WASHINGTON – One of the most respected and veteran voices in Congress told WND it would be a “scary and dangerous precedent” if President Obama does not seek approval for a military strike on Syria because there is no “direct threat to the United States.”
“It isn’t like the United States has been attacked,” observed Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a 17-term congressman whose tenure extends back to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory.
President Obama has been considering whether to order a military strike on Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people on Aug. 21.
Asked whether the president is obligated under the War Powers Act to obtain congressional approval to strike Syria, or whether consultation would suffice, Wolf was adamant that the president must get authorization from Congress.
“I think we should have a vote, up or down.”
The Virginian believes, if necessary, Congress ought to be brought back into session.
“I think there are so many questions that have to answered,” he said. “I would hope most members would agree that Congress ought to be not only consulted but ought to be involved.”
Wolf noted court decisions on the War Powers Act have been somewhat unclear, but, “I think (the president) has a responsibility to come to Congress and have it approved.”
WND asked what would happen if the president conducted a strike without approval.
“Well, I don’t know what action you could take,” he replied in a soft-spoken tone.
But, Wolf emphasized the gravity of the situation if the president did take that course, predicting, “[I]t would be a weakening of congressional authority.”
He said, “We don’t have a king. That was the reason we fought the Revolutionary War. We have a Constitution, and the Congress has to be involved.”
Wolf noted that British Prime Minister David Cameron faced so much opposition he called Parliament back into session. In fact, later Thursday, British lawmakers voted 285 to 272 to not participate in a strike on Syria.
After the vote, Cameron, who had previously claimed he could act without Parliament’s approval, said he will not.
Wolf now sees a U.S. strike as less likely, saying, “I think they are having second thoughts” because the administration is beginning to sense the growing opposition.
On Wednesday, President Obama declared unequivocally the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack and said “there need to be international consequences.”
But, by Thursday many U.S. officials began insisting the intelligence picture was “not a slam dunk.”
The Associated Press called that a “reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a ‘slam dunk.'”
Wolf also believes the administration took notice of a letter he and 115 of his colleagues signed and sent to the president Wednesday warning him to seek congressional authorization before using military force against Syria, as reported in WND.
The administration’s justification for attacking Syria was expressed Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said, “[A]llowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present significant challenge (and) threat to the United States’ national security.”
When WND asked Wolf if he thought the situation presented a threat to U.S. national security, he implied the real problem was fixing a self-inflicted wound by the administration.
“I think the administration failed to respond at the outset when there was a greater likelihood we would have had an impact,” he said. “Now, who are you aiding?”
He described his conversations with Syrians who traveled from Damascus to meet him in Lebanon, and said he heard horror stories about how many Islamic extremists had joined the Syrian rebels.
“The stories they told were quite frightening,” Wold recalled. “A lot of jihadists, Islamists, mujahadeen … all over the place …”
When WND asked Wolf if there is a non-jihadist alternative that is part of the Syrian opposition, he said, “I think there was at the outset, clearly. I think it is less so, now.”
Last week, Jerusalem Post Editor Caroline Glick claimed, “America’s powerlessness in Syria is largely Obama’s fault” because at the outset of the Syrian civil war two-and-a-half years ago a “consortium of Syrian Kurds, moderate Sunnis, Christians and others came to Washington and begged for U.S. assistance. But they were ignored.”
Wolf said the ranks of jihadists in the Syrian opposition has been swollen by prison breaks in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Now, he wonders, “Who stands to benefit [from a strike on Syria]?”
He added, “Who is there? There are so many questions there. That’s why I think you need Congress to be directly involved, because you may be aiding and abetting the wrong people.”
Wolf hopes the CIA is able to sort out who is who among the rebels, but he said, “Whenever you are aiding and providing weapons, you are never certain who is going to get them.”
The congressman mentioned a possible link between the current situation in Syria and the Benghazi scandal, noting “Some people believe weapons were taken out of the consulate from Libya to Turkey and into Syria.”
WND has, in fact, been reporting that possibility since shortly after the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
WND interviewed Wolf in depth in June and earlier this month about his relentless push to establish a congressional select committee to investigate the Benghazi scandal as the only way to discover the truth of what happened there.
“We have to keep our eyes on Benghazi and getting a select committee to investigate, because there is a connection between Benghazi and Syria,” he said Thursday.
WND asked Wolf about the differences between a possible strike on Syria and President Reagan’s attack on Libya in 1986.
The lawmaker said the Reagan administration satisfied the requirements of the War Powers Act and had “a lot of consultation” with Congress.
As whether a U.S. strike now trigger might a war between Syria and Israel, the congressman said he is reluctant to predict, but having seen the view from the Golan Heights, he has gained a certain perspective on that part of the Middle East.
“Everything is so close,” he said. “One thing can so easily lead to another thing, and so on. You have to think things through very clearly.”
Wolf closed with one more reason for the Obama administration to seek approval for any strike on Syria: “My sense is most of the American military is opposed to this.”