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Experts Agree: Stop Bombing Syria and Iraq!

Experts agree: U.S. airstrikes are not the solution to the crisis in Iraq! Read what they’ve said, then take action by writing to your Members of Congress.

Members of Congress

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)- “I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the President’s actions in Iraq could become. Humanitarian relief is necessary to prevent genocide and provide food and water to meet an urgent emergency, but… I am deeply concerned that these actions could lead to prolonged direct military involvement, which I would strongly oppose. As a condition for any military aid in Iraq, I have said that there must be a new government that is inclusive and unifying. I continue to believe that the current situation in Iraq is a failure of Iraq’s leaders, who have used the security forces – with training and equipment we provided – for their own sectarian ends, rather than uniting their country. It is also a consequence of the failure of the international community to contain the ongoing civil war in Syria. I support the President’s diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.” [8/8/14]

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)-I don’t think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view from the use of our air strikes that’s not going to solve the problem because the fundamental problem is whether the Iraqis believe that they have a representative government so that Sunnis feel comfortable with the government in Baghdad. I think that’s the key to cutting off the support ISIS has.” [8/10/14]

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)- “[Airstrikes are] a temporary solution to a long-term problem. If air strikes were the end-all, be-all, there would be no more al-Qaeda. You can take out leadership, but a new head will grow.” [8/9/14]

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)- Airstrikes “alone will not end the crisis in Iraq. The long term solution must be a political solution, not a military one. I encourage President Obama to return to Congress and begin the discussion of the steps we need to take to stabilize Iraq. It’s my obligation to make sure our government honors our troops’ willingness to sacrifice when we make the decision to pursue military intervention.” [8/9/14]

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)- “Like many Americans, I am wary of mission creep and the possibility of being further embroiled in a situation that has no military solution… Moreover, nations with the power to act have a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and American involvement in Iraq should involve the international community. If military operations in Iraq continue, the President should seek Congressional authorization for further engagement. Congress has made it clear that the President does not have unlimited authority for military action.” [8/9/14]

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)-“Iraqi leaders want our help again. But the U.S. military is not a yo-yo. The stated “mission” of the Iraq War was to build up a million-man armed force to defend Iraq. We did that. That force is fed by $100 billion in oil money each year. Yet it has been defeated, again and again, by what one Arab official called “a few hundred psychopaths.” Iraqi soldiers outnumber the Islamic State by more than 100 to 1, but they won’t fight. In one town, a band of ISIS fighters announced their approach with a devastatingly effective weapon: a bullhorn. Iraqi soldiers fled. If the Iraqis won’t defend themselves, then why should we? We have to get past this bizarre notion that every time there’s something in the world we don’t like, we bomb it. Mr. President, when it’s our money, and it’s our blood, then it’s our decision. And now, the American people are saying “No!” [8/10/14]

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)- “Congress needs to be on record. That’s the way it’s set up. And a 12-year-old decision on unilateral preemptive strikes that have been heavily criticized and tarnished, I don’t think should be the basis for any new involvement.” [6/19/14]

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)- “Getting involved in airstrikes moves us a dangerous step closer to direct involvement in Iraq’s sectarian civil war, an entanglement we must avoid. We cannot allow a humanitarian crisis to draw us into a war that would again cost the Iraqi people far too much in destruction and lives lost.” [8/8/14]

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)- “I have serious concerns for mission creep, which is why it’s important that the President clearly articulate to Congress what our goal is. I support the President sending humanitarian aid to the thousands of stranded, displaced Iraqi civilians who face death by either starvation or slaughter at the hands of ISIS. Now more than ever, it is imperative for Iraq to form a government that is representative of all its people and to take responsibility for its own security.” [8/8/14]

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)- “I have deep reservations, and important lingering questions, that need to be debated on this floor. I am concerned about exposing our soldiers, once again, to a protracted conflict with unclear objectives, and no clear exit strategy. I cannot… allow the U.S. to wade back into another conflict without a serious, informed discussion of the United State’s military role in combatting ISIL. We need to fully debate, and discuss, actions we as a nation.” [9/19/14, Letter to Constituent]

