President Barack Obama has brought together Dalton area residents from across the political spectrum. They joined forces to oppose his plans for military strikes against the Syrian government.
“I don’t want to see us in another war,” said John Anthony, chairman of the Whitfield County Democratic Party. “We are tired of war. What’s going on over there is a civil war between the Sunni and the Shia, and we need to stay out of it. I support the president, and I will continue to support him. But I just don’t think military action is the right thing.”
Anthony was one of about two dozen people gathered on Thornton Avenue Monday night to oppose military intervention in Syria. President Obama has asked Congress to authorize such action, saying the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebel forces two weeks ago.
The demonstration was organized by the Whitfield County Democratic Party, but several members of the Dalton Tea Party and individuals who described themselves as Republicans also joined the protest to express their opposition to military action.
They gathered across the street from the district office of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, and protesters said they hoped he will vote against military action.
“He has been consistently against Obama. I hope he’s consistent one more time,” said Anthony.
In a statement Monday night, following a classified briefing on Syria, Graves said he would vote against military action.
“The Obama administration has not provided a clear or convincing strategy for inserting our military into the conflict. I am also deeply concerned about the extent to which al-Qaida affiliated terrorists are involved in the rebellion,” Graves said. “President Obama has made clear his opinion that this situation does not currently present a direct or imminent threat to the United States. If a resolution to authorize force fails to pass, the president must refrain from engaging militarily in Syria.”
While Graves opposes military action against Syria, several prominent Republicans — including House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor — have said they will support the president’s call for an attack.
Doug Roach, who said he was a Vietnam veteran, said he can’t understand why Republican leaders who disagree with the president on so many issues are backing him on Syria.
“I do know they need to listen to the American people. Congress’ approval rating is, what, 14 percent? I think the president’s approval rating is 43 percent or less. That’s because they aren’t listening to the American people,” Roach said.
A CNN/ORC poll released Monday found only 39 percent of Americans want Congress to authorize military action against Syria.
“This is a serious issue,” said Naomi Swanson, organizer of the Dalton Tea Party. “That’s why it’s bringing people together, and I hope that the president and Congress see that we are standing together and that we oppose military action.”
Several of the protesters said one of the reasons they oppose military action against Syria is that they are wary of providing aid to rebel forces. While the administration insists that only a minority of the rebels are Islamic fundamentalists, the war has attracted fighters from across the Middle East, and some of the major opposition groups are openly allied with al-Qaida.
But while the protesters oppose military action some said they thought the United States could play a role in the conflict.
“When it comes to the chemical weapons, we need to work with other countries to put pressure on the Syrian government to keep it from using those weapons,” Anthony said.
Anthony added that an offer by Russia to take control of those weapons so that neither side can use them is one that the president should consider.
President Obama is scheduled to address the nation tonight on the situation in Syria.