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On Syria: "Congress Must Accept Its Responsibility, Not Abdicate It"

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Source: The Nation


A Syrian soldier, who has defected to join the Free Syrian Army, holds up his rifle and waves a Syrian independence flag in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, January 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

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Congressman Peter Welch does not want the United States to "Americanize" the civil war in Syria.

To that end, Welch says, Congress must renew its commitment to the Constitution, which gives the legislative branch of the federal government not just the power to declare war but the authority to check and balance military interventions and alliances that might lead to war.

"Congress must accept its responsibility, not abdicate it," says the Vermont Democrat, who is a key player on the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs.

To that end, Welch has this week taken a leadership role -- along with New York Republican Chris Murphy -- in a bipartisan push for Congress to restrict direct military aid to Syrian rebels.

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Welch is not naive, nor is he neglectful of realities on the ground in the Middle East. He traveled to the region last month as part of a congressional oversight mission, visiting an enormous refugee camp along the long the Turkish-Syrian border where he says he witnessed "enormous heartache and suffering in a humanitarian disaster on a vast scale."

Yet, while the Democrat is quick to condemn the brutality of the Syrian government and its military, he notes that divisions between the various opposition factions means "there is no good choice when it comes to US interventions in the region." And that includes the Obama administration's decision to provide military aid to rebel forces.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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