MANCHESTER, New Hampshire. August 13th, 2016. PICUTRED: Vice-Presidential candidate Tim Kaine at a Clinton/Kaine rally, St. Anselm College. Photo credit: Tim Pierce. CC 4.0.
WASHINGTON D.C., March 2nd, 2021. Following President Biden’s allegedly retaliatory attacks against Iraqi Shi’ite militia groups in Syria, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has essentially created a to-do list for himself to try to wrestle back the gradually-eroding influence of Congress in military decisions.
His plans are to repeal two Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), one from the 1991 Gulf War, and another for the 2002 Invasion of Iraq, both of which are still active, and remarkably still used to justify attacks.
While the Constitution affords the President supreme command of the military, it can only be given if Congress creates authorization for it. To this end he also wants to introduce an amendment to the 1974 War Powers Resolution, that allows for reigning in of aggressive action by the Executive branch.
The February 25th strike, justified as “defensive” — in retaliation for rocket attacks which struck a U.S. base in Erbil, north-east Iraq, killing a Filipino contractor and injuring several others — hit multiple targets and killed between 1-22 people depending on who is reporting. Speaking on the attacks last week, Kaine expressed frustration that Congress was not consulted in any way before they were carried out.
“I also was like everybody in the country, I learned about it on the news,” Kaine told reporters, according to The Hill. “I’m on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committee[s]. I don’t think I should be learning about it that way,” he said.
Kaine was not alone, and many Congressmen expressed concern or disproval of Biden’s first military action.
A Gordian knot
While the President and his team assured the strikes were “proportionate,” and done with “consultation,” and “aims to destabilize the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq,” analysis reveals them to be lacking direction, and typical of the confused and aimless policy of the last four presidencies.
In 2009 before Obama’s Afghanistan escalation, Gen. David Petraeus was briefed by retired Army Colonel and National Sec. Council staffer Derek Harvey that in the war, “major questions had gone unasked; Who is the enemy? Where are they? What are their motivations?”
Such council, of which Petraeus availed none, would be equally useful for the President now, as these basic questions go routinely unasked by the executive. For example, after the rocket attack, sources home and abroad registered the self-declared claim of responsibility by Iraqi Shi’ite militia Awliya al-Dam, as credible.
Nevertheless, Biden’s attack struck multiple sites belonging to other groups, Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. These Iraqi militias are considered members of the Iraqi military after they helped defend the country from the rise of ISIS, when the Iraqi Army was largely defeated.
Yet in order to kill them, as the New York Times reported, it was done in Syria in order to avoid “causing issues for the Iraqi government, a key partner in the continuing efforts against ISIS”. All of this was done in the name of countering the influence of Iran, who according to the Pentagon will “back” every militant Shia in the region, including official brigades of the Iraqi military.
Furthermore, if Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada are backed by Iran in a meaningful way, killing 22 of their members would not serve to win hearts and minds in Tehran as Biden and Iranian president Rouhani try and maneuver their countries back into the nuclear deal, especially when Rouhani is working against the will of parliament to do it.
Tim Kaine goes to Washington
While by no means the biggest Dove in Washington, Senator Kaine has nevertheless worked hard in recent years to wrangle authority to conduct offensive attacks back into the arms of the legislative branch. In January of 2020, he introduced a Senate Joint-Resolution which passed and matched the very-popular “No War with Iran Act,” that passed the House.
The bill would have terminated all military options against Iran, if President Trump’s subsequent veto had been overturned.
Now, actions left unfinished in the Trump years are to be re-addressed under a three-step plan.
“This is the beginning of an administration, and it’s an administration where because President Biden was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that has jurisdiction over war powers issues, he should understand more than most, more than virtually anybody, that the [legislative] branch has got to have a role here, so I’m going to insist on it,” Kaine said.
His first step is to introduce legislation to repeal the 1991 AUMF for the Gulf War, and the 2002 AUMF for the Invasion of Iraq.
“Congress doesn’t repeal these things,” he said, according to The Hill. “We pass them and they’re just floating out there to be used — they can be used in mischievous ways to justify actions long after the original crisis has passed”.
Next would be to alter the 2001 AUMF for the Global War on Terrorism, used to justify aggression in dozens of countries. Finally, Kaine wants to alter the 1974 War Powers Resolution to make it more relevant.
“This instance shows us the War Powers Act of 1974 just isn’t enough in terms of requiring consultation, so I have a bill to rewrite the War Powers Act that is a longer-term reform that I think we’ll also be introducing in the first of the year with Republican colleagues,” he said.