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House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels, but Not to Pay for It

Posted on Sep 17, 2014

  Anti-tank munitions, like the high explosive fired in this photo, may make their way from the U.S. to Syrian rebels. U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal

With the help primarily of Republicans, President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels won approval in the House on Wednesday.

Passed as a budget amendment by a vote of 273 to 156, the measure is controversial if only that it reminds one of the United States’ covert war in Afghanistan a few decades ago. In that conflict, the U.S. funded and supported Afghan rebels and foreign holy warriors, some of whom turned out to be the Taliban and al-Qaida. Then as now, Saudi Arabia played a major role.

Raising an alternative example of American adventurism gone awry, California Democrat Barbara Lee, a steadfast dove, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “How will we ensure that the United States weapons we are providing to Syrian rebels will not get into the wrong hands, as they did with the rebels we supported in Libya?”

The bill would supply weapons to the rebels, but not the funds to buy them. That money, which the administration estimated at $500 million, would have to be plucked from elsewhere in the budget.

The Islamic State draws much of its support from Syria, where it is in open conflict with President Bashar Assad. President Obama, a fan neither of Assad nor the IS, hopes he can strengthen moderates to fight a ground war with U.S. air support. But moderates may be hard to find.

This is what former Rep. Dennis Kucinich had to say about it Wednesday:

Historian Alastair Crooke, writing about the connection between Saudi Arabia and ISIS, recently described “moderate” insurgents in Syria as being “rarer than a mythical unicorn.” “Moderates” have a non-aggression pact with ISIS. “Moderates” captured an American journalist and sold him to ISIS, who beheaded him. Saudi Arabia, which, with Qatar funded the jihadists in Syria, is now offering to “train” the rebels. Congress is being asked to swallow this concoction: the sponsors of radical jihadists are going to train “moderate” jihadists.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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