Eshoo, Lofgren seek more answers before Syria vote

Congresswomen issue joint letter seeking information about impacts of possible strike

With the U.S. Congress preparing to debate a potential military strike at Syria, Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, have co-authored a letter laying out the major questions that they say must be answered before they make a decision.

In a public letter to National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Eshoo and Lofgren pose a list of questions that they said were not completely addressed during President Barack Obama's briefing with the Congress and top administration officials Monday morning. Participants in the conference call included Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Labor Day briefing was part of the Obama administration's aggressive effort to rally support in Washington for a limited missile strike that would "degrade" the ability of Syria's military to carry out chemical attacks. Kerry, Hagel and Dempsey are scheduled to address the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee this afternoon about the military operation. Kerry and Hagel are also due to speak to the House Foreign Intelligence Committee tomorrow. The operation would be in response to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's reported use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in a suburb outside Damascus, which the Obama administration estimates killed about 1,400 people.

The Monday letter from Eshoo and Lofgren follows last week's letter in which the two congresswomen lauded Obama for his recent decision to seek congressional authorization for a possible military strike. In the Aug. 31 letter, Eshoo and Lofgren said congressional authorization is "legally and constitutionally required – the President cannot legally act alone without the U.S. Congress." That letter includes many of the questions contained in the new one, many of them revolving around the expected scope and effect of the military operation. What, they ask, does it mean to "degrade" the Assad regime's chemical-weapon capacity? What would the U.S. do if Syria retaliates against Turkey, Israel or Lebanon after the operation? And what other nations, aside from France, would be actual participants in the military attack (as opposed to "mere verbal support")?

Eshoo and Lofgren also ask about the possibility of "world public opinion," particularly in the Arab world, turning against the United States after the attack.

"If, as Secretary Kerry notes the world is outraged at Assad's conduct, why does it fall only to the United States to take actual military action?"

Lastly, they ask about the response the United States can expect from Russia, an ally of Syria and a consistent opponent of a military strike against the Assad regime.

The letter from the two congresswomen comes at a time when the Obama administration is trying to shore up support for the strike from an ambivalent Congress, with some members calling for more aggressive action and others voicing skepticism about America's ability to achieve any positive results with missile strikes in the volatile region. On Tuesday, Obama scored one victory in this effort when Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner became the third high-profile Republican to voice support for a military operation in Syria, according to the New York Times. Over the weekend, hawkish Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham approved of a strike against Syria despite earlier reservations that the limited strike wouldn't go far enough.

Eshoo and Lofgren have yet to take a public position on the Syria operation, though they have requested more transparency in the debate. In their Aug. 31 letter, they urged Obama to make his case for the attack "in the light of public scrutiny, not by 'classified' briefings that are kept from the American people and which members of Congress are prohibited from discussion publicly."

"This debate will have its needed effect only if it is fully transparent," Eshoo and Lofgren wrote.

The Monday letter acknowledges that "this could be war" and that events are "not entirely controllable." Eshoo and Lofgren wrote that they understand that it "might be unwise to publicly report the various scenarios that detail potential adverse consequences from a military attack although we assume that this analysis has taken place."

"However, we feel we must learn of the potential adverse impacts of a military attack before a vote on authorization," they wrote.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm

You would think that by now we realized that the controlled surgical strike is a complete fiction. When you start bombing a country, the aftermath is unpredictable and getting sucked into ever increasing conflict is a definite possibility. The 5 wars we are in now are draining our financial resources; we may win on the battlefield(s) and crumble internally for lack of good schooling, adequate infrastructure, and reasonable health care.

And why are we morally insulted by the use of chemical weapons? We hardly even blinked at 100,000 machetted to death in Africa? 3000 children die every day from hunger around the world. Are those deaths somehow more acceptable because they brought about by horrendous violence or just plain global neglect? We need a moral compass that isn't oriented to oil. Apparently if Syria were in southern Africa we wouldn't be bothered at all.

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Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Whether the US steps in depends on a lot more than the raw number of deaths. We have to consider the stability of the region, our current military capacity, our allies, the likelihood of future deaths, the chance of success, etc.

