September 5, 2013
I’d like to share the following op-ed with you, which appeared on the WBUR Website.
Too Many Unanswered Questions on Syria
Like most people, I am deeply troubled by the ongoing violence in Syria and horrified by reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. I do not dispute that these despicable attacks against non-combatants were conducted by the Assad regime and that the world is justified in considering action against them. The question for me is this: What is the appropriate response to these atrocities? What action will truly discourage any government from using chemical weapons in the future? Finally, what action will not worsen the always challenging situation on the ground in the Middle East?
I am encouraged that President Obama is seeking Congressional approval before taking military action, and I am convinced, after attending Congressional briefings, that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government, in the past and most recently in the outskirts of its own capital. I am also encouraged by the proposed amendment in the Senate to limit the time frame of any Congressional approach for military action related to this matter. Yet, I am not convinced that the response the president proposes will prevent future attacks or bring any real stability to the region.
I have many questions the briefings simply did not answer:
Will targeted short term strikes be enough to deter future use of chemical or biological weapons by the Assad regime? I fear that any attack a despot survives can be sold as a victory for him. We have all heard the response, “Is that the best you got?”
Will these attacks discourage other nations, such as Iran, from seeking more powerful weapons themselves? When President Bush threatened Iran and North Korea they did not roll over in fear. Iran stepped up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon and North Korea stepped up their quest for long-range missiles to carry the nuclear weapons they already have.
Will such a strike serve to contain the violence within Syria or make it more likely to involve other nations in the region and beyond?
Will strikes against Assad strengthen his enemies? In this civil war, al Qaeda has aligned against Assad — would our strike help al Qaeda?
How would it affect the long term interests of the United States in the region and elsewhere?
How would it impact our allies in the region?
I understand full well that these questions have no simple answers but I believe that they must be fully considered as part of this discussion.
I am trying to keep an open mind and giving the Obama Administration the opportunity to make the case for military action. I consider myself a supporter of the president and agree with him on most issues. I am a longtime friend and supporter of Secretary of State John Kerry and feel that I owe it to him to listen.
I remain wary, however, about becoming entangled in something that may make the situation worse in Syria. As this debate unfolds, I am mindful of the impact that a vote in support of military action will have. It is a vote to potentially send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. Votes on war and peace are the most consequential ones I take and I will not support military action except as a last resort, consistent with our principles and interests.
Congress is expected to vote on a resolution involving Syria in the days ahead. I will carefully review the final language of that resolution as well as all available supporting documentation before making a decision. At this point, I am just not convinced military action is the answer.
Officer Sean Collier
On August 22nd, I attended a special ceremony at Somerville City Hall to honor the late Officer Sean Collier and posthumously appoint him to the Somerville Police Department. Officer Collier was murdered on the evening of April 18th by the marathon bombers while on duty for the MIT Campus Police force. He was scheduled to be appointed a Somerville Police Officer in June. Nothing will bring Sean back but in making this posthumous appointment I hope his family takes some comfort knowing that he touched so many lives in the community and beyond.
No More Names
Last week I joined families who lost loved ones to gun violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, other elected officials and activists for the Boston stop on the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” bus tour. This national bus tour is making stops all over the country to help build support for effective gun policies.
Far too many lives have been lost to gun violence and too many families are grieving the absence of a loved one taken too soon. Even if we can’t stop every murder or tragic accident, we can continue to raise our voices for commonsense gun control, including comprehensive background checks. I commend all of the activists who aren’t giving up and who are sharing their stories all across this country. Their determination will help build support for stronger protections and I was proud to stand with them last week.
East Somerville Community School
On Tuesday I joined students and their families as well as educators, at the grand re-opening of the East Somerville Community School, rebuilt after a damaging fire. The new facility is impressive and a true neighborhood gem. It was a joyful gathering and a fitting start to a new school year. With the reopening of this school, the students and faculty who were all assigned to different facilities during construction will now be reunited. It was a pleasure to spend some time with them this week.
I met this week with members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and spoke with them about our shared concerns for the future of both Social Security and Medicare. As you may know, I voted against Medicare Part D. I certainly believe that prescription drug coverage is an important component of health care and I understand that some seniors need a little help with these expenses. I voted against Medicare Part D, along with the entire Massachusetts delegation, because I objected to the creation of a costly new benefit without a single dollar being appropriated to pay for it. My fear is that those opposed to the social safety net in various forms have recognized that a frontal attack will fail and the best way to abolish both Social Security and Medicare is to bankrupt the programs. I urged the AARP to consider broad based plans to reform both programs, to recognize fiscal challenges and to think broadly while maintaining their rock solid commitment to the health and well-being of older Americans.
What’s Up Next Week
Next votes in the House are scheduled for Monday September 9th. The House is expected to consider a resolution on use of force in Syria.