Pasadena Weekly Op-Ed: Taken to Task

In its editorial (“Congress should be acting to limit — not expand — latest Middle East conflict,” Dec. 4), the Pasadena Weekly takes issue with an op-ed I wrote in the Los Angeles Times urging Congress not to adjourn without voting on the war in Iraq and Syria. 

The Weekly makes several reasonable arguments against American military involvement, but also seemingly takes issue with my call for a congressional debate and vote, and my argument that the president cannot rely on a 2001 Authorization to Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda as a constitutional basis for a war on ISIS in 2014. 

My position is simple — if war is going to be waged in our name in the Middle East or elsewhere, Congress should meet its obligation to debate and vote on it, rather than ceding to this president, and all future presidents, the power to wage war without congressional approval. In his capacity as commander in chief, the president can deploy the armed forces in a limited way, but only Congress has the power to commit the nation and its men and women in uniform to extended combat. That separation of powers is enshrined in the Constitution, and no Congress should abdicate this responsibility simply because there are midterm elections coming up or it’s more politically expedient to let the president go it alone. That’s not merely a “legal” argument — it is a core principle of our democracy.

The concerns raised by the Weekly regarding the wisdom of any involvement in the fight against ISIS are more than reasonable and deserve deep consideration, and there is no question that the American air campaign carries great risks. As the Weekly opposes even the limited air strikes going on now, I would have expected the paper to endorse my call for a debate and vote, even as it urged a “no” vote. Moreover, I would have hoped the Weekly would second my motion for the repeal or sunset of the two prior and open-ended AUMFs — something I have championed for several years and came close to passing in the House. 

But my strongest reservation about the Weekly’s otherwise thoughtful and important piece, is its suggestion that what I am recommending contains “no hint of restraint” and is something “we’d expect from army generals, conservative pundits and poor gamblers.” On the contrary, I have called for a prohibition on the use of American ground forces in a combat mission in Iraq or Syria, an end to the boundless authorization to pursue al Qaeda, and transparency in the use of drones. I can’t speak to the views of poor gamblers, but these positions are in stark contrast to the urgings of these same pundits and generals.    

The Weekly is right to raise serious questions about the efficacy or wisdom of what the president has undertaken in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria, but you and your readers should stand foursquare behind my effort to comply with the Constitution and place real limits on any further deployment of American combat forces. 

US Rep. Adam Schiff is a Democrat who represents the 28th Congressional District, serving the cities of Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, La Canada, West Hollywood, and the communities of La Crescenta, Montrose, Sunland, Tujunga, as well as Silver Lake, Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Hollywood, Los Feliz and surrounding areas of Griffith Park. Schiff serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel. He is co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security and the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press.  

By:  Adam Schiff
Source: Pasadena Weekly