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)-“Iraq is at a crucial juncture that requires all Iraqis to put aside past grievances and unite as a country.  I am encouraged by the steps that have been taken in recent days to build political consensus and welcome the nomination of Dr. Haider al-Abadi to be the next Prime Minister of Iraq. It is important for all Iraqis to foster a peaceful transfer of power and swiftly form an inclusive government, which is essential to combating the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS). I support providing humanitarian relief to Iraqi civilians and measures to protect American personnel, but I am concerned about the timeline and scope of our renewed military efforts in Iraq. Since the Administration has conceded that the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force is obsolete and should be repealed, it is now up to the Administration to receive Congressional authorization for the current air campaign against IS.” [8/12/14]

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)-“There is no military solution in Iraq. Any lasting solution must be political and respect the rights of all Iraqis. I am pleased President Obama recognized this when he said: ‘there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.’ I will continue to call for the President to seek congressional authorization before any combat operations. For too long, Congress has abdicated its Constitutional role in matters of war and peace. The President should come to Congress for authorization of any further military action in Iraq.” [8/8/14]

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)- “To address ISIS, we must focus on political, economic, diplomatic & regionally-led solutions that will ensure U.S. & regional security” [9/23/14]

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), and Walter B. Jones (R-NC)- “Current military operations now underway in Iraq appear to be beyond the scope of these limited purposes, and even greater expansion is under discussion. These are serious matters that require congressional debate and a vote on whether to authorize them.” [8/27/14]

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)-“These strikes do involve the United States directly in hostilities, regardless of how limited they are and regardless of whether there’s a humanitarian purpose involved. The President is acting according to the powers of his office – and Congress must do the same. If these operations are continuing when Congress returns in September, then Congress needs to take action to authorize them.  370 Members of the House voted for my amendment last month. We made it very clear that we believe Congress has a significant constitutional role to play. When we bomb ISIS, which is a horrible group, we have to realize that we are heading down the path of choosing sides in an ancient religious and sectarian war inside Iraq. While choosing sides may be something Congress decides that it wants to support, it goes beyond the humanitarian mission of providing relief to civilians stranded on a mountain in imminent danger of dying of hunger and thirst. It goes beyond protecting our military and diplomatic personnel.  I am concerned that we are already seeing these different missions blur into one in the press and in Congress. That is deeply troubling.” [8/8/14]

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)- “Americans will not support a new open ended military campaign in Iraq. The risk is that this intervention draws us into the broader fight between Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq. This is a fight the United States must stay out of, and I will oppose any efforts to continue this military campaign in order to provide tactical advantage or disadvantage to either side of this conflict. Like President Obama, I was elected to end America’s recent history of military hubris in the Middle East. Many of my colleagues have called on the president to endorse a broader strategy aimed at tipping the military balance inside Iraq. They are wrong, and such action would march our nation down a familiar and disastrous course.” [8/8/14]

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)- “I don’t think you are going to defeat ISIS in the short term. The only way you’re gonna stop ISIS is by rallying Sunni and Shiite regions and countries to the cause as well. But this is going to be an incredibly tricky dance. And I think that is why the president needs to take his time here. The American public do not want us rushing into a conflict. I have a lot of respect for Sen. Feinstein, but I think he’s right to take his time. We need to think first and shoot second rather than the opposite.” [9/2/14]

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)- “We have already given them a chance – 10 years, thousands of precious American lives, and a trillion dollars poured into the all but failed nation of Iraq alone. We gave them a chance, yet we had barely left when the region began descending back into chaos. Now the solution – if there is a solution – is up to them.” [9/1/14]

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)- “After being entangled in a global conflict for 13 years, we owe it to the American people and most importantly, to the servicemen and women, their families and veterans who have made tremendous sacrifices in support of our country to have a thorough and transparent debate before we start to go down this road again. We cannot make the same mistakes over and over again.” [9/10/14]

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)- “I don’t think most Arkansans believe that we should be the world’s policeman. I agree with that. We need to work with our allies. We need to try to help and provide a stable situation, and certainly look out for the humanitarian concerns, but at the end of the day, a lot of these countries, they just have to take responsibility for their own countries. I don’t think we should send troops to Syria or Iraq.” [8/22/14]

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA)-“I think the president would be wise to slow down and to not just keep us informed but to seek authorization, should this thing need to be sustained.” [8/21/14]

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)-We shouldn’t allow this horrible act to provoke us into doing things that are counterproductive. There’s nothing ISIS would like more than having us reintroduce ground troops into Iraq, for example. [We] had to know that when we get involved with airstrikes, that ISIS is going to strike back at us in any way they can.” [8/21/14]

