With a five-week Congressional recess coming to a close, lawmakers on Monday returned to Washington to debate the authorization of military intervention in Syria. The White House’s intense lobbying efforts last week — at least 85 senators and more than 165 House members were contacted — produced little momentum in promoting a military strike. Nevertheless, Barack Obama hopes to make his case through a series of television interviews and a nationally televised address on Tuesday.
The president faces an uphill battle in convincing Congress to respond to the alleged gassing deaths of more than 1,400 civilians at the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While he has found a rare alliance between leaders of both parties in Congress, an even unlikelier coalition may be enough to block military action. Joining forces are Obama’s loudest Republican critics and closest liberal allies arguing against passing a resolution authorizing Obama to use force in Syria.
Angry Americans have swamped town halls, sent aggravated letters, and placed phone calls demanding non-intervention. Such actions directed against lawmakers in both chambers, who will vote on a resolution by the end of next week if given the opportunity, demonstrate growing opposition to the use of force in Syria. In some cases, such disapproval has become hostile. Below are several exchanges of those who join the 61% of Americans opposing military strikes against Syria.
1. Phoenix, Ariz.: John McCain
Last Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) faced perhaps the greatest opposition in this summer’s town hall meetings regarding action in Syria. One man compared members of Congress with “a bunch of marshmallows.” Asserting that Syria is “not our fight,” he asked McCain, “Why are you not listening to the people and staying out of Syria?” Another man shouted, “You don’t respect our view,” while several others interrupted by saying “not good enough” and “not good enough at all.”
2. McCain (Again)
At the same meeting, a Syrian woman demanded a negotiation rather than a military strike: “You can do it by negotiation … not bombs Senator McCain!” Emboldened by the audience, she continued to explain that “we cannot afford to shed more Syrian blood … we cannot afford to turn Syria into another Iraq!” The woman, whose 18-year-old cousin was killed by rebel forces last month, accused McCain and other Senate partners of considering Syrian Christians collateral damage in potential military strikes.
3. Oxford, Conn: Jim Himes and Richard Blumenthal
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were greeted by nearly unanimous opposition to a potential Syrian intervention. One woman compared such a proposal to a science fiction horror film: "Our getting involved in the Syrian civil war is like Alien vs. Predator — no matter who wins, we lose."
4. Cliffside, N.J.: Bill Pascrell
Rounding out such opposition were constituents in Cliffside, New Jersey. At a town hall meeting hosted by Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), a constituent said, “We are not the world police,” urging that ““we shouldn’t be involved in Syria whatsoever.”