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On the television the infantile nature of American politics plays itself out with talk of fear, fatigue, ghosts, and a foreign leader who made mischief and must be punished.

Washington’s wisest worn by war that still isn’t over warn of yet another war still to come.  They beat the drum as if the US government actually had legislators who could agree to do a simple thing like pay the bills for the things they ordered.  They’d rather shut the government down than do that but they want in when there’s war to be had.

Would you go to war on orders from a government whose lawmakers threaten to shut it down?

Would you fight for a country that can’t find a nickel for your mom and dad to visit a doctor?

Would you sacrifice yourself for people who have no other use for you or anyone else who graduated with you in the Class of ’13?

             
         
            








With the clownish spectacle of do-nothing House members who left DC for a five-week vacation after accomplishing little, now griping about being excluded from deliberations on US military action in Syria, these same members need to be reminded of something.

They voted 2 ½ months ago on the conflict in Syria and they had an opportunity at that time to state explicitly what they wanted. Here's what they said:

      
Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act- Section 1251
     
           
   
  1. President Obama should have a comprehensive policy and should ensure robust contingency planning to secure United States' interests in Syria.
  2. President Obama should fully consider all courses of action to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power.
  3. The conflict in Syria threatens the vital national security interests of Israel and the stability of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, the implications of which should be sufficiently weighed by the President when considering policy approaches towards the conflict in Syria.
  4. The sale or transfer of advanced anti-aircraft weapons systems to Syria poses a grave risk to Israel and the United States supports Israel's right to respond to this grave threat as needed.
  5. The President should fully consider all courses of action to reinforce his stated redline regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Assad regime in Syria, which could threaten the credibility of the United States with its allies in the region and embolden the Assad regime.
  6. The United States should continue to conduct rigorous planning and operational preparation to support any efforts to secure the chemical and biological stockpiles and associated weapons.
  7. The United States should have a policy that supports the stability of countries on Syria's border, including Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel.
  8. The United States should continue to support Syrian opposition forces with non-lethal aid.
  9. The President, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the intelligence community, in cooperation with European and regional allies, should ensure that the risks of all courses of action or inaction regarding Syria are fully explored and understood and that Congress is kept fully informed of such risks.
  10. The President should fully consider, and the Department of Defense should conduct prudent planning for the provision of lethal aid and relevant operational training to vetted Syrian opposition forces, including an analysis of the risks of the provision of such aid and training.
  11. Should the President decide to employ any military assets in Syria, the President should provide a supplemental budget request to Congress.
  12. And the President should use all diplomatic means to disrupt the flow of arms into Syria, including efforts to dissuade Russia from further arms sales with Syria, the influx of weapons and fighters from Hezbollah, and the infiltration of weapons and fighters from Iran.   
       
These items constitute the standard neo-con agenda. It sounds like a very familiar recipe and it's not one that works. Regime change. Unspecified national security interests 6,000 miles away. The decision to use military force left up to the President. And contingency "off-the-budget" budget requests to put the cost on the taxpayers' bill without Congress having to appropriate a single dollar.

With these expectations, what's the reason for so much fuss about counting Congress in on the plan? When you hear members of Congress, especially Republicans, expressing concern and calling for prudence because the President is moving too quickly, what they really mean is that he isn't moving quickly enough.

Using cleverness and deceit, House members can have it any way they want it. What they passed on Syria is just a non-binding "Sense of the House" measure, but it's wrapped up in a real piece of binding legislation, and they included an escape clause, too. "Section 1258. Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Syria."

There's a piece of work here that deserves a closer look.

              
         

The Chairman's Markup goes into detail and explains what the hawks expect.  The Chairman is Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), who heads the House Armed Services Committee. (The Chairman's family members, Steve, Dan, and Joe McKeon are lobbyists for defense industry companies, by the way, but that's another story.) A "markup" is the process by which congressional committees and subcommittees debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation. Here's how Rep. McKeon sorts out Syria:

The conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic continues to grow more lethal over time. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is utilizing conventional and un-conventional weapons, including chemical weapons, to defeat the opposition fighting against the regime. Events in Syria threaten the vital national security interests of the United States; however, the committee remains concerned that it does not have a comprehensive understanding of the resources required for certain courses of action that could shape the outcome of the conflict in Syria. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services by September 1, 2013, that includes an assessment of the resources required for the following courses of actions:
         
