‘Immoral Hypocrisy': New England Lawmakers React to Airstrikes on Syria

After the administration of President Donald Trump launched a series of airstrikes on a Syrian airfield in response to that country's apparent use of chemical weapons to kill at least 100 people, lawmakers in New England are giving their reactions.

"The use of chemical weapons ‎against innocent Syrian men, women, and children is a clear violation of international law. The Syrian regime must be held accountable for this horrific act, and its actions underscore why the United States should embrace innocent people who are fleeing in terror," Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said. "But the Constitution gives the power to authorize the use of military force to the legislative branch. Expanded military intervention in Syria requires action by Congress. If President Trump expects such an authorization, he owes the American people an explanation of his strategy to bring an end to the violence in Syria. We should not escalate this conflict without clear goals and a plan to achieve them."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said the Syrian crisis can't end "without a concrete plan to ensure a diplomatic end to this civil war."

Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat and military veteran, pointed out that those oppressed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad are the same people seeking refuge in the U.S., something Trump has opposed through his campaign and presidency.

"So @POTUS cares enough about the Syrian people to launch 50 Tomahawks but not enough to let the victims of Assad find refuge & freedom here," he tweeted.

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island also condemned the actions of Syria while calling into question Trump's full strategy.

"The question now is what the consequences and reactions will be, and what are the president's strategic and long-range goals and plans with respect to U.S. involvement in Syria?" Reed asked. "The administration is also going to have to set out the legal justification for tonight's action and any future military operations against the Assad regime as part of its consultations with Congress."

However, Rhode Island's other Democratic senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, said he was supportive of President Trump's actions.

"We have witnessed yet another atrocious act by the Assad regime against its own people, and we are called to conscience. Last night's military action in Syria met my standards for responding to atrocity: a limited action; with a clear objective; that is not the beginning of American 'boots on the ground' military operations," he said in a statement.

Congressman Joe Kennedy III also released a statement supporting the airstrike but criticizing the administration for failing to give the American people a say. 

He said, "President Assad's vicious brutality demands a response. But this country doesn't fight wars without giving the American people a say. Any plans for military engagement in Syria must come before their elected representatives in Congress for a debate and a vote. And any strategy that ignores the refugees fleeing this unimaginable terror is a half-step at best."

Connecticut's U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who is a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the airstrike "ill-thought out" and shows the Trump administration's "immoral hypocrisy" in other Middle East conflicts, such as Yemen.

"Yes, Bashar al-Assad should pay a price for the slaughter of civilians in Syria," he said. "But the decision over the nature of that consequence is not for President Trump to make alone. The Constitution states that only Congress can authorize military activity, and President Trump should have sought congressional approval before taking action."

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's other Democratic senator, said Thursday's military action was intended to send a message to Assad and his enablers, but "it will have no real practical meaning or legal force without a strategy that is authorized by Congress, and engages regional allies and resources ... As a moral and humanitarian matter, providing refuge to Syrian victims of Assad's atrocities is now more urgent than ever."

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, who represents Massachusetts' 2nd congressional district, said Trump should have sought Congress' approval before launching Thursday's strike.

"President Trump and the United States must demand that Russia and Vladimir Putin stop bombing the Syrian people and bring an end to this horrific war," he said in a statement. "We cannot ignore the fact that Putin bears responsibility for Assad remaining in power."

New Hampshire's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she voted to support using military action against Assad in 2013, and supports the Trump administration's decision for Thursday's airstrike.

"Going forward, President Trump must explain to the American people what his strategy is to bring the broader Syrian conflict to a close and end the threat of terrorism that this conflict has fueled," she said in a statement. "Congress must also provide constructive oversight. Furthermore, this adminstration must be fully transparent with Congress and the American people regarding troop deployments to the battlefield."

Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire's other Democratic senator, said Thursday's airstrikes sent a message to Assad, but that Trump must work with Congress before escalating the military action.

In a series of tweets, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that while he considers Assad a war criminal, he's "deeply concerned the strike in Syria could lead the U.S. back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Trump administration needs to work with Congress going forward concerning Syria.

"When brutality, like we have seen against the citizens of Syria by their own government, shocks our consciences, the desire to act decisively is strong. We must keep in mind that we have learned that there are grave risks and unintended consequences in the use of military force, especially unilateral military force," his statement said.

Democratic Rep. Bill Keating (MA-9) called the airstrikes "necessary and proportional," while Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3) agreed with the military action, but added, "Given the many questions and complexities of the situation in Syria, the White House must divulge its overarching strategy to the American people and to Congress."

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