Dems, GOP urge Obama to consult Congress on Syria

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 29 at 6:31 PM

AUSTIN -- Last week's apparent chemical attacks targeting civilians in Syria instantly sparked international outrage.

In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the latest intelligence leaves little doubt they were orchestrated by the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad.

Now as the United Nations awaits the results of attack site surveys by chemical weapons inspectors, American warships are converging on the region and talk of military intervention has hit a fever pitch.

"I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria," the president explained on PBS NewsHour. "But we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us that they are held accountable."

The president doesn't technically need permission from Congress to order military action if there is a direct and immediate threat to national security. The case he hopes to make is that the Assad regime's disregard of those very strict international norms on chemical weapons proves it's a threat to the rest of the world, including the United States.

"Do we in a sense walk the other side of the road, ignore it, shrug our shoulders and therefore send out a signal that chemical weapons will be used with impunity by him and by others in the future?" British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg asked in an interview with CNN. "Or do we try and work with President Obama, with the French, with other members of the international community to do something about it? That in a nutshell is what this is all about."

At the same time, many in the U.S. Congress are warning the president not to leave them out of the discussion. In Texas, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) called the attacks a humanitarian crisis, but said the U.S. must listen carefully to the advice of military leaders such as retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command who opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"As General Zinni said this morning, this is not a one-act play," Doggett told KVUE Thursday. "If we do this, we need to be considering what happens next in this very complex, conflict-oriented part of the world."

Doggett says the U.S. should be careful not to repeat the same mistakes it made in Iraq. The Central Texas congressman has joined with a number of his colleagues in suggesting Congress return to Washington, D.C. to take up the matter, and asking the president to consult with the legislative body before committing to a plan of action.

"My concern is that these conflicts we know are much easier to get into than to get out of," said Doggett. "Before the president takes military action, he should involve the Congress and the people of the United States."

Both across the aisle and across the U.S. Capitol rotunda from Doggett, newly-elected Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement Thursday similarly urging the president to involve all parties in the process.

"It may be that there is a compelling case to be made that intervention in Syria is necessary to defend U.S. interests. But to date no such case has been made by President Obama, leaving those of us in Congress with some serious questions," Cruz stated. Those questions, he said, include whether the president has met the threshold to order military resources into conflict on his own.

"Given this modest mandate and uncertain outcome, Congress has every right to ask why we are considering this action at all?" read the statement from Cruz.

The Syrian government meanwhile has vowed to fight back if the U.S. or its allies intervene.

"We are in a state of war right now, preparing ourselves for the worst scenario," Syrian Ambassador the U.N. Bashar Jaafari said Wednesday. "What would you ask a government in this situation to do, unless to take the necessary precautions?"

For now, all eyes are on what Washington does next.

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