Donald Trump has again ordered an illegal strike on Syria. Nearly one year to the day after his last unlawful strike, Trump deployed missiles against Syria in partnership with the UK and France without congressional authorization, without explanation of his legal justification, and with no apparent strategy for what happens next.
Donald Trump has made a mockery of his solemn duties by launching missiles as impulsively as he launches tweets. Congress, and not the President, holds the authority to determine if and when the United States goes to war. It is Congress’ responsibility to prevent Trump’s belligerence and volatility from escalating this conflict and dragging us into another open-ended and disastrous war in the Middle East.
Make no mistake, the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a grave atrocity. As international investigators continue to gather evidence get to the bottom of the apparent chemical attack, one thing is clear: a new war will not stop the bloodshed, and instead will escalate the suffering further.
The Trump Administration has failed on a multiple fronts with this strike:
- Zero respect for the rule of law: Trump claims to promote “law and order,” yet with this strike violates one of the most clear-cut democratic norms set forth in our Constitution: only Congress can authorize military force. In 2013, Trump tweeted, “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria - big mistake if he does not!” Now that he is in office, he seems to have forgotten.
- Zero strategy: In the face of a horrific apparent chemical attack, it is understandable to want to “do something.” But nobody, especially not the Administration, has explained why military force would help and not hurt the people of Syria further, or what should come next. Is the U.S. planning to fully invade and occupy Syria in order to remove Assad from power and install a new government? That didn’t work out well in Iraq, and it gave power to more violence and extremism (see: the rise of ISIS). History shows us that only a negotiated political settlement can end the bloody civil war and protect the people of Syria. We must know: what is this Administration’s political strategy to accomplish a peaceful, diplomatic solution and not make things worse?
- Zero regard for our own national security. Trump’s decision to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria is reckless, particularly without seeking congressional authorization. His actions make retaliation more likely, whether by the Syrian government, or their allies in Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia. That places our armed forces in danger, and risks embroiling our country in a tangled web of protracted armed conflict that goes beyond Syria.
- Zero actions to actually protect civilians in Syria and beyond. Trump claimed that he launched strikes due to humanitarian concern for Syria’s civilians. But Trump has done nothing but turn his back on Assad’s victims by continuing his bigoted effort to ban refugees from Syria. Further, his Administration’s use of lethal force has ramped up the civilian body count across the globe, including his doubling down on war crimes in Yemen.
Congress must exercise its constitutional responsibility to stop Trump’s illegal, reckless march to war, and urge real solutions that would actually ease Syria’s suffering.
WHAT CONGRESS CAN DO
Congress is a co-equal branch of government that holds tremendous power to check Trump’s recklessness. There are a number of concrete steps that Congress can and should pursue. Any single one of these is better than allowing Trump’s one-off missile strikes to continue.
- Publicly voice support for the ongoing investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into the chemical weapons attack
- Forcefully insist on its sole authority to authorize military force by demanding that Trump come to Congress before any further strikes in Syria
- Vote NO on any authorization for further force in Syria, based on Trump’s demonstrated recklessness and lack of a full strategy
- Publicly denounce Trump’s bigoted Muslim and refugee bans that are harming victims of violence in Syria and elsewhere, and call on the Administration to immediately resettle more Syrian refugees
- Call on the Administration to lead not by military force, but by engaging international partners to seek a diplomatic and political solution to end Syria’s suffering
- Hold hearings to assess the U.S. government’s own global war operations and the resulting ramped-up civilian body count across the world
SAMPLE CALL SCRIPT
Caller: Hello, my name is [name] and I am calling from [part of state] to express my dismay that Trump has again launched an unauthorized and strategy-free strike in Syria. Will [MoC] do everything in [his/her] power to rein in Trump’s escalation and urge the Administration to instead lead with diplomacy to help the people of Syria?
Staffer: Thank you for sharing your concerns. [MoC] is monitoring the situation and is very concerned about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. [He/she] feels that there must be consequences for that attack.
Caller: I agree, and that’s why I want to see the United States support the investigation into the attack, and lead with a diplomatic solution to bring the bloodshed to an end. Will [MoC] pledge to vote against any further force in Syria, and call on the Administration to seek a political solution?
Staffer: [MoC] is still evaluating the options, and I will relay your concerns to the boss.
Caller: Yes, please do. If we are concerned about the people of Syria, we should immediately resettle more refugees and give them a place to flee this violence. Can [MoC] at least call on the Administration to do that?
Staffer: I will share that with the boss.
Caller: Thank you, I will check back in soon to see what [MoC] is doing about this crisis.