Most in Miss. delegation oppose action in Syria

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Five of the six members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation say they’ll vote against the U.S. taking military action in Syria.

Republican Thad Cochran told The Associated Press on Monday that he’s leaning against military action but still considering President Barack Obama’s arguments for it.

“It’s a hard vote to sell. Like to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Cochran said of Obama.

Those who say they’ll vote “no” are Sen. Roger Wicker and Reps. Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo, all Republicans; and Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat.

Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday that Obama “has not made a clear case about his strategic or tactical goals” or exhausted diplomatic efforts to mobilize other countries to respond to Syria.

The U.S. accuses Assad’s government of being behind an Aug. 21 attack using sarin gas in a Damascus suburb, saying 1,429 people were killed. Some other estimates of the deaths are lower.

“Any use of military force abroad must be rooted in a coherent strategy that is worthy of our men and women in uniform and has the support of the American people,” Wicker said. “The president’s plan has not met this threshold.”

Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a phone interview Monday that he’s opposed because any U.S. military action in Syria “stretches our already overtaxed military even further.”

“Right now, it appears that we’re going alone and nobody else is putting in any assets or manpower other than saying, ‘We are with you,’” Thompson told AP.

Nunnelee said that while the actions of Syrian President Bashar Assad Obama are “horrible,” Obama has failed to show how military action would advance U.S. interests.

“There is little doubt they have used chemical weapons to suppress the rebellion,” Nunnelee said Monday in a news release. “If President Obama had acted decisively earlier, we may have had better options. As it stands now, our choices are extremely limited because the strongest factions fighting against Assad’s regime are al-Qaida affiliated Muslim extremists.”

Harper said in a statement Monday: “After careful consideration of the classified documents, I will vote against authorization of a U.S. military strike on Syria.” He did not elaborate.

Palazzo said in a Facebook post Thursday: “I’ve looked at the evidence, I’ve heard from the President and his advisers, and I’ve weighed the options of authorizing the use of military force. But more importantly, I’ve spoken with you, the voters of Mississippi. And you have overwhelmingly said that America needs to stay out of the Syrian conflict. I agree.”

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.