The Senate has approved a 2016 Defense Department spending bill that earmarks nearly $1 billion to arm Syrian and Ukrainian rebels, including several batallions adopting neo-Nazi symbols and slogans. By a veto-proof 70-27 vote, the Senate voted on October 7 to approve the $612 billion Pentagon appropriation bill for 2016, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
While most of the items in the bill would never be approved were our government to be bound by the enumerated powers of the Constitution, a few of the provisions are particularly pernicious.
First, Section 1255 of the NDAA sets aside $531.5 million to be paid directly to the Syria Train and Equip program. An additional $25.8 million and $42.8 million will go to the U.S. Army and Air Force, respectively, to pay for their training of and participation with the various armed Syrian factions.
Subsection (a) (3) of Section 1255 mandates that the secretary of defense provide “a description of the actions to be taken by the Secretary to ensure that such support would not benefit The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Jabhat Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, the Khorasan Group, or any other violent extremist organization, or The Syrian Arab Army or any group or organization supporting President Bashir Assad.”
Another $715 million will be paid into the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, an effort aimed at arming and training the Iraqi military and Kurdish and tribal militias claiming to be combatting the Islamic State.
Section 1250 of the 2016 NDAA describes and funds the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and dumps $300 million to its maintenance.
This provision requires the State Department and the Pentagon to work together to “provide appropriate security assistance and intelligence support, including training, equipment, and logistics support, supplies and services, to military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine.”
In other words, Congress is spending $300 million to prop up a foreign government.
Another $50 million will be sent to Ukrainian troops — many of whom proudly identify themselves with the symbols and ideologies of the neo-Nazi movement — to buy “lethal” weapons, including “anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.”
Subsection 4 authorizes drones to be sent to the Ukrainian armed militias.
Obviously, not one of these expenditures is permitted by the powers granted to the federal government by the states in the Constitution. There is not a single syllable that could even be construed to demonstrate an intent by the Founders of that document to endow Congress with authority to arm or otherwise support foreign governments, armed rebels fighting other governments, or any other such armed conflicts.
In fact, the president of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington, advised against such actions in his Farewell Address of 1796. The following excerpt from that famous letter is lengthy, but worth the read: