I appreciate your actions and your desire for me to join moveon.org in calling on Congress to vote no. I have given this difficult matter a lot of thought and, as my latest tweet (posted on Facebook as well) indicates, it has not been an easy thing. I just happened upon Rep. Alan Grayson’s statement on Huff Post Live which I feel gave some very convincing reasons as to why we should not bomb Syria and is perhaps the closest thing to helping me make up my mind to speak up as you did.
However, I wish to discuss a few other considerations, the least of which is the fact that you are also joined by Congressman Ted Cruze and Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in your opposition to the strike.
I don’t think we can talk about chemical weapons lightly and look on as people are not only slaughtered by chemically mutated, the way they were in Hitler’s gas chambers and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is too easy to be an absolute pacifist while lives are destroyed and I have never advocated this approach to standing firmly on the side of life. For this reason, to take the gamble and send a forceful message to those who would see this as an opportunity to, in the future, exhibit this extreme brutality on people and get away with it, is a bet I would rather take than take the gamble on ignoring this as if it isn’t happening.
I also feel that paralleling this situation with Iraq is a vast disrespect to the care and caution that President Obama has taken in going into this, including his willingness to put this to a vote in Congress, in stark contrast to the eagerness with which his predecessor, President Bush, was so eager to go to war, using 9-11 as a very bad but effective pretext to cajole the members of Congress to make it unnecessary for him to take the action he took unilaterally. Secondly, there was no situation in Iraq in 2002 or 2003 that could even remotely be construed to warrant the invasion whereas the use of chemical weapons as well as the horrible way in which Assad has systematically gone about slaughtering his own people makes this something which cannot be ignored. To be sure, the legitimacy of the rebel forces is questionable at best and we have no way of knowing what an invasion will lead to. But we have no way of knowing what doing nothing will lead to either. However, I think if any parallel should be made, I would feel what we are doing is more akin to the bombings of Bosnia and Kosovo not Iraq and there is the strong possibility that all the fears people have of what could happen are only fears and not anything provable.
If I had responded to you two days ago, I probably would have said that it would probably have been useless to ask my Congressman, Bill Pascrell, to vote against it because I felt he would definitely be for it (in great contrast to the man I voted for in the Democratic primary, my former Congressman Steve Rothman, before New Jersey redistricted these two sitting Democratic Congressmen into having vie for the same seat, who I know would have adamantly opposed it.) However, I see he is as undecided as I am:
“I’m glad I read the documents, it was worth the trip,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “I haven’t really made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, I just haven’t.”
Pascrell said he sensed that colleagues in both parties and chambers seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the decision they face in the coming weeks.
“People are coming in from all over the place, I’m from Jersey, I’m only three hours away,” he said. “California is another story.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of his constituents in this politically mixed yet left-leaning district (moderately left-leaning) are opposed and he’s been hearing from them. In fact, this “Buzz…” flash reports as much:
‘At a town hall in Cliffside, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell found an audience almost unanimously opposed to any U.S. action in Syria.
“We shouldn’t be involved in Syria whatsoever,” a constituent said to applause from the audience. “We are not the world police.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I understand we don’t want to get involved in other people’s problems,” Pascrell, who supports a U.S. military response to Syria said. “When chemical weapons are used, then it’s a whole different ballgame.”’
Senator Menendez chaired the committee that put forth the resolution on Tuesday so his position is clear.
Senator Lautenberg, as you know is dead, so I do not have another senator to contact. The candidate I am supporting to be the new Senator, Cory Booker, you will be disappointed to learn, made somewhat of a shift after opposing the intervention:
“After making an impassioned case earlier this week against another war, the senate candidate defers to Obama’s judgement. “I expect that the president will clearly delineate what the strategic objectives are,” says Booker.”
I recommend reading the entire Buzzfeed article because it resonates with how I feel.
But there’s another fact I wish to consider here as well. I don’t know if you saw “The Butler” because it will help shed a little light on what Obama’s really up against, and that doesn’t just concern this issue. I would recommend you go see it if you haven’t and then re-read this paragraph. There’s a dirty little secret in the U.S. Government which is really not so much a secret. President Eisenhower–in vain, of coursed–warned against it quite eloquently (http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html) and it is what murdered President Kennedy. In two words: “Joint Chiefs”. Now why do I bring up the movie, “The Butler”, which deals with racism, in the context of a discussion on war, politics and the military? Because racism has everything to do with why Obama has had to be so, so careful in how he has conducted himself as President. To be sure, any Democrat with any inkling of a desire to scale back or limit the activity of this very powerful branch of our government which has clearly shown itself to have an existence hugely independent of the government and certainly of any administration, being only one of three of our government’s branches, has quickly found himself up against one of the most profitable industries in the world, second only, perhaps to that other, climate-changing one, oil. And ironically, the very thing which has caused oil barons to shift their focus from the Middle East to backdoor right here at home–Middle East unrest–has made military barons salivate with greed at the grand opportunity to foment and seize upon any conflict possible. It is clear who has called the shots for decades, much to what would be Eisenhower’s dismay were he alive today, and the presence of a black man in the “highest” official office in the land is certainly not going to be any obstacle to them no matter what position Obama were to take. But it’s quite another thing to Obama. I’m sure Obama does not see his being black as the biggest loss to working harder for peace and opposing war with the same zeal that folks at moveon.org and Bold Progressives have been able to display with great alacrity. I believe he feels that to give in on this matter (as he has on all of his positions with respect to the military since he assumed office) will afford him more leeway and opportunity to accomplish the things he actually can achieve (which alone is remarkable with a Congress that has destroyed all the bills he sent to them and given him only legislation diametrically opposed to everything he believes in and a Supreme Court which has rendered decisions making it clear that he has no support in their corner either). But go see “The Butler”. You will understand what I am talking about a lot more clearly, I feel, after you do.
In 1962, the world was in a position as grave in some ways as the one we’re in now. The United States and the Soviet Union sat facing each other with missiles each pointed at the other one that, if even one were fired, could invoke disastrous consequences on the entire world. And while some may underestimate the situation we’re in now as being as grave, I know you, for one, are not one of those. You know, as well as I do, that one simple strike, even of limited scope, could easily erupt into a region-wide conflict that could then lead to even graver, unthinkable consequences for people all over the world. But when Kennedy sat in that room, both together with his closest advisers as well as alone, he knew that any decision he would make would not be an easy one. He knew what was at stake and probably wished so many times during those 13 days that he could be anywhere else than have to decide the fate of the world. I am of the utmost confidence that Obama feels exactly the same way and nothing he is saying or doing is easy for him. I also have developed a new found respect for my Congressman, who I voted for in the election but against in the primary, for appreciating how difficult this decision is even with so many of his constituents loudly calling for him not to support this resolution. My hope is that this plays out as that crisis did back 51 years ago, though I know that hindsight gives you the benefit of a doubt that cannot never be assuaged by easy answers. All I ccan truly offer at this time are my deep prayers for the safety and life of every human being and for this massive barbarity in Syria to end with minimal if any sacrifice. It is for this reason that I will make sure to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with as much muster as I can bring to it and I hope those who are reading this will join me as I know many of you have been already. Ultimately, as the Cuban Missile Crisis showed us, if it can show us anything, is that that which unites us gives us our best hope, not that which divides us along partisan, political and ethnic lines. It is for this reason that I think and act as I do. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give thought to and voice my feelings on this very serious matter.