Having said that, I think most of those factors weigh against military action in Syria. Punishing a dictator without overthrowing him never worked well in the past. The situation is truly horrific in Syria, but I don't see how a volley of US cruise missiles would make it better.

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Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

It seems to me that no one outside of the Government wants to "do something" about Syria.

Seriously, everyone I talk to about thinks this is someone else's problem to deal with. Not ours.

But our President and seemingly most of congress appear to think differently.

Who exactly are they representing these days? Makes you wonder.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:49 pm

These two had better not vote for military action. Are you kidding me they were vocal anti war zealots before. Now because it is Obama who wants to save face over having his "red line" crossed they are ready to bomb away. Obama needs to think before he talks/ reads from a telepromter . They vote to decrease the size of the military over and over but want to starts more problems for a smaller Army.

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Posted by Regina
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:54 am

Please vote no on military intervention in Syria.

It is more effective to shame Assad and win allies to condemn his actions than to go to war...The Arab League opposes military action.

Moreover, the US assumes responsibility for the war in Syria, in the moment the US intervenes militarily. Enormous costs will be entailed.
It looks perverse that the Republicans cannot agree to a national budget but can agree to spend millions on another war, this should make President Obama pause to think about the needs of his own country which is his primary responsibility.

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Posted by Jon
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

The Obama administration has not made the case that the Assad regime were the culprits behind the chemical attack. There is evidence to show that it was chemicals supplied by Saudi Arabia to the rebels in Syria, who then used them and purposely pinned it on the Assad regime to garner popular support for leading the US into action.

If the US government can't debate the issue in full view of all US citizens, and instead have to discuss behind closed doors, then there must be dirty dealings and/or dirty laundry.

Remember Powell's claim of WMDs used by Iraq? Nothing was ever found, but the Bush administration got what they wanted anyway and had to act unilaterally to get it. It's the same thing here. Someone on the top of the pyramid wants Assad out. Why? Because he's standing in the way of a natural gas pipeline running through Syria that would supply Europe with competing energy supplies. Europe currently gets most of its energy from Russia, which is lucrative for Putin's Gazprom. And surprise, surprise, Putin is very much against any US intervention in Syria.

And why is Saudi Arabia so gung-ho for US blasting Assad out? They're a puppet state run by the US. They, and other OPEC members sell their oil to other countries at controlled/manipulated prices and ONLY ACCEPT US DOLLARS for payment. This is the "petro dollar" and it's what's kept the US so strong these last decades. Because it means that since they only accept US dollars, all countries must keep a certain amount of US dollars in their foreign reserves in order to satisfy their energy needs. It also allows the US to run such huge deficits and trillion dollar debts because OPEC nations just turn around and recycle those dollars by buying US debt in the form of US Treasuries.

Libya's old Moammar Gadhafi had made a move to end the petro dollar system when he suggested to the North African Union that they should start up a gold-backed currency that could be used for foreign trade, including oil. So his days were numbered. Saddam Hussein met a similar fate. Even though he had earlier been a US ally in fighting the Iranians after the ouster of the US planted Shah, he turned against his masters when he suggested that Iraqi oil should be able to trade in other currencies. So he had to go. Iran's oil bourse sought to trade in other currencies as well, but the US not only increased sanctions, but took them off the SWIFT system and completely halted their ability to trade.

But this is coming to an end. Syria is the last stand. Russia and China recognize this. They might just stand up to the bully this time. Syria is a major piece of the global chessboard.

Make no mistake, the US must intervene in Syria in order to keep the game running. But they can't tell us the real reasons - that if they don't, they'll lose the hegemony they've held over the rest of the world since WWII.

Research this yourself. The mainstream news outlets are too beholden the the status-quo to do anything but entertain the public.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

When Libyan agents bombed the Berlin disco on 4/5/86, President Regan responded unilaterally on 4/14/86. There was no waffling, weeks of fact finding, nor attempts to shift responsibility to congress. The world took notice that there is a price to pay for such behavior against the USA. The problem with Obama, Lofgren, Eshoo and their Marxist peers is that they don't understand that showing weakness and indecision internationally destroys the US in the long term.

For those worried about war costs, welfare and aid to illegals can be zeroed out to pay for it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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