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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Tomahawk missile launch off U.S. ship, courtesy of the Pentagon

April 6, 2017 (Washington D.C.)— The U.S. today launched over 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles  at the Al-Shayrat Air Base in Syria, on orders of President Donald Trump. The base is believed to be where a chemical  nerve gas weapons attack was launched on April 4th by Bashar al-Assad’s regime that killed scores of civilians, including possibly hundreds, including many children in Idlib.

Key political leaders on both sides of the aisle voiced support for the action,  though even some supporters argue that the Constitution requires a declaration of war by Congress  to take such action. Others voice concerns over a unilateral action that Assad could view as an act of war. Now  prominent Senators and Representatives in both parties are calling for Congress to reconvene and debate whether to declare war on the Syrian government, at a time when the U.S. is already waging war against ISIS.  Assad has also fought ISIS even as his country has been split by six years of civil war.

Also a wild card is how the Russians will react to the escalation, since the Russians are allied with the U.S. in fighting ISIS, but Russia has also worked to keep Assad in power. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, has said Russia was given advance notice of the strike.  Russia has personnel at the base targeted but Capt. Davis indicated care was taken to avoid striking Russians or civilians.

The missiles were launched off U.S. Navy ships, the USS Ross and USS Porter, instead of from airplanes to avoid Syrian and Russian anti-aircraft defense systems.  The Pentagon has stated that  initial indications show the strike “several damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure.”

Trump hardens position toward Syria

President Trump denounced Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the strongest possible terms.  “Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Trump said in a televised address to the nation.  “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Trump called the strike vital to U.S. national security and called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.” He asked for “God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world,” adding, “We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed, and we hope that as long as America stands for justice then peace and harmony will in the end prevail..”

Just days ago,  White House press secretary Sean Spicer said removing Assad was not realistic. But now Trump says his views toward Assad have changed in light of the chemical weapons attack, a clear violation of international law.  The Trump administration is now signaling it would back regime change, but has not stated how it would accomplish this.

Tillerson faults Russia

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement harshly critical of Russia, recalling a 2013 agreement requiring Syria to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons and for Russia to monitor and assure that Assad did not renege.  “Clearly,” Tillerson stated, “Russia has failed in its responsibility on that commitment. Either Russia has been complicit or has been incompetent on its ability to deliver.”

The statement was surprisingly direct given  Trump’s repeated praise for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the numerous controversies over his inner circle’s close ties to Russia, perhaps signaling a break in cozy relations with Putin.

Historical perspective and complexities in the region

Trump himself often criticized Obama for considering military action against the Syrian regime.  In 2013 he tweeted, "The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!" 

Just days before the November 2016 election, Trump accused Obama of wanting to "start a shooting war in Syria in conflict with a nuclear armed Russia that could very well lead to World War III," the Washington Post reports.

Trump’s order to bomb the Syrian air force base also marks a departure from former President Barack Obama’s policies.  The Obama administration had readied plans to attack the Syrian government after an earlier chemical attack on the Syrian people, but backed down when the U.S. began its military operations against ISIS in Syria. Those plans helped to enable today’s rapid response, however.

The Obama administration did support rebel groups that tried unsuccessfully to oust Assad.  Critics including some military leaders have faulted Obama for not taking stronger action against Assad. Retired General John Allen, who coordinated military efforts against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria under Obama, called Obama’s decision not to strike in 2013 “devastating” since now Russian troops are intermingled with Syrian forces and any strike on a Syrian military target could kill Russians, potentially sparking hostilities with Russia. 

However, the reason why Obama did not attack Assad's government is reportedly because he wanted Congress to approve it, but Congress refused to back a war resolution. It is unclear whether Congress might back such a resolution now or not.

Today’s military intervention could be viewed as an act of war by Assad and could  trigger Assad to strike back at coalition planes, putting lives of Americans and our allies at risk. Previously, strikes inside Syria since the civil war began targeted ISIS,  not the Syrian government. 

A key problem not resolved is who would take Assad’s place should he be killed or deposed; one fear is that ISIS could step in to fill that void. The situation on the ground in Syria is highly complex, with Assad’s forces, U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, ISIS militants, Kurdish fighters, and foreign forces from Russia, Iran, Turkey and other nations.

The military intervention comes at a time when Trump has cut in half the number of Syrian refugees authorized by the Obama administration for admission into the U.S.,  leaving civilians in Syria bombarbed by not only Assad's chemical and conventional weapon assaults, but also bombings by Russia and the U.S. targeting ISIS but sometimes striking civilian sites. Nearly all hospitals in the region have been decimated, leaving inadequate manpower and equipment to care for the massive number of wounded, increasing the grim toll.

