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With Iran War Looming, Congress Has Been Left Out

Published: January 5, 2020
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Congress has never authorized the use of military force against Iran, and in the initial House version of the 2020 NDAA, it was explicitly noted that there is no authorization for that war. But Thursday night rolled around, and the Trump Administration attacked and killed Iran’s top general in a strike on Baghdad International Airport.

An unauthorized attack, but it’s more than that, as Congress was neither consulted about nor informed of Thursday’s attack. That’s par for the course for an administration that has scorned the very idea of Congressional authority in war-making time and again.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is saying he’s trying to set up a classified, closed-door briefing about the attack. That’s well after the fact, and McConnell already followed the Senate hawks in endorsing the killing before even getting such a briefing. It’s not clear, then, what the point would even be.

More to the point, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is introducing a resolution aimed at blocking the war, saying that the administration must not attack Iran without an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). There is no sign an AUMF is being considered.

The Kaine resolution would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate in practice, otherwise it would face the fate of similar resolutions on the unauthorized Yemen War, being vetoed by Trump.

And while it may be an uphill battle to muster a two-thirds majority in the Senate to oppose the Iran War, the fact that they’re trying at all is at least indication that there is some debate that will be had on the new war. America may not have gotten this debate before the US attacked, but there will be a chance to express disapproval for the conflict.

The Trump Administration likely appreciates that this war they’re careening toward would be unpopular, which is why officials have styled their killings as “defensive” actions, and why President Trump’s statement claimed he attacked the Baghdad Airport to “stop a war.”

This will allow them to pretend this was something other than a plain war of choice.

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