01.13.15

Barbara Lee on US war in Syria and Iraq

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: Earlier this week, the U.S. Air Force website reported a record number of bombs assembled and dropped on ISIS during the past three months. Ammo troops, it said, meaning troops that build bombs in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, are looking to break new records. Their senior commander said, “In the last three months we have already built over nine times the amount of munitions that the last rotation did in their entire six [months].”

KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Oakland Congressperson Barbara Lee about when or whether this war will be approved by Congress in accordance with the War Powers Act of 1973.

KPFA: Barbara Lee, Congress postponed voting on approval of the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq until after the November elections and Christmas holidays. Do you expect the new Congress to take it up?

Barbara Lee: I certainly am working for and hope that the new Congress takes it up, because we’re in the middle of a war and whether one agrees or not is not the issue. What we have to do is make sure that the people’s house, the voice of the American people, are part of this debate and the inputs based on our Constitutional requirements are there.

And the people of our country deserve democracy to work. It’s not working. It’s really, I think, a shame and disgrace that members of Congress are ducking their responsibility.
Master Sgt. Adam, middle, preps the KMU-572 fins for assembly onto the MK-82 munitions Dec. 21, 2014, in Southwest Asia. Adam is the NCO in charge of conventional maintenance and is deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. – Photo: Senior Master Sgt. Carrie Hinson, U.S. Air Force

Master Sgt. Adam, middle, preps the KMU-572 fins for assembly onto the MK-82 munitions Dec. 21, 2014, in Southwest Asia. Adam is the NCO in charge of conventional maintenance and is deployed from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. – Photo: Senior Master Sgt. Carrie Hinson, U.S. Air Force

KPFA: Do you think Congress could actually stop a war that’s been underway now since August 2014, with more bombs being dropped every day?

Barbara Lee: It’s not a question of stopping the war. Some agree that it should happen; some disagree. I think the issue is our Constitutional responsibility to authorize or not authorize it. That’s why myself and others in – I believe it was August – we wrote to the Speaker to say, “We see this coming. We know what the administration’s going to do. They’re going to continue to act unilaterally in waging a war that is not authorized, and so that’s what we have to focus on – exercising our Constitutional responsibility to authorize or not what now is taking place, which is a war.

KPFA: There seems to be some disagreement about whether or not President Obama can claim that this war was authorized by a 2001 and/or 2002 Congressional resolution.

Barbara Lee: Well, there is disagreement. You know I voted against the 2001 authorization because I believed that it was a blank check to use force forever, unless we put an end date, unless we said that this was a very narrowly tabled resolution, and it wasn’t.
Even if Congress authorizes the U.S. war on Isis, the war will continue to be a violation of the United Nations Charter, which requires that the U.N. Security Council declare a threat to peace then organize a response. As Professors Noam Chomsky, Howard Friel and Ed Herman wrote in this September 2014 letter to the NY Times, the U.S. has been acting unilaterally, in violation of international law, since December 2003.

Even if Congress authorizes the U.S. war on Isis, the war will continue to be a violation of the United Nations Charter, which requires that the U.N. Security Council declare a threat to peace then organize a response. As Professors Noam Chomsky, Howard Friel and Ed Herman wrote in this September 2014 letter to the NY Times, the U.S. has been acting unilaterally, in violation of international law, since December 2003.

This was a blank check that set the stage for perpetual war and, in fact, the Congressional Research Service, in a declassified form which I asked for, has cited over 30 times that that authorization has been used. So legal experts – some say it is OK; that’s the legal authorization.

And in many ways, I understand that because it was so broad it authorized force anywhere in the world, against any nation, organization or individuals. But that, again, had to do with the horrific attacks of 9/11. ISIS and what has later developed had nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

KPFA: How do you think the Charlie Hebdo massacre will affect the Congressional feeling about this?

Barbara Lee: Well, certainly these were some horrific attacks and, once again, we have to recognize the world is a very dangerous place, and we have to respond in a way that does not cause more danger, more terrorism, more hatred, and really try to get to the fundamental causes of what the unfortunate circumstances are that give rise to this type of terrible, terrible attack.

And that’s why Congress needs to fully debate and let the American people know what this country is prepared to do, what the people of this country want us to do, what it’s going to cost, and how we’re going to really address global peace and security in a broad sense.

KPFA: OK, Barbara Lee, thank you for speaking to KPFA.

Barbara Lee: Sure.

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