WASHINGTON — Kansas lawmakers wasted no time Wednesday expressing doubt about the need for U.S. military action in Syria after President Obama addressed the nation in a rare prime-time speech.
Remarking Tuesday night on the “red line” crossed by Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons — prompting the threat of a U.S. attack — Obama evoked parallels to the Holocaust.
“The situation profoundly changed ... when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children,” Obama said.
Members of Kansas’ Congressional delegation met with Obama earlier Tuesday, but still remained skeptical about responding to Syria with a military strike. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., said the facts did not support intervention.
“I agree with President Obama that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons to attack his own people was a horrific crime, and I join the president in condemning Assad’s actions,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “However, while I am open to evolving diplomatic solutions, I remain unconvinced injecting our military into the middle of a violent civil war is in America’s best interest.”
A Congressional vote to authorize a U.S. attack on Syria has been delayed following heavy pushback from legislators and members of the public.
“President Obama told us he now wants to delay a vote. He knows there is no support for military strikes in the Congress or in the country,” U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said. “This past month at home, not a single Kansan told me they supported military action in Syria. Not only that, they are discouraged, concerned and disgusted with the lack of leadership within the administration.”
“I share all of these sentiments,” Roberts continued. “The actions displayed by the president and the secretary of state do not inspire confidence.”
Concerns over U.S. intervention in Syria were tempered for some earlier this week when Russia offered to broker a deal in which Syria could avert a U.S. attack by turning over its chemical weapons — which the Middle Eastern country previously refused to acknowledge even existed — to the United Nations. While some were optimistic the negotiation could avoid a U.S. strike, Roberts voiced further doubt.
“The president told the Senate that he believes he can work with Russia and the United Nations,” Roberts said. “Not only is the United States expected to give credibility to the Russians who have provided Syrian President Assad with weapons throughout this conflict, but [Obama] is asking us to give credibility to the United Nations as the ‘regulator’ for Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
“There is nothing I trust about the UN, Russia or the Assad regime. By offering this diplomatic path, we are simply providing a delayed mechanism for the president to pursue his goal of a military strike when the regime does not comply. At that time, I believe Kansans, and all Americans, will feel the same as they do today — opposed to military strikes in Syria.”