DesJarlais says ‘no’ on Syria
by DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Sep 06, 2013 | 1061 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
U.S. REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS presented at the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland’s weekly luncheon Thursday. Members listened attentively as DesJarlais relayed his opinion on the current controversy with Syria.  Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
U.S. REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS presented at the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland’s weekly luncheon Thursday. Members listened attentively as DesJarlais relayed his opinion on the current controversy with Syria. Banner photo, DELANEY WALKER
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U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais said Thursday he would vote against U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war next week when the question goes to the floor for a vote.

The 4th District Congressman said he has yet to see any information to convince him to vote otherwise on Wednesday.

“The last I heard, it would be voted on Wednesday, Sept. 11, ironically enough,” he said in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner on Thursday afternoon. “The United States has no business in Syria’s civil war, especially when our choices are Bashar al-Assad or Hezbollah, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and the myriad of other extremist jihadist groups that make up the Syrian rebels. None of these groups deserves any of our support, either directly or indirectly.”

In his opinion, military intervention would further destabilize the Middle East. Iran is directly involved in the Syrian civil war and Israel has made no secret of its desire to knock out Iran’s nuclear capability, he said. The civil war is a continuation of hundreds of years of fighting in the region.

“There is nothing we are going to do that is going to change that,” he said.

According to The Associated Press, the civil war began March 15, 2011, when activists called for a "Day of Rage" across Syria, who were apparently inspired by other popular uprisings across the Arab world. A month earlier, in February, several youths were arrested in the southern town of Daraa for writing graffiti calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad.

Then on March 18, 2011, activists reported five people killed as security forces dispersed crowds in Daraa, one of several demonstrations across the country, in the first deadly violence reported in the uprising.

Unrest continued to spread in coming month and on April 26, 2011, the AP reported thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers opened fire on civilians in Daraa and two other locations, according to witnesses. Armed security agents conducted house-to-house sweeps. Neighborhoods were sectioned off and checkpoints were erected. Electricity, water and cellphone services were cut. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets, either dead or gravely wounded.

Fast-forwarding to June 13, President Barak Obama authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels after the White House disclosed conclusive evidence Assad's government used chemical weapons on a small scale against opposition forces. The United Nations human rights office raised overall death toll in the civil war to nearly 110,000.

More than 4.25 million people have been displaced within Syria and another 2 million people have fled the country, according to United Nation Human Rights estimates.

Assad is accused of using chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in Damascus suburbs to kill large numbers of civilians, including many children as they slept. The government denied using chemical weapons.

Nine days later, the Obama administration said it had "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out the chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people outside Damascus.

The following day, Aug. 31, Obama announced he had decided the United States should take military action against Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack. But, the president said he would seek congressional authorization for the use of force.

DesJarlais said he flew to Washington over the weekend for a classified briefing on the situation in Syria.

“The briefing only strengthened my conviction that getting involved in Syria has the potential to lead to huge costs for America,” he said.

Protecting the national interests of the United States is the only thing that would change his mind.

“While Assad is nothing short of a despot, his opposition is comprised of a group with direct ties to al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood,” DesJarlais said. “The enemies of America in the Middle East would love nothing more than to drag us into another military conflict.”

He said each Tomahawk missile costs roughly $1.5 million each. How many would it take to accomplish the president’s goals that are not clearly stated?

“It would cause us more damage financially and risk our personnel abroad,” he said. “Unless there is solid intelligence to suggest that American interests need to be protected through our actions, I will continue to oppose military intervention.”

He said Assad is not opposed to using humans as a shield around likely targets.

The congressman said his office has received a very high volume of phone calls and online social media from people who shared concerns over military action in Syria.

“It may not be like that in the rest of the state, but in the 4th District, the overwhelming majority of correspondence, almost 90 percent, has been to urge me to oppose military action in Syria.”

He said he has been working with like-minded individuals from both parties to mount an opposition to the resolution authorizing military force.

“Unfortunately, we face an uphill battle. Both Republican and Democratic leadership have come out in support of the president’s request. That is why I am asking for your help. Please contact Congress and make your views known. We have no business getting involved in Syria’s civil war,” he said. “I agree with Sen. Rand Paul’s sentiments that the House provides the best chance for defeating this resolution and keeping us out of Syria.”