On Syria Strike, Local Lawmaker Has Serious Doubts
“This is behavior outsize the circle of civilized human behavior and we must respond,” said Pelosi.
But other Bay Area congressional leaders have expressed strong reservation against military action. KQED’s Mina Kim spoke with South Bay Democrat Zoe Lofgren.
Mina Kim: At the hearing today, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, and he said “neither our country nor our conscious can afford the cost of silence.” What would you say your thinking is today?
Zoe Lofgren: I have a lot of questions. I have not yet had a chance to review the classified information and plan to do so next Monday. But let’s assume [Kerry] is correct – that the evidence is there and that chemical weapons were used. The question is then what does the United States do, and why, and where does that lead to? Assad has killed a hundred thousand Syrians without chemical weapons and recently, apparently, close to 1500 Syrians with chemical weapons – both are appalling. But the question is what should the U.S. do, what’s the precedent, where does it lead us to, where does it end, where is the strategy overall with Syria and with the Middle East? And how would opening a war with Syria promote that strategy? None of those questions have really been answered.
Kim: What in your view is the best course of action the U.S. should take?
Lofgren: I haven’t reached a conclusion on that yet. The president’s proposing that we engage in an act of war with Syria. He’s the president so it’s important that we listen closely to his proposal. He is due great deference as our president. As I think you may know, Congresswoman [Anna] Eshoo and I, who have adjoining districts here in the South Bay, talk all the time and we talked after the president spoke on Saturday and issued a statement on a number of questions. She and I were on a conference call yesterday morning with Secretary [John] Kerry and Ambassador [Susan] Rice as well as the head of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of defense and the [Director of National Intelligence] head … and that actually created more questions than answers. We sent off an additional set of questions to Ambassador Rice. We’re hoping to get her response to those questions because I think we should carefully consider this before we act.
Kim: What would you say is your biggest concern about the U.S. taking military action in Syria?
Lofgren: Well, there’s not just one. The bottom line is where does this lead? For example we were told yesterday that the effort was not regime change, but to degrade the chemical warfare capacity. What does that mean? Does that mean that the chemical weapons will remain? I assume so, that there’s still a capacity for them to use chemical weapons. And if they do again, what then is the United States to do and where does that lead? If in response to a military attack there is retaliation against Israel or Turkey, where does that lead? I think these are questions we need to think through.
Kim: How would you characterize your position today on military strikes against Syria?
Lofgren: I would say I’m skeptical but studying hard.