When Republican senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul walked out of a military briefing Wednesday over the recent US attack that took out top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, they were not happy about how that exchange went.
Sen. Paul said the briefing was ‘less than satisfying’, blasting the meeting as ‘insulting to logic and the Constitution’.
A fiery Sen. Lee elaborated further. ‘I had hoped and expected to receive more information outlining the legal, factual, and moral justification for the attack,’ Lee said. ‘The briefing lasted only 75 minutes, whereupon our briefers left. This, however, is not the biggest problem I have with the briefing, which I would add was probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years I’ve served in the United States Senate.’
‘What I found so distressing about that briefing was that one of the messages that we received from the briefers was: do not debate, do not discuss the issue of appropriateness of further military intervention against Iran,’ Lee added. ‘And that if you do, you’ll be emboldening Iran.’
Lee and Paul were accused of ’emboldening’ Iran by demanding moral justification for the US strike and questioning the constitutionality of the administration’s actions?
Apparently, this was precisely the accusation leveled during the briefing, as evidenced by Sen. Lindsey Graham doubling down on that line of attack when he criticized Lee and Paul after the meeting.
‘They’re libertarians,’ Graham said dismissively of the duo. ‘I think they’re overreacting, quite frankly. Go debate all you want to. I’m going to debate you.’
‘Trust me, I’m going to let people know that at this moment in time to play this game with the War Powers Act, whether you mean to or not, you’re empowering the enemy,’ Graham charged.
He’s got to be kidding.
Lee and Paul are no doubt libertarian-leaning Republicans. Sen. Graham is also no doubt their polar opposite within the party — an authoritarian-leaning Republican who sees few civil liberties worth protecting and even fewer wars not worth fighting.
Yet it has been Graham’s overall foreign policy agenda that has unquestionably emboldened and empowered Iran more than anything else this century.
In January 2019, the United States Army released an assessment of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. ‘In terms of geostrategic consequences, the war produced profound consequences,’ the document read:
‘…at the time of this project’s completion in 2018, an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.’ (my emphasis).
‘Iraq, the traditional regional counterbalance for Iran, is at best emasculated, and at worst has key elements of its government acting as proxies for Iranian interests,’ the document added.
You would be hard pressed to find a more vocal advocate in Congress for the Iraq war than Sen. Graham. Today, while most members in both parties who served in 2003 are embarrassed about many of their pro-war votes at the time, and even most Republicans would rather not talk about it, Graham remains a staunch defender of what many consider the worst foreign policy decision in American history.
President Donald Trump has called the Iraq war the ‘single worst decision ever made’ and a ‘big, fat, mistake’.
Graham has apparently learned nothing from that colossal mistake.
No less an authority than the US Army has concluded that the Iraq war empowered Iran far more than it helped Iraq or the US. In fact, you could argue the current tension between the US and Iran might not exist if the 2003 Iraq war had never happened.
Sens. Lee and Paul are doing what they can right now to make sure the US doesn’t repeat that mistake in Iran. Sen. Graham says they are ‘overreacting’, as a man who still insists the US invasion of Iraq wasn’t a failure and apparently believes a redo in Iran would be swell.
President Trump should follow his ‘America First’ gut instincts and not repeat the Iraq war in a country three times its size.
Jack Hunter is a contributor to The American Conservative and the Washington Examiner and a former adviser to Sen. Rand Paul.