Foreign policy experts, human rights groups, and anti-war activists all immediately and forcefully condemned the U.S. bombardment of Syria on Friday night after reports indicated the "illegal" attack on the sovereign Middle East nation had begun and President Donald Trump announced in a national address that he had ordered the strikes alongside French and U.K. forces.
"By illegally bombing a sovereign nation, President Trump has once again denied the American people and Congress any oversight or accountability in these endless wars." —Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)"Trump's decision to strike Syrian forces was impulsive, dangerous and a clear violation of domestic and international law," declared Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, in a statement. "This attack endangers U.S. forces in the region, and invites escalation from Russia, Iran and Syria."
According to the Associated Press:
Loud explosions rocked Syria’s capital and filled the sky with heavy smoke early Saturday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain. Associated Press reporters saw smoke rising from east Damascus and the lit-up sky turning orange for the blasts.
Watch Trump's address attempting to explain his decision—despite receiving neither authorization from the U.S. Congress nor sanction from the United Nations—to bomb Syria:
But the American Civil Liberties Union, without hesitation, joined those who said the attack on Syria was a clearly illegal act.
"This military action is illegal," declared Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, after the U.S.-backed assault on Syria was announced.
"In the face of constitutional law barring hostile use of force without congressional authorization, and international law forbidding unilateral use of force except in self-defense, President Trump has unilaterally launched strikes against a country that has not attacked us — and without any authorization from Congress," Shamsi said. "Doing so violates some of the most important legal constraints on the use of force."
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif) decried Trump's decision, saying the "strikes against the Syrian regime – without congressional input or authorization – shows a contempt for the U.S Constitution and is without legal justification."
Lee added, "This is not a dictatorship. Congress, not the president, is responsible for debating and authorizing military action. By illegally bombing a sovereign nation, President Trump has once again denied the American people and Congress any oversight or accountability in these endless wars."
At the same time, Reza Marashi, the research director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), explained how "tremendously dangerous" the situation in Syria remains and warned that Trump risks "throwing fuel on the regional fire" with strikes that could have severe consequences.
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"Given that Iranian and Russian forces are closely embedded with Syrian government, there is a significant risk that any strikes will trigger retaliation and a bloodier, wider war with few discernible ways to deescalate the conflict," Marashi said.
As others have repeatedly done, he emphasized that a large reason "Syria is in ruins today is because nearly all actors have pursued military solutions instead of diplomacy aimed at halting the bloodshed. An eye for an eye approach will not bring justice or peace to Syria, and there is no moral high ground for those who respond to abhorrent violence with more violence."
According to Raed Jarrar, advocacy director for Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA, the Syrian people "have already endured six years of devastating attacks, including chemical attacks, many of which amount to war crimes."
Anti-war activists further questioned how the bombings ordered by Trump on Friday night would do anything to actually end the conflict in Syria that has been ongoing since 2011:
Literally not uttered once tonight by POTUS, SecDef or Joint Chiefs Chairman, how any of this will end the war in Syria.
— Stephen Miles (@SPMiles42) April 14, 2018
I know we've already said this, but it's worth repeating:
Trump doesn't care about the people of Syria.
If he did, he wouldn't put them in greater risk of harm by escalating the war and bloodshed.
If he did, he wouldn't try to ban them from our shores.
— Elizabeth #BlockHaspel (@_ElizabethRB) April 14, 2018
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) April 14, 2018
Late Friday night, the Pentagon held a press conference to address questions about the U.S. attack: