At least 28 civilians, including 7 children, were killed in US-led airstrikes on Thursday in the Syrian town of al-Ghandour, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This terrible news follows last week’s reports of at least 77 civilians killed in US-led airstrikes in the same general area; near the city of Manbij.
Following last week’s strikes, the U.S. launched an investigation to determine how many civilians were killed and how the tragedy occurred, but considering that the U.S. is essentially investigating itself in this matter, calls by Amnesty International and others for an “independent and transparent investigation” have apparently fallen on deaf ears in the administration. Also falling on deaf ears was the call of Anas al-Abdah, president of a prominent opposition group and U.S. ally called the Syrian National Coalition, for the immediate suspension of airstrikes for the duration of the investigation. Had that call been heeded, at least 28 civilians might still be alive today.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration argued against the charge of a lawsuit filed by Capt. Nathan Michael Smith that the war on ISIS is illegal absent a new congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). The administration contends that because Congress has authorized funds for the war, it has authorized the war itself. Prior to Congress authorizing funds for the war against ISIS, the administration relied on the outdated and open-ended AUMF passed in the days following the September 11 attacks to justify the ongoing military campaign in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact that the 2001 AUMF only authorized military action against the perpetrators of that attack and those who harbored or assisted them (a definition which ISIS does not fall under).
Unless Capt. Smith’s suit proves effective, a dubious prospect indeed given who he’s up against, the onus will fall on the American people to demand that Congress fulfill its constitutional duty to debate and vote on whether or not we go to war. As politically difficult as it has proven to be for Congress to find an acceptable middle ground detailing what if any military action should be taken against ISIS, our country simply cannot afford to allow the precedent set by President Obama’s unauthorized war to go unchallenged.