   
  1. Conducting limited air strikes against runways and other infrastructure that would prevent the regime of President Bashar al-Assad from deploying fixed wing aircraft or resupply via the air.
  2. Establishing a no-fly zone over western Syria, enforced from the sea, that would prevent fixed or rotary wing aircraft from deploying or resupply via the air in that area.
  3. Creating safe zones sufficient to allow the Syrian opposition to change the military balance on the ground.
  4. Arming the Free Syrian Army with heavy military equipment to change the military balance on the ground.
  5. And providing additional aid to Jordan and other regional allies to assist in securing all or some of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile should it be required.   
Additionally, the assessment should identify where U.S. capabilities likely would be required for each of these courses of action and the effects that such courses of action would have in supporting a range of U.S. policy objectives in Syria and the region.
   
An opportunity to vote on all of this Syria stuff, separate from the larger NDAA bill, came when Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Rep. John Garamendi (D- CA) co-sponsored H. Amdt. 162 to amend H.R. 1960 - FY 2014 NDAA - by striking the language in Section 1251 expressing the Sense of Congress on the conflict in Syria.

Despite Rep. Gibson's effort, the House defeated his amendment. In fact, it voted decisively to retain the hawkish language on Syria in the bill.

                                                            
Roll Call #232: Amendment #36 to H.R. 1960 - Fiscal Year 2014 NDAA Ayes Noes Not Voting
Republican
62
168
3
Democratic
61
133
7
Totals
123
301
10
   
   
         
   

                                                                                                                  

Rep.  Chris Gibson serves on the House Armed Services Committee under Chairman McKeon. It's ironic that numerous grandstanding House members now say the same things Gibson pointed out in June when he was ignored and his amendment failed. On the floor of the House, he tore into the foolish language McKeon carelessly wrote into the NDAA and he ripped it apart.

Rep. Gibson: This amendment is very simple. It strikes the language in section 1251, which pertains to Syria--a very serious subject that's been talked about here this evening. In my view, we should be debating this in regular order, and there should be a stand-alone resolution that deals with Syria.  You know, this language that we have in the underlying bill, the intent of it I understand, it was supposed to deal with the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, the control of them. That would be one thing. But I just want every Member to understand what's in the underlying language.

Subsection b, subsection 1: President Obama should fully consider all courses of action to remove President Assad from power.

That sounds a lot like unilateral action for regime change to me.

Subsection 5: The United States should continue to support Syrian opposition forces with nonlethal aid.

I don't remember authorizing any aid to begin with, much less continuing.

Subsection 8: Should the President decide to employ any military assets in Syria, the President should provide a supplemental budget request to Congress.

Well, yes on the supplemental budget request if it ever comes to it. But should the President decide to employ any military asset, that's for us to decide, not for the President. So, Mr. Chairman, I have concerns. I certainly understand the initial intent. It is my strongest recommendation that we strike this language, that we work together on language that is more suitable for an NDAA and then, if desired, to have broader discussion with a separate resolution if somebody wants to move forward with regard to action in Syria. I would say that I oppose military action in Syria, but I certainly think there should be voices. We should have Representatives speaking for their people . . . This is inappropriate for an NDAA. It is not in our interest to be affirming this language.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who co-sponsored the amendment with Rep. Gibson, also spoke on the House floor.

Rep. Garamendi: A lot of analogies come to mind: slippery slopes, camel's nose under the tent. Syria is an extremely serious matter, and the role of the United States in the serious issue of Syria needs to be fully vetted by the Congress and the Senate. We are debating; 435 of us are given 10 minutes, 10 minutes of time to this issue, plus perhaps another 5 minutes in the committee hearing, to this matter of what is the role of the United States in the serious Syrian issue.

Slippery slope, red lines, military aid, nonlethal aid. What does it all mean? Where is the House Foreign Affairs Committee on this matter? And by the way, how did this slip by the requirement of dual referencing? It did. We're here.

