The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week.
On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks, US officials said.
Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner both released statements on the strikes.
Sen. Mark Warner:
“Last night, the Director of National Intelligence briefed me on the Administration’s strikes in Syria. Assad’s use of chemical weapons to slaughter civilians was a heinous crime as well as a violation of international norms and Syria’s commitments to give up chemical weapons. It could not go unpunished. I am hopeful these strikes will convince the Assad regime that such actions should never be repeated.
“I have requested information from the Administration about their plans, including any additional action in response to the use of chemical weapons. President Trump has said repeatedly that his objective in Syria is to defeat ISIS. Last night’s strike was aimed at a different objective. President Trump needs to articulate a coherent strategy for dealing with this complex conflict, because the consequences of a misstep are grave.”
Sen. Tim Kaine:
“Assad is a brutal dictator who must be held accountable for his actions. But President Trump has launched a military strike against Syria without a vote of Congress. The Constitution says war must be declared by Congress. I voted for military action against Syria in 2013 when Donald Trump was advocating that America turn its back on Assad’s atrocities. Congress will work with the President, but his failure to seek Congressional approval is unlawful.”
Speaking on CNN’s “New Day,” the Virginia Democrat told co-host Chris Cuomo that the military action had “no legal justification” considering that the President did not seek approval from lawmakers beforehand.
“There is no legal justification for this,” Kaine said. “He should not have done this without coming to Congress.”
Although Kaine agreed with several of his colleagues — specifically, fellow Sen. Marco Rubio — that “from a moral standpoint … it was the right thing to do,” he said Trump was wrong to not obtain the go-ahead from Congress.
“I’m the Democratic lead on the committee over the Middle East; I was not consulted,” said Kaine, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. “I heard about this on the news.”
When Cuomo pointed out that “there is a pattern of (Congress) allowing” military actions without obtaining congressional approval, Kaine fired back.
“When you say it doesn’t matter, I know you are kind of blasting Congress,” Kaine said. “There’s 1.6 million families like mine who have a kid in the military. It matters. You can’t put people into harm’s way without a political consensus.”
The strike is the first direct military action taken by the US against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war. It represents a substantial escalation of the US military campaign in the region, and could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
Six people were killed in the airstrike, according to a televised statement by the Syrian’s Armed Forces General Command. Russia condemned the strike as an “act of aggression,” and Assad’s office Friday called it “a disgraceful act” that “can only be described as short-sighted.”
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said during short remarks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, where he ordered the strike just hours earlier. “It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
He added: “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.”