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)- “Calls for more and more direct U.S. military intervention the Middle East put us back on a very risky course. We cannot afford to rush to war again. The emergence of ISIS has a direct line to America’s failed strategy in Iraq. We must learn from the mistakes we have made since 9/11 — thousands of Americans gave their lives in two ground wars, which cost us billions of dollars, and left the Middle East less safe than when we arrived. I want to see the president come to Congress with a clearly defined strategy to combat the ISIS threat in Iraq and Syria with a priority on protecting our homeland. If he believes we need to use military force beyond counter-terrorism efforts against ISIS, he needs to make his case to Congress, and Congress should debate an authorization to use force.” [9/10/14]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)- “I believe that any solution in Iraq is going to be a negotiated solution, not a military solution. We do not want to be pulled into another war in Iraq. Certainly these airstrikes are going to change the mix of what’s going on, so we’ll just have to monitor it literally day by day, hour by hour. I am concerned that none of us want to be pulled into a war in Iraq. I think that’s clear across this country, and I feel very strongly about that.” [8/8/14]

Foreign Policy Experts

53 National Religious Groups, Academics, and Ministers-“We write to express our deep concern over the recent escalation of U.S. military action in Iraq. U.S. military action is not the answer. Lethal weapons and airstrikes will not remove the threat to a just peace in Iraq. We believe that the way to address the crisis is through supporting inclusive governance and diplomacy. Decades of U.S. political and military intervention have significantly contributed to the current crisis in Iraq. More bombing will ultimately mean more division, bloodshed, recruitment for extremist organizations, and a continual cycle of violent intervention.” [8/27/14]

Gordon Adams, Former Senior White House Budget Official for National Security-“What is happening in Iraq right now is both a cautionary tale and an unfolding tragedy. The caution is about the blithe American assumption that the United States is omnipotent, that with enough money, good will, expertise, equipment, and training Americans can build foreign forces and bring security to troubled areas around the world. The tragedy is that what the U.S. does and has done leads down the road to failure.” [6/13/14]

Lt. Col. William Astore (USAF-Ret.)- “The military-industrial-congressional complex clearly believes it is entitled to a trough filled with money with virtually no accountability to the American taxpayer. Add to that sense of entitlement the absurdist faith of administration after administration in the efficacy of bombing as a problem solver — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and you have a truly lethal combo.” [8/19/14]

Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston University, Professor of History and International Relations-“To imagine at this late date that the United States possesses the capacity to reverse this sad situation is surely a delusion. So even if an infusion of American air power succeeds in saving the lives of those at immediate risk, Iraq will remain a basket case. Step one is to stop doing what’s counterproductive. That means ending the excessive militarization of U.S. policy that Washington’s inordinate preoccupation with Iraq has promoted.” [8/11/14]

Richard Barrett, former Secret Intelligence Service-“[Military intervention by the West] does rather play to the [jihadist] narrative that these bad regimes are being supported by outside powers. Military intervention without a proper plan to follow up [in Libya] had all sorts of unintended consequences and led to chaos and instability. You start with some air strikes then you have a few more, then we need people down there to tell us where targets are [so] we put special forces in, then…before you know it, we’re drawn down this road that has no obvious ending.” [8/19/14]

Stephen Biddle, former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus- “That’s going to create a huge risk of mission creep… The fact that the war continues and ISIS remains in the field is going to be deeply unsatisfying to many in Washington.” [8/12/14]

Angela Canterbury, Council for a Livable World-“The commitment has escalated from sending in a few hundred advisers to limited airstrikes to helping to mount an offensive against the Islamic State. Most military and political leaders agree that Iraq cannot be helped until its government fully includes the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish people. U.S. bombs and boots on the ground from 2003 to 2011 did not solve Iraq’s political problem.” [8/18/14]

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute- “Ultimately the crises in Iraq and Syria will require political solutions. ISIS has been able to grow because it has attracted the support of Sunni Arab communities facing marginalization and repression at the hands of the Alawite regime in Syria and the Shia-dominated al Maliki government in Baghdad. Issues related to local grievances and governance are at the heart of this crisis. Long-term strategies are needed to help build inclusive and accountable governance structures in the region. Outside actors cannot create these solutions, but the United States and other countries can help to foster conditions conducive to good governance by consistently supporting efforts toward democracy and human rights. Unilateral American military action in Iraq is unwise and unsustainable over the long run and could exacerbate animosities toward the U.S. and tensions in the region.” [8/15/14]

