SMYRNA — Congress should be fully involved in discussions on Syria and available alternatives should be considered before any military strike is taken, Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) wrote Thursday in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Obama and his national security advisers have been contemplating a response to allegations that the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons in an attack on opposition forces and civilians. The opposition forces have reportedly claimed more than 1,400 people died in the attack.
United Nations investigators are attempting to determine what happened Aug. 21, but there has been talk about possible military action being taken against the Middle Eastern country.
Scott, a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and a former member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, condemned the attacks as “horrific” in his letter to Obama. However, he also told the president there must first be a “full debate” on the matter in Congress and considerations must be taken on how to protect civilians in Syria.
“While I understand that as commander in chief, you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, this has not occurred,” Scott wrote. “Only the congress has the constitutional prerogative to approve military force if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack.
“As such, I strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis,” he continued.
There has been much talk about the U.S. leading military action against Syria, but no decision has been made. However, the British House of Commons reportedly voted against military intervention late Thursday, potentially leaving the U.S. without one of its closest allies if it makes a military strike.
Referencing the fact the U.S. has spent more than a decade fighting wars in various parts of Middle East, Scott said in a statement that Americans who may be weary of another intervention in the region should have more answers about what happened in Syria.
Syrian officials have denied the allegations.
“More answers are needed before U.S. resources, both personnel and funding, are spent on another Middle Eastern conflict,” Scott said. “Americans want clarity in understanding the reasons that action would need to be taken. They also want to hear the overall strategy and goals of a military campaign so that they can have confidence that the wise decisions have been made and that our allies have been fully engaged.”
Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that Obama has consulted congressmen and foreign leaders on Syria. The U.N. investigators are expected to complete their inquiry and report their findings to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this weekend.
Kerry accused the Syrian government, in a statement released Monday by the State Department, of having chemical weapons and rockets that can be used to deploy them. He also accused Syrian officials of attempting to stall the U.N. investigators.
“Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up,” Kerry said in a statement. “At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the UN investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night.”