Friday, September 6, 2013

Syria: Winds of Opinion Gusting

Yesterday's AP-based newspaper sounded as if Virginia's Congressmen were leaning toward attacking Syria; today's AP report online sounds otherwise. Patricia Evans' e-mail has been cut down to minimize duplication of the Washington Post and Martinsville Bulletin articles linked; if the Martinsville Bulletin story becomes unavailable, e-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo to request the full text. The News Advance link opens a longer article surrounding the excerpt reprinted below. Then (whew!) there are links to all of Virginia's elected representatives, whether they're asking for constituents' input or not, and, finally, Alice Jay's report, which explains this welcome change of opinion among the better informed:


AP survey of Va. Congressional delegation finds largest bloc leans against Syria intervention

"House members who, like Warner, were undecided were Republican Robert Hurt of Chatham and Democrat Robert C. "Bobby" Scott of Newport News."

In Virginia, survey says congressmen split over Syria
RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia’s congressional delegation is not of a single mind over President Barack Obama’s request to authorize a military strike against Syria, and some members are still making up their minds.
An Associated Press survey of the state’s 11 House members and two senators finds that six either flatly oppose or are leaning against a resolution for a strike against the Syrian government for suspected use of chemical weapons in the country’s civil war. Four support it or are leaning toward supporting it when a vote is likely taken next week. Three remain undecided, including 5th District Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, whose district includes part of Henry County. Ninth District Rep. Morgan Griffith of Salem, who represents Martinsville, Patrick County and most of Henry County, is among those leaning against a strike. The three Virginians who were unambiguously for authorizing a strike share little else in common on policy issues — Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of suburban Richmond on one side, and Rep. James P. Moran of Alexandria and Sen. Tim Kaine, both Democrats, on the other.

Kaine cast a vote Wednesday on a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee to authorize the strike. “A failure to respond to such a blatant violation of longstanding international norms not only signals an acceptance of this atrocity, it also jeopardizes the lives of our service members in combat both today and in the future,” the state’s junior senator said in a statement announcing his vote.

Sen. Mark R. Warner was described by his press secretary, Kevin Hall, only as being undecided with no further elaboration on his thinking. The lone Virginian on record as being firmly against a U.S. attack on the Syrian government was Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake. His press aide, Alex Gray, also did not elaborate.  All five House members who described themselves as leaning against an attack were Republicans: Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Scott Rigell, Frank Wolf, Morgan Griffith and Rob Wittman. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County was the only Virginian leaning for a punitive air strike on Syria, “but no boots on the ground,” said his spokesman, George Burke. House members who, like Warner, were undecided were Hurt and Democrat Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Newport News. “I believe the precedence that will be set by engaging Syria militarily without the support of the United Nations, or at least an alternate coalition demonstrating an international consensus, would be problematic,” Scott said in a statement.

Hurt talks Syria

Hurt said he has growing concern regarding a few of the biggest issues currently facing Congress — not the least of which is the growing tension over possible U.S. involvement in Syria.

“I am very concerned about what the Syrian regime appears to be doing to its people,” he said. “At the same time, I do think we have to be very, very careful about wading into a Syrian civil war.”
Hurt said his vote on whether or not to involve the U.S. in the Syrian conflict will depend on whether or not a “compelling national security interest” can be found. He also said he is waiting to see a “clear objective” identified — a plan he said has yet to be made clear.
“We’ve got to know what our goal is,” he said. “Is it to take down the current president? To turn the tide of the war? What is it? That hasn’t been made clear to me yet.”
Hurt explained his concern that American involvement in Syria could lead the U.S. into another “open-ended” military conflict, and could very well make matters worse in the already-war-torn nation.
No matter what the issue on the floor, though, Hurt said he will continue to represent the overall opinion of the people in his district. 

