Citizens are against Syria attack

Most of the more than 400 who filled Darien Library to talk to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal last weekend were against military strikes in Syria.

Mr. Himes and Mr. Blumenthal, who both hosted a town hall-style gathering about Syria on Sunday, Sept. 8, said they hadn’t decided how they would vote on granting the president’s request to attack the Middle Eastern nation.

On Tuesday night, President Obama addressed the nation and said a diplomatic solution put forth by Russia would be pursued, but the United States would not abandon the possibility of a military strike should that effort fail.

After the president’s speech, Mr. Himes released the following statement:

“The President made a strong case tonight. He noted the revulsion we feel towards evil and expressed an understanding of the unique burden of leadership that falls to our nation. But no man, not even the President, can predict what might happen amid the fog of war. I’m pleased the President is open to a diplomatic solution that removes chemical weapons from the Syrian battlefield and will do what I can to advance that objective.”

Congress was expected to vote in the next two weeks on whether the U.S. should take military action in order to stop the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from attacking his countrymen. Assad is accused of using chemical weapons to kill and injure those opposing his government.

The hundreds who visited the Darien Library Sunday for the question-and-answer period voted overwhelmingly — by a show of hands — against taking military action in Syria. A few others suggested there should be military intervention while a smaller group indicated they were undecided and needed to hear more information.

Anna McGovern of Monroe, who was raised in Syria, said the people there are being used as “pawns in a proxy war” and she hoped the nation’s leaders would consider everything before getting the United States involved in another war.

“Before you cast a vote to send more of our children and to send innocent lives in Syria to their deaths, weigh, weigh every piece of evidence,” she said. “There should be no doubt. If there’s any doubt, then you should cast a no vote.” Those comments were greeted with raucous applause.

Sandra Eagleman of Stamford wondered if military intervention would really make things better, especially with battles putting lives at risk.

“When I see these pictures of children who are suffering and dying from the chemical weapons there and my heart opens and I want to help, how is more violence going to help?” she said. “When we helped Iraq, a million Iraqis were killed.”

Other residents worried about America getting involved in a war that would only benefit major corporations and not necessarily the people of the country in question. Some also did not want to take action because of how long it may take to exit.

Ross Finley, who said his son is a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., said he received a text message from his son that all the cadets are against military action in Syria.

Though most of the audience stood against taking action, some people did support stepping in. Ann Lundberg of Ridgefield, who said she was against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Afghanistan, supports taking action in Syria to stop Assad’s use of chemical weapons. She said she sees no political solution until the balance of power changes in Syria.

“If we do not deter the use of chemical weapons and then degrade (Assad’s) capacity there will never be incentive for him to save his own skin by going to a peaceful table,” she said.

Mike Gilbertie of Westport said President Obama has a real opportunity and should work like President George H.W. Bush did with the first war in Iraq by gathering a coalition of nations to invade Syria and bring Assad to trial. “You don’t have to guess if he has weapons of mass destruction or not,” Mr. Gilbertie said, though his comments were greeted with groans and calls of “no way.”

Mr. Himes and Mr. Blumenthal said they will have plenty to consider and think about before the potential vote. Mr. Himes considers himself “very skeptical” about taking action. “I have not made a final decision. I’m keeping my mind open and I’m listening to the experts, but I’m very skeptical of this course of action.

At the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee picnic on Sunday, before the town hall meeting in Darien, Mr. Blumenthal said he wanted to make sure he heard from constituents before the vote.

Sen. Chris Murphy, who was not at Sunday’s event, reiterated he will not vote for military intervention or sending weapons to Syria. Mr. Murphy had previously voted against military action in Syria in the foreign relations committee.

“I believe ultimately that if America were to intervene in Syria, it would likely make the situation worse for the Syrian people, not better,” Mr. Murphy said. The senator added he could support humanitarian support for the Syrian people.