On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended President Joe Biden’s decision to conduct an airstrike on Iranian-backed militias in Syria in retaliation for multiple attacks said to have threatened Americans — a move that earned him some harsh criticism from progressives, according to Fox News.
The airstrike was carried out Thursday night, and Psaki said that Congress had been briefed on the move before it happened.
“A thorough, legal response”
According to Fox, Psaki called the move “necessary” to protect Americans and said Biden wanted to send an “unambiguous message” about his intentions to do so.
“He has the right to take action in a manner of his choosing,” Psaki said of Biden’s first military move as president, adding that his action was legal.
“I can assure you there was a thorough, legal response,” Psaki said, as Fox reported. She added that Biden has “been doing this long enough not to set red lines,” and said that the action was a “proportional” military response that included “consultation with coalition partners.”
The airstrike reportedly came in response to several Iranian attacks near Erbil and the Green Zone between Iraq and Iran, including two missiles that struck near the American embassy in Iraq.
An American service member was injured in one of the attacks on Erbil, along with several others, according to NPR. A civilian contractor was killed.
Republican praise, progressive criticism
Republicans including House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (TX) and Rep. French Hill (AR) both praised the airstrike, with McCaul saying he had encouraged the administration to respond and that he “commend[s] them for doing just that.”
GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (FL) and Lindsey Graham (SC) also lauded Biden’s move. “It is imperative that our enemies know that attacking Americans comes at a cost,” Graham said.
But those on the left aren’t seeing things in quite the same light. Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) slammed the attack, saying he was “very concerned” that it “puts our country on the path of continuing the Forever War instead of ending it,” according to Fox.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), meanwhile, said in a statement that “[t]he American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress.”
“Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” Kaine said, according to Politico. “Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”