UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – Under the US Constitution, if there were no attacks or threats against the country from another state, the head of the executive branch can not initiate military operations without the approval of the congress, Senator Chris Murphy said in an interview with MSNBC. This makes Donald Trump’s strikes against Syria illegal. According to Murphy, such actions only worsen the situation of ordinary Syrians.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford yesterday informed the House of Representatives and the Senate about the strategy and air strikes on Syria. At the same time, defense officials and the administration told The New York Times that Matthias called on Trump to obtain approval from the congress before air strikes, arguing that it was important to have public support for military operations. However, the president dismissed this proposal. As The Times reports, he wanted, I quote, “a quick and radical response .”
With us in touch from Washington, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee is a Senator-Democrat representing Connecticut, Chris Murphy. Good morning, happy to see you here on the program. You called these attacks on Syria illegal. And there is a feeling that the Minister of Defense agrees, at least with the general idea, that before the attack was carried out, it was necessary to consult with the Congress.
KRIS MERFI, US senator: Yes. This issue is quite clearly regulated by the Constitution. In the absence of any attack directed against the US, or an immediate threat of such an attack, the head of the executive branch has no right to declare war or initiate military operations without the approval of the congress. At the hearing on the approval of the Pompeo Director, I asked him if Syria had attacked us or we are under the threat of an attack from her side. And, of course, he admitted that none of these statements is true.
The main danger here is that if the president can get away with such large-scale strikes against Syria without the approval of the congress, then, in fact, there is no limit to what he can still do. Well, for example, what could prevent him from carrying out an even larger attack on North Korea as a preemptive measure against their nuclear program? It is impossible to consider such things separately from each other.
So he can say that this is a directed surgical attack, but in the conflict zone, where so many people are active, as in Syria, the blows could, as Matis admitted, provoke a very serious reaction from the Russians, the Iranians or the Syrians themselves. And this would drag us into a bigger war. And the very idea that such a match can simply be taken and ignited without any public discussions, without the approval of the congress, creates, in my opinion, a very dangerous precedent.
As you know, this problem concerns not only the actions of this president. In the past, there have already been complaints about President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton. If President Trump came to you in the Senate and asked to vote on the attacks on Syria, how would you vote?
KRIS MERRFI: I would have voted against it. In general, I have already participated in a vote on such a blow under the Obama administration. As you know, he just came to the congress and asked for approval. The whole Senate did not participate in it – the Foreign Affairs Committee voted, and I was one of the few who said no. So with both administrations personally, I consistently hold the opinion that for the lack of a serious strategy to withdraw from the Assad game, these “surgical strikes” only complicate the situation of the Syrian people.
After last year’s attack, which involved about 60 Tomahawk missiles, Assad accelerated the pace of the offensive against his people and the fighting within the country only became tougher. I understand that we think that we are doing the right thing in carrying out these blows, but, in fact, they do not in any way diminish the suffering of the Syrian people.
And what then should be the right reaction? I think you will agree that you can not stay away and watch the use of chemical weapons against civilians. How should this be answered?
CHRIS MURFRY: Again, I do not think that in the end, a military attack is the right reaction. I believe that it is necessary to organize a trial in which Assad would have been found guilty of war crimes. It is necessary to take an active part in diplomatic procedures and try to take out of Syria all those who want to leave there. And now we are just bombing Syria, and for Assad this has no special consequences in the long run. Accepting only 11 Syrian refugees this year, we block people in this country.