DeFazio Stakes Out Anti-War Position on ISIS

By Congressman Peter DeFazio

Editor’s Note: This is Rep. DeFazio’s reply to a constituent who wrote him about going to war against ISIS in Iraq. It is an excellent summary of the argument against going to war.

Thank you for contacting me with your opposition to President Obama’s plan to take military action against the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). We are in complete agreement on this issue. You will be pleased to know that I voted against the authorization to arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. Unfortunately, the McKeon Amendment to train and equip Syrian rebels passed the House of Representatives 273-156.

Congress was asked to vote on arming Syrian rebels that are yet to be vetted by the U.S. The Syrian opposition is made up of hundreds of thousands of fighters from various factions that are also fighting amongst each other. It is a complex mess of various actors, many of whom cannot be considered trustworthy allies. Not even our intelligence agencies know who we can trust. Before granting authorization, Congress should at least know who it is we are giving U.S. weapons to and what their ideology and political goals are.

In fact, the primary goal of the many various factions of the Syrian opposition forces is to fight the government of Assad. Fighting ISIS is only secondary and there is no evidence the U.S. trained rebels would use our assistance to fight ISIS rather than Assad. Using U.S. weapons to fight Assad would put us right in the middle of the Syrian civil war, a conflict that will last for several more years. Even more disturbing, the Syrian rebels have worked side by side and in conjunction with the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda. They recently provided the vehicles for Nusra suicide bombers to take out territory they were trying to gain from Assad’s forces. All of these issues and factors are why Congress should vote on a detailed use of military force that includes a real plan, not some vague authorization like the McKeon amendment.

Limited military strikes lacking clear purpose and achievable objectives are not an acceptable solution to the current conflict. They are a recipe for entanglement in further warfare. History has shown that U.S. involvement in sectarian as well as civil wars raging in the Middle East does not benefit our interests. ISIS would not exist today if it were not for the unnecessary U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which I voted against. ISIS is a regional threat and it is time for Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and other so-called “partners” to step up and fight this war themselves. They have no incentive to do it if we keep fighting it for them. In fact, it is easy to argue that continued U.S. military actions in the Middle East only create more hatred directed at our nation and increase the risk of terrorism both here and abroad.

I am deeply disturbed by recent statements from the President and from leaders in Congress suggesting that this administration has authority to order military action in Iraq and Syria without first consulting Congress. As a co-equal branch of the federal government, it is imperative that Congress stand up and defend its war powers granted in the Constitution by our nation’s founders.  For this reason I introduced legislation, H.J.Res.60, to strengthen the War Powers Act. My legislation would make clear that, before the President undertakes an offensive military action, prior authorization from Congress is required. General Martin Dempsey testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would put U.S. troops on the ground if he felt it was necessary despite the President’s numerous statements that he would not put boots on the ground. Already you can hear the march to war.

The American people have expended enough blood and treasure on interventionist warfare in the Middle East. It is high time for our policies to reflect a common-sense focus on building prosperity here at home.Φ

Peter DeFazio represents Oregon’s Fourth District in the U.S. Congress. You can contact him by visiting

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