The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 4, 2013

Manchin, Rahall undecided on U.S. intervention in Syria

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— On many occasions, Sen. Joe Manchin has called for the return of American fighting forces from both Iraq and Afghanistan, criticizing the nation’s prolonged presence on both war fronts, but on the matter of Syria, the West Virginia Democrat is still undecided.

Likewise, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is viewing the developments in Syria and the administration’s call for military action with deliberation.

“I do not want to see our nation drawn into yet another costly, open-ended military conflict,” Rahall told The Register-Herald.

“However, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons demands response. It should be a justified, proportional strike against sites of high value from which the chemical warfare was launched.”

What’s more, Rahall is adamant that the administration refrain from putting boots on the ground.

“Any congressional authorization must adhere to the Constitution and ensure we are not giving the president a blank check,” the 3rd District congressman added.

Manchin is undergoing a series of briefings on Capitol Hill, including one tailored for the Foreign Relations Committee on Monday, and today he plans to sit on one by the Senate Armed Forces Committee, of which he is a member.

“He is attending briefings and gathering all the intelligence and information,” an aide said.

“Right now, his position hasn’t changed from the statement he put out the other day.”

And in that terse statement, Manchin said the matter of sending in troops and weapons of war is “one of the most difficult that a country can make, and is not one that should be made without all the available facts or without the consultation of Congress.”

President Obama wants Congress to authorize military action against Syria, and Democratic and Republican leaders said Monday they are certain that President Bashar Assad deployed sarin gas to kill some of his people, although the death count is in conflict.

The administration put the death toll at 1,429, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said the number of casualties it could confirm was closer to 500.

Manchin interrupted his planned West Virginia itinerary to return to Washington for various intelligence briefings, still not certain if he would go along the leadership. Many on both sides of the spectrum — liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans — vowed to buck their respective leaders and oppose intervention.

A vote isn’t likely to occur before next week, and Manchin said he wants to “ensure I have all the facts and intelligence available to me” before the debate opens.

Various polls have shown more than half of Americans oppose any military intervention in the troubled country.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com