Weekly Columns

Syria

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Washington, Sep 4, 2013 | Tiffany McGuffee (202-226-8072) | comments

Last week, President Obama announced that, after his national security team deliberated for weeks about the best course of action in Syria, he had decided the United States should engage militarily in Syria because of evidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people. The President’s case is entitled to a fair hearing from all of us because when it comes to matters of war and peace, we are Americans first. So when I return to Washington next week, I will review the classified documents about the Syrian government’s use of these weapons. Knowing what I know now, however, I do not think engagement in Syria is warranted or in our country’s national interest.

Last year, while reiterating that he did not think military intervention was necessary in Syria, President Obama warned that his position on its civil war would change if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons. He said, “A red line for us is when we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” The president added, “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” The president followed up on his “red line” remarks this week, stating that his perspective stemmed from international standards that prohibited the use of chemical weapons in combat.

According to a large number of independent sources, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs. A preliminary assessment by the U.S. government determined that 1,429 people were killed during this attack, including at least 426 children, though these estimates will certainly change as investigations continue. The use of chemical weapons by any country is cause for concern, but this is a unique and complex situation. I’m particularly interested in understanding how helping an opposition backed by al Qaeda is helpful to us.

This week, the House and Senate both began holding hearings on the situation in Syria. On Tuesday, the Secretaries of State and Defense, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They told the committee that this operation, if approved by Congress, would not result in the deployment of U.S. ground forces in Syria.

On at least one front, I’m pleased with the president’s actions – by taking his case to Congress to obtain authorization for his actions he is abiding by his constitutional obligations. On August 28, I joined 116 of my House colleagues to send a bipartisan letter, led by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), to President Obama asking that he consult Congress prior to any military action in Syria. I was pleased to see the president has heeded this request.

Next week, I will return to Washington and will attend the classified briefings scheduled for the House. Between now and then, I will continue listening to residents of the First District at town hall meetings and considering the e-mails and phone calls coming to my office.

Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.
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