Obama Makes Case to Skeptical Public for Military Action in Syria

Barrington M. Salmon | 9/11/2013, 6:58 a.m.
President Barack Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night during prime time, explaining his rationale as to why the U.S. should ...
President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night to explain why the U.S. should use military force in Syria after a chemical weapon attack killed more than 1,000 people last month.

Masri, who lives in North Carolina, said she recently visited 13 offices of North Carolina lawmakers and the majority are voting no or leaning that way.

“The Congressional Black Caucus and John Conyers are silent on this issue,” said Masri. “As a person of color, they represent me. They have been speakers on social justice issues but they’re loyal to Obama. There’s time to move. I met with conservatives, anarchists, Jews, Christians and military men and women across the spectrum and they all oppose this.”

Masri criticized the U.S. for seeking to present the case as a binary – an either/or scenario – with America only able to pursue one or two options.

“There’s so much this country could do to stop the war,” she told the crowd, her voice rising in indignation. “Saudis and Qataris are the main financiers of the terrorists in Syria. They say there can be no military solution, so what the hell are they doing trying to start a war?”

“The U.S. has been intervening militarily in Syria, if not for two years, as much as 10,” Masri asserted. “We need a diplomatic solution and humanitarian aid, not war.”

The Obama administration has an uphill battle trying to win the support of an untrusting and skeptical public and a deeply divided Congress. Several speakers said it feels like déjà vu, referring to the rush to war under former President George W. Bush. Despite more than 15 million people around the world marching in an effort to convince the U.S. not to invade Iraq, Bush and company ignored public sentiment, the United Nations and other efforts that championed diplomacy over military force and invaded Iraq in 2003.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research told the crowd that Congress may be the linchpin in blocking Obama from using military force. Indecision is rife in Congress, he said. By his count, 217 members of the House of Representatives would vote no or are leaning that way and 43 have indicated that they’ll vote yes or will likely do so.

“They’re undecided because their scared,” Weisbrot told the crowd. “This may be the first time a war is stopped by Congress. They’re having the debate in the media they should have had before the war in Iraq.”

“That war left one million people dead. No one was punished, and it was ‘let’s pretend nothing happened’. We were lied to and the media went along for the ride.”

Amal Esmail, a 40-year-old Arabic teacher from Syria stood on the corner of Independence Avenue holding a hand-made sign detailing America’s incursion and the devastation of the Iraq war.

“The opposition created the civil war. They gathered rebels and fanatics from around the world. We don’t want them there. We’re already free. We can take care of these people,” she said of the Syrian rebels. “The U.S. speaks about democracy but they don’t do it. They must listen to the people and practice it. I don’t know why people here are silent. I think more Americans should come out or call Congress.”