MONTROSE – Colorado congressional representatives said this week the Obama administration should present evidence to the American public before launching any kind of military strike against Syria, following assertions that that country's government used chemical weapons on its own people.
On Tuesday, U.S. officials used phrases like "undeniable," "no doubt" and "ready to go" to encourage backing from its allies – and drum up public support – for a possible military conflict with Syria, whose President, Bashar al-Assad, is believed to have ordered nerve gas attacks on his country’s civilians, killing 350 and wounding hundreds more.
Colorado's representatives agreed the use of banned weapons, such as nerve gas, is unacceptable.
Senator Mark Udall D-Colo., who serves on both the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. Armed Services Committee, welcomed Secretary of State John Kerry's call Monday for accountability following Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Kerry had said "undeniable" evidence of a chemical attack by Assad exists. On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel proclaimed that U.S. military forces staged in the Mediterranean Sea were "ready to go” at President Obama’s directive.
"As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, I welcome Secretary Kerry and the administration's condemnation of the Syrian regime for the indiscriminate killing of its own people," Sen. Udall said. "Secretary Kerry reminded us that the president's 'red line' is about more than the Syrian conflict — it is about the regime's use of weapons that nearly all of the world's countries have recognized should be banned entirely. This line cannot be crossed without consequence.”
Sen. Udall said Secretary Kerry's statements made it clear "that it is now a question of how, not whether, the United States will respond, but Congress still needs to hear from the president directly.
"The president needs to explain his plan to the American people, who are understandably reluctant to support further military engagement in the Middle East. I have real concerns that any surgical strike could lead us into deeper involvement in a complicated civil war, but last week's attacks — and the Syrian regime's years-long war against its people — demonstrate that staying on the sidelines may carry risks just as grave," Udall said.
Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Colorado's Third Congressional District, said "there is no scenario in which the use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians is acceptable," and remains deeply troubled by recent reports coming out of Syria.
"As the President considers the course of action to respond to this developing situation, I encourage him to fulfill his obligation to consult with Congress before authorizing the use of military force, and explain the reasons for proposed actions to the American people," Tipton said.
A spokesperson for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said the senator believes Syria’s use of chemical weapons is "deplorable."
"There has been a clear red line on chemical weapons, and their use of them should be condemned and come with consequences," said Adam Bozzi, Bennet's spokesperson. "As we explore our options, we must be careful and measured due to the enormous challenges in the region and the complexity of the situation. Our military is already extended, Syria is engaged in a civil war, and several nations are experiencing unprecedented transition.”
According to an article in the Washington Post that appeared on Tuesday, the Administration is planning to release direct evidence that Assad's regime used gas on its civilians. That evidence, the Post reported, is being compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and will be presented to President Obama before he makes a decision which is being described as "inevitable." Other news reports said military action could begin as soon as today (Thurs.) and last for a period of “a few days."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.