Intel Committees Agree with Public: No Arms to Syria Rebels

Seventy percent of Americans oppose sending U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels, including 74% of independents, 71% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats. [1] Key Members of Congress agree: the House and Senate intelligence committees have blocked an Administration plan to arm the Syrian rebels as a “covert action.” [2]

Now, Vermont Democrat Peter Welch and New York Republican Chris Gibson are introducing an amendment on the House defense appropriations bill that would block U.S. military involvement in Syria. Urge your representative to support the Gibson-Welch amendment.

Reps. Welch and Gibson have submitted the following amendment for consideration on the defense appropriations bill in the House: [3]

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the purpose of, or in a manner which would have the effect of, supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Syria by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual or, for United States military operations in Syria without the express authorization of Congress.
We don’t need another U.S. war in the Middle East. Whatever influence the U.S. has in the situation should be used to promote a political settlement that ends the war, not to add more weapons to kill more people. We don’t need more U.S. “covert” military actions that aren’t explicitly approved by Congress after open debate. We don’t need to take sides in a sectarian civil war.

There’s still time to stop this military escalation. Urge your Representative to speak up.

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Help fund our work—donate to Just Foreign Policy! With our small staff and minimal overhead, you know your contribution will go a long way.

Catholic Priest Killed by Syrian Rebels? Tell Congress to Stand Up

The U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution insist that absent an armed attack on the United States, Congress shall decide when to authorize the use of U.S. military force. But apparently the Obama Administration has different ideas.

The Administration has announced that the U.S. will arm rebels in Syria and is considering a "no fly zone," which would mean bombing Syria. Congress has authorized neither.

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives is standing up, led by Sens. Tom Udall and Rand Paul in the Senate, and Reps. Peter Welch and Chris Gibson in the House. They've introduced legislation that would expressly prohibit the Obama Administration intervening militarily in Syria's sectarian civil war without explicit Congressional authorization. Urge your Senators and Representative to stand up and support this legislation.

Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Walter Jones (R-NC) have introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2494) to block U.S. military intervention in Syria without an affirmative vote of Congress. [1] Identical legislation (S. 1201) has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT). [2]

Sending military assistance to Syrian rebels, or any direct military intervention, would lead to Americanization of Syria's sectarian civil war. Congress and the American people should be part of a vigorous debate before any such military escalation takes place.

Cessez le Feu! Don't Let France Kill the Syria Peace Talks

Usually when we write to you, it's the U.S. government that is blocking chances for diplomacy to prevent, contain, reduce and end violent conflict.

But this time it's different. This time, it's the French who appear to be standing in the way of peace!

The U.S. and Russia have agreed to host a peace conference to try to end the Syrian civil war. But France says it will oppose the peace conference if Iran is invited. C'est scandaleux!

For peace talks to have a chance to end the war, all the parties involved in the conflict have to be there. Excluding Iran would likely condemn the peace talks to failure, more Syrian civilians would die for no reason, and calls for direct US military intervention would increase.

Join us in telling Washington to explain to France that trying to exclude Iran from the Syria peace talks would be a major faux pas.

Last Friday, Reuters reported: [1]

“As far as we are concerned, not Iran," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters in Paris, discussing who should attend. "What's at stake is regional stability and we can't see how a country that represents a threat to this stability could attend this conference.”
The U.S., on the other hand, kept the possibility of Iran's participation open:

The United States said on Thursday that it was not ruling anyone in or out of the conference.
As Al-Monitor argued in a recent editorial, [2]

For the Geneva II conference on Syria to have the best chance of enacting a cease-fire and beginning a transition, Iran needs to be there.
It should be a no-brainer to have all parties to a conflict represented at a peace conference. There is no "transition" in Syria absent a cease-fire, and no cease-fire without Iran, which provides the military and intelligence lifeline to the Assad regime.

Iran is unlikely to agree to a deal where its interests and influence are not recognized in Syria.

