Democratic lawmakers and anti-war activists have slammed the Biden administration for carrying out illegal airstrikes in Syria while abandoning progressive policy priorities.
The United States carried out an airstrike in Syria on Thursday, claiming it was targeting militias allegedly backed by Iran in what is the first known military action by President Joe Biden since he was sworn into office.
“We didn’t flip Georgia Blue for Biden to air strike Syria. We flipped Georgia Blue for our $2,000 Stimulus Checks,” said Ja’Mal Green, a civil rights advocate and former surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.
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Anti-war organization CODEPINK similarly criticized the Biden administration for failing to de-escalate U.S. foreign policy while rejecting policies such as student debt relief.
Let's recap the Biden Administration's first month in office:
$2,000 checks Cancel Student Debt Universal Healthcare
— CODEPINK (@codepink) February 26, 2021
The Pentagon has stated that “multiple facilities” were destroyed in the attack, which was ostensibly ordered in response to a rocket attack against U.S. and other coalition personnel in Iraq earlier this month, which killed a civilian contractor.
While the militia attacked by the U.S. said that just one individual had died, a separate war monitor suggested there were at least 22 fatalities, the BBC reported.
Syria has condemned the attack, calling it a “bad sign” for the new administration. The Pentagon justified the airstrike as a “proportionate military response” that was taken in consultation with allies in the region.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) criticized the Biden administration for authorizing a unilateral strike that keeps the U.S. entangled in conflicts overseas.
“There is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) said in a statement. “We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
Mainstream analysts said that the new administration launched the airstrike to demonstrate its willingness to use military force in its rivalry with Iran.
“It is sending a message: The bottom line is that we won’t tolerate this and will use military force when we feel you’ve crossed the line,” Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said to The New York Times regarding Biden’s possible motivations for the airstrike.
Stephen Kinzer, former foreign affairs correspondent for The New York Times, noted that Biden is now the third successive president to have bombed Syria.
“Syria is a sovereign country with which we are not at war,” Kinzer added. “Therefore we have no legal or moral right to bomb its territory. Yet the bipartisan attitude in DC seems to be ‘We’re the USA, we bomb wherever we want.'”
Biden ordered an air strike in Syria — allegedly they were Iran-tied buildings.
Another administration. Another bombing in the Mideast.
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) February 26, 2021
Iraq War veteran and former lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice Chris Deluzio lambasted the Biden administration for failing to get congressional authorization, and noting that the justification for the attack would likely lean on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that dates back to nearly 20 years ago.
“Reminder: the Congress never authorized military action in Syria,” Deluzio said. “Relying for nearly two decades on the 2001 AUMF passed after 9/11 is part of how we find ourselves mired in Forever War, with no end in sight.”
Adil Ahmad Haque, a Rutgers law school professor who writes on the ethics of armed conflict and international criminal law, said the airstrikes were “almost certainly” in violation of international law.
“The airstrikes did not repel an ongoing armed attack, halt an imminent one, or immediately respond to an armed attack that was in fact over but may have appeared ongoing at the time,” Haque wrote in a blog post for Just Security. “And the airstrikes were carried out on the territory of another State, without its consent, against a non-State actor,” which Haque argued is unlawful when there isn’t an ongoing attack.