EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSWV Lawmakers Split On Syria Strike
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Also Contributing: ABC News, Kallie Cart
Reported: Aug. 9, 2013 11:07 AM EDT
Updated: Sep. 2, 2013 10:29 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
As President Obama tries to gain support for his plan in authorizing military action in Syria, West Virginia's lawmakers are heading back to our nation's capital.
Senator Joe Manchin and Representative Nick Rahall say they will both take active roles in the debate over what actions America takes, but while they represent the same party--the two don't agree on what the next step should be in this evolving situation.
Shaking hands at a Labor Day picnic at home in West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin's mind was a half world away. That's because Congress is now being tasked with giving the green light on striking Syria. The state's junior senator isn't convinced military action there is a good idea.
"I haven't seen a thing that compels me that we need to vote to go in there...There's no immediate threat to the United States of America," Manchin said.
Making matters more challenging--the surrounding region isn't exactly stable.
"There's nothing coming out of it from the standpoint we've got Hezbollah on one side. We have al-Qaeda on the other. We don't have a friend to be had," said Manchin.
Fellow Democrat Nick Rahall has a different view, saying Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's actions in using chemical weapons against his own people cannot be tolerated.
"I think our response should take into account America's national security interests, and that's to ensure chemical warfare, weapons of mass destruction, do not get in the wrong people's hands, especially those who would do harm to America." Rep. Rahall said.
Initially, President Obama said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line," forcing the US to send a message with military force. But now, he's taking a step back, as protests across the country show an attack isn't popular. The president is saying we need to execute a limited attack, but he's leaving the decision up to Congress.
"I want to give the president the benefit of the doubt because I think certainly a response needs to be made," said Rahall.
Manchin will attend several defense-related committee briefings to ensure he has all the information available before the Senate begins debate sometime this week.
Rahall says he will take part in the debate as well, and thinks Congress should get to work quickly.
Aug. 30, 2013
President Obama today said he has "not made any decisions" on whether to launch a military strike on Syria, but sought to assure the American public and the international community that if he does, it will be a "limited, narrow act," ABC News reported
"We're not considering any open-ended commitment," Obama said, adding, "In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign."
The president said that punishing Syria would send a message that the "international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban."
Alongside Vice President Joe Biden and leaders from Baltic nations, the president called the crisis in Syria "a challenge to the world."
An intelligence bulletin released Friday revealed Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime carefully planned and executed a chemical attack last week, killing more than 1,400 people, including 400 children. More than 100,000 people have been killed in violence in the country over the past two and a half years.
Charleston doctor Samer Nasher is from Syria and still has many family members there.
“He's the Hitler of this time,” Nasher said of Assad. “He's using massive weapons against his own people.”
Nasher’s family includes three brothers who have sought refuge in other countries, and one who is desperately trying to get out.
“The road has some snipers, so he's trying to choose the right time to leave,” he said.
Nasher is like many in the local Syrian community who support limited U.S. involvement. He said it is a humanitarian issue and an airstrike, like the one used in Libya, would give the Syrian people a chance to fight back.
“We feel like there is no hope, except with some help from the United States,” Nasher said. “In the past, the United States attacked from the sea and with other type of military activity. That actually helped the people, so we do not have to send our kids here in the United States to go die in an unnecessary war.”
One new poll finds 50 percent of Americans oppose taking military action in Syria.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said he does not believe there is an imminent threat to the security of America and wants Congress to be called back to Washington to debate the issue before military action is taken.
The British parliament voted Thursday against intervention in Syria. President Obama said he is prepared to go at it alone, but is still trying to gain international support.
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