Buffalo, NY (WIVB) - Against a backdrop of anti-war demonstrations in Buffalo and across the nation, Congressional leaders were briefed Sunday on military intelligence on Syria and the President's proposal for a U.S. military response.
"The main thing today that we learned, certainly, was -- with a high level of confidence -- the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack on civilians that killed 1400 civilians on August 21," Rep. Chris Collins (R) told reporters in Buffalo, upon returning from Washington Sunday evening.
Members of the House and Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, were present at the classified briefings with military leaders, senior intelligence officials, and representatives of the Obama administration.
Based on intelligence that has been gathered, the President is asking Congress to approve limited military action against Syrian leader, Bashar Assad's government.
"It was stated... that [the United States] would be acting with 'others.' So certainly, over the next week-and-a-half to two weeks, we'll have to decide and find out more about who 'others' are," Collins said.
Israel and Jordan were specifically mentioned, as urging a military response. But so far, the United Nations is not on board.
At the same time President Obama's national security team was meeting with lawmakers in Washington, a rally was held in downtown Buffalo's Niagara Square, where people condemned the idea of U.S. intervention in Syria.
"Violence is never a solution to stopping violence. It only pushes it further," said Robert Albini, one of the co-organizers of the peace rally.
Sponsors of the rally included the Western New York Peace Center, the Interfaith Peace Network, the Peace Education Project, Veterans for Peace and Occupy Buffalo.
"I think that throughout the past couple years, the last decade or so, people have become more aware of what war actually does, and what violence actually does. We've seen the injustices on both sides. And I don't think people support that anymore. I don't think they see that as a solution," said Albini.
Minister Pierre Carrié presides over the United Church of Christ in Kenmore, and serves as chairman of the Western New York Peace Center. He believes, at this point, a U.S. military response to the conflict in Syria is not justified.
"If it were a situation like the Second World War, where it was a very clear, organized opponent with no opposition... I'd say 'possibly,'" Minister Carrié said.
But his opinion is that, as things currently stand, a military intervention will not accomplish anything positive for the Syrian people, or America.
"If the government does decide to do something, even as limited as gun missiles or whatever, I think they're going to get a big blowback, a big reaction," Carrié worries. "I hope we can prevent that from happening."
Keelin Burke came to the rally because she supports nonviolence and an end to war. She says the United States' pattern of military involvement in the Middle East, dating back to the 1950s, has failed to quell unrest and civil war, and in fact, has only escalated the violence.
"We need to let certain countries work things out for themselves, and peacefully intervene, if necessary," Burke believes. "But the idea of going in and starting another conflict, or even if they call it a police action, it's just not -- it's not the answer."
Many fear Syria will turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan, even though the President says a "limited military response" would not involve sending troops into Syria.
"A lot of people hear the term 'limited military response,' and they're asking, 'What does that mean?' If not U.S. soldiers in Syria, what does that mean?" News 4's Rachel Kingston asked Collins.
"Well, and I would ask the same question," he replied. "What we've been told is, these would be missile strikes, drones and/or cruise missiles... targeting particular military sites."
Collins says he needs to hear more, before he can decide if he'll vote for or against a military strike.
"Certainly, those of us in the House will be asking for someone to connect the dots as to the repercussions; what will we attempt to do? It was stated that the limited military response would work with an objective of impeding and degrading Assad's ability to launch another chemical attack, and also degrading his air defenses."
But not everyone is convinced that what intelligence officials are indicating is the truth -- that the Assad regime really carried out the chemical attacks.
"This is all hearsay. Me, personally, I think that the Syrian government had everything to lose and nothing to gain by it," Albini said. "The rebel forces actually had more to gain than to lose by it. So I'm very curious to see what comes back from the U.N. inspectors."
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