Rep. Davis leaning ‘no’ on Syria Intervention vote

Members of the community gathered in front of the Champaign County Veterans’ Memorial Monday night holding signs asking the U.S. government not to bomb Syria. As they held lit candles, speakers urged the crowd to call Representative Rodney Davis, R-13, and ask him to vote against military intervention in the civil war-torn country.

“We’re trying to show the faces and voices of people in this community in opposition to a new war,” said Robert Naiman, the organizer of the event and the policy director at Just Foreign Policy. “We’re particularly trying to influence Representative Rodney Davis because he’s our local representative in Congress, he’s the means by which we have the best chance of influence.”

Davis said he is currently leaning against voting for congressional authorization because he feels that not enough information has been given as to what this show of force would entail.

“I’m leaning ‘no’ on this vote because I just don’t think that the president or the administration has made the case as to what this mission is actually going to accomplish,” Davis said before he attended classified briefing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry to find out more information about the proposed action.

Former Representative Tim Johnson, one of the speakers at the event, opposes military intervention for fear of what could ultimately result from it — the death of both innocent Americans and Syrians.

“I see it as post-World War II bi-partisan war mania, starting with Korea and extending to Syria with numerous entries in between,” Johnson said, “None of which have served the objectives for which they were allegedly assigned to … all of which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Davis said that his objection toward taking military action against Syria was because he was taking notice of his constituents’ opinions.

“There’s a lot of war weariness, there are folks that are concerned about how the objectives work (and) what could be accomplished,” Davis said. “There are also a lot of folks who are concerned, like I am, that the president hasn’t actually sold to the American people what the urgency is.”

As a Syrian-American, Adham Sahloul, junior in LAS, has a different opinion and believes that action should be taken in Syria.

He said every summer that he can remember, Sahloul went to Syria and visited Homs, now known as the capital of the revolution. His visits ended in 2011 when the revolution began.

“It’s all but destroyed right now, (it’s) basically a parking lot. If I was going to visit Syria anyway, I’d be there,” Sahloul said, “But at the time we would have visited, the regime was targeting protestors, innocent people, children, women, sending their thugs to rape and kill and slaughter.”

Sahloul said the conflict in Syria has affected him personally, as he still has family living in Homs. His aunt and her family, including her two young children, who now have post-traumatic stress disorder, have been displaced because their home was destroyed. They now live in the home that Sahloul’s family used to stay in during the summer. He said that area has been relatively calm, “save for a few car bombs a few months ago.”

In the summer of 2012, Sahloul interned for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a group that he said supports the Syrian Revolution.

“We advocate for what the people of Syria advocated for,” Sahloul said. “Since 2011, they were advocating for the United States to intervene to help them.”

The type of intervention the Syrian people were looking for includes a no-fly zone and the support of the opposition, but they are not asking for “boots on the ground,” he said.

Naiman said he wants to see every diplomatic avenue “exhausted” before taking military action. With a death toll over 100,000, however, Sahloul said the time for talk has passed.

“You had two and half years of diplomacy not really go anywhere, and with just two weeks with the threat of force on the table, Assad is willing to negotiate on handing over his chemical weapons,” he said. “This can save lives.”

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected]