Condemning Violations of International Law By the Government of Syriaby Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Posted on 2016-03-14
in the house of representatives
Monday, March 14, 2016
Ms. GABBARD. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose H. Con. Res. 121.
Make no mistake, this is a War Bill--a thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of ``humanitarianism'' as a justification for overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad. Similar resolutions were used in the past to legitimize the regime change wars to overthrow the governments of Iraq and Libya. I will have no part of it. I oppose H. Con. Res. 121 because I oppose more unnecessary, interventionist regime change wars.
[[Page E344]] We all know that Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, is a brutal dictator. But this resolution's purpose is not merely to recognize him as such. Rather, it is a call to action. Specifically, it is a call to escalate our war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.
For the last five years, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others have been working hand-in-hand to overthrow the Assad government, supposedly for humanitarian reasons. But how has our war to overthrow Assad helped humanity? Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed. Millions have become homeless refugees. Much of the country's infrastructure has been destroyed. Terrorist organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others have taken over large areas of the country and are engaging in genocide. And now, the same people who are behind this war to overthrow Assad want to escalate that war, and this resolution is an attempt to gin up public support for such an escalation.
This resolution urges the Administration to create ``additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians'' which is coded language for the creation of a so-called ``no-fly'' or ``safe zone.'' The creation of a ``no fly zone'' or ``safe zone'' in Syria would be a major escalation of the war. Such a measure would cost billions of dollars, require tens of thousands of ground troops and a massive U.S. air presence, and it won't work. Furthermore, it will likely result in a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia. Fortunately, President Obama has thus far resisted pressure to escalate the war in this way.
The fact is that the main area in Syria where Christians, Alawites, Shiites, Druze, Yazidis and other religious minorities can practice their faith without fear of persecution is in the Syrian territories where Assad maintains control. Therefore, the overthrow of Assad would worsen the genocidal activities by ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations against Christians, Alawites, and other Syrian religious minorities.
H. Con. Res. 121 could be used to lay the groundwork for the escalation of the present U.S. military action aimed at overthrowing the Assad government.
Previous Congresses passed Iraq and Libya resolutions, which were used for remarkably similar ends in several ways. The Iraq resolution was introduced in 1998, and it called upon the United States to ``take steps necessary, including the reprogramming of funds, to ensure United States support for efforts to bring Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials to justice.'' The Libya resolution went further, urging ``the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.'' Both of those statements, while not legally binding, were a part of the public campaign that were later used to build support for U.S. military action.
Similarly, H. Con. Res. 121 urging ``the Administration to establish additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians and to ensure consistent and equitable access to humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations'' could be used for similar ends by a future administration.
Of course, there are many differences in the Iraq, Libya and Syria conflicts, as well as the military action taken. But if the U.S. learned nothing else in Iraq and Libya, we should have learned that toppling ruthless dictators in the Middle East creates even more human suffering and strengthens our enemy, groups like ISIS and other terrorist organizations, in those countries.
It is undeniable that in both Iraq and Libya, humanitarian conditions today are far worse than they were before those governments were overthrown, and ISIS and other terrorist organizations are more powerful, causing even more human suffering.
If the U.S. is successful in its current effort to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, allowing ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups to take over all of Syria, including the Assad- controlled areas where Christians and other religious minorities remain protected, then the United States will be morally culpable for the genocide that will result.
This is exactly what happened when we overthrew Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It is what happened in Libya when we overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. To do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome is insanity.