Obama asking Congress to back an intervention
“Unless I’m given new or more convincing evidence, I will vote against it.” Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge
WASHINGTON — Congress returned from a month-long recess on Monday with a majority of the Louisiana congressional delegation opposing any U.S. military intervention in Syria.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and U.S. Reps. John Fleming, R-Minden, and Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, are against U.S. air strikes.
U.S. Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, have said they plan to vote against any military action, unless they receive any new evidence convincing them otherwise. “Unless I’m given new or more convincing evidence, I will vote against it,” Cassidy stated.
Boustany’s intentions to vote against any military intervention remained in place after meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on the subject.
Alexander agreed. “I think there’s too many cards in play right now,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, and Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said they remain undecided.
President Barack Obama is pushing for limited military strikes without putting soldiers in the country, arguing that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, went too far with the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Obama is asking for congressional approval.
Alexander suggested that Obama look closely at the suggestion from Russia that Syria gives its chemical weapons stockpiles up to international control in order to avoid U.S. military intervention.
But Philip Gordon, White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, said Monday in a briefing with The Advocate and other regional reporters that Russia and China have been blocking the United Nations Security Council for years.
“We do have to be careful about the potential distractions from the current proposal on the table, which is making sure the Assad regime doesn’t use chemical weapons again,” Gordon said.
“It will take quite a long time” to get weapons inspectors in and find and eliminate the chemical weapons that Assad refuses to admit even exist, he said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence the Russians came forward with this proposal today,” Gordon noted, after years of Russian obstruction.
Gordon said Obama’s proposal is only for “focused” and “targeted strikes” without putting troops into combat in order to ensure that chemical weapons are not used again. The de facto prohibition against chemical weapons has existed since World War I, he said.
There is “not much doubt” that the regime in Syria personally authorized on Aug. 21 the use of chemical rocket attacks with sarin gas on the suburbs of Damascus, killing more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, he said.
Vitter and other opponents have argued that the events in Syria are horrible, but that “they do not pose a direct threat to the United States or our allies.”
The White House sharply disagrees.
“The risk for inaction is even greater,” said Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary. “That, if we fail to enforce this international norm against the use of chemical weapons, it only makes it more likely that those chemical weapons will be used by the Assad regime and by others.”
“It poses a very significant risk to our country’s core national security interests,” Earnest added.
The White House will continue to ask members of Congress a key question, Earnest said.
“Should there be consequences for dictators who use chemical weapons against civilians, including children?” he said.
Earnest insisted that the U.S. has no interest in entering the Syrian civil war and that there will have to be a negotiated settlement to resolve the broader conflict.
“We should want to strengthen the moderate opposition and that’s who we’ve been trying to help,” Gordon added.