When Congress returns from recess on September 8, will they authorize the New Iraq War? That's the question some anti-war groups are asking their representatives now home in their districts. Rep. Jim McGovern is demanding "a full debate and a vote whether to authorize the war," which has been escalating during the Congressional absence.
President Barack Obama has been notifying congressional leaders of his military steps as required under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Congress voted 370-40 on July 25 on a measure by McGovern, Rep. Barbara Lee and Republican Rep. Walter Jones to require a full congressional authorization, but that vote cannot take place until September and only if House Speaker John Boehner brings the issue to the floor. A proposal to continue, expand or end the war would then be introduced and sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee before a full vote takes place. That provides at least a ten-day window in September for anti-war pressure to build on Congress.
"It's possible that enough liberals and ultra-conservatives might defeat the authorization, and Boehner doesn't want that," McGovern said in an interview Wednesday. Boehner personally supports a greater US war escalation, McGovern said, and he is worried at the loss of his control of the House that a "no" vote would represent.
In the case of Libya, the House voted on June 24, 2011 by 295-123-13 not to authorize continued military operations in Libya. The overwhelming "no" vote came mainly from Republicans, while 115 Democrats voted to authorize the intervention. It would be ironic if House Republicans endorse a war conducted by a president most of them want to impeach.
On the Democratic side, there is considerable support for the Congressional obligation to call a vote, but the outcome is unpredictable. An authorization could cover not only the use of military force and timelines, but tie congressional support to specified conditions such as power-sharing for Sunnis and Kurds, prisoner releases and police reform, and drawing a red line against US involvement in a sectarian civil war. And even if those unlikely conditions are met in Iraq, McGovern asks what will be the US policy towards ISIS in Syria. "If we get deeper, where does it end? Won't they have to bomb or send forces there?"
"To have Congress just stand by is not enough," asserts McGovern. If Congress is silent, the president is permitted to continue his escalation. "Are we going to play dumb and let this become bigger?" McGovern asks. "What is the end game? I heard one official on the radio talking about 10 or 20 years. Our government keeps saying that ISIS is worse, more brutal, more terrifying than Al Qaeda. If that's true, I have no confidence they won't eventually put American boots on the ground. Why would they do less in this case, than in the previous war, if the enemy is so much worse? If the American people are told this is the end of the world, they might come to want more and more US military involvement."
McGovern suggested that Obama "take a very long walk on the beach" before he returns from Martha's Vineyard.