TWO SIDES TO THE ARGUMENT OF ARMING SYRIAN REBELS

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Last week, the House passed a motion to arm the Syrian rebels, though the previous arming helped ISIS and hurt the region. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL) voted for the motion and cited his recent trip to the Middle East as the reason. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) voted against the motion , citing the War Powers Act.

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Congressman Byrne

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Here is the statement sent out by Congressman Byrne via email.

On Wednesday of last week, I voted in support of an amendment to the Continuing Appropriations Act which would authorize the Secretary of Defense to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals in an effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

I took to the House floor to explain my vote in a speech. Having recently visited the Middle East, I believe there is adequate support for using ground forces from countries in the region, but they will need better training and weapons. I believe arming and training the Syrian rebels is an important first step, and our short-term authorization included numerous safeguards to ensure that the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.

Now I believe arming and training the Syrian rebels to be a necessary step, but I do not believe it alone will be sufficient. I shared those concerns with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday. You can watch my exchange with Secretary Hagel here.

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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 the authorization explicitly states that it does not give President Obama authority to send new U.S. forces into combat in Syria.

I know getting a new AUMF through Congress won’t be politically convenient or expeditious, but it is certainly the right thing to do. The democratically-elected Congress should have the opportunity to vote on a large scale US involvement against ISIL, and I would likely support a new AUMF as long as it was written appropriately and contained important oversight mechanisms.

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, air attacks from the United States in Syria, and a clear strategy put forward by the Commander in Chief.

Congressman Gosar

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Here is the statement that Congressman Gosar sent out via email.

Ultimately, I voted against authorizing President Obama to grant military aid to Syrian rebels. One year ago, the American people adamantly opposed any military action during the Syrian civil war because it was unclear who our allies were. I see no change today and cannot support arming rebels that could potentially be our enemy tomorrow. The Syrian rebels are known to be violent death squads that have no loyalty to the United States or our values. We have no allies in Syria. We should not be spending precious taxpayer money and jeopardizing the lives of our soldiers to help one terrorist group fight another terrorist group. Further, Congress has not declared war, as is required under the Constitution. We cannot fund a war that we have not officially declared.

Several generals and foreign policy experts have stated that it will take American boots on the ground to finish the job and dismantle ISIS. The President continues to make clear this is not an option, even contradicting military advisors within his own administration. I have serious concerns about the President’s plan or lack thereof. As such, I could not support this panicked reaction to “do something” that is not thought out and lacks a winnable strategy.

Both men sound somewhat similar. It would seem that one voting for and one against, but being in agreement is how Congress has started failing the American people. There is a need to quit throwing money at problems and expecting them to become fixed.

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