FAIRFIELD — Calls to Rep. John Garamendi’s office are running more than 20-to-1 against the U.S. taking military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
So far, Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is right there with his constituents. He said this week that he opposes a punitive strike by the U.S. in response to an alleged sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. That attack killed 1,429 people, the U.S. says, including hundreds of children.
“I’m a ‘no’ vote, unless there’s some information that I’ve not yet heard,” Garamendi said.
President Barack Obama is seeking congressional authorization for the use of force. A vote is expected to take place sometime after Monday, when Congress returns to work.
Garamendi praised the president for turning to Congress for approval, but the congressman said he remained unconvinced of the wisdom of a military strike against Syria – and not fully convinced of the evidence against Assad.
“When you unleash the dogs of war, you don’t know who they’re going to bite,” he said. “They could very well bite us . . . . We should plan on Syria doing something (in retaliation for a strike), and that may cause an additional response on our part or (on the part of) one of our allies.
“What we have always feared is a regional war. And the current plan perpetuates that fear, causes it to happen,” Garamendi said. “By our own action, we’re bringing surrounding countries into this civil war. Is anybody thinking beyond red lines?”
Garamendi’s list of reasons for opposing military action includes:
“Let’s say Turkey sends military planes to bomb Syria and one or more of those planes is shot down. What’s Turkey going to do?” Garamendi said. “Syria has already shot down at least one of Turkey’s planes (in 2012), and Turkey did not respond, at least overtly, to that. Or an attack causes Syria or Hezbollah to launch missiles at Israel – and I think there’s a high probability of that. What’s Israel going to do?”
Garamendi said the U.S. ought to be working to gain international support that isolates Assad and pushes him to negotiate.
“That simply has not happened,” he said. “The U.N. secretary-general has also made it clear that this (proposed) attack does not meet the requirements of international law. Pressuring Russia and China to allow for a U.N. action – we ought to be spending time on that.
“Is it hopeless? The only thing that’s hopeless is if you don’t try.”
Critics of the Obama administration have questioned the lack of evidence put forth publicly to justify the strikes and are troubled by nagging questions about the timing of Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Some who oppose taking action against Assad have drawn comparisons to Bush administration’s assurances that Iraq had obtained weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion of Iraq as further reason to be skeptical.
“Count me among the skeptics,” Garamendi said.
The congressman is set to take part in a classified briefing Monday. A House Armed Service Committee hearing on Syria is also scheduled that day.
Garamendi represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes much of Solano County including Fairfield and Vacaville, and Travis Air Force Base.