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      Tuesday
      Sep232014

      Congress Wavers on War

      Congress gave President Barack Obama a half-hearted half-measure of support for arming the Syrian rebels last week, just before Obama took the next step up the ladder of escalation by bombing Syria without United Nations authorization. The congressional war authorization was designed to put off further debate until after the mid-term elections, when Congress will return to the issues. There were 108 House "no" votes on the authorization and 22 in the Senate, including possible future presidential contenders Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand. 

      As the war unfolds, therefore, the peace forces already have put their brakes on the pace of escalation, and halfway to the number of "no" votes needed to block the executive branch. 

      This report from Peace Action illustrates the ambiguity in Congressional thinking as members assess the level of anti-war sentiment in their districts: 

       "U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) held a breakfast meeting attended by approximately 50 Annapolis-area activists in liberal cause groups.  I participated.  Sarbanes’ intended agenda was to pitch a campaign finance reform proposal, which he is sponsoring.  But he was peppered with questions, comments and concerns about the U.S. march to war in the Middle East.  Sarbanes said that he voted for the aid to Syrian rebels reluctantly, because he doubts it can be done effectively, that we can even identify 'moderates', and that we can prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of extremists.  He explained his vote as an expression of support for the president’s attempts to 'throw ISIS back on its heels'.  His response pleased no one in the room.  Sarbanes then noted that the authorization would expire in December and that Congress would conduct a 'robust debate' after the midterm elections on the president’s use of executive action to pursue ISIS.  Sarbanes also said that he disagreed with the White House’s contention that the 2001 and 2002 Congressional resolutions could be applied to the current situation.  A member of Annapolis City Council, who attended the meeting, said that he could not trust President Obama’s pledge to keep U.S. combat troops out of the fray, because air power alone cannot defeat ISIS.  Sarbanes said, 'I understand your concern'.  

      "Sarbanes could not avoid taking away from this meeting with progressive activists in Annapolis that his core constituency is worried and riled up about the prospect of getting entwined in another ruinous military adventure in the Middle East."

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