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Norton Says Congress Should Reconvene on Tuesday for Answers Before Any Military Action in Syria Proceeds


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) made the following statement on President Obama's remarks on Syria today.

"The President has met his obligation to seek congressional approval before engaging in an act of war and Congress should meet ours by convening in Washington on Tuesday. Congress is not due to reconvene until a week after Labor Day, on September 9, because Rosh Hashanah occurs next week. However, the Jewish holiday does not begin until sundown on Wednesday, September 4. Congress could come in Tuesday, September 3, the day after Labor Day for a two-day debate and vote.

"Secretary of State John Kerry's statement yesterday laying out actual evidence of the use of chemical weapons comes close to relieving my fear that we could stumble into another Iraq "weapons of mass destruction' debacle that led this country into a war from which we have not yet recovered. I share the concern about the need for some response to the use of chemical weapons, a crime against humanity under the Chemical Weapons Convention that the U.S. and most nations have signed. As that treaty shows, the use of chemical weapons is unlike the carnage around the world, which increasingly produces calls for U.S intervention. Particularly with Britain opting out and no UN or international resolution available, we are close to the dreaded the "policeman of the world' roll we must take every step to avoid and cannot possibly take on now in any case. We already are spread too thin around the world now, and considering the sequester, we do not have the resources, and the American people do not have the collective will to engage in another war, particularly in the Middle East.

"A debate is indispensable. It would help answer critical questions -- among them: Would the narrow, targeted strike being contemplated take out all the sources of the chemical weapons? Does their use now by Syria signal that the regime is so weakened that it is on its last legs? What response would be expected from Assad, and does it include the possibility of spreading the war, endangering other countries in the Middle East and creating even more refugees in the region? Since a military strike helps the other side in a civil war, who are they and will the region be better off? Are there other options, such as seeking to bring Assad before the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity, or other action that could make it difficult for him to govern?

"Residents of the District of Columbia have spent the last decade liberating and securing the vote for the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. They went to war without a vote, and came home without a vote, some of them causalities of war who now rest at Arlington Cemetery.

"With what I know now, I am not prepared to say if yet another military action would be effective. At the very least, congressional debate is necessary to answer a host of questions, particularly whether a military strike is the only available response and whether a military strike would lead to greater unrest in the already troubled Middle East. There is a steep hill to climb before engaging in a humanitarian war where the national security of the United States is not implicated."

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