The United States is at war in the Middle East!
I realize that this is not breaking news to those of you who follow this space regularly; and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence. I ask that you bear with me while I take a moment to bring certain factions of our society up to speed.
For those newcomers who may have stumbled into this space while taking a break from posting pictures of themselves and their pets on Facebook…and the members of the United States Congress...this just in.
America is at war!
Nine months ago President Obama began authorizing air strikes against a terrorist group known as ISIS…the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. You may have seen some of their handiwork posted on Facebook. Those videos of the guys in orange jumpsuits being beheaded by a big dude wielding an oversized steak knife…that’s ISIS.
As I said the president has been bombing ISIS strongholds for the last nine months. 3,700 airstrikes to be exact; at a staggering cost of over $2 billion borrowed US dollars. Serious stuff!
When the president began these attacks many members of congress rose up in arms screaming that he didn’t have the authority to engage in military action without first receiving authorization from congress. “According to the Constitution only congress has the authority to declare war” they said.
The president argued that he didn’t need authorization because congress had already granted him the authority under Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) legislation passed in 2001.
But after listening to months of bitching on the Hill, the president acquiesced and sent congress a request for a new AUMF against ISIS. The president put on a happy face and said that he was pleased to have congress officially weigh in though he didn’t feel the vote was necessary. Sometimes you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do to keep piece in the family.
So after months of bitching and complaining you would expect that congress would flex its military gravitas, meet its constitutional obligations and pass a new AUMF. Instead they did nothing.
On Friday the Republican controlled House passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act which provides funding for the military. Included in the bill are $89.2 billion borrowed dollars for war funding. The bill also includes over 100 amendments dealing with matters ranging from border security , Merchant Marine retirement benefits, drones and the purchasing requirements for anchors and mooring chains. Noticeably absent from the bill…Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS.
When questioned as to why the AUMF was not included in the war funding bill the response from the Republicans was that “the defense bill was not the place to debate the war.”
The truth here is that congress wants no part of taking a “war” vote. They will sabre rattle, call the president’s foreign policy feckless and criticize him for “Leading from behind.” But when it comes to actually going on the record to send Americans into harm’s way…the silence is deafening. Political careers have been cut short just for being on the wrong side of a war vote.
So what we have here is the Republican led congress agreeing to fund to fund a war that they have not agreed to authorize.
Only in congress…
When Republicans won control of congress they promised the American people that they would set aside the obstructionist tactics that had ground our government to a halt. They promised to get back to doing the people’s business. They promised to govern. As far as authorizing the ongoing war against ISIS…not so much.
But they did pass another anti-abortion bill.