Lakeland Ledger: Rep. Ross Not Sold on Need for U.S. Action in Syria
By Miles Parks
Monday, September 2, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.
LAKELAND | U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland said Sunday he stands opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
"If the vote were to be taken today, it would be a no," Ross told The Ledger on Sunday night after returning from Washington. "But I'm keeping an open mind about this."
"There are a lot of lives at stake here, but we've got to look at the least lethal way in resolving this conflict," Ross added. "I don't believe we've done this."
The Republican congressman represents Florida's 15th District, which covers Lakeland and much of the western part of Polk County. The district also covers some of Hillsborough County, reaching as far west as Lutz.
Ross left Sunday morning for a special briefing on Syria from administration officials. He returned to Florida with a stronger conviction that President Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons during an Aug. 21 attack.
"There is compelling evidence that he is using chemical weapons on his own people," Ross said.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the U.S. has received hair and blood samples from victims in the attack that test positive for sarin. The gas is considered one of the most toxic chemical warfare weapons. Symptoms may appear within a minute of exposure and can include seizures, paralysis, and suffocation.
The Obama administration has accused Assad's government of launching the chemical attack in August that killed at least 1,400 people, including 400 children, according to The Associated Press.
Ross said all indications had pointed to retaliatory action by the U.S.
"I thought (Obama) was going to strike and then he was going to do a post-strike briefing with us," Ross said.
The congressman added that he feels the president would have exceeded his authority in doing so without first consulting Congress.
The president had a change of heart on Saturday. With ships in the Mediterranean Sea ready to launch cruise missiles, Obama decided to convene Congress and order the Sunday briefing.
Congress will receive daily updates this week in regards to the issue, Ross said, and will officially vote soon after returning from summer recess on Sept. 9.
Obama's stance for attacking the Middle Eastern nation hinges on the precedent that will be set for other nations that have thoughts of using chemical or nuclear weapons.
He asked lawmakers Saturday to consider "what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price," according to The Associated Press.
Ross discussed the difficulty in separating the emotional response to such horrific deaths from the logical response to something that may not pose an immediate national security threat to the U.S.
"If we wear our military so thin, without any strategic plan, we probably can't sustain it," Ross said.
While the president is worried about the consequences of not responding to the massacre in Syria's capital city, Ross is concerned about the consequences if the U.S. does act.
The congressman mentioned the possibility of attacks on Israel, which sits just south of Syria, as well as possible terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
"There will most likely be retaliation to our military strike," Ross said.
Syria's most powerful ally, Russia, has been vocal in its displeasure with the idea of a U.S. military strike on the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to appeal to Obama as "a Nobel Peace laureate rather than a president," according to the AP.
Ross said peaceful negotiations should've begun a long time ago, and they should have included Russia.
"Russia should've been brought in to this 18 months ago," Ross said.