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Congress Debates Military Strike on Syria

Opponents of a strike on Syria protested outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Saturday     Courtesy of: AFSC
Opponents of a strike on Syria protested outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Saturday Courtesy of: AFSC
September 9, 2013

CHICAGO - Congress is debating a possible military strike against the regime in Syria. Supporters say we have no choice but to punish Syria for a chemical attack on its own people. Some oppose the action because they are afraid it will draw the U.S. into another costly war, like Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry says it would only be a limited strike.

U.S. destroyers are positioned in the Mediterranean, loaded with Tomahawk missiles, the same type used in a limited strike on Libya in 2011. Mattea Kramer, director of research for the National Priorities Project, has crunched the numbers, and she said each one of those missiles costs American taxpayers $1.5 million, and the military used a lot of them.

"In the first hour of our strike on Libya, we launched 110 of those missiles," she declared.

The total bill for the action in Libya, Kramer said, turned out to be more than $1 billion, and there is no way of predicting how much military intervention in Syria would cost. But she pointed out that the George W. Bush administration had predicted that intervening in Iraq would cost no more than $60 billion. Ten years later the bill is up to $814 billion.

Faith communities in Chicago and around the state prayed for peace over the weekend and some plan candlelight vigils for tonight.

According to Mary Zerkel, coordinator of the Wage Peace campaign at the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago, her organization has had people in the region for a very long time and they understand that Syria's problems are complicated. She said it's not just about two choices, to bomb or not to bomb.

"There are more than two options," she declared. "We have to look at a cease-fire, the comprehensive arms embargo, the humanitarian assistance on the ground."

President Obama has told reporters that he is aware of American opposition to a military strike. But he says Congress needs to make a decision that is right for the country.

Professor Marjorie Cohn at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law said that even if Congress approves the strike, it would be illegal under international law, because the United States has not met the two conditions that the United Nations Charter requires for such action.

It would be legal "either if it's acting in self-defense or the Security Council approves it. The Security Council has not approved this military strike."

When President Obama makes his case to the American people, he may have a tough time convincing them. The AFSC is opposed to military intervention. So is the Pope and so are nearly 60 percent of the Americans who were polled last week.

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Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL