Braley: “Strikes” Not the Same as “Airstrikes”

Congressman uses wordplay to defend claim rated false by fact-checkers

October 6, 2014

Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) has defended his recent claim at an Iowa Senate debate that he voted to authorize U.S. airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria—rated as false by fact-checkers—by equating "strikes" with training and arming moderate rebels in Syria, the Hill reports.

Braley said at the debate at the end of last month that he "recently had the opportunity to vote to give the president limited authority to begin strikes against terrorists in Iraq and Syria." Politifact judged that statement to be "False" because the spending bill approved by Braley only authorized providing assistance to the Syrian rebels—and specifically did not permit U.S. military action.

A Braley campaign spokesman said the congressman did not misspeak at the debate because arming the rebels will "facilitate strikes" against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

"On Sunday, Bruce clearly spoke of his vote in Congress to facilitate strikes against ISIS in Syria by training and equipping Syrian rebels, and [Republican] Joni Ernst agreed that Braley was right to have taken that vote. As Bruce said, the terrorists of ISIS have perpetrated a grave injustice against the American people and must be brought to justice or to the grave," Sam Lau, a spokesman for Braley, told the Hill.

Bruce Ackerman, a law and political science professor at Yale Law School, disagreed.

"The authorization of money to train Syrian rebels does not remotely amount to an authorization of American attacks on ISIS in Syria," he said. "It is perfectly consistent for a senator or representative to vote for the money appropriation and yet strongly oppose American initiation of ‘hostilities’ against ISIS in Syria or Iraq."

Braley himself also defended his claim in an interview with the Sioux City Journal editorial board last week.

"I did not say during the debate airstrikes. I said strikes, that’s what training troops on the ground to do to coordinate with the airstrikes is, training people to engage in strikes against ISIS," he said.

Republicans say Braley was uninformed about the vote he actually cast on combating ISIL, and note that he voted in June to restrict funds for any U.S. combat action in Iraq.

"Congressman Braley lied about voting to authorize military strikes in Syria, because he deliberately wanted to mislead voters from his actual vote to bar ANY funding to fight terrorists in Iraq," said Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Jahan Wilcox in a statement. "Given his repeated lies, Congressman Braley cannot be trusted on this important matter regarding the security of our country."