Lt. ColDaniel L. Davis- “The United States would isolate ISIS economically, financially, and geographically, while eroding its support from within.  To accomplish this strategic objective, the U.S. should:

1) Work with the states around and near ISIS territory for the purpose of closing the borders leading into and out of ISIS areas including those in Syria as well as Iraq, thus depriving the jihadists of materiel that could support military operations;

2) use aggressive border control to pin ISIS to its current positions;

3) at the same time, separate ISIS from its external financial and material support;

4) conduct a social media campaign that truthfully exposes the grotesque nature of ISIS ideology in ++terms that would-be jihadists can understand;

5) conduct a sustained humanitarian aid effort to ensure the people currently under ISIS bondage will survive; and

6) institute a coalition-supported “no-go zone” between ISIS territory and that of friendly nations.  If ISIS vehicles or ground personnel venture into this zone, they will be destroyed.” [9/15/14]

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, fmr. director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency- “There are sufficient numbers of believers in their ideas, and so we can kill all day long, but until we understand why there are sufficient numbers of believers globally [the group will not be defeated]. The strategic fight against this idea is something we need to do something about. ISIS is only a part of the problem. We are in a war of ideas here, it’s about moderation and contributors against evil.” [9/10/14]

George Friedman, Stratfor Chairman-“ISIS can expand, but it can’t dominate alone. Even in Iraq, the group can’t defeat the Kurds. It certainly doesn’t have the power to defeat the Shiites in the south.” [8/22/14]

William Hartung, Center for International Policy- “Mission creep is well under way in Iraq. More than a trillion dollars and over a decade after Rumsfeld’s prediction, Iraq is in the midst of a vicious civil war that has its roots in significant part in the 2003 U.S. invasion. The organization that is now ISIS got its start in opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq, and years of U.S. support for the regime of Nouri al-Maliki put him in a position to implement the sectarian policies that helped spark the current conflict. How likely is it that the Obama administration can make all of this right by using military force?” [8/14/14]

William Hartung, Center for International Policy-“U.S. military action cannot end the current civil war in Iraq. Airstrikes alone cannot drive ISIS out of northern Iraq, and sending in combat troops will put U.S. soldiers at unnecessary risk on unfavorable terrain.The best course of action in Iraq is to pull back militarily and pursue a regional diplomatic solution while providing generous support for refugees driven from their homes by the current conflict. The last thing our country needs is another Iraq War.” [8/19/14]

Matthew Hoh, Iraq War Veteran-“Re-entering the Iraqi civil war, whether by backing Maliki’s Shia dominated forces or the forces of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region, will put the United States back in a position of supporting one side against the Sunnis, just as occurred from 2003-2006 when the Sunnis, with similarly no other choice, sided with ISIS’ predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. Further marginalization of an already desperate Sunni population will push them closer to ISIS.” [8/9/14]

Matthew Hoh, Iraq War Veteran-“American military involvement will serve as an accelerant to and a prolonger of this Iraqi civil war. American bombs, bullets and dollars will further strengthen the bond between Sunnis and extremist groups like ISIS, increasing Sunni desperation by intensifying their backs to the wall dilemma and justifying the propaganda and rhetoric of ISIS: a narrative of a Western campaign of international subjugation enacted through Shia, Kurdish and Iraqi ethnic minority puppets. Further, such American support will strengthen the resolve of the al-Maliki government not to reform and not to address Sunni grievances.” [6/20/14]

Raed Jarrar, American Friends Service Committee-“A new U.S. military intervention in such a complex conflict is not sustainable and will not help Iraqis build their nation or fight extremism.” “[Humanitarian aid] is being used as a pretext to sneak in military strikes and more arms to some of Iraq’s fighting factions.”  “Washington has continued its intervention in Iraq by selectively arming and training some sides of the civil conflict. Arming Iraqi factions is also a path of dubious legality, and it is illegal under U.S. and international law to arm and train groups implicated in gross human rights violations.” [8/18/14]

W. Patrick Lang, fmr. Head of Defense Intelligence Agency, Middle East and South Asia- “If you wish to really go after the Islamic State, a group of scholars can launch a campaign and denounce them for their view of Islam. You could attack this thing by undercutting its foundations.” [9/5/14]

