Huffman: Congress needs to ‘provide a check on Trump unilaterally taking us to war’

January 03, 2020

One of the United States’ top foreign policy objectives in the Middle East is to contain Iran’s influence in the region, but the recent move by President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general is counter to those efforts and will likely give Iran a stronger foothold in the region, Rep. Jared Huffman told the Times-Standard Friday.

“I don’t think President Trump has thought through the first and second order implications of the events he set in motion,” Huffman said by phone. “I think it’s very foreseeable that the Iraqi government is going to be under tremendous pressure to get the U.S. completely out of that country. If that happens … it’s hard not to imagine Iran emerging with even more political and military influence in Iraq.”

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike near the Baghdad international airport early Friday, dramatically inflaming a situation that has been escalating since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

‘This serious situation’

In addition to potentially strengthening Iran’s influence in the region, Huffman said Trump took action without considering the presence of a coalition of other countries that have been working with the U.S. in Iraq.

“I don’t think any of them were consulted before President Trump ordered this assassination,” Huffman said, “but any country that’s part of that coalition with the U.S. right now is going to be impacted by the things that happen next.”

That has the potential “to dramatically undermine our ability to muster coalitions and to hold them together when things like this happen,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Friday that the president acted without consulting Congress and getting authorization for the use of military force.

“The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The situation has escalated to this point because the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed after 9/11, is still in place and giving the presidency too much discretion when it comes to unilateral military action, Huffman said.

That was an issue even when President Barack Obama was in office, Huffman said.

“The situation has been compounded greatly now that we have a president who is not stable, who is highly erratic and who is in a very compromised political situation, which could be part of his motivation,” Huffman said, referring to the recent impeachment of the president.

There have been efforts to repeal the 2001 resolution, but Huffman said they never seem to get anywhere.

“We had a repeal of that Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House this summer,” Huffman said. “I know that a majority of senators agree that we should repeal this AUMF, but in the final version of the NDAA, that mysteriously was taken out. That’s sort of been the way this has gone for my entire time in Congress.”

Huffman said Congress has no choice but to reassert its role, both under Article I of the Constitution, which grants Congress the authority to declare war, and the War Powers Act and “provide a check on Trump unilaterally taking us to war.”

“I know there will be a lot of activity on that as soon as we get back to Washington next week,” Huffman said. “It’ll start with classified briefings where we hear additional details about all of this from members of the administration. My expectation is that many of us won’t be satisfied by what we hear.”

“I would expect that resolutions and legislative efforts will follow,” Huffman said, “but I don’t know exactly what form that’ll take or how it’ll end up.”

The feedback Huffman said he’s been getting from his constituents has been largely unwilling to go to war.

“My district is passionately opposed to endless wars in the Middle East and elsewhere,” Huffman said. “People are deeply concerned that President Trump has lurched us to the brink of another war.”

Local reaction

Locally, roughly a couple dozen people showed up to rally against a potential war with Iran in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse on Friday evening, where Veterans for Peace Humboldt Bay Chapter 56 has been gathering every Friday for years.

If Iran had assassinated a top-ranking military leader in the U.S., it would definitely lead to war, said Peter Aronson, of Veterans for Peace. Meanwhile the U.S. is constantly interfering in other countries and provoking these kinds of responses, he said.

The president has already escalated the situation by sending more troops to the area, said Helene Rouvier, chair of Humboldt Progressive Democrats, which Congress shouldn’t allow.

“People need to stand up because the people who are going to be fighting this war are not the sons and daughters of the rich,” Rouvier said earlier in the day.

While the local Republican Party definitely doesn’t want to see a war with Iran, John Schutt, chair of the Humboldt Republican Party, said Trump had few other options than killing Soleimani.

“Presidents have to act and they don’t have time to go to Congress sometimes,” Schutt said, emphasizing U.S. lives were at risk because of planned attacks by Soleimani. “Some people are upset about that. Sit back and pause for a moment, I’m sure Congress will be briefed on this in the coming days.”

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

Source: Times Standard