Maui News

US Launches Cruise Missile Strike in Syria, Hawaiʻi Congressional Leaders React

April 7, 2017, 5:31 AM HST
* Updated April 7, 5:34 AM
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At the direction of President Donald Trump, US forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield on Wednesday (at about 8:40 p.m. EDT; 4:40 a.m., April 7, in Syria). Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate, and was in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, which he said killed or injured “hundreds of innocent Syrian people.”

The US strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Capt. Davis said, initial indications are that this strike has “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment” at Shayrat Airfield, “reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

In a White House briefing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “Bashar al-Assad has carried out chemical attacks this past week on civilians, including women and children, and carried out attacks earlier — last month, March 25th and 30th in Homs Province, as well. We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out by aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. And we also have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.”

Tillerson said that as Assad has continued to use chemical weapons in these attacks with no response from the international community, and that he, in effect, “is normalizing the use of chemical weapons, which then may be adopted by others.” Tillerson said that for this reason, it’s important that some action be taken on behalf of the international community “to make clear that these chemical weapons continue to be a violation of international norms.”

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He also noted that the response from allies in Europe, as well as the region in the Middle East, has been “overwhelmingly supportive of the action,” that the US has taken.

Above: In January 2017, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met these children at a shelter in Aleppo. Their families fled the eastern part of the city. Many of these children have only known war, loss and hardship. Their families’ only wish is for peace. File photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

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Reaction by Hawaii’s Congressional Leaders:

US Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the repeated use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against his own people, “an atrocity and breach of international law.” She said the international community, “must hold him accountable.”

In a statement issued late Wednesday, night, Sen. Hirono said, “The Civil War in Syria adds layers of complexity in a country and region where there are no easy answers and opportunities for missteps are great. In light of this, President Trump must present a coherent strategy for addressing the ongoing situation in Syria, including our own responsibility in confronting the humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis.”

Above: In Jan. 2017, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard visited with Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other humanitarian workers at the Jibreen shelter, housing nearly 1,400 families who fled mostly the eastern part of Aleppo City. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called the the U.S. action to launch military strikes on Syrian government targets, “short-sighted,” and “reckless.”

In a statement she said: “It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.”

She continued saying, “This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) also reacted to the U.S. military strike in Syria saying, “The Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is abhorrent, but a military response is not the answer.”

Similar to Rep. Gabbard’s assessment, Sen. Schatz said, “The president has failed to articulate a strategy to end the Syrian civil war. A one-off strike may satisfy our desire to hold Assad accountable, but it risks deeper escalation without any sense of direction or objective. And unless this conflict ends, we will never defeat ISIL and prevent its return.”

He continued saying, “Regardless, Congress must debate and authorize any escalation of US military involvement against the Syria regime, as it is well beyond the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The United States must focus on leading a diplomatic effort among our partners and allies in the region to achieve a political solution that results in a post-Assad Syrian government that brings stability to the region.”

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