be all about turf in D.C. – legislative vs executive. We can only hope for neocon vs not.

  9. Barbara Ann says:

    Would this even have happened under a Clinton administration? I think not.
    In watching the hearing I’d like to think I could just make out the sound of Congress starting to grow a new spine. However, I think it may take a catastrophe before war-making powers are back in the hands of the Legislative branch. It is the nature of the Executive to resist all attempts at the reduction of its powers, as the Framers knew all too well.
    I am surprised none of the participants mentioned the fact that the perpetrators of 9/11 were likely aiming for exactly this result – i.e. a huge over reaction, suspension of key controls on democratic government in America, abandonment of the rule of international law and a state dedicated to permanent war, at colossal ongoing cost. This is exactly how empires are destroyed; corruption of core values from within, loss of moral leadership and bankruptcy from imperial overreach. Congress should get its house in order out of self preservation, if nothing else.

  10. Laura says:

    This is a positive development. I will start encouraging those Senators and Reps. who are pushing for this. Anyone who is a “strict constructionist” should be onboard, I think.

  11. Laura says:

    I’m not sure the motivation is important. It is time for Congress to claw back its war power responsibilities and I do not care why.

  12. outthere says:

    We all know that the Constitution grants the power to declare war to the Congress, not to the President.
    And we all know (I hope) about the War Powers Act.
    Nevertheless, the DOD claims that Congress lacks the legal authority to “override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief” and end the United States’ involvement in the conflict.

  13. jld says:

    Well… Well… Well…
    It looks like the mofos of the Borg (UK branch, at least…) really, really want WWIII!

  14. catherine says:

    If I remember correctly it was Saudi who set up Syria to begin with and sent Prince Bandar to organize and finance the anti Assad rebels. Pretty sure they were counting on the Israel Lobby to bring the US onboard given Syria was second leg after Iraq in their march to Iran per the Israeli ‘Clean Break’ plan.
    Despite the total FUBAR Iraq turned out to be I don’t see the Israelis giving up on their plan for Iran—all their propaganda says..”we are fighting Iran in Syria”. Since our congress is basically Israeli occupied territory I don’t have any faith in their war decisions.
    Yemen is another story…equally insane.
    I welcome Russian involvement in the ME ….it might turn out to be the ‘balancing act’ the realist like Stephen Walt have talked about for years
    except not quite the ‘offshore balancing’ they recommend. Both Russia and the US are now ‘onshore’ instead. imo the US should bow out…nothing in the ME is a’threat’ to the US and we have zero benefits to gain in Syria or Iran.

  15. Fred says:

    “Jack” posted that four days ago, see my response to him on that thread. If you find it troubling you could try to and get a constitutional amendment started to prevent former CIA employees from running for congress. Good luck with that.

  16. Walrus says:

    Being cynical, I suggest that it is big donors to Congress who are getting cold feet and instructing their congressional charges accordingly….

  17. Bill H says:

    So you don’t care if our government is torn apart by internal warfare, so long as your side wins?

  18. Walker says:

    I’m all for this bipartisan effort to repeal the AUMF. It’s about time.
    . very recently putin asked that the rubble city now known as raqqa, has many dead bodies still under the rubble.. perhaps aside from leveling raqqa, the usa could consider cleaning up the mess it is responsible for too
    Patrick Cockburn has an recent article touching on those themes here:
    Raqqa: ‘Liberated’ former Isis capital still gripped by fear, full of booby traps and bombed to oblivion.

  19. I’m inclined to believe that this is an anti-Trump project but it may well have elements of concern about war with Russia. After all, most of Trump’s detractors assume he is unpredictable and could start WWIII over an incident. Whether true or not, some people think so.
    Witness the cruise missile attack on the Syrian airbase over bogus intel which DID result in a confrontation with Russia as Russia downed most of the cruise missiles using ECM according to reports (and despite a Pentagon denial which was clearly bogus given pictures of the airbase not being heavily damaged.)
    And then we have the Russian contractors killed.
    There was an article over at Russia Insider today that suggests the reason Putin announced the new Russian weapons systems was not just for Russian election PR (since Putin is going to win anyway) but was in reality because Russia feared an American attack in Syria. Putin explicitly said in his March 1st speech:
    I should note that our military doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threaten the very existence of the state. This all is very clear and specific.
    As such, I see it is my duty to announce the following. Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.
    End Quote
    Note the phrase “or its allies” – which at the moment is fairly limited to China, Syria, and maybe Iran (as well as lesser states like Belarus.)
    I think it might be possible to include North Korea in the list, if Russia believes a US attack on North Korea – which would quite possibly involve nuclear weapons – might threaten to escalate against China, an ally.
    Perhaps this is why someone convinced Trump to talk to North Korea. Did some Pentagon analysts or CIA analysts decide that Putin might be serious about Syria or North Korea based on some intel and then the Pentagon decided to back down on North Korea or some planned action against Syria? I note Mattis seems to have bowed out on answering questions about North Korea, stating that the State Department is handling that.

  20. Clueless Joe says:

    Oh well… Trump fired Tillerson because he probably wasn’t on board with a full anti-Iran policy. Now, State is led by bloody Mike Pompeo.
    We probably gained a year without new war by having Trump instead of Clinton. I’m less and less sure we’ll get a full-term without another useless war.

  21. Fred says:

    Clueless Joe,
    I wonder if Rocket Man is thinking he better make a deal berfore he makes a war.

  22. different clue says:

    Given that Pompadoodle-ayo will now be SecState, one hopes the Congress will begin by simply repealing in its entirety the current AUMF currently standing. And do so by veto-proof majorities.
    Then Congress can mull and ponder and ruminate upon a new AUMF at its deliberate leisure.

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