Mark Lynch, Senior Fellow at Center for a New American Security- “In Syria, U.S. airstrikes offer no plausible path to political or strategic success and a strategy based on the existence of an effective moderate Syrian rebel force is doomed to fail. Instead, the focus should be on shaping the environment to encourage the emergence of a politically legitimate and more effectively unified opposition, while de-escalating the conflict.” [9/9/14]

Hussam al Marie, the spokesman for the FSA in northern Syria-“Airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria will not be helpful. Airstrikes will not get rid of ISIS. Airstrikes are like just tickling ISIS.” [8/25/14]

Stephen Miles, Win Without War- “We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends. Unfortunately, we see at the end of the day it’s almost always the case that the extremists are emboldened. We play into their hands by giving them what they want, which is a battle with the West.” [8/22/14]

Dan Rather, Fmr. Anchor CBS Evening News- “It worries me that I hear so many more voices that are advocating for action than I do of people who are trying to push on the brakes. It is reminiscent in the run-up to what was a much bigger U.S. military action in Iraq than anything that is being contemplated now. I am concerned that, once again, as the war drums begin to beat and get louder and louder, that there will be a herd mentality of saying we have to go to war.” [8/24/14]

Fmr. Ambassador Dan Simpson- “America’s allies, whom we’re now backing with F-18s and drones, are the Kurds, and, in principle, the Shiite militias and the Iranian advisers who support the Shiite militias. That is to say that we are lined up alongside Assad’s Syrians and the Iranians in support of Iraq’s Shiites. Mr. Obama’s told us he’s turned part of the U.S. Air Force into the Kurdish Air Force primarily for humanitarian reasons… What he left out was the fact that some 11 U.S. oil companies, including Chevron and Exxon-Mobil, now have interests and representatives in Kurdish Iraq.” [8/13/14]

Patrick Skinner, Former CIA case officer- “The effectiveness of airstrikes is over-stated– they’re pretty good if you catch someone in the open, but there is a huge issue with collateral damage or innocent people getting killed, so that is not the answer. If Iraq can’t unify to face a mortal threat, then they are doomed; there is a very good chance that the construct of Iraq will fall apart. Give the weapons to the people who are moderate and watch what happens. The extremists, who are savages, come and take them. The savages will out fight them.” [8/14/14]

Matt Southworth, Iraq War Veteran- “The U.S. has dropped hundreds of thousands of munitions on Iraq over the past 24 years. From patriot missiles and bunker busters to cluster bombs and depleted uranium, there is not a single shred of evidence that these bombs improved the situation in Iraq by any measure. Iraqi participation in the broader movement has been tied to dissatisfaction with the U.S.-backed central Iraqi government. Historically, foreign military intervention is one of the few things that has united those with such divergent interests. Global and regional powers…have been playing the dangerous game of proxy war in the Middle East for decades; these proxies cannot be contained or controlled by those who created, supported, armed and trained them.” [8/8/14]

Metin Turcan, a veteran of the Turkish military- “I don’t think the US air attacks will produce definitive results. They may disrupt IS operational capacity temporarily, but will not eliminate it. US air attacks really don’t do much to change the field military picture, while they can have the effect of aligning already marginalized Sunni Arabs closer to IS. Well-versed in propaganda and perception management, IS can exploit the air attacks as a proof of Sunni victimization and gain some legitimacy from it.” [9/1/14]

Wayne White, former Deputy Director of the State Department’s Middle East/South Asia Intelligence Office- “ISIS is dangerous, but its nature and the threat it represents must be defined accurately. Territorially, ISIS is weaker than suggested. Over 90% of the land under ISIS control is the driest, most underpopulated, and poorest in the region. ISIS does not have a very large army of dedicated fighters. Furthermore, having generated a more intense foreign and Iraqi domestic reaction, if faced with stiffer opposition simultaneously in both Syria and Iraq, ISIS would have to juggle its limited forces among various threatened sectors. All concerned must focus on how that overarching threat could manifest itself both domestically and regionally.” [8/27/14]

Micah Zenko- “America’s rescue mission in Iraq is going to be messier, longer, and more expensive than the White House wants to admit. The two most likely outcomes of the most recent U.S. attacks in Iraq are that the lives of some civilians will be saved in the near term, and that there will be a military commitment larger and longer than what administration officials presently claim.” [8/11/14]


Compiled by Angela Miller, Jacob Marx, and Deepika Choudhary.

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