4th District crowd tells Himes, Blumenthal: No strike on Syria
It was clear, following a straw vote in the Darien Public Library auditorium, that a majority of those who attended the town hall-style meeting Sunday with U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal were opposed to any sort of military action against Syria.
One of the first points Himes made to the roughly 425 residents from around his 4th Congressional District people who filled the auditorium and spilled out into the library's courtyard was that he is unsure if he would vote for or against a military strike in Syria.
"This is not a simple issue," Himes said, adding that two weeks ago, he was able to review classified documents regarding Syria and still had many unanswered questions.
President Barack Obama is seeking congressional authorization for a military strike against Syrian President Bashar al Assad for an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,300 Syrians. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution giving Obama the authority to launch a limited military strike against Syria to degrade Assad's military capabilities and prevent the use of chemical weapons again.
"Military action has consequences and a lot of them are unpredictable," said Blumenthal, who, like Himes, is undecided and is "still listening and asking question."
Over the course of two hours, Himes and Blumenthal, both Democrats in Connecticut's congressional delegation, answered a plethora of questions
She said the sisters "remain convinced that only dialogue can save lives and bring peace in Syria" and, "We also ask you support efforts toward an inclusive negotiation for peace and increased humanitarian assistance for the people affected by the violence in Syria and the region."
Ted Diamond, a World War II veteran, said that he believes Assad crossed the line when he used chemical weapons and that he is in favor of sending the message that Assad "cannot do these reprehensible acts against civilians."
"We should be the moral policemen," Diamond said. "We should send (Assad) a message that you cannot do that."
Stephen Falk, of Westport, asked if the potential military action in Syria was a way to deflect the news media's attention from the issues surrounding the National Security Agency's phone surveillance.
Himes said he didn't believe Syria was a distraction.
Linda Czaplinksi, of Oxford, echoed the opinions of others who said the U.S. should not enter Syria. She felt that by launching a military strike, the country would be neither respected nor feared.
"We will be a paper tiger with a very loud roar and no strength," Czaplinski said. "We have no business over there. Let that region take care of itself." She suggested that the U.S. concentrate on combatting unemployment and getting "our own house in order before we tell others how to run theirs."
Several who spoke told Himes and Blumenthal that they didn't feel a strike against Syria would be the end of military action.
"This is not a limited military strike," said Paul Sutherland, of Ridgefield. "This is an act of war. If (Assad) bombed New London or Sikorsky (Aircraft Corp.), we wouldn't consider it a limited military strike, we would consider it an act of war. This is basically war."
Joe Gilgan, of Fairfield, said that "war is truly worse than hell."
"Hell is reserved for sinners," Gilgan said. "War doesn't discriminate."
Anna McGovern, of Monroe, told Himes that she is Syrian and spent the first eight years of her life in Syria.
"Look deep inside; we are being manipulated," McGovern said. "I was telling my children this morning, what is the weakest piece on the chess board? The pawn. People of Syria are pawns in a proxy war."
Gail Jarvis, of Trumbull, said she was impressed by the questions that were put forward and by how knowledgeable people were when addressing Himes and Blumenthal.
"I came here believing that enough is enough," Jarvis said.
Himes and Blumenthal told those in attendance that they would take into account what was said at the meeting when making their final decision on a military strike in Syria. Himes noted that if his constituents were "powerfully clear" as to where to they stood on an issue, he would need an "overwhelmingly powerful" reason to go against that.
"No government, no president, can resort to military force and military action if the American people are against it," Blumenthal said. "American opinion and support are vital; we can't be fighting a war without it."