Congress and Peace Activists Gear Up for Syria Debate

Sep 3, 2013

Credit Official White House Photo/Pete Souza

As President Obama expresses confidence that he'll be able to work with Congress to pass a resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria, in Vermont and Northern New York, representatives and peace activists want questions answered before any action begins.

President Obama told reporters Tuesday that he's open to changes to his request for Congressional authorization for strikes and is serious about consulting with Congress, as long as the resolution sends a clear message to the Syrian president and hampers his ability to use chemical weapons.

Vermont’s Congressional delegation released statements over the weekend indicating they want to see long-term plans from the White House.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent, noted: ”The use of chemical weapons by the Assad dictatorship is inhumane and a violation of international law.  However, at this point in time, I need to hear more from the president as to why he believes it is in the best interests of the United States to intervene in Syria's bloody and complicated civil war.”

Congressman-at-large Peter Welch, a Democrat, said in a statement over the weekend: “Congress has a clear Constitutional responsibility to authorize military action. Consistent with this profound responsibility, I have strongly advocated that President Obama send any plan for military intervention in Syria to Congress for review and authorization. I am pleased that he has now agreed to do so."

Northern New York Congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat, is encouraged that the president is seeking Congressional authorization, but says key items must be discussed before he casts his vote.

As Congress gears up to debate intervening in Syria, so too are anti-war groups.

People for Positive Action is a peace group in Clinton and Essex counties in northern New York. Chair Mary Alice Shemo says she is very concerned about the Syrian situation.

Shemo adds that People for Positive Action has yet to determine a unified course of action, but members are contacting Congressional representatives.

Peace Action of New York State Executive Director Alicia Godsberg notes that individuals may not realize how important making that contact is.

Godsberg says she is glad that the president realizes the people’s voice must be heard, but is concerned that diplomacy and peaceful options appear to be off the table in the review of potential actions.

In Vermont, Pax Christi Burlington is asking its members to contact Congress and the White House to call for no military strikes. Sister Miriam Ward says in an email if a strike occurs, members of Pax Christi and other groups will hold vigils in Burlington and Montpelier to denounce such action and call for negotiations.