Minnesotans see no easy answers in Syrian response

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2013 - 10:05 AM

Many Minnesotans said that Obama is right to consult Congress but that a response is in order. What it should be isn’t as clear.

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Grit Youngquist left of St. Paul and her friend Fran Anker of Minneapolis were not sure what actions the United States should take against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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As Congress prepares to debate how to respond to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, Minnesotans on Monday seemed both resigned to the need to punish the Assad regime and weary of the prospect of military retaliation — but skeptical that it would make much difference anyway.

About the only thing that people agreed on was that the situation was piled high with difficulty and that President Obama was right to seek congressional authorization for a military strike.

“I’m really tired of the wars,” said Sue Smith of Minneapolis, taking a breather at the State Fair. “You can’t allow the slaughter of innocent people, but I think other sanctions besides military action would be in order. Something with trade.”

On the other hand, said Raed Rizq, a Palestinian native who lives in Maple Grove, Obama “needs to respond with an appropriate level of force and show that they can’t get away with it, and prevent them from trying to do it again. …

“Even if [Congress says] no, he should act.”

The United States is considering launching a punitive strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, blamed by the United States and the Syrian opposition for an Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The United States says the attack killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. Those numbers are significantly higher than the death toll of 355 provided by the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Obama, after first signaling that the U.S. military would strike Syria within days of the attack, has decided to let Congress vote on the matter.

Before Obama announced that decision Saturday, an NBC News Poll released Friday indicated that Americans were more open to limited airstrikes against Syria than to broader military action.

Whatever action the president took, however, nearly 80 percent of Americans believed that he should first get congressional approval, the poll found.

Despite the general opposition to involvement, 50 percent support using military force if it were limited to missiles from U.S. naval ships aimed at military forces and the infrastructure used to carry out chemical weapons attacks, while 44 percent oppose this move, the poll found.

A difficult decision

Fran Ankel, a Minneapolis nurse, strolling the fair with health educator Grit Youngquist of St. Paul, said she was torn over what to do. Ankel, who toured Syria and the Middle East two years ago, said there is no easy answer.

“If it was me getting gassed, I’d want someone to help me. On the other hand, whether you’re gassed or you’re bombed, you’re dead,” she said.

Ankel also wondered about the motives behind a strike. “It’s hard to know how much is saving face, because [Obama] talked about the red line [of chemical weapons] … I don’t think we should do it on that basis,” she said.

Youngquist said she’s finding herself swayed by arguments that airstrikes wouldn’t do much to change the regime’s tactics. She’d also like to know more about what Syrians think about retaliation by the West, she said.

“I’d prefer to see us do anything other than take direct action,” she said.

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  • Heather Peterson of Minneapolis talked about why the US should take action against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN. ] JERRY HOLT ‚Ä¢ jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • Dan Johnson of Elko thinks the president should get approval from congress before taking any action against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN. ] JERRY HOLT ‚Ä¢ jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • David Kent of New Hope thinks the president should get approval from congress before taking any action against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN. ] JERRY HOLT ‚Ä¢ jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • Nathan Grossman of Maple talked about why the US should take action against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN. ] JERRY HOLT ‚Ä¢ jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • Raed Rizq of Maple talked about why the US should take action against the government of Syria at the state fair Monday September 02 ,2013 in Falcon Heights , MN. ] JERRY HOLT ‚Ä¢ jerry.holt@startribune.com

  • Many folks had an opinion on Sunday as to what the United States should do about Syria and the chemical attack that took place there last month. But there was not a consensus as to what the best response should be. Among those providing thoughts were, from top left to bottom right, Heather Peterson, Dan Johnson, David Kent, Nathan Grossman, Raed Rizq, and Grit Youngquist and Fran Anker.

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