Looming Syria Vote Prompts Protests
WASHINGTON—Anti-war protesters gathered in multiple cities this weekend, opposing a military strike against Syria.
There were fewer protesters than the hundreds of thousands who rallied to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Senate will debate a resolution by the Foreign Relations Committee when Congress returns from recess on Sept. 9. Legislators had open hearings and classified briefings to discuss the crisis last week. The House of Representatives has not agreed on a resolution.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said in a statement that he would keep an open mind.
“I worry that while the president talks about ‘surgical strikes’ and a limited engagement by our military, there is no doubt that many members of Congress support ‘regime change’ in Syria and much deeper involvement,” Sanders said.
“If that policy prevails, there is no question that it could cost tens of billions of dollars and the possible future involvement of American troops,” said Sanders.
According to Sanders, his constituents oppose military involvement in Syria 10 to 1. A Senate resolution forbids any involvement by American troops.
Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) wants a strike against Syria and believes America must try to tip the balance of power in favor of the opposition in the country’s civil war. He sponsored an amendment to the resolution that called for America to create “decisive changes to the present military balance of power on the ground in Syria.”
In the House, Rep. Hank Johnson, (D-Ga.) said in a statement, “At this time, I am deeply skeptical that use of force is in our national interest.”
House Speaker John Boehner supports the use of force.
While lawmakers mulled the issues, some 150 protesters picketed the sidewalk in front of the White House on Sept. 7 and marched to Capitol Hill, chanting slogans like, “They say more war. We say no war,” and carrying signs that said a war on Syria would be “built on a lie.”
“There is a grass-roots uprising against the Democrats and the Republicans,” said Medea Benjamin, a founder of the anti-war group Code Pink.
Lawmakers in both parties are divided over Obama’s request for Congress to authorize using military force against Syria as a punitive measure for a deadly Aug. 21 chemical gas attack. The Obama administration is blaming Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Citing intelligence reports, the administration reported 1,429 people died, including 426 children.
Concerns over military action spawned other protests across the country, including one in New York City’s Times Square and a vigil in Boston.
In Indianapolis, about 150 protesters clustered around the Indiana Statehouse. Other protests were reported in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Los Angeles.
Benjamin said a cross-section of Americans is united against military intervention.
“We have suddenly found ourselves united as Americans, overwhelmingly saying we will not let you drag us into another war,” Benjamin shouted into a megaphone in front of the White House.
Associated Press contributed to this report.