Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday said he's "deeply concerned" that President Donald Trump's unilateral military action against the Syrian government will once again drag the U.S. "into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East."
Questioning Trump's motives, the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate said the president "must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria's devastating civil war ends."
Sanders' statement, issued one day after Trump launched the strikes, stands in contrast to many of his Democratic colleagues who voiced support for the air assault that killed civilians, including children.
Though he declared President Bashar al-Assad a "war criminal" for his alleged use of chemical weapons, and for killing "hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to protect his own power and wealth," Sanders cautioned that it is the role of the U.S. as "the most powerful nation on earth" to "work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Syria."
"If there's anything we should've learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent," Sanders continued, "it's that it's easier to get into a war than get out of one."
The response came as the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the U.S. strikes, which marked the first direct assault by the U.S. against the Syrian government. The emergency meeting was requested by Russia.
Earlier this week, the UN's Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic had launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the alleged attack, saying at the time that "it is imperative for perpetrators...to be identified and held accountable."
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Sanders addressed that fear, saying that he's "deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East. If the last 15 years have shown anything, it's that such engagements are disastrous for American security, for the American economy, and for the American people."
Joining other dissident voices, such as fellow Vermonter Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), as well as California Democrats Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Barbara Lee (in addition to a handful of conservatives), Sanders added that Trump "must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime."
Lee issued a statement late Thursday, the same day lawmakers departed for a two-week Easter break, saying that "Congress should not be on recess... [while] Trump stands on the verge of marching our nation into another war with unknown costs and consequences."
That call was echoed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday when she requested that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) call lawmakers back to session so that they can "debate any decision to place our men and women in uniform in harm's way."
Win Without War is also circulating a petition demanding that lawmakers "cancel vacation to debate and vote...before any more bombs fall."