Syria has been fighting a brutal civil war for more than two years.
In August of 2012 President Obama declared the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line warranting reaction from the U.S.
After a recent sarin gas attack that killed over 1,400 Syrians the President asked Congress to consider a punitive military strike in Syria, if diplomatic means fail.
As Congress weighs the decision, their constituents here at home are making their voices heard. Protesters lined Washington Street to speak against U.S. military action.
“I just don’t believe this is the time to start another war. It’s a slippery slope when you’re trying to send missiles into another country that’s having a civil war,” said Maggie Kivisto. “We don’t need to get involved in some other country’s civil war. It’s terrible what had happened. But it’s not our job to do something at this time.”
“Any type of military strike would only make violence worse and increase the number of people that would die,” said Virginia Wisdom. “And very likely could lead to a larger war. Large wars tend to be started by small wars.”
Aware that Americans are war weary, the President addressed the nation and laid out his case for what he insists will be a limited engagement with no boots on the ground.
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them,” said the President. “Over time our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare. And it could be easier for terrorists to get these weapons and use them.”
Russia has offered a diplomatic solution to help negotiate a way for Assad to give up Syria’s chemical weapon stash and put it under international control.
“First thing is to start negotiations,” said Bill Holwand, a World War II veteran. “I think Russia’s going to come in on our side with that very idea in mind, and we have to give it a chance to succeed.”
Local Syrian Americans I spoke with are hopeful that U.S. intervention will help end the deadly conflict. Noura Al Masri lived under the Assad regime 13 years ago before coming to the U.S.
“No one can stop Assad besides the USA,” says Al Masri. “This has been going on for the last two and a half years and Russia and Iran have been supporting Assad. No one can stop them unless it’s someone stronger than them, and that’s the USA.”
“So far we have over 10,000 children that were murdered. We have over 100,000 documented people that have died, and over 200,000 people being held in Syrian government prisons. We also have over two million people in neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, and we actually have over six million displaced internally,” said Rana Sammani, a second generation Syrian American. “Assad has used all kinds of weapons from chemical weapons to TNT barrels against his own people who just wanted freedom and liberty and reforms to the system.”
Russian President Vladamir Putin has appealed directly to the American people with an op-ed in the New York Times. Although the U.S. and Russia disagree on various points regarding Syria, Secretary Kerry has emphasized the areas they do agree and says the U.S. is willing to work with them.
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