By Carey Wedler
February 28, 2018
According to two letters released by the federal government last week in response to an inquiry from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the U.S. plans to maintain its military presence in Syria and Iraq indefinitely, citing vague threats of terrorism.
In one letter, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Policy) David Trachtenberg responded to Kaine by justifying continued operations in Syria with the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 to justify invading Afghanistan.
In citing this, Trachtenberg and the Trump administration are essentially arguing that they need no new legal authorization to keep the U.S. military in Syria despite the fact that Congress has never officially declared war against that country.
The letter also references ISIS and other extremist factions, neglecting to mention the U.S.’ role in empowering each group through years of failed policy and efforts to arm Al-Qaeda affiliates.
Trachtenberg acknowledges the presence of 2,000 troops in Syria but also notes that the Pentagon will not disclose the number of “forces conducting sensitive missions,” making unclear how many U.S. soldiers are actually there. Further, he defends Trump’s April 2017, airstrike in Syria, claiming that while it did not fall under the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs, it was vital to defend U.S. interests and was legitimate under Trump’s executive authority.
In a separate letter to Kaine from the State Department, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Waters “argued that international law provided a basis for American forces to remain in Syria — despite the lack of consent from the Syrian government — to protect Iraq and the United States from terrorists,” the New York Times, which published both letters, reported. Though Waters claims the U.S. will not attack the Syrian government, she reserves that right.
“The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or Iran or Iranian-supported groups in Iraq or Syria,” she wrote. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition, or partner forces engaged in operations to defeat ISIS and degrade Al Qaeda.”
The Trump administration has previously indicated its desire for the regime to be removed from power.
In response, Kaine criticized the arguments contained in the letters, tweeting:
Yet again, the U.S. establishment is doubling down on its dedication to continued military domination, asserting its perceived right to police the world despite its own contributions to the unending chaos plaguing the Middle East. In these years of conquest, countless civilians have died with little concern from the U.S. government, which purports to be an arbiter of morality and justice.
And as Americans continue to mourn and decry continuous mass shootings in the U.S., they remain largely silent on their own government’s institutionalized addiction to violence abroad. This apathetic acceptance of indefinite war is undoubtedly reflected in the U.S. Between the Pentagon’s program to arm local police and the recent push to militarize schools even further in the wake of this month’s shooting, America’s penchant for violence continues (is it any surprise a growing number of mass shooters either served in the military, were kicked out, or idolized the armed forces?).
As the media waxes hysterical over mass shootings, Americans receive comparatively far less information about the mass shootings and bombings their own government commits despite the far greater death toll of endless military empire.
The media’s lack of concern for — and, often, glorification of — the U.S. military’s encroachments ultimately desensitizes the public to the violence it unquestioningly funds, even when it kills innocents.
As Americans continue to demand the U.S. government and politicians take action on mass shootings, they evidently fail to see the futility in asking a government characterized by unmitigated violence to put an end to violence.