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Letter: Obama may be stopped in Syria before he repeats past mistakes
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Secretary of State John Kerry just issued a statement on the conflict in Syria indicating the United States would not allow the rebel controlled city of Aleppo to fall to the Syrian government. That’s like Russia saying it would not allow the U.S. government to maintain control of the city of Dallas, Texas. This policy is arrogant and illegitimate.

Kerry also conveyed President Barack Obama’s demand that Syria “must transition President Assad out of power by Aug. 1, or else.” That ultimatum sounds like the one President George W. Bush delivered to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It was regrettable. Hindsight shows Saddam was not guilty of any of the charges Bush made against him related to harboring weapons of mass destruction or being involved in the 9-11 attacks. Bush’s charges were a legal basis for the U.S. invasion of Iraq that deposed and killed Saddam, his sons and 4,500 U.S. servicemen, wounded another 32,000, and killed half a million Iraqis. It was a tremendous cost in blood and treasure.

And for what? After Saddam fell, Iraq slid into lawless chaos and the U.S. accomplished nothing. It was the biggest and most consequential foreign policy mistake since escalation of the Vietnam War killed 58,000 U.S. soldiers and 2 million Vietnamese.

The Iraq war was sold to the American public with numerous lies including the slogans that we were “liberating” Iraq, the war would “pay for itself,” and fear tactics including repeated, coordinated allegations that Saddam was harboring WMD and could mount a potential nuclear attack on the U.S. None of it was true. As each justification was proven false, the Bush administration shifted to secondary rationales to maintain public support. Many observers called this tactic “moving the goalposts.”

Now Obama wants to duplicate that horrendous blunder in Syria. Has the world gone mad? The War Powers Resolution specifically precludes executive authority for Obama’s Syria policy. We never voted for regime change, yet Obama pursues this illegal agenda because we lacked the fortitude to hold his predecessor responsible for an equally illegitimate war of choice in Iraq. Our system of government checks and balances is broken, and it’s our fault.

Consider: When the Islamic State commandeered arms, munitions and equipment the U.S. left behind in Iraq after it withdrew, Obama could have easily targeted those weapons depots for destruction to prevent IS from gaining them. He didn’t, which gives away his secret about Western support for IS as a proxy army. Obama subsequently seized Libyan weapons and sent them to insurgents in Syria. This mirrors President Ronald Reagan’s conduct in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Obama was named this week in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Army intelligence officer Capt. Nathan Smith asking the court to declare Obama’s executive activity supporting overthrow of President Bashir Assad and other intervention in Syria, and further action in Iraq or Libya illegal unless Obama obtains congressional authorization within 30 days. Our long national nightmare of the imperial presidency may finally be over.

Bruce Vandiver

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