Ten minutes, 10 minutes on a matter that could very easily suck the United States into another war in the Middle East. We need time. We need to debate this. We need to understand all the ramifications of this. The language in this particular section is really serious language. It's far more than has been stated on the floor. Put it aside, step back, take our time, and understand what all the ramifications are.

                     
   
   
61 Democratic House members who voted to strike hawkish language on Syria from the FY 2014 NDAA
   

   
   
Representative District
Braley, Bruce L. IA-01
Capps, Lois CA-24
Capuano, Michael E. MA-07
Carson, André IN-07
Cicilline, David RI-01
Clarke, Yvette D. NY-09
Conyers Jr., John MI-13
Davis, Danny K. IL-07
DeFazio, Peter OR-04
DeLauro, Rosa L. CT-03
Dingell, John MI-12
Doggett, Lloyd TX-35
Enyart, William IL-12
Eshoo, Anna G. CA-18
Garamendi, John CA-03
Grijalva, Raul AZ-03
Gutierrez, Luis IL-04
Hahn, Janice CA-44
Hanabusa, Colleen HI-01
Heck, Denny WA-10
Higgins, Brian NY-26
Hinojosa, Rubén TX-15
Holt, Rush NJ-12
Honda, Mike CA-17
Huffman, Jared CA-02
Kaptur, Marcy OH-09
Keating, William MA-09
Kind, Ron WI-03
Larson, John B. CT-01
Lee, Barbara CA-13
Lipinski, Daniel IL-03
Loebsack, David IA-02
Lowenthal, Alan CA-47
Lynch, Stephen F. MA-08
Maffei, Daniel NY-24
Matsui, Doris O. CA-06
McGovern, James MA-02
Michaud, Michael ME-02
Miller, George CA-11
Moore, Gwen WI-04
Moran, James VA-08
Nolan, Rick MN-08
O'Rourke, Beto TX-16
Owens, Bill NY-21
Pallone Jr., Frank NJ-06
Payne Jr., Donald NJ-10
Pingree, Chellie ME-01
Pocan, Mark WI-02
Polis, Jared CO-02
Richmond, Cedric LA-02
Ruiz, Raul CA-36
Ruppersberger, Dutch MD-02
Sanchez, Linda CA-38
Schrader, Kurt OR-05
Speier, Jackie CA-14
Thompson, Mike CA-05
Tierney, John MA-06
Tonko, Paul D. NY-20
Tsongas, Niki MA-03
Walz, Timothy J. MN-01
Welch, Peter VT-00
62 Republican House members who voted to strike hawkish language on Syria from the FY 2014 NDAA

Representative District
Aderholt, Robert AL-04
Amash, Justin MI-03
Bilirakis, Gus M. FL-12
Brooks, Mo AL-05
Broun, Paul C. GA-10
Buchanan, Vern FL-16
Burgess, Michael TX-26
Chaffetz, Jason UT-03
Coffman, Mike CO-06
DeSantis, Ron FL-06
DesJarlais, Scott TN-04
Duncan, Jeff SC-03
Duncan Jr., John J. TN-02
Fitzpatrick, Michael G. PA-08
Fortenberry, Jeff NE-01
Foxx, Virginia NC-05
Gibson, Chris NY-19
Gosar, Paul A. AZ-04
Gowdy, Trey SC-04
Graves, Tom GA-14
Harris, Andy MD-01
Heck, Joe NV-03
Herrera-Beutler, Jaime WA-03
Huelskamp, Tim KS-01
Huizenga, Bill MI-02
Jones, Walter B. NC-03
Jordan, Jim OH-04
Labrador, Raul R. ID-01
Lummis, Cynthia M. WY-00
Massie, Thomas KY-04
McClintock, Tom CA-04
McHenry, Patrick T. NC-10
Meadows, Mark NC-11
Miller, Candice MI-10
Mulvaney, Mick SC-05
Paulsen, Erik MN-03
Pearce, Steve NM-02
Perry, Scott PA-04
Petri, Thomas WI-06
Pitts, Joseph R. PA-16
Posey, Bill FL-08
Radel, Trey FL-19
Reed, Tom NY-23
Ribble, Reid WI-08
Rigell, Scott VA-02
Roe, Phil TN-01
Rohrabacher, Dana CA-48
Rooney, Tom FL-17
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana FL-27
Rothfus, Keith PA-12
Sanford, Mark SC-01
Schweikert, David AZ-06
Sensenbrenner, F. James WI-05
Shimkus, John IL-15
Smith, Chris NJ-04
Stivers, Steve OH-15
Stutzman, Marlin IN-03
Thompson, Glenn W. PA-05
Tiberi, Pat OH-12
Webster, Daniel FL-10
Whitfield, Ed KY-01
Yoho, Ted FL-03

