The following is a letter I received from Congressman Ed Pastor regarding the situation in Syria, dated October 16, 2013.
It is entirely unedited without media spin:
October 16, 2013
Mr. Robert Tilford
(Address deleted for security reasons)
Dear Mr. Tilford:
Thank you for expressing your concerns about potential U.S. military involvement in Syria. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
Since March 2011 when the Syrian people began protesting peacefully in pursuit of a real transition to democracy, the Syrian regime has cracked down with brutal violence and complete disregard for its own citizens’ basic human rights, with estimates of more than 100,000 people killed, over 2 million Syrians fled as refugees, and over 5 million internally displaced. This conflict has created a dire humanitarian crisis, with the U.S. being the single-largest provider of humanitarian aid such as food, medical care, clean water, and shelter for all the men, women, and children affected. While the U.S. and the international community continue to pursue a negotiated, peaceful end to this conflict, the Syrian people and others affected by this conflict require considerable assistance.
As a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I have been following the events in Syria closely through classified briefings on American diplomatic efforts, intelligence collected on the regime and opposition, and now tragically, the horrific use of chemical weapons. The U.S. government assesses with high confidence that on August 21, 2013, the Syrian regime carried out chemical weapons attacks on civilian populations in the Damascus suburbs, killing 1,429 people, of which 426 were children. That the regime carried out these attacks, the opposition unable and unlikely to do so in this particular manner and location, and the evidence collected from victims showing exposure to the nerve agent sarin, is not really in doubt. United Nations inspectors are currently processing their findings, while other international aid and humanitarian groups have reached similar conclusions as the U.S.
President Obama has called the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons “an assault on human dignity” that “presents a serious danger to our national security,” and initially asked Congress to authorize the use of force for military operations “against Syrian regime targets” to “hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.” According to the President, such military operations would be “limited in duration and scope” and “would not put boots on the ground.” To that end, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed a resolution authorizing such action on September 4, 2013, but the House has not acted yet.
Perhaps because of the credible threat of military force as well as public and private diplomatic efforts, Russia has seized upon a last-ditch offer by the U.S. to avert military action in Syria. This proposal would require the Syrian regime to declare its chemical weapons and hand them over to international monitors so they may ultimately be destroyed. While Russia has vetoed three separate efforts through the United Nations Security Council to act in Syria since the civil war began, this offer is being taken seriously and the U.S. and our allies are committed to working with Russia and China to reach an agreement through the United Nations. Accordingly, the President has asked Congress to postpone any action to authorize military force.
While I believe that continued humanitarian assistance is necessary in light of the escalating violence in Syria, I remain very concerned about committing our nation beyond our current diplomatic and humanitarian role. It is my hope that the U.S. will lead the international community in this latest effort to destroy the regime’s chemical weapons stockpile and avert military action. Please be assured I will continue to carefully consider all the available information and potential consequences of military action, as well as inaction, and your comments have been helpful in this regard.
It was good to hear from you on this matter.
Member of Congress