On March 8, Representative Matt Gaetz introduced a resolution that would have forced congressional oversight to be applied to the continuation of America’s military occupation of Syria.
In total, 47 Republicans joined with 56 Democrats – primary members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) – in favor of the legislation. It also had support from Robert Ford, who was the Obama administration’s ambassador to Syria and formerly a major hawk in favor of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Syria is my leadoff hitter. We’re going to take a trip around the globe. We may go to Yemen. We may have stops in Niger. We may have stops in Sudan. Maybe ultimately, we’ll end in Ukraine,” Gaetz told The Intercept about the bill, implying it would not be the last of its kind in ending American interventionism around the globe.
Despite this unexpected bipartisan support, it was still shot down by the overwhelming majority of status quo hawks in Congress, representing a major lost opportunity for Washington to fall in line with international law – and its own domestic law. As Ford noted in his letter to Congress, “there is no definition of what the ‘enduring’ defeat of ISIS would look like,” and that Washington owes “our soldiers serving there in harm’s way a serious debate about whether their mission is, in fact, achievable.”
Moreover, as he noted, the last pieces of territory claimed by ISIS had already been captured by US-backed Kurdish forces in March 2019, and a Pentagon assessment found that the terrorist group lacked the capacity to launch attacks on the US. The issue is now about Iranian-backed militias that are attacking American troops in Syria, with many members of Congress seeing their continued presence as a strategic mediator in avoiding a land bridge between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia in Lebanon.
But the issue with this strategic thinking is that such a land bridge already exists. US troops only make the drive between these territories longer – but they don’t snuff it out completely. More importantly, it is illegal by both international and US standards. The military authorization placing US troops in Syria is fundamentally against international law because they never received permission from the existing, UN-recognized government of Syria. At the same time, that same legislation never described Iran, Iranian-backed militias or anything related to this, making the current military occupation a fundamental overreach of legally granted war powers. There is also the issue of Kurdish-controlled regions being immediately invaded by neighboring Turkey should US troops leave, but this too is not mentioned in the existing military authorization.
What’s more, the continued US presence is only exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Syria. As The Cradle has extensively reported in collaboration with other Arab media sources, the US is stealing Syria’s oil, i.e., its most important stream of revenue on the international market while also placing crippling sanctions on Damascus that are making medicine, foodstuffs and staple products unaffordable – perhaps a bigger blow to the Syrian people than the ongoing, decades-spanning war in that country. This is even after the recent humanitarian disaster spawned by a powerful earthquake along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Previous resolutions aimed at pulling US troops out of Syria were, for all intents and purposes, political theater. For example, they have given a week’s time frame for troops to exit – which is obviously highly unrealistic, if even correct and lawful. And given the failed US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it makes sense politically that the US would want to avoid another embarrassment of such magnitude. But Gaetz’s legislation would have granted them up to 180 days, which was realistic and would have helped the affected regions smoothly transition over to the lawful control of the central government in Damascus.
Thus, this latest resolution was a serious missed opportunity to end the American dirty war on Syria. To finally take US troops out of harm’s way and end the perennial violations of relevant international and domestic laws. Both the American and Syrian public deserved better; they deserved a total and ultimate end to the ongoing and illegal occupation of Syria’s sovereign territory by Washington, which is draining both nations’ coffers for no reason (or at least not one relevant to the everyday lives of people on the streets).
Now, it is impossible to know for how long Washington’s imperial project will last in Syria. But it is safe to say that it will continue as long as the status quo war hawks maintain cozy seats in Congress. However, the fact that up-and-coming Republican stars such as Gaetz and young Democrats such as those in the CPC joined forces with Ambassador Ford to call for an end to this mess is a sure sign that things are changing. One day it is to be hoped that when the dinosaurs in Congress are finally brought to extinction that Gaetz and his like-minded bedfellows in Congress will have their “trip around the globe” to end America’s laundry list of illegal military occupations and rein in the military powers of the president.