A Senate hearing about potential military strikes against Syria was dominated by discussion about Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry promised there would be no ground troops.
The first congressional hearing on President Obama’s request to use military force in Syria showcased the deep and bitter legacy of the Iraq war, as one senator after the other demanded that any authorization specifically rule out any recourse to American boots on the ground.
The Tuesday afternoon hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee revealed the varying concerns of different factions in Congress – concerns that range from wanting any US action to assist the Syrian rebels in bringing down President Bashar al-Assad to worrying that even limited military action could aid America’s enemies, including Al Qaeda elements in Syria.
But the echo of Iraq – and the demand that Syria not become another quagmire – dominated more than three hours of discussion.
Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Iraq's shadow when he said he understood congressional reluctance to authorize the use of force based on intelligence assessments that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against civilians on Aug. 21. He was seated next to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – who, like him, voted as a senator in 2003 to authorize the invasion of Iraq. "We are especially sensitive, Chuck and I, to never again asking any member of Congress to take a vote on faulty intelligence," Secretary Kerry said.