I met with Dick Cheney–Tom Reed
I attended Tom Reed’s listening meeting at the Southeast Steuben County Library on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. I counted ten constituents–five men and five women–plus Tom’s entourage. Tom passed out a map of the Levant and a copy of President Obama’s address. I took notes with pencil and note pad. Here is what I recorded:
Reed said the President asks for authority to arm the Free Syrian Army. (The President didn’t use the term “Free Syrian Army” which doesn’t yet exist) Tom said his personal primary concern was a threat to America. He noted that the Free Syrian Army has two enemies: ISIL and Assad. What happens if Assad is defeated, he wondered.
- A man (a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran) worried that we would be drawn into a conflict that would stretch our resources. He wondered if we could reach out to ISIL to tame them somehow. He noted that fighting breeds more fighting.
- A second man noted that we may train rebels we later have to fight. He wondered if we could cut ISIL supply lines instead of fighting. He said that we might better support dictators sometimes.
- A woman wanted to know why we need Middle Eastern oil. Reed responded with his domestic production talking points. Reed claimed that ISIL sells oil for profit. (Is this right? No one challenged this, but I am doubtful.)
- The same woman asked about uncontrolled immigration. She feared jihadists entering the country. She said there was a jihadist training camp in Binghamton. Tom seemed to accept that claim saying domestic terrorists are a real threat.
- The woman then stated that they (Muslims) hate Jews and Christians. Reed countered that “one should not paint all Muslims with one brush.”
- A third man wondered what might happen if nothing were done–the Free Syrian Army were not armed by us. Tom said ISIL’s objective was to become a state, control oil production, and expand. The questioner didn’t see a clear advantage in backing anti-ISIL forces. Tom said air power wasn’t enough, we need ground troops (supplied by others) before ISIL gets stronger and acquires WMDs.
- A second woman wondered how the President was doing forming a coalition. Tom said there was progress mentioning Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. What about NATO, she asked. Tom mentioned Turkey.
- The first woman asked why President Obama had allowed our military to be whittled down to the point of being ineffective. Reed seemed to agree, mentioned Ukraine, but said expense was an issue–“we need to get our fiscal house in order.”
- The first man wondered if ISIL would have been deterred if our military were stronger. Tom alluded to premature withdrawal from Iraq without elaboration.
- A woman asked if other countries are joining us. Tom mentioned Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey.
- Someone asked if ISIL could become a recognized state. Maybe, Tom said, but I am against it.
- The first woman continued to attack Muslims suggesting that Sharia Law required believers to kill non-Muslims. Reed again cautioned against over generalizing.
- I suggested that the conflict was complicated and dangerous and that we ought to proceed with caution, that non-military measures were preferred, and that Congress ought to vote on the President’s request. Tom said he agreed.
The meeting lasted about 45 minutes. Reed concluded by assuring the audience that there was little danger of ISIS conducting Cyberwar or acquiring WMDs at this time.
© William Hungerford – September 2014