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Rep. Neal Calls For 'Full-Fledged Debate' Before More Action In Syria

April 7, 2017
In The News

WGBH (BOSTON) - Rep. Richard Neal called for congressional approval before more military intervention in Syria during an appearance on Boston Public Radio today.

“I’m supportive of a surgical airstrike, but I think before we go to a broader arena, it’s time for a congressional consultation and a full-fledged debate, once we ascertain really what the president’s prerogatives are,” said Neal, the top democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Neal recalled his vote against the military incursion in Iraq in the early 1990s, saying any action in Syria requires a “judicious approach” given the messy conflicts that have ensnared the U.S. during the past two decades.

“Dick Cheney said we’d be welcomed as liberators [in Iraq], in addition to which, oil reserves were going to pay for the incursion,” he said. “None of that happened. I think that before there’s this broad enthusiasm for this increased effort, we need to talk about this for the American people.”

President Trump authorized airstrikes Thursday night at an airfield in Syria that’s said to be the source of this week’s deadly chemical attack.

Neal responded to critics of the president who say the airstrikes are hypocritical in the wake of his ban on Syrian refugees. He admitted cries of hypocrisy have “some merit” and the airstrikes “came by surprise.”

The congressman said the decision was likely influenced by advisers like Gen. James Mattis and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“As you know, just three days ago, the president boo-hooed the idea of a further engagement in Syria,” he said. “He advised Obama not to do anything about it even before he was a candidate for president, so I think that part of this is clearly the instruction that’s coming from Gen. Mattis and others.”

Neal seemed to be skeptical of the idea that Trump ordered the airstrike as a distraction from his administration’s increasingly complicated ties to Russia.

He said he believed the airstrikes were motivated by “the horror of what we all witnessed this week.”

The death toll from the chemical attack hovers at 86 people, including children. The airstrike killed six.

Neal said Trump’s administration should learn from previous administrations’ mistakes and proceed with caution.

“Here we are, almost 14 years later still engaged in Iraq,” he said. “The idea that after what we’ve witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we would commit to a further engagement, at the moment, seems to me to be something that needs to be fully deliberated and argued in public.”