MEMORANDUM FOR: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Syria and Our Oath to Defend the Constitution
Dear Gen. Dempsey:
Summary: We refer to your acknowledgment, in your letter of July 19 to Sen. Carl Levin on Syria, that a "decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war." It appears that the President may order such an act of war without proper Congressional authorization.
As seasoned intelligence and military professionals solemnly sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, we have long been aware that -- from private to general -- it is one's duty not to obey an illegal order. If such were given, the honorable thing would be to resign, rather than be complicit.
The options your letter addressed regarding potential use of military force included five being considered at the time:
(1) Train, Advise, Assist the Opposition;
(2) Conduct Limited Stand-off Strikes;
(3) Establish a No-Fly Zone;
(4) Establish Buffer Zones;
(5) Control Chemical Weapons.
You were quite candid about the risks and costs attached to each of the five options, and stressed the difficulty of staying out of the Syrian civil war, once the U.S. launched military action. In responding to questions on military options voiced at your re-nomination hearing on July 18, your letter to the chair of the Committee on Armed Services reflects that you acknowledge Congress's Constitutional role with respect to U.S. "acts of war." Equally important, you addressed these words to Sen. Levin: "You deserve my best military advice on how military force could be used in order to decide whether it should be used." (emphasis in your letter).
"Tailored, Limited" Strike Option
Presumably, there has not been enough time to give Sen. Levin's committee an equivalent assessment of the implications of the new option described by the President Wednesday evening as a "tailored, limited" response to the chemical weapons attack on August 21 that he has been told was carried out by Syrian government forces. President Obama said, without elaboration, that a retaliatory strike is "needed ... to protect U.S. security."
It is precisely this kind of unsupported claim (so embarrassingly reminiscent of the spurious ones used more than a decade ago to "justify" attacks on Iraq) that needs to be subjected to rigorous analysis by both the Pentagon and Congress BEFORE the President orders military action. For some unexplained reason of urgency, that order may come within the next day or two. With no wish to prejudge the results of analysis presumably under way, we feel it our responsibility to tell you now that, speaking out of several hundred years of collective experience in intelligence and national security matters, we strongly believe that the President's reference to a military strike on Syria being "needed to protect U.S. security" cannot bear close scrutiny.