By Kristina Wong
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a staunch anti-war Democrat, said on Tuesday that she is “gravely concerned” about the expansion of U.S. airstrikes into Syria and the continuation of strikes in Iraq.
“It is clear we are rapidly becoming more involved in another war in the Middle East,” said Lee, who has called on the president to seek authorization for sustained military action in Iraq and Syria.
“I have called and will continue to call for a full congressional debate and vote on any military action, as required by the Constitution,” she added in a statement.
The Pentagon and partner nations conducted 14 strikes in Syria on Monday evening against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets and eight strikes against an al Qaeda affiliate known as the Khorasan group, which officials say was in the “final stages” of executing an attack on Western targets, including potentially the U.S. homeland.
The strikes were a dramatic expansion of the U.S. air war against the ISIS, which until Monday had only struck targets in Iraq.
Pentagon officials on Tuesday said the campaign could last “years.”
Although Congress approved the president’s proposal to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to defeat ISIS on the ground, it has not yet authorized the president’s overall military plan against the terrorist group.
The White House said it has the authority it needs to strike in Iraq and Syria, but some Democratic and Republican lawmakers say the president should come to Congress for any sustained military campaign.
“The American people deserve a public debate on all the options to dismantle ISIS, including their costs and consequences to our national security and domestic priorities,” Lee said.
Pentagon officials estimated last month that the costs of the U.S.’s efforts against ISIS were at least $7.5 million a day.
Lee is seeking to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that gave then-President Bush the authority to go after al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but has since been used to target associated forces of al Qaeda all over the world.
The Obama administration is currently using the authority to conduct operations against ISIS in Iraq, arguing that it is an “associated force” of Al Qaeda.
“The rapid escalation of another war in the Middle East underscores the danger of the blank check for endless war passed by Congress in 2001,” said Lee.
She is also seeking to repeal the 2002 AUMF that gave Bush congressional authority to go after Saddam Hussein in the 2003 Iraq War.
Lee said the international coalition that President Obama has put together to address the ISIS threat must be leveraged to achieve a political solution.
“Only a political solution that respects the rights of all Iraqis and Syrians will ultimately dismantle ISIS,” she said.
“There is no military solution to the crisis in Iraq and Syria. In fact, continued U.S. military action will result in unintended consequences. We must remember the roots of ISIS – President Bush’s ill-begotten war,” she said.
“Congress needs to debate the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for U.S. and regional security,” she said.