Maine lawmakers not ready to endorse Syria strike

PORTLAND (AP) — While all of Maine's congressional delegation remains undecided about military strikes on Syria, none of the four lawmakers is eager for the U.S. military to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East.

Calls from constituents are heavily against military strikes, they say.

"I do think we're at a growing risk of getting dragged into a quagmire that is a civil war," said Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who said she's trying to keep an open mind.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, said 98 percent of constituents who've contacted her office oppose military action, and they're offering up a myriad of reasons for staying out of the conflict. "I'm inclined to vote no, and nothing I've heard so far has changed my mind," Pingree said.

Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud fears a counter-attack that could draw in more military force. "That strike will cause a reaction, and we're not sure what that reaction is," he said.

Members of Congress will return this week to Washington, where the Senate is expected to take up the president's proposal for a limited military strike to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for using the chemical sarin against his own people, killing more than 1,000 people.

Sen. Angus King, an independent, said he's weighing the message that would be sent to Iran if the U.S. does nothing versus the ramifications of committing an act of war. And he said it would be a "grave mistake" if the president chose to proceed without congressional authorization.

Collins said she spoke to Vice President Joe Biden for 45 minutes on Friday, and that he invited her to dine with him Sunday night, as he continues to make the case for military action.

Congress wouldn't be facing such a difficult decision, she said, if the president hadn't made "a rash statement without having a well-vetted, thought-out plan to back it up."

She said she has many concerns: She doesn't think the military can target all of Assad's chemical weapons, and she's worried about civilian deaths. She's also concerned that rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda and she's concerned about retaliation against U.S. interests around the world.

Most of all, she said, "I don't see where this ends."

Pingree said she's leaning toward rejecting a military strike for many of the same reasons.

She said it sounds like deja vu when the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We were told it would be a short intervention, that it'd be over quickly, that it wouldn't be costly, that there wouldn't be a lot of loss of life. None of that turned out to be the case," she said.

"It feels, unfortunately, like we're poised to get back into a situation that we spent a decade trying to get away form," she said.

Michaud said he'll make his decision after an intelligence briefing Monday.

"I'm not convinced that a strike against Syria is in the best interest of the United States. But we'll give the administration the ability to talk in the briefing and to try to convince me with additional information," he said.

Associated Press

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, arrives for a closed-door briefing with national security officials on the situation in Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday.

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CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

Perhaps Mr. (ret.) D, you

Perhaps Mr. (ret.) D, you would like to plant your boots in Syrian soil.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine lawmakers not ready to endorse Syria strike

Mainers , Noon hst ? Sunday

Children are dying . Poison gas was used in WWI , also . The ' war to end all wars ' WWII . Ethnic cleansing . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobodan_Milo%C5%A1evi%C4%87 <-- Orthodox Christian . What more do you need to know ? Where does the buck stop ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_gas

Bunch of fence sitters . Can't decide them selves out a paper bag . NBA ( No Balls @ All ) . Even the French are willing to use force , coming straight off of Mali success . They support our President Mainers . What's your problem , politicians ?
? Dr. Dosh http://www.state.gov ( ret. )

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