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Congresswoman Waters Slams Trump’s Dangerously Incoherent Strategy on Syria

April 12, 2017
Press Release


Washington, D.C. -- Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, issued a statement in response to the Trump Administration’s inconsistent statements on Syria, following the administration’s airstrikes against a Syrian airfield. Her statement follows:


Donald Trump’s incoherent strategy on Syria is threatening our national security.  Comments from the Trump Administration reveal the complete lack of a coherent strategy, and in some cases, an appalling ignorance of history, confounding both America’s allies and adversaries. There is widespread confusion about whether this administration plans to seek regime change in Syria, focus on defeating ISIS, use military force only in response to the use of chemical weapons, or intervene anywhere in the world to protect civilians.


Trump’s personal comments on Syria have been dangerously inconsistent. Throughout his presidential campaign, he took a hardline, anti-interventionist approach to America’s role in the world, and he announced in his inaugural address, “From this day forward it’s going to be only America First.”


Then last week, Trump suddenly and unilaterally decided to launch airstrikes against a Syrian airfield – without consulting Congress – in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on “innocent babies.” If Trump had been receiving daily intelligence briefings like most Presidents do, or even if he had been reading news coverage on subjects other than himself, he would have known long before he was sworn in that Assad was killing innocent babies.


As early as August 2013, when President Obama was considering military action in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians, Donald Trump tweeted, “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside.”


Prior to Assad’s April 4, 2017 attack, the administration seemed willing to ignore Assad’s repeated attacks on civilians and allow him to remain in power indefinitely, while the administration focused on defeating ISIS. Now administration officials are suggesting they may try to remove him from office.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has contradicted himself over the past week, saying at one point, “We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world.”  At another point he said, “We’re asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons...Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”


Tillerson also implied that the United States does not care about Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, when he asked in a meeting with our European allies, “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?”


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said, “There is no political solution that any of us can see with Assad at the lead.” 


Meanwhile, Sean Spicer revealed his appalling ignorance of history, when he announced that Adolf Hitler “didn't even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II.


Trump’s incoherent policy on Syria has been compounded by his repeated praise for Vladimir Putin and his unwillingness to personally condemn Putin’s support of Assad, despite the fact that Assad has been murdering civilians for many years with the support of the Kremlin. Yesterday, Trump belatedly admitted that Putin is “ evil person.”


Trump’s unexpected expression of compassion for Syrian “babies” is blatantly inconsistent with one of his first actions as President – the indefinite ban he tried to impose on the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States. As I said at that time, the Trump Administration’s refugee ban was especially deplorable. It targeted women, men, and children who were fleeing brutal repression, and who were hoping to find freedom in the United States of America. While the President’s ban on the admission of refugees and immigrants from Syria and six other Muslim countries was overturned by the courts, the President has yet to show any sympathy for the Syrian people who are trying to escape Assad’s repression. If the President cares so much about Syrian babies, why not give some of them refuge in the United States?


The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 reflects his lack of compassion for Syrian refugees and his lack of interest in developing coherent strategies to deal with Syria and other international crises. Trump’s budget cuts funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by $17 billion, which equates to 31 percent of these agencies’ budgets. These cuts would devastate programs that assist Syrian refugees, as well as others who are fleeing violence and repression around the world.  In addition, the budget completely eliminates funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace. 


We cannot trust Trump to develop a well thought out response to the crisis in Syria. Congress must reconvene to develop a coherent strategy for responding to this crisis – a strategy that includes careful diplomacy, consistent statements about American intentions, coordination with our allies, efforts to protect refugees, and a budget that funds humanitarian assistance programs and reflects American values and compassion.