Democratic Party In "Civil War" Over Biden Air Strike

Matt Lillywhite

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In retaliation for recent attacks on American service personnel, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended President Biden's decision to initiate an airstrike against Iranian-backed forces in Syria, claiming it was a "proportional military response."

The U.S. Armed Forces carried out an airstrike on Thursday night against Kait'ib Sayyid al Shuhada and Kait'ib Hezbollah, two Shia jihadist Iraqi border-based factions accused of taking money from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

"The Department of Defense briefed Congressional leadership before the action last night. The Administration has been briefing the Hill at the Member- and staff-level today," Psaki said in an official statement. "There will be a full classified briefing early next week at the latest." 

Psaki told reporters during a discussion onboard Air Force One on Friday that the attack was meant to deliver a "unambiguous message" about how Biden is going to protect Americans.

Psaki said, noting that the U.S. behaved "pursuant to the right of self-defense" and calling it "necessary." "He (Biden) has the right to take action in a manner of his choosing." "I can assure you there was a thorough, legal response," Psaki said, adding that Biden "has been doing this long enough not to set red lines," and saying that "this action has been taken" as a proportionate military response, including "coalition partner consultation."

The president is committed to defending American personnel, Psaki said. In his presidency, the airstrike was the first recognized major military move Biden made. The step came after numerous assaults were launched against American forces in the Green Zone, including two rockets that dropped near the American embassy in Baghdad.

Government areas, including the American embassy, are located in the Green Zone. In a week, the missile assault was the third attack which had no injuries. A recent rocket attack in Erbil took the life of a civilian contractor and wounded a number of others and a member of the American service. The operation was a defensive one meant for deterrence, a senior official said, and called the assault "a shot across the bow."

"These strikes were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel,"  Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Thursday.

The attack was hailed by some of the top Republicans, including Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who applauded the airstrike.

McCaul said he had "called on" the administration of Biden to "respond to the recent attacks on U.S. and coalition targets," adding: "I commend them for doing exactly that."

However, the strike was slammed by some democrats, inciting a "civil war" over the issue. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he was "very concerned" that the strike "puts our country on the path of continuing the Forever War instead of ending it."

In a comment, Sanders said, "This is the same path we’ve been on for almost two decades,"  For far too long administrations of both parties have interpreted their authorities in an extremely expansive way to continue military interventions across the Middle East region and elsewhere. This must end." 

In 2019, Congress passed the first War Powers Bill in history to terminate U.S. involvement in Yemen's war, Sanders said.

"Congress passed another such resolution in 2020 to prevent Trump from starting a war with Iran," he added." "These were important and historic steps by the Congress to reassert Constitutional authority over the use of force, and we must continue to build on those efforts." 

Sanders noted: "While the President has a responsibility to defend the people of the United States, our Constitution is clear that it is the Congress, not the President, who has the authority to declare war."

In the meantime, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said, "We cannot stand up for Congressional authorization before military strikes only when there is a Republican President." "The Administration should have sought Congressional authorization here," Khanna tweeted. "We need to work to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate."

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Photo courtesy of the White House.

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