I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.
It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama’s request for the authorization of use of military force.
Dear Senator Heinrich:
Your decision disappoints me and I want to tell you why.
- Your words sound sincere but unconvincing. A week ago when President Obama first proposed limited air strikes against Syria, I was sitting on the fence. I understand your desire to take action to stop these atrocities in Syria, but I started doing my homework and reading as much as I could about the situation. I came to the conclusion that air strikes in Syria would do more harm than good, and listed my reasons here.
- I’m troubled that you and President Obama and Secretary Kerry make references to the intelligence information you have seen, but you share none of it to support your decision. Your constituents deserve more.
From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.
- I met an FSA freedom fighter in Cairo earlier this year. His words continue to resonate with me. I learned first-hand about the atrocities that have been occurring in Syria for the past 2 1/2 years. I also learned there is a big difference between the FSA freedom fighters and the extremists (Al Qaeda-linked) which you have linked together as “rebels”. You write that you oppose arming the Syrian rebels which leads me to believe that you do not know the difference. Please take time to review this report released this month by the Arab Reform Initiative entitled Empowering the Democratic Resistance in Syria.
- What is the end game? Assad has promised to retaliate if the U.S. attacks. You support limited action with no American boots on the ground, but what about the Syrian people on the ground (with or without boots)? Have you asked about the potential “collateral damage”? Have you considered what happens after Assad responds? James Fallows from The Atlantic makes a good case for not intervening here.
- I know you’re not a lawyer but the legal arguments might interest you. International law Professor Jennifer Moore from the University of New Mexico is an authority on the topic and writes that:
The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not justify US missile strikes in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population. The humanitarian principle of distinction prohibits the targeting of civilians, but does not sanction the decision to launch a military campaign responding to such attacks.
- Professor Moore spells it out here. She is joined by many other law professors from around the country who oppose military intervention in Syria in this letter dated Sept. 6, 2013.
- I understand your desire to take action — to confront Assad and his brutality. You are a father just like President Obama. It is brutally painful to think about innocent children being gassed to death. President Obama asks: “At what point do we confront actions that are violating our common humanity?” And you talk about our “moral obligation”. On this point, you and I agree. The U.S. must take action but it must be the right action. Here are the steps I recommend President Obama take.
- The situation in Syria should not be viewed in isolation from the turmoil in Egypt, Palestine, Israel and the rest of the Middle East. The human brain likes to compartmentalize issues, especially difficult challenges, but this leads to wrongheaded actions. You and I have sat together and talked about the situation in Gaza. I would like to sit with you again to provide an update on what I learned during my extended visit in Gaza (September 2012 – May 2013). I believe I can help connect some of the dots between the Israeli Occupation, Palestinian injustices, and what you see in Syria today.
You’ve cast your vote with the wrong side of history I fear. I hope you will reconsider.