U.S. contemplates response to Syria

Khorri Atkinson | 9/12/2013, 3:49 p.m.

There seems to be a diplomatic solution in the works as President Barack Obama waits on Congress to give him the authority to use military force against Syria’s regime for allegedly using deadly chemical weapons against civilians without presenting concrete proof to the public. Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested Tuesday that diplomacy may be the key if Syria agrees to let foreign monitors oversee their chemical weaponry. Hundreds of New Yorkers protested in areas in the city last week, urging their government to stay out of Syria.

In Times Square last Thursday, demonstrators held their fists in the air and showed pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and signs bearing pictures of Trayvon Martin and Martin Luther King Jr. They chanted, “We need jobs, we need peace. U.S. come out of the Middle East,” as they ventured through the thick crowd of tourists. Some at the protest argued that the U.S. has no need for intervention in Syria and that they should give that same attention to issues that are affecting this country’s own people.

“We send billions of dollars to other countries every year for war; meanwhile, they are cutting programs here,” said Delores Cox, one of the protesters in Times Square. “Look at the poverty here, especially in the Black community,” she stated, while expressing her disappointment over Obama’s position on the issue.

“I’m not surprised by him, but it’s very disappointing to see that as we’re still [celebrating] the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Look at what he [Obama] is doing. Americans need to wake up,” she continued.

A block down from the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Center on West 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, where Cox stood, was Nezar Yabroudi and another protest group. They were surrounded by NYPD officers and barricades to prevent any altercation with the anti-war protesters, as they were calling for U.S. intervention. Both groups exchanged derogatory hand gestures, words and even exchanged death threats in their own languages.

“Seventy percent of the country is destroyed,” said Yabroudi. “It’s been going on for three and a half years, so President Obama has to do something about it. I have two cousins who died because of the chemicals that Assad’s regime has been using against them.”

According to published reports, more than 300 Syrian civilians were killed by chemical weapons, a majority of them women and children. In addition, more than 110,000 people have died during the 29-month-long uprising in Syria since March 2011, when it started.

Last Saturday, Obama announced that he was ready to take military action against Assad’s regime but said that he will seek the approval of Congress before carrying out any military strike. His announcement came days after many believed he would take unilateral action against Syria. However, he did not say whether he’d forgo a strike if Congress rejects his proposal.

Obama says congressional leaders have agreed to schedule a debate and vote when they return to session. They returned from their summer recess on Sept. 9. With the opposition to a strike still vibrant, Obama’s popularity numbers have sunk.