I am willing to believe the Obama Administration’s claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Syrians. And anyone who has read about World War I chlorine and mustard gas casualties knows what a horror these weapons are, and understands that even war has its rules.
Yet does crossing this “line” require a U.S. military attack? It is estimated that as many as 110,000 Syrians have been killed in an ongoing civil war, with hundreds killed by the recent gas attack. Because the Administration deems only the latter warrants our intervention, it would be a bitter irony if as many Syrian civilians died as a result of our intervention’s “collateral damage” as they did in the attack that prompted it.
Secretary of State John Kerry accused Democrats opposed to an attack of a “Munich” attitude. By referring to the Allies' decision, in 1938, to cede Czechoslovakia to the Naxis, Kerry was equating Syria's internal conflict with Nazi Germany’s external aggression. Is this to suggest the Nazis could have been pacified by a few days' bombing? And if the Syrians are the equivalent of the Nazis, should we not declare war and invade?
It seems as likely an attack might worsen the situation.
In attacking, we would go it alone. Yes, some principled allies like Saudi Arabia, where beheadings are legal for “witchcraft” among other crimes, are said to be cheering us on from the sidelines. But Britain, where a progressive parliamentary minority had the temerity to stand up, will not be with us. That will not change soon, even though President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, is a paid consultant to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government.
To attack will require Congressional Democrats to carry the day. To exaggerate like Kerry, the record this year of bipartisan voting would make Neville Chamberlain proud.
In January, House Democrats followed the lead of their campaign committee chair, Steve Israel of New York, in repudiating—even before Obama’s second term—the President's successful 2012 campaign pledge to restore a higher income tax threshold for those earning $250,000 or more. The threshold was instead set at $400,000. Israel had stated, “I would hope that he would not go back to 250. It's fair—$250,000 may sound like it's a lavish income in Louisiana. Not on Long Island.”
(Israel’s efforts did not go unrewarded: J.P. Morgan forgave him $93,000 he owed on his house). Of Washington state's Congressional delegation, only Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7) failed to vote the same as far-right Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3.)
Second, there was the so-called “Let Congress Fly Home Faster” bill. There, in a 361-41 April vote, the U.S. House voted to exempt air travel from sequestration, while programs like Medicare and tax credits for small businesses that provide health insurance were being cut. Every member of our congressional delegation voted “yes” with the exception of Representative McDermott and an absent Representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9). Representative John Dingell of Michigan, the “Dean of the House” as longest-serving member, asked, “Mr. Speaker, is there no one in this chamber who is embarrassed? Or perhaps the question should be: Is no one in this chamber not embarrassed?”
A chortling House Majority Leader Eric Cantor then sent out a memo to House Republicans quoting a reporter characterizing Democrats’ “complete, utter cave.”
Next was a July House vote to ban runaway electronic snooping by the National Security Agency. By a 217-205 margin, the amendment was defeated. Of our Democratic House members, only Suzan DelBene D-WA,1) and McDermott failed to join 134 Republicans, as Rep. “Doc” Hastings (R-WA,4) increasingly looked like the benchmark for our delegation’s progressivity. This was true even though Washington’s state constitutional guarantee of privacy is not exceeded nationally and is far more protective than the 4th Amendment.
But whatever ... No one's spying on members of Congress.
Now, with various self-imposed catastrophes facing Congress – including ongoing sequestration and a debt ceiling deadline next month that, once again, has the potential to blow up the federal budget and bankrupt us – we’re to believe the latest urgent occasion for a bipartisan Kumbaya is agreeing to fire cruise missiles into Syria. Sorry if I, and the vast majority of voters, do not buy it.
Inconsolable progressive Brendan Williams served as a state rep from Olympia's 22nd Legisliative District between 2005-2010.