I was at the Rep. Reed’s “Listening Meeting” in Geneva on Tuesday afternoon. I counted around 30 people in the crowd. Reed started the session by praising President Obama for requesting that Congress weigh-in on his decision of having limited strikes in Syria, and Reed feels, “That is the right call according to the Constitution and the War Powers Act.” He did get a little dig at the President by saying this should have been done in Libya. (He also put in a little dig in that the President should have done the same thing for the Libya strikes).
He then said, “I will tell you where I am at right now. Absent something coming out of left field, something compelling that no one has told us about, a new piece of information that we have not received and we have received a lot of information, I believe going into Syria is inappropriate and I will be voting against this resolution.”
It was quite evident early in the comments session that a majority of the group did not want missile attacks in Syria. They used many reasons–it is not in our best interest, Americans were not hurt, afraid that Syria might retaliate against Israel, the plan has not been well thought out, why are we the policemen of the world, to say a few.
One audience member told us that his Grandparents migrated from Syria. He has been there in the ’90s visiting his cousins. He agrees with Rep. Reed “that limited strikes would not accomplish that much.” He was afraid that his relatives would be in danger since they are Christians and would rather “send ground troops in and overthrow him and take over the all chemicals.” Others in the crowd agreed and had comments such as, “Go in and take care of the problem”, “Limited Strikes are not enough”, and we need to “Finish the job.”
Nobody wondered what would happen if we DON’T go on with the missile strikes.
The conversation went from No Intervention to Full Intervention in a few minutes. People complained about the United Nations (“UN is a waste of time”and “Where is the UN on this?”) There was even a conversation wondering where did the chemicals come from—one suggested that they were the Weapons of Mass Production that we couldn’t find in Iraq. His point was that we should have stayed in Iraq longer. Someone else wondered if the chemicals came from the United States.
Some of the audience blamed the President. They pointed to “failed projects in Egypt and Libya” saying “President Obama hasn’t thought this out.”. Someone complained that the President wanted to include the Congress so if things “went the wrong way someone who is sitting in the White House will blame the Congress for getting us in all of this trouble.” A woman repeated a negative history Obama events, including the “Red Line” comment, that made her feel, “I don’t trust Obama….he opens his mouth and inserts his foot.”
There were a few who had a different opinions. Some were concerned about the Refugees. A gentleman, who has a daughter and a son in military and the son stationed in the Middle East, took time off from work to attend this meeting. He wanted to speak about how the Syrians are killing their own people. “To put it in perspective, the number of people dying in the last few years is equivalent to the number of people dying in Viet Nam over a twenty year period. Population-wise Syria is a little larger that New York, and the number of refugees who have left is equal to more that the population of the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany and Ithaca combined.” He was raised to believe that to be “being American means being humane and to be looking out for other people, your neighbor, an other part of your country. It’s the right thing to do. A hundred-thousand people being killed by twelve people. We should do something about it. I think we should do it.”
At the end of the meeting, Reed’s District Director, Joe Joe Sempolinski, had a quick show of hands of how many would support the President’s Resolution, I counted three out of the thirty or so. I’m not sure if they all voted. I would have liked to have known how many wanted to have “Boots On The Ground”, or how many just blames thing our President for.
I don’t think anyone said anything that would have changed Rep. Reed’s mind.
When asked what’s next in the process, he said that he is scheduled to be in Washington on Monday, September 9. (I thought he might want to go back earlier). Then comes the debates and the vote on the resolution, probably mid-or-late next week. We’ll see if anything happens between today and the vote that will infuence Rep. Reed to change his mind.
The Owego Listening Session: