Not so fast
Local congressional leaders wary of military strike against Syria
By André Coleman 09/04/2013
A mid calls for a retaliatory military strike against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad for an Aug. 21 chemical attack which killed nearly 1,500 people, more than 400 of the victims being children, some local members of Congress are worried that a missile strike could lead to another drawn out war involving US military personnel.
For those reasons, even some members of his own party are hesitant to support President Barack Obama’s plea to Congress for military authorization.
“The White House has put forward a proposed bill authorizing the use of force that, as drafted, is far too broad and open ended, and could be used to justify everything from a limited cruise missile strike to a no-fly zone and the introduction of American ground troops,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank. “As drafted, I will not support it. Having introduced a bill in Congress to sunset the existing authorization to use military force in one conflict, I am loathe to support another unless it were very narrowly drawn. In my discussion with the White House, I told them the draft would need to be reigned in significantly to have any
chance of passage.”
Members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate are expected to vote on giving Obama military authorization to attack Syria after they return from summer recess on Sept. 9, the same week that Americans will be reflecting on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, which led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the continuing War on Terror.
However, the United States may not even know where the regime’s chemical weapons are being stored. According to The Associated Press, a report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining the evidence against Syria claims that the US intelligence community no longer has the certainty it did six months ago of where the Assad regime’s chemical weapons are being stored, nor does it have proof that Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons use. The report cites two unnamed intelligence officials and two unnamed US officials.
Unanswered questions led the British Parliament to vote against any participation by the United Kingdom in military strikes against Syria. Russia has also slammed evidence presented against Syria, and Chinese government officials and that country’s state-run media fear military strikes could lead to another decade-long war like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Turning Syria into another Libya or even Iraq is the last thing most people around the world want to see,” opined the English-language China Daily in a strongly worded editorial on Thursday. “Before the crisis takes a turn from bad to worse, it is high time the US learned from its past mistakes.”
Schiff said he understood why many Americans view any intelligence with a strong degree of skepticism after the “tragically flawed analysis of the weapons of mass destruction program” during the second Bush administration.
However, he did say that clinical evidence from blood, hair and tissue samples indicating sarin gas use and evidence from multiple sources is so substantial that ignoring the case against the Assad regime “amounts to turning a blind eye.”
“After Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public is weary of war, and I share that weariness. I have opposed arming the rebels in Syria, notwithstanding the administration’s support, because I fear those weapons will get in the wrong hands and it will draw us into yet another sectarian civil war.”
Meanwhile, Obama spent Labor Day in meetings with the leaders of congressional committees making his case for a military strike. So far, he has gained support from Republicans House Speaker John Boehner and US Sen. John McCain.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Obama said he believes Congress will authorize military action against Syria. He said he would be willing to rewrite his draft resolution to Congress, “so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to degrade Assad.”
Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Los Angeles, said that she was uncomfortable with the draft of the president’s bill that she had read.
“I just don’t believe this is the right course to take,” said Hahn, a former Los Angeles City Councilwoman. “I’m not comfortable with the resolution that I’ve read, that would authorize the president to use military force,” Hahn told Wolf Blitzer on Monday night. “I’m worried about what happens after we strike. [Assad] is calling the Middle East the powder keg that could explode if we strike. So I’m concerned about this.”
Fighting in Syria began in 2011, when protests against dictators in Egypt and Tunisia inspired Syrians to challenge the dictatorship in their own country. According to the Washington Post, Assad’s security forces responded to the peaceful protests by first killing activists. When that did not stop the protests, security forces started kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing activists and their family members, including children, and dumping their bodies on roadsides. Civilians began fighting back, leading to an all-out civil war which has created nearly 2 million refugees who have fled into nearby countries.
“Whatever gang of bad guys wins in Syria has nothing to do with the security in the United States,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, in a prepared statement. “We should have learned our lesson from the Iraq War. President Obama was elected as president of the United States and is thus the commander in chief of our armed forces. But he obviously also thinks he is the police chief of the world, responsible for enforcing stability throughout the planet. Americans have already paid too high a price for that grandiose notion. ”
That price could go up significantly if the US does intervene in Syria. The watchdog currently overseeing the US spending on the reconstruction in Iraq, which so far has cost $160 billion, said the US would have to play an immediate role in Syria if Assad is run out of office which could cost tens of billions of dollars in reconstruction costs.
“The needs are going to be immediate and substantial, and like it or not, we’re going to have to play a significant role in meeting those needs,” said Stuart Bowen Jr, who serves as the US special inspector general for war reconstruction in Iraq, reported The New York Times.