At meeting with constituents, Himes says he’s ‘skeptical’ on Syria strikes

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told area residents Sunday that they are not sure how they will vote on a resolution that would grant of President Barack Obama approval to strike Syria.

Based on the comments from constituents who filled the Darien Library for a community discussion, area voters are against military action. An unofficial straw poll was taken of the audience, which included people from all over the county, and the overwhelming number voted against action in Syria, which President Obama has advocated for after the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian leaders against their own people. The Syrian government has denied the charges, but President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have insisted it happened and a Congressional vote is expected soon.

As of Monday, though, it seemed unlikely the resolution would pass the House of Representatives of which Mr. Himes, a Cos Cob resident, is a member due to an unlikely alliance between anti-war progressives and Tea Party members. Mr. Himes was one of many members of Congress who held town hall meetings on this issue prior to the vote and he invited Mr. Blumemthal, also a Greenwich resident, to attend it with him.

More than 400 people crowded into the library on Sunday, Sept. 8, for the town-hall-style meeting. Most of those who spoke are hoping that Connecticut’s representatives in Washington tell President Obama that a Syria military campaign is not what the nation wants.

Anna McGovern, who was raised in Syria, said the people of Syria are being used as “pawns in a proxy war” and she hoped that the nation’s leaders would consider everything before getting the U.S. involved in another war.

“Before you cast a vote to send more of our children and to send innocent lives in Syria to their deaths, weigh, weigh every piece of evidence,” she said. “There should be no doubt. If there’s any doubt, then you should cast a no vote,”

Sandra Eagleman of Stamford wondered if military intervention would really make things better, especially with more people possibly potentially dying.

“When I see these pictures of children who are suffering and dying from the chemical weapons there and my heart opens and I want to help, how is more violence going to help?” she said. “When we helped Iraq, a million Iraqis were killed.”

Other residents worried about America getting involved in a war that would only benefit major corporations and not necessarily the people of the country in question. Some also did not want to take action because of how long it may take to exit.

Though most of the audience stood against taking action, some people did support stepping in.

Ann Lundberg of Ridgefield, who said she was against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Afghanistan, supports taking action in Syria to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Lundberg said she sees no political solution until the balance of power changes in Syria.

“If we do not deter the use of chemical weapons and then degrade (Assad’s) capacity that there will never be incentive for him to save his own skin by going to a peaceful table,” she said.

Mike Gilbertie of Westport said President Obama has a real opportunity and should work like President George H.W. Bush did and gather a coalition and invade Syria and bring Assad to trial.

“You don’t have to guess if he has weapons of mass destruction or not,” Mr. Gilbirtie said.

Mr. Himes and Mr. Blumenthal said they will have plenty to consider and think about prior to the vote. Mr. Himes said  considers himself “very skeptical” about taking action.

“I have not made a final decision,” Mr. Himes said. “I’m keeping my mind open and I’m listening to the experts, but I’m very skeptical of this course of action.”

At the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee picnic on Sunday, prior to the town hall meeting, both Mr. Himes and Mr. Blumenthal spoke. Mr. Blumenthal said that he wanted to make sure he heard from constituents prior to the vote. He called this “the issue of the day” and said it was absorbing him. Mr. Blumenthal said he had questions about what the country’s objectives would be in Syria, whether they could be accomplished through military force and “most importantly” if it could be done without troops on the ground.

“I’m going to be listening to the people of Connecticut,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “That’s what’s most important to me. I can hear from all the top military leaders and the civilian experts in Washington, but I want to hear from the people of Connecticut… At the end of the day, it’s those instincts and views that I think will provide the wisdom for me to decide what is right.”

There will be extended coverage in the Post’s Sept. 12 edition.

 

Post editor Ken Borsuk contributed to this story.

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