Rep. Jackie Walorkski who represents IN-02, in the northern part of Indiana along the border with Michigan, spoke in favor of retaining the bill's language on Syria.

Rep. Jackie Walorkski: While I greatly respect the author of this amendment, I must rise in opposition. This amendment does, in fact, strike section 1251 of the underlying bill that expresses a sense of Congress in regard to Syria. Section 1251 says the President should have a plan in place to secure U.S. interests in Syria; that the U.S. should support the stability of our allies like Israel--our strongest ally in the region;
and that the U.S. should continue to conduct rigorous planning to secure any chemical and biological stockpiles. It does not say that the U.S. should intervene in Syria. And it requires the President to provide a supplemental budget should military action be necessary.

Although much delayed, the confirmation from the Obama administration just a few hours ago that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against rebel forces demonstrates why section 1251 is needed. It's time to get serious about addressing Syria and develop a plan to protect American interests in the region.

According to the President, Assad has crossed a red line. By turning a blind eye to this civil war that has already claimed more than 90,000 lives, we lose credibility within the region and embolden bad actors like Iran and Hezbollah. I would ask my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) who represents the 5th district around Colorado Springs also spoke against the amendment.

Rep. Doug Lamborn: I believe this amendment is misguided and we should defeat it. This does not call for a declaration of war or any kinds of the, I think exaggerated responses I've heard in favor of this amendment. This says that the President should have a course of action. The President earlier stated that there are red lines concerning weapons of mass destruction. I believe, if the news today is correct, then belatedly maybe there is a step toward recognizing that and taking some action for red lines just in the last few hours.

But we've been working on this amendment, we debated it in committee, because up until now, and even going forward--I'm not sure how much--there hasn't been very much planning. There hasn't been a stated plan or a course of action by the administration. We need to have that in place.

We can and should and will debate this further. But the administration, I believe, has been lacking in leadership--too much leading from behind, as we've seen in other places. There needs to be leadership. This is a volatile area of the world--there's no question about that. That doesn't mean, though, that we can be disengaged. We can't just throw our hands up and withdraw and put our heads in the sand.

We have allies in the region, especially Israel. Israel needs to be supported and defended. We are the most powerful country in the world. We need to take a role of at least planning for what's happening.

That's what this sense of Congress language does. Section 1251, the amendment offered by my friend and colleague from New York, would strike the language.

I would urge a 'no' vote on this amendment. Let's have some planning for once by this administration on this important issue.

 


On the list of Democrats who voted against Section 1251, there are most of the reliable progressives, with a few notable exceptions.

Among the Republicans who voted against it, there are the inscrutables like Rep. Justin Amash, a small government true believer, who probably doesn't think the federal government should have a standing army --- it didn't in 1790 --- and who doesn't mind being mistaken for an anti-war activist.  There are also the usual acute Obama Derangement Syndrome sufferers who voted the progressive way for the wrong reasons.  They have a fundamental problem with Obama as Commander-in-Chief, otherwise they might be inclined to support the idea of regime change in Syria.

Where does all this leave President Obama?  There is little the current Syrian regime could do on its own to insure its survival without Russia, and my guess is that his mind is on Russia, not Syria.  You don't have to go far to find some hints about that.  The same FY 2014 NDAA passed in the House includes other provisions to address ominous concerns about advanced ballistic missile technology that Russia is allegedly sharing with Syria and Iran.  And then there's the matter of Rosboronexport . . .

C-Span video of Rep. Chris Gibson speaking in the House on June 13, 2013 can be viewed at this link.  His statement starts at 07:54:35.

9:59 AM PT: Thank you for adding this to the Recommended list.  As a citizen journalist, it really does mean a lot to me.


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