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Byrne Supports Syrian Air Strikes But Questions Authority of the Action

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose issued a statement supportive of the expansion of American airstrikes into Syria. Rep. Byrne while supportive of the policy however stated his belief that President Barack H. Obama (D) has exceeded his authority by attacking targets in Syria without getting legal authorization from the U.S. Congress.

Congressman Byrne said, “I believe airstrikes in Syria are necessary to defeating ISIL, and I am glad to see a number of Arab allies join the US in launching airstrikes. That said, I firmly do not believe there is legal authorization for military action in Syria at this time. I support lawmakers returning to Washington to pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).”

During the debate regarding the passage of the amendment authorizing emergency funding for the Syrian action and to arm the Syrian rebels, which oppose both ISIL and the Assad Government, Rep. Byrne said, “Now I believe arming and training the Syrian rebels to be a necessary step, but I do not believe it alone will be sufficient. Just this morning Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey expressed that more action will likely be needed. Our enemy should not just be ‘degraded’ or ‘contained.’ Our enemy must be defeated. In order to accomplish that objective, more action will be needed including overt help from Sunni Muslims in the region and air attacks from the United States.”

Rep. Byrne continued, “I firmly believe that a new Authorization for Use of Military Force is needed to specifically address ISIL and new action in Syria. The current AUMFs from 2001 and 2002 are simply not applicable to this conflict, and I hope the President will recognize the Article I Section 8 powers of this Congress, which are exclusive, and ask us for a new AUMF. That is why this resolution explicitly states that it does not give President Obama authority to send new U.S. forces into combat in Syria.”

Of course U.S. aircraft, both manned and unmanned ARE flying combat missions in Syria and some speculate that U.S. Special Operations forces are likely on the ground identifying targets for the strikes.

We all learned over and over again in our K-12 schooling that under the Constitution while the President is the Commander and Chief of the United States armed forces only Congress can actually declare war. But well over 100,000 American soldiers have died in ‘wars’ that were not actually formally declared wars. In the 1970s after the Vietnam War which was authorized in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Congress passed the War Powers Act to restrain Presidential military adventures. Modern Presidents instead of a formal declaration of war now receive an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). AUMF are not mentioned in the Constitution, but most modern Constitutional scholars accept that as sufficient for meeting the President’s obligations to the Constitution.

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President George W. Bush (R) asked for and received AUMFs before beginning the global war on terror that included the War in Afghanistan and then his invasion of Iraq to toppled the cruel Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. President Obama inherited the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror from the Bush administration, which has included fighting militant Islamists in Somalia, Yemen, the Phillipines and beyond. There has been no AUMF explicitly allowing President Obama to attack targets in Syria, a country the President Bush had not been involved in militarily. Congress has however passed a resolution giving emergency funding for the current action among $billions for other things. The Obama administration believes that continuing resolution is sufficient authorization.

In the 1940s, the United States signed the United Nations charter which required that nations get approval from the U.N. Security Council before using military force against another nation. President George W. Bush got a U.N. Security Council resolution to fight terrorists after the 9-11 attacks. He and then Secretary of State Colin Powell (R) asked for Security Council support before the Iraq invasion. They failed to get that and invaded anyway. President Obama never bothered with the pretense of discussing the matter with the U.N. Security Council. While most countries oppose the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL also known as ISIS) many including Russia are supportive of the Assad regime. President Obama opposes both ISIL and Assad. Of course with Russia seizing the Crimea and then sending troops to support proxy pro-Russian forces fighting a Civil War in Eastern Ukraine there are questions as to what relevance the UN Security Council really has left in the world since both major permanent members of the Security Council are acting in defiance of the U.N. Charter.

Some military sources question if the Free Syria Army which was largely destroyed by the Assad government and militant Islamist groups including ISIL can be reorganized to capitalize on the ground from the U.S. Air Strikes on ISIL targets.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R) represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.  Rep. Byrne is seeking his first full term in the Congress after his election in a Special Election in December. Democrat Burton Leflore is running against Byrne in the November 4 general election. Byrne defeated Leflore 10 months ago with 71 percent of the vote.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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