Following Iraqi parliament’s vote to expel US forces, Congress should repeal funding for Baghdad

· January 6, 2020  
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Iranian Al-Quds Day
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP | Getty Images

Just three weeks ago, Congress voted overwhelmingly (86-8 in the Senate; 377-48 in the House) to continue shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government for security. Over the weekend, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel our forces, even as we are protecting them both from Iran and from ISIS.

We’ve needed a robust debate over our mission in Iraq for years. Yet Congress kept signing off on endless funding to maintain the chaotic, ambiguous, and conflicting status quo. Suddenly, when Trump takes useful and decisive action in killing Qassem Soleimani, members of Congress begin demanding answers about our mission. Well, almost every one of them just signed off on this mess. If they actually put their money where their collective mouths are, they would vote to repeal the National Defense Authorization Act they just passed, along with all the garbage in the bill.

Nobody read the 3,488-page NDAA conference report adopted right before Christmas as Congress was passing a 2,000-page omnibus bill they didn’t read either. That includes many of the same members, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, claiming outrage over the president’s authority to conducts operations in Iraq. While everyone is debating the application of the 2001 and 2003 authorizations of use of force, nobody seems to remember that in every subsequent year, Congress passed a defense authorization bill codifying all of the current missions all over the globe without any examination of what we are doing. Somehow the endless nation-building operations getting our soldiers killed weren’t worth such examination, as they all rubber-stamped this bill, chock-full of harmful provisions, but when it comes to virtue-signaling on behalf of Iran, they feign outrage over a lack of congressional involvement in the use of force.

Page 1,069 of the conference report categorically authorizes the DOD to “provide support for the stabilization activities of other Federal agencies … in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.” Nobody ever questioned what it is we are accomplishing in any of these countries and on behalf of which governments we are shedding our blood and spending our treasury. But when a man like Soleimani sacks our embassy and plots more attacks against a multitude of federal agencies in the country, Trump has no authority to act?

Not only do we spend billions propping up pro-Iranian officials in Baghdad and dubious fighting forces elsewhere, but page 1,087 of the bill authorizes the DOD to reimburse these governments for “logistical and military support provided by that nation to or in connection with United States military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.” On page 1,100, the bill provides authority for “(1) Defending the Syrian people from attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (2) Securing territory formerly controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (3) Protecting the United States and its partners and allies from the threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al Qaeda, and associated forces in Syria.” However, the bill is ridiculously silent about who exactly we are defending. Well, now we know: We were defending Iranian-backed Shiites from the Sunnis, while both sides were killing our soldiers.



The House bill did originally contain a provision repealing the original authorization of use of force in Iraq, but the final version left that out. The final NDAA contained $4.5 billion for the Afghani government and another $845 million for the Iraqi government.

Then, in the same week, Congress passed the defense appropriations bill, which allocated roughly $1.2 billion for counter-ISIS operations in Iraq, including “training; equipment; logistics support, supplies, and services; stipends; infrastructure repair and renovation; construction for facility fortification and humane treatment; and sustainment, to foreign security forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals participating, or preparing to participate in activities to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their affiliated or associated groups.”

Guess who that includes? The Shiite militias being commanded by Soleimani! After all, they were “participating in activities to counter” ISIS. For the past five years, our government has indiscriminately funded everything and anything that fights ISIS, when in fact, Iran was always the bigger strategic threat, yet Iran reaped the benefit of our efforts. Between the $26 billion we spent on training the Iraqi military through September 2012, according to the inspector general on Iraq, and another roughly $10 billion more in defense appropriations since then, authorized under the guise of fighting Sunni terrorists, that is more money than we need for our own border security that was sunk into pro-Iran militias.

Overall, the defense bill contains $71.5 billion for “overseas contingency operations,” which grants the president very general authority to use it for a number of questionable activities.

Thus, members of Congress have no leg to stand on when it comes to the president engaging in operations in those countries, particularly one that is rooted in a defensive action to protect our own personnel.

But if Congress really wants to have a debate about our vision in the Middle East, now is the time to engage in such a dialogue. It should begin with repealing the NDAA and starting anew. As I reported in December, that bill contained more visas for Iraqis and Afghans, a new paid family leave entitlement for all federal workers, a provision prohibiting federal agencies from asking about criminal records on job applications, and an amnesty for several thousand Liberian illegal aliens. Those provisions should be repealed, along with the provisions continuing our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A new NDAA should define very strictly our interests in keeping open shipping lanes or protecting any other assets from Iranian aggression or from other terrorist groups. But when it comes to land battles in fractured tribal lands, the answer should be: “You’re on your own.”

Those concerned about Iran might suggest that pulling out will hand Iraq over to Iran, but that is ridiculous, because Iran already controls the Baghdad government … and we’re helping them with infrastructure and security. Were we to pull out, Iran would then have a permanent Sunni insurgency on its hands. Nobody expressed this sentiment better than Dan Caldwell of Concerned Veterans of America, who served in Iraq:

By staying out of these wars, we will actually be able to counter Iran from a position of strength. If Iraq doesn’t want to extend us the “honor” of losing thousands of soldiers, spending several trillion dollars on its nonexistent and permanently divided country, and bringing in over 200,00 of its unvetted people to our country, who loses out here? Not us.

Finally, a new defense authorization should deal with the foundation of national defense, which is homeland security. We should cut off visas from the Middle East, deploy our military to our own border to deal with the cartels, and arm our own soldiers on American military bases, not to mention refrain from bringing Middle Eastern militaries to those bases. It’s time to protect our own interests, not those who bite the hand that guards them.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.