President Biden is facing bipartisan backlash after ordering the bombing on Thursday of a facility in Syria allegedly used by an Iran-allied militia group.
It was the first overseas strike ordered by Biden, and his administration said it was intended to deter future attacks on US troops in Iraq. But he swiftly faced a chorus of criticism from left-wing Democrats and libertarian and conservative Republicans.
“I strongly oppose @POTUS meddling in Syria. I can think of better ways to ensure no one can strike our US forces in Iraq. Stop the endless wars,” wrote Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote, “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. We need to work to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
Several members of Congress highlighted a 2017 tweet by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who criticized an airstrike on Syria ordered by then-President Donald Trump.
Psaki wrote at the time, “Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) recirculated Psaki’s tweet, writing, “Great question.”
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) quipped, “There’s a tweet for everything…,” which was a frequent remark made by anti-Trump Twitter users.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “I condemn meddling in Syria’s civil war. I also condemn attacking a sovereign nation without authority. What authority does @POTUS have to strike Syria? Perhaps someone should ask his @PressSec today?”
The attack occurred hours before Biden issued a statement condemning Russia for violating “the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine seven years ago during the annexation of Crimea.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) mocked up Biden’s campaign poster with bombs raining down and tweeted, “Priorities…”
Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Thursday night that the strike was in retaliation for a Feb. 15 rocket attack against a US military base at Erbil International Airport in northern Iraq that killed a US contractor and wounded a US soldier.
Historically, military attacks are popular with the leaders of both political parties in Congress, though few issued public comments on the strike.
No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), however, praised Biden’s move.
“Today’s airstrike demonstrates President Biden’s resolve to prevent Iran from targeting America’s personnel and allies with impunity. It was a strong act that will surely send a message to Tehran that our country will not abide destabilizing actions from its forces or its proxies,” Hoyer said.
Many critics of Biden’s Syria bombing were pleased by his decision earlier this month to end US involvement in Yemen’s long-running civil war.
Biden mandated last month that he be given “full visibility” into proposed airstrikes and drone attacks, the White House said this week.
“On January 20, and clarified on February 19, President Biden established new interim guidance concerning the United States’ use of military force and related national security operations. The justification for the issuance of the interim guidance is to ensure the President has full visibility on proposed significant actions in these areas” pending further review, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.
Although Trump repeatedly said he would remove US troops from Syria, hundreds remain after generals persuaded him to leave them to guard oil facilities. The US began its intervention in Syria’s civil war when Biden was vice president.