Urge NYT Public Editor to Probe Times Coverage of Syria Chemical Arms Claim

We learned in the run-up to the Iraq war that the New York Times has tremendous power to establish "truth" in the United States—and when the Times wields that power irresponsibly, the results can be catastrophic.

Last week, the media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting documented a lack of skepticism in New York Times reporting of allegations of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. [1] Times reporting suggested that the U.S. government had strong evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons. But, as FAIR documented, the U.S. government was not nearly as certain as claimed by the Times' initial reports. At the same time that the Times was uncritically reporting these claims, other media were appropriately skeptical.

Urge Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times Public Editor, to examine whether the Times showed appropriate skepticism in its reporting of Western government claims about the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.

On April 18, the Times reported [2] that, according to unnamed diplomats, the UK and France had sent letters to the UN about "credible evidence" Syria had used chemical weapons. On April 23, the Times reported [3] that Israel had "evidence that the Syrian government repeatedly used chemical weapons last month." In its print edition April 25, the Times reported [4] that the White House "shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons." That same day, with headline "White House Says Syria Has Used Chemical Arms," the Times then reported [5]:

The White House, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the nation's intelligence agencies assessed ''with varying degrees of confidence'' that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used the chemical agent sarin on a small scale.

Push Back Against the Media Drumbeat for War with Syria

It's breathtaking, isn't it?

After twelve years of war in which justifications for war proved to be lies and claims of easy victory proved false, while the Afghanistan war drags on and Washington cuts Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and cancer clinics, and threatens to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits, elite media are once again manufacturing a drumbeat for war, this time with Syria, even though recent polls have shown that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war. [1] [2]

Members of Congress who are dubious about another U.S. war in the Middle East will have a good opportunity soon to push back against this media drumbeat when Congress considers the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Amendments can be offered that can counter the pro-war media chorus.

Help us take advantage of this opportunity to push against the media drumbeat for war by urging your representatives to support amendments to the NDAA that will slow down calls for military escalation.

There are a lot of things that Congress could do to slow down the rush to war, including passing amendments to the NDAA to:

  1. Bar the introduction of U.S. ground troops to Syria. Such an amendment might pass the House overwhelmingly, as it did in the case of Libya, sending a signal that there is a limit to U.S. military escalation. [3]
  2. Re-affirm that U.S. drone strikes in Syria would constitute "hostilities" as defined by the War Powers Resolution, meaning that any use in Syria would have to be explicitly authorized by Congress. Most of the media discussion ignores the role of Congress, but when the Administration conducted drone strikes in Libya without Congressional authorization, in violation of the War Powers Resolution, the House of Representatives objected. [4]

No to U.S. Military Intervention in Syria

Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are demanding that the Obama Administration get the U.S. involved militarily in Syria's sectarian civil war. [1] But after the experience of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, President Obama and U.S. military leaders are right to be wary of these calls. And if we don't have enough money for Social Security, veterans' benefits, Head Start, and cancer clinics, we certainly don't have enough money for another war.

Urge Congress and the President to resist calls for another rush to war in the Middle East, and to support a political solution instead.

There's something particularly troubling about all this Sunday talk show blather about U.S. military action in Syria: it seems to assume that the President can order military action in Syria without anyone else's approval. But Syria hasn't attacked us, and as far as we know, has no plans to attack us.

Given the absence of a Syrian attack on or imminent threat to the United States:

  1. If the President ordered military action against Syria without Congressional authorization, that would violate the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.
  2. If the President ordered military action in Syria without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, that would violate the United Nations Charter—just like the Iraq war did.
  3. If Congressional authorization and UN Security Council approval can be treated as trivial inconveniences for war in Syria, they can be treated as trivial inconveniences for war with Iran, or for drone strikes anywhere.

Urge Congress and the President to resist calls for a rush to war in Syria, and to ensure that U.S. actions comply fully with U.S. and international law.

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,