Oklahoma elected officials are opposed to war in Syria
A military attack on Syria is not welcome among Oklahoma elected officials.
Several rallies against the potential war have been held in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
State lawmakers are encouraging Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to vote no on authorization for the use of force in Syria. So far, none of the delegation is in favor of an attack.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. James Lankford, Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Rep. Tom Cole have announced they will not support President Obama in an attack on Syria. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Rep. Frank Lucas and Sen. Tom Coburn have not formally announced their positions.
Bridenstine said Obama’s decision to ask Congress for a vote was a step in the right direction.
“I am pleased that President Obama is seeking Congressional authorization to use U.S. military force in Syria,” said Bridenstine. “As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe that the use of U.S. military force should be selective, based on America’s national security interests.”
State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft said the Obama Administration has answered calls to allow Congress to authorize military action rather than sidestepping the legislative branch but he and other state lawmakers are calling on the delegation to vote no on going to war against Syria.
“We have made progress since our July 12 anti-Syrian war rally,” said Wesselhöft, R-Moore. “We called for a congressional decision to determine if we should involve our treasure and possible lives in military strikes on Syria. I am not saying that our rally made a national decision, it did not, but America is definitely moving closer to our position.”
Wesselhoft held a press conference last Thursday that included comments by Nathanial Batchelder, Steve Byas, Jason Byas (Oklahoma Constitution newspaper editor), state State Sen. Constance Johnson; Lukus Collins, Ryan Kiesel and State Rep. Cory Williams.
“On one side, we have the evil Assad and Hezbollah and, on the other, we have the evil al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Why must we choose a side? It is not our civil war,” Wesselhöft said.
An anti-war demonstration was held Friday at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City.
Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), opposes Obama’s plans.
“After discussion with Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey, I still oppose the current plan for military intervention in Syria,” Inhofe said. “Five months ago, I called for President Obama to articulate a plan in Syria and the Middle East and warned that the tide of war is not receding. I still have not heard this plan.
“Many members have expressed their concerns. We know this could be open ended; we know that an attack on Syria could have repercussions on Israel; but no one is talking about the decimation of our military. Today we can afford to launch 30 cruise missiles into Syria, but we cannot ignore that such an attack on another country is an act of war.
“The state of our military today cannot afford another war. The president has decimated our military by cutting its budget by $487 billion and putting another $500 billion more on the chopping block with his sequestration. Gen. Dempsey agreed when he testified before Congress earlier this year that our military is being put on a path where the ‘force is so degraded and so unready’ that it could be ‘immoral to use the force.’”
Inhofe said America must protect itself and its allies.
“We must also ensure our military has the means to fulfill those responsibilities,” Inhofe said. “Our president has failed to live up to those responsibilities.
“For years, the president has known about the grave national security threats in the Middle East – not only in Syria but also Iran. Since 2007, our intelligence has warned us that Iran will have a nuclear weapon and delivery system by 2015. All the while, he continues to reduce our ability to deter and defeat those threats. Now the president is proposing another contingency operation without even a hint of reversing course on his irresponsible defense cuts that will continue over the next nine years.
“He cannot have it both ways – gutting our military and still expecting it to protect our national security.”
Inhofe said the same problem surfaced in 1998 when Bill Clinton was president.
“We’ve been through this before,” Inhofe said. ” President Clinton (1998) sought to punish Saddam Hussein through a limited bombing campaign for violating U.N. sanctions over the development of weapons of mass destruction.
“After surviving four days of attacks, Saddam Hussein emerged unscathed and in fact stronger to continue his reign of brutality. Like Saddam Hussein, Assad is already portraying himself to the United Nations as a victim and to his people as a hero for standing up to the United States. We’ve tried cruise missile diplomacy before and it didn’t work. Instead, it increased the stature of a dictator in his defiance of the United States and the civilized world.”
Obama has not made the case for an attack, Inhofe said.
“I’ve said repeatedly the president must first explain our objectives and end state in Syria, present a long-term strategy for the region and the means to fund it, as well as clarify the risks associated with military intervention,” Inhofe said. “Despite several years of bloodshed, we’re just now seeing a last-minute rush by the White House to gain the support of Congress and the American people.
“Until the President comes forward with answers to these questions, no one should vote to authorize an act of war on Syria.”
Mullin, R-Okla., was the first Oklahoma congressman to speak out.
“I believe it is not the responsibility of the United States to get involved in a country’s civil war,” Mullin said. “Neither side in this civil war has the United States’ best interest in mind. I cannot support any U.S. military action or involvement in Syria.”
Lankford said, “I remain opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war.”
Lankford said e-mails, phone calls and social media, from Oklahoma citizens in the Fifth District have been overwhelmingly against U.S. action in Syria.
“It is my belief that U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war is not in our national interest,” said Lankford. “I will review the classified materials in Washington, D.C., but from what I have heard to date, the proposal on the table does not achieve our larger goal in the Middle East of stability or a reduction of chemical weapon threats.
“A limited missile strike will only weaken our hand in the Middle East when Assad claims a year from now that he beat the rebels and the Americans. We must continue to engage diplomatically and with our allies to ensure our strategic goals in the region remain achievable.
“I grieve for the thousands of Syrian victims – especially the children and their devastated parents – murdered in the Syrian civil war.”