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The Senators and Representatives who have seen the classified materials agree that Assad gassed his people. That includes those who are strongly against intervention.  The debate is over what if anything should be done.

Here are some samples of statements by opponents of intervention on the question of whether Assad perpetrated the Damascus attacks:

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

I want to repeat that I am horrified by what Bashar al-Assad has done to his own people. He has committed a heinous act and a violation of the Geneva Convention no doubt about it. However, I still believe this proposal is the wrong course of action for the United States and its military.

I am voting no because this policy moves the United States toward greater American conflict and increasing regional conflict.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria is a human rights atrocity and a blatant violation of international law. It’s impossible to see the horrific images of death and suffering in Syria and not feel compelled to act in some way.  But there is not always an American solution to every international crisis.  For me, today's vote was a close call, but in the end, I voted no because I believe that the downside risks of military action, both for U.S. interests and the Syrian people, outweigh the potential benefits.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)
“Over the last two years, the Assad regime has committed terrible atrocities against thousands of innocent men, women and children in Syria. I join the rest of America in strongly condemning these awful acts of violence.

“This past week, I’ve participated in both open and closed hearings with the Administration about the President’s call for military strikes in Syria. Like most folks back home, I am concerned about the Administration’s willingness to commit to military action without providing an ultimate objective and an overall strategic plan in Syria.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
“I don’t see where any imminent threat to the United States is evident,” he said. “I do believe that chemical weapons were probably used in Syria but I don’t understand and don’t see a way that we involve the United States in this. So I plan on voting no.”
Michael McCall (R-TX)
I think what gives Congress great pause, and the American people great pause, is there's no good outcome here. They don't see a good side versus a bad side. They see Assad as a bad actor who's used chemical weapons. There's no question about that.  But then who is the other side? Who are the rebel forces?
Ted Yoho (R-FL)
The use of chemical weapons is deplorable and should be decried as such by the rest of the world, yet for some reason some people think it is the United States alone who must enforce the world’s outrage. The philosophy that the United States should be the world’s police is one that will lead to our own demise.”
The members of the House and Senate of both parties who have seen the materials agree on two things - there was a gas attack on Damascus and Assad's troops did it. They disagree on the response.

This is not Bush and Iraq, and bogus intelligence to support a war that was unjustified even if the intelligence had been accurate. This is a question of Assad using gas increasingly over several months until the last usage was so egregious that some response is warranted.

When earlier uses were suspected but not conclusively confirmed, Assad was warned directly, and through intermediaries like Russia, that he needed to cease. Instead he escalated. The only debate now is what, if anything, that has not already been tried should be done.

I made my views known to my Senators and Representative with this letter

"I urge you to Vote for the Syria Joint Resolution to "Authorize The Limited And Tailored Use Of The United States Armed Forces Against Syria." It is absolutely essential that the United States take action to respond to the use of chemical weapons by Syria. The last time we faced this issue was in the Iran-Iraq war when we did nothing when Iraq killed tens of thousands of Iranians with chemicals weapons.

To put my position in perspective I view this as analogous to the naked aggression of Iraq against Kuwait, which is why I supported the Gulf War resolution. Similarly, I supported the Afghan resolution because it was a response to aggression. On the other hand I opposed the Iraq AUMF resolution because it was not in response to anything and was based on ridiculous assertions of a future threat to the United States.

I do not believe the United States should be actively engaged in the Syrian Civil War. But I also believe that unless we respond to this use of chemical weapons there will be two consequences. First, Syria will be emboldened and will continue to use chemicals weapons realizing that there will be no consequences. Second, for all intents and purposes there will be no enforceable international norms on any issue moving forward. Rights without remedies are not rights. And prohibitions without penalties are not prohibitions. It is time to make clear that the rules against indecency and inhumanity will be enforced."

Also published at September 17, 1787


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