Contact your representatives and make sure they know your thoughts on Syria:

Member NameDC PhoneDC FAXContact Form
Senator Mark R. Warner (D- VA) 202-224-2023202-224-6295 …
Senator Tim M. Kaine (D- VA) 202-224-4024202-228-6363
Representative Rob Wittman (R - 01) 202-225-4261202-225-4382 …
Representative Scott Rigell (R - 02) 202-225-4215202-225-4218
Representative Bobby Scott (D - 03) 202-225-8351202-225-8354
Representative J. Randy Forbes (R - 04) 202-225-6365202-226-1170
Representative Robert Hurt (R - 05) 202-225-4711202-225-5681
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R - 06) 202-225-5431202-225-9681
Representative Eric Cantor (R - 07) 202-225-2815202-225-0011
Representative Jim Moran (D - 08) 202-225-4376202-225-0017
Representative Morgan Griffith (R - 09) 202-225-3861202-225-0076 …
Representative Frank R. Wolf (R - 10) 202-225-5136202-225-0437
Representative Gerald E. (Gerry) Connolly (D - 11) 202-225-1492202-225-3071 …

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."  - Thomas Jefferson"

The text above came from Patricia Evans; this comes from Alice Jay at

"Syria's bloody war has been fuelled by rivalry between Iran, Assad's main backer, and the US and their allies. But this vile chemical attack has changed their discourse: Iran’s new moderate president condemned the gassing and Obama signalled he'd work with "anybody" to resolve the conflict. Let's urgently call on both leaders to sit down to talks and bring the warring parties together before any more lives are lost.

Right now, the global drums of war are beating over Syria, but if enough of us make sure Rouhani and Obama know the world wants bold diplomacy, we could end the nightmare for thousands of terrified Syrian children under threat of new gas attacks. We have no time to lose. Click now to join this urgent call -- when we reach one million signers we will deliver the petition directly to the two presidents:

Syria’s the most brutal war of our generation, and this chemical attack on innocent civilians is the worst our world has seen in 30 years. The world has a responsibility to protect Syrians from extermination, but for two years the international community has been shamefully gridlocked and has failed the innocent victims. Now, despite overwhelming evidence that Assad’s forces launched the attack, Syria’s backers have sown doubt and, wary of war, the world is unsure about a humanitarian intervention. These talks are a new chance to stop the bloodshed.

It's always been believed that the US would never talk to Iran and that Iran would never help the US solve the Syrian crisis, but current evidence points to change and hope. President Obama may launch strikes, but he has no public support for a longer war, and he is looking for a way out of a sustained conflict. And 130 members of the US Congress are calling on President Obama to talk with Iran. A massive global public push for diplomacy right now could push Obama towards talks.

Iran's former President Ahmadinejad spent billions supplying cash and weapons to the Assad regime. But the new President Rouhani was elected on a ticket to build bridges with the West and favours a political settlement with the Syrian opposition. The chemical attack is eroding Iranian public support for Assad, rekindling painful memories of Iraq’s gas attacks on Iran, and insiders say pressure is building to reconsider Iran's support for Assad. This could be a tipping point to bring Rouhani to the table.

Talks won't stop the horror overnight, but there is no quick and easy solution. We urgently need to get started on a path that can stop the killing of innocent children and bring the world closer together rather than tear us further apart. Let’s get the US and Iran to start talks now:

A roadmap has already been put in motion for a Syrian peace process in Geneva, but this is the first time there could be the political will to overlook all the differences and sit down. Iran is the only country in the world with sufficient influence in Syria to push the regime to the table. And the US, with its Middle East allies, can push the opposition to sit down.

It took the horror of the Second World War to get the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. Maybe the horror of Syria might finally push the US and Iran, and their moderate presidents, to address longstanding differences and build the basis for a more lasting peace for Syria and the region, with consequences for a host of global issues from nuclear proliferation to peace in Israel and Palestine. Our community has stood by the Syrian people from the very beginning. Now they need us more than ever. Let's give it our best shot.

With hope,

Alice, Luis, Ian, Emily, Bissan, Antonia, Ricken, Lisa, Mais and the whole Avaaz team

PS - Many Avaaz campaigns are started by members of our community! Start yours now and win on any issue - local, national or global:

More information:

Syria Offers Opportunity For US-Iran Talks (Al Monitor)

Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Keeps Eye on Iran Policy (New York Times)

No, Iran Doesn't Need Assad (The Atlantic)

For Syria’s sake, end Iran’s isolation (Guardian)

Iran ex-president says Syria government launched gas attacks: news agency (Reuters)

Over 130 Reps. Sign Bipartisan Dent-Price Letter to President Urging Diplomacy on Iran

Iran's Rouhani acknowledges chemical weapons killed people in Syria (Reuters)

Can Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue Lead to US-Iran Opening? (Al Monitor)