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Posted Sep 9, 2013, 1:04 pm
U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva released this statement Monday on the impending congressional vote on whether to authorize the use of military force in Syria:
When we hear about human rights violations, war crimes, and the murder of civilians – which is exactly what we face in Syria today – we feel a strong urge to punish the guilty and respond with violence. The images we have all seen of children being burned and families being destroyed provoke our national conscience and demand our outrage and sympathy. They remind us of the terrible violence perpetrated by other criminal regimes and our shared responsibility to enforce international laws.
I cannot hope to understand the suffering of the Syrian people harmed by the ongoing conflict there. But emotions and first impressions cannot rule our foreign policy. If Congress is asked to vote to authorize military force, I will vote no – not because I doubt terrible violence is occurring in Syria, but because a hastily organized missile strike with minimal international support will only make things worse. The considerable level of international involvement means we have much better options.
The news today that Syria, at Russia's urging, is willing to puts its chemical weapons under international control suggests a way forward. Syria's offer makes any bombing campaign aimed at neutralizing its chemical stockpile unnecessary. Once these weapons are in hand, we should refer the atrocities already committed by the Assad regime to the International Criminal Court for potential indictment and prosecution. The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation should be fully engaged in talks about regime change and the future of Syria. We cannot hope to broker a transitional process that ends Assad's rule and prioritizes the needs of the Syrian people through unwanted military force.
I want to see justice done and war criminals prosecuted. I am not an isolationist. I believe the United States can help shape a positive future for the global community. But the idea that firing a few missiles will help the good guys win the war and end things happily is a dangerous, unrealistic basis for our role in world affairs. The United Nations exists for a reason. We have seen what happens when we go it alone in the Middle East. Once the initial high of military commitment has worn off, we find ourselves in a trap of our own making.
We're sometimes told we have exhausted our diplomatic options. On the contrary, we have yet to offer a resolution to the UN Security Council regarding potential action in Syria. Even if we had incontrovertible evidence that the Assad government committed the recently reported chemical attack, we should present it to the world than instigating a unilateral bombing campaign. Given that Russia and China, Syria's major sponsors to date, abstained from the resolution to use force in Libya, it seems clear to me that we are far from exhausting our legal and diplomatic options.
If we're serious about a better long-term outcome in Syria, we should abandon our pointless threats to bomb Damascus – threats that have achieved nothing so far – and engage with responsible parties who share our interest in ending the conflict and the Assad regime. President Assad has earned the scorn and condemnation of the world community. In the final hour, he will have no friend willing to stand with him. Rather than throwing our military weight around for the sake of short-term headlines, the United States can help broker and oversee the lawful prosecution of Mr. Assad and his accomplices and ensure a peaceful transition to a better Syria. Such a role would not be forgotten by the Syrian people.
U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional District.