In attacking ISIS,  both Obama and Trump have argued that this was allowed under a 2001 Congressional war authorization to attack al-Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.  The presidents have claimed that the terror group ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, though many analysts have questioned that assumption.

Attacking the Syrian government directly, however, clearly does not fall under the 9/11 war authorization.

Congressional responses

Trump’s retaliatory strike against Assad’s air base was praised by  Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, who issued a joint statement that the action “sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs.”  They also called on the administration to take out Assad’s air force and implement a comprehensive strategy in coordination with U.S. allies and partners to “end the conflict in Syria.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech in New York this morning, also advocated taking out Syrian military airfields. 

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has also voiced support for the attacks, calling them “appropriate and just.”

But others voiced grave concerns about the President waging war without consent of Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat, while acknowledging Assad is a “brutal dictator who must be held accountable” also said that Trump launched a military strike against Syria “without a vote of Congress.  The Constitution says war must be declared by Congress.”

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul tweeted , “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution.”

Rep. Justin Arnash, a Republican from Michigan and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, agreed.  “Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war,” he wrote, adding that the framers of the Cosntitution divided war powers to prevent abuse, empowering “Congress to declare war and the president to conduct war and repel sudden attacks.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the House intelligence panel, stated, “Congerss cannot abdicate its responsibility any longer and should vote on any use of force not made in self defense. This is necessary whether action is taken against terrorist groups or, as here, against regime capabilities.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, called on Congress to end its two week break and return to the Capitol, CNN reports. “This is an act of war,” she said of today’s missile strikes.  “Congress needs to come back into session and hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, praised the professionalism of our armed forces and called it the “right thing to do” to assure that Assad knows he will pay a price for committing “despicable atrocities.”  But Schumer concluded, “It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it.”

After six years of civil war as well as attacks on ISIS inside Syria, at least a half million Syrians  have been killed and millions have been displaced, refugees fleeing their homeland.

Still, not everyone supports military conflict to resolve the crisis.  Diane Randall, Executive Director of the pacificist Quaker Church Friends' Committee on Legislation, states, "The only path toward shared security requires robust diplomacy, urgent humanitarian aid, and a comprehensive strategy to bring the crisis to an end through a political solution -- not escalating war."

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Even the NYTimes is (now) against illegal aggression!

(Because it's Trump, but .. .whatever.) quote: Did Trump have clear authority under international law to attack Syria? . . No. The United Nations Charter, a treaty the United States has ratified, recognizes two justifications for using force on another country’s soil without its consent: the permission of the Security Council or a self-defense claim. In the case of Syria, the United Nations did not approve the strike, and the Defense Department justified it as “intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again,” which is not self-defense. " . . .here

Trump Betrays Trumpism: Syria in the Crosshairs

"President Donald Trump has launched an attack on a Syrian air base in retaliation for the alleged sarin gas attack supposedly carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s government on Islamist rebels in Idlib. The irony is this contradicts every statement he ever made about Syria in the presidential campaign. Furthermore, this attack takes place barely 72 hours after the alleged incident, with no clear evidence that Assad was responsible." . . .by Justin Raimondo, here

We can't trust one of them.

In other news, we can trust the desert blossoms to cheer our lives. I've been out there. Now we're blessed with the emerging Hedgehog cacti with their beautiful scarlet blossoms and the Barrel cacti with their yellow ones (I have a secret place I call barrel ridge). The Purple Dicks are seen in great members even among the Cholla (do they need protection?). The Creosote bushes are exploding with yellow blossoms, the Prickly-Pear cacti are getting ready to surprise us, and the ubiquitous Popcorn and Yellowfields are making life glorious for us, with fields all white and yellow. Then there are the many California Evening primrose and the purple Chia three-tiered blossoms. The Maricopa lilies are now out, and more I can't identify. It's one of those years when the ten-year blossoms appear. What did we do to deserve all this?

Illegal act ofwar!

Aside from the fact that the Orange Blossom Man-Child has directly contradicted himself one more time by attacking Syria, he is without authority to commit this act of war against a nation with which we are NOT at war. This is clear executive overreach and is an impeachable offense. Do it now!

Yes, Trump is wrong

Title 50 U.S.C. 1541–1548 -- WAR POWERS RESOLUTION -- It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations. . .The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations. . . .here

Trump has made America not great, but

an illegal aggressor again. Add Syria to the list: -- Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya -- and each aggression has resulted in failure of great magnitude. Obama didn't strike Syria mainly because the CIA would not authenticate that the chemical attack was an act of the Syria government, give him credit for that. So the radicals tried it on Trump, at a time when they were losing their war, and Trump stupidly fell for it without consultation and without proof. Now Clinton has called for expanding the attacks -- and Trump may fall for that too. ISIS was basically a US construct, and the establishment would like to see it succeed. Divide and conquer is a basic US strategy in the world; there are many examples. . . .Buy Lockheed stock. We still have Syria to attack some more, then there is Korea, Iran, China . . .the list goes on. How about Russia?

