Just three weeks ago, Congress voted overwhelmingly (86-8 in the Senate; 377-48 in the House) to continue shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government for security. Over the weekend, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel our forces, even as we are protecting them both from Iran and from ISIS.
We’ve needed a robust debate over our mission in Iraq for years. Yet Congress kept signing off on endless funding to maintain the chaotic, ambiguous, and conflicting status quo. Suddenly, when Trump takes useful and decisive action in killing Qassem Soleimani, members of Congress begin demanding answers about our mission. Well, almost every one of them just signed off on this mess. If they actually put their money where their collective mouths are, they would vote to repeal the National Defense Authorization Act they just passed, along with all the garbage in the bill.
Nobody read the 3,488-page NDAA conference report adopted right before Christmas as Congress was passing a 2,000-page omnibus bill they didn’t read either. That includes many of the same members, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, claiming outrage over the president’s authority to conducts operations in Iraq. While everyone is debating the application of the 2001 and 2003 authorizations of use of force, nobody seems to remember that in every subsequent year, Congress passed a defense authorization bill codifying all of the current missions all over the globe without any examination of what we are doing. Somehow the endless nation-building operations getting our soldiers killed weren’t worth such examination, as they all rubber-stamped this bill, chock-full of harmful provisions, but when it comes to virtue-signaling on behalf of Iran, they feign outrage over a lack of congressional involvement in the use of force.
Page 1,069 of the conference report categorically authorizes the DOD to “provide support for the stabilization activities of other Federal agencies … in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.” Nobody ever questioned what it is we are accomplishing in any of these countries and on behalf of which governments we are shedding our blood and spending our treasury. But when a man like Soleimani sacks our embassy and plots more attacks against a multitude of federal agencies in the country, Trump has no authority to act?
Not only do we spend billions propping up pro-Iranian officials in Baghdad and dubious fighting forces elsewhere, but page 1,087 of the bill authorizes the DOD to reimburse these governments for “logistical and military support provided by that nation to or in connection with United States military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.” On page 1,100, the bill provides authority for “(1) Defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (2) Securing territory formerly controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (3) Protecting the United States and its partners and allies from the threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda, and associated forces in Syria.” However, the bill is ridiculously silent about who exactly we are defending. Well, now we know: We were defending Iranian-backed Shiites from the Sunnis, while both sides were killing our soldiers.