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US Senate Approves $500 Million to Arm Syrian Militants

Lawmakers back president's plan to expand new war in the Middle East

Medea Benjamin, from the group CodePink, disrupts a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Chuck Hagel, U.S. secretary of defense, left, and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Getty Image)

Despite loud warnings from many quarters—including foreign policy experts, the anti-war left and dissenting CIA analysts—that such a move could prove disastrous, the U.S. Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve $500 million in government funds to help arm, train, and support so-called moderate military forces inside Syria.

The 78-22 vote—which came packaged as part of a continuing resolution for broader government spending—received bipartisan support with only 9 Democrats,  12 Republicans, and one independent (Sen. Bernie Sanders) voting against it. (See the full roll call vote here.)

Approved earlier in the week by the House of Representatives, the legislation is now headed for President Obama's desk where he is likely to sign it.

Obama has said that he does not think he needs Congressional approval for his overall strategy to confront the militant group known as the Islamic State (or ISIS) that has no taken over large swaths of territory in both Iraq and Syria. Simultaneously, however, the president has tried to garner as many visible signs of support from lawmakers as possible. The votes this week offer him plenty of cover as the Pentagon continues to make plans for expected, though deeply controversial, airstrikes against ISIS targets inside Syria.

As Obama has deployed increasing numbers of ground troops back into Iraq in recent weeks and expanded the U.S. bombing campaign, lawmakers have largely stood aside.

Explaining his vote against Thursday's measure, Sen. Sanders said, “I fear very much that supporting questionable groups in Syria who will be outnumbered and outgunned by both ISIS and the Assad regime could open the door to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement.”

On Thursday, filmmakers at Brave New Films released a succinct anti-war video arguing against Obama's flawed strategy in Iraq and Syria, saying that the president and those who back him are making the very same mistakes that have plagued U.S. foreign policy for decades.

"Since 1980," the narrator of the films states, "we have militarily intervened at least 35 times in more than 27 countries. We keep bombing, we continue spending trillions of dollars, but we're no safer as a result."

Watch:

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