Trump has the power to do so

I don't want the Republic involved in middle eastern issues. President Trump does have the authority under the war powers act to launch missiles, as did bush, obobo and clinton
to quote ANY democrat ALL who sat by while hillary and bobo did all they could to destabilize the middle east , grow isis and especially the horrendous actions in lybia, shows a desire by this publication to push a 100% political story and not news

That's ridiculous, Desertrek.

You're really saying news should not quote any Democrat or anyone from the last administration?  This was as balanced a story as you will find anywhere. We quoted President Trump,  Clinton who ran against him and also suopports this action, the House Speaker (a Republican),  the key intelligence and national security chairs (Republicans),  the top ranking Democrat in Congress, the Libertarian-leaning Rand Paul and a right-wing member of the Freedom Caucus, none of whom opposed the bombing, though some thought he should have asked Congress to first declare war. We also quoted a Quaker spokesperson for the anti-war view.  .In each party we chose a cross-spectrum of views, to the degree that they were available by press deadline (remember Congress is on recess.)

If you want press that merely parrots single views,  that's not journalism, that's propaganda, and it's dangerous for democracy.

Quoting someone of course does not mean that I, or this publication, agrees with them on that point or on past actions they have taken.  Obviously Libya turned out badly but given that Clinton nearly won the presidency many are still interested in her views.  I did search to see if Bernie Sanders had a statement on this yet but as of last night when this was written, he hadn't issued one.  Nor had Cailfornia's two Senators or our local members of Congress.

If you don't care about someone's opinion fine, but some other people do.  I didn't omit the Republican leadership, nor did I omit the leading Democratic voices.

You tout claims of "bias" when what it seems you really WANT is bias that only includes views of one political side of the aisle.  

That mindset is of course excactly what got us in to the Iraq War.  Media didn't really challenge the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  The 10 Downing Memo and other documents leaked later showed that claim was falsified and the Bush regime knew it was untrue.  I personally interviewed dthe UN weapons inspector who had told me his reports were doctored and falsified to fit the adminimistration's narrative.  He was a conservative Republican speaking out against President Bush for lying to the U.S. people to start a war over oil, which the weapons inspector, a lifelong conservative, called treason. It's the job of media to be skeptical especially over matters of war and peace - and that means skeptical of anyone beating the war drums.

Trump very clearly did NOT have authority to do this.  You can't cite a source for that because the Constitution says he can't and that is the ultimate law of the land.

Personally I think Assad deserved to get his Air Force bombed after launghing illegal chemical weapons on his own people.  I hope this has no repercussions from Russia or Assad against our troops, and if in Congress Trump should have asked Congress to approve this action though.  If I were in Congress, I would have asked a lot of questions and wanted to be in the loop in deciding whether this action was viable.  I  may have supported Obama doing the same thing with a limited strike after the last chemical attack if the military brass were convinced it wouldn't escalate things further, but he wanted to obey the consttution and get Congress to approve it and Congress refused.  Many of the problems this country faces are due to a Congress that continues to abdicate all responsibility for enforcing the laws and the Constitution. Congress doesn't want to get blamed if things go wrong, so they duck and shoulder the president with the full weight of that responsibility, even though that's not constitutional. 






Desertrek didn't claim it wasn't balanced,

he was commenting on Dems who in the last administration were involved in more invasions, more wars, and more assassinations then ever before in the nation's history and therefore have no standing. Also there is no evidence that Syria launched illegal chemical weapons on his own people, and there is no legal basis for what Trump did which was wrong.

But..but...but ...Obama did it all for peace,

and has the Nobel to prove it. /s . . .Actually I agree with you. And it was Clinton and her gal pals who drove the weak Obama into Libya and way beyond what the UN allowed, as Obama lied and said the US wasn't going for regime change but did. That's why Clinton was pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria, as a first step. Syria actually took more of her time than Libya, and she failed miserably (not unusual).

So the "swamp-drainer" has entered the swamp

and thereby gained the accolades of the Washington establishment and media as yet another country is wrongly attacked by the US, with no letup in the all war, all the time US foreign policy. As for the "nerve gas weapons attack was launched on April 4th by Bashar al-Assad’s regime" it's all a hoax in Idlib, as the previous one was in Ghouta. It's all explained here, here, and here.

Republicans Control both Houses

What's the excuse for not doing this the correct way pray tell?

The War Powers Resolution (also known as the War Powers Resolution of 1973 or the War Powers Act) (50 U.S.C. 1541–1548)[1] is a federal law intended to check the president's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of the U.S. Congress. The Resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution. It provides that the U.S. President can send U.S. Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization," or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."