Former Congressman Weighs in on Debate About Military Action Against Syria

By Dave Franzman, Reporter


By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Lawmakers will return to Washington Monday from a five week recess. And the main issue they’ll confront is whether or not to back President Obama in a call for military action against Syria in light of chemical attacks by the government on civilians.

But as members of Congress grapple with the question, people in eastern Iowa are forming and expressing their own opinions. And that includes former long-time Iowa Congressman Jim Leach.

Leach was a featured speaker at a noon event sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.

While the talk was officially about civility in politics, Leach frequently turned to observations about the debate on military action against Syria. At one point he noted the no-good-options dilemma of the current situation.

“We all think to ourselves, 'What does it mean if we bomb the daylights out of another country?'” Leach said.

Leach, now a visiting professor of law at the University of Iowa, said there may be a lack of consensus in the country about the next step. Several listeners agreed.

“I reluctantly support some kind of military intervention,” Ted Miller said.

But Wayne Groff took the opposite position.

“That’s a tough one, I personally don’t think he should if he doesn’t have Congressional approval,” Groff said.

The former Congressman told the crowd the decision to act, or not act, will have geopolitical implications. He also noted it’s one of the few issues he’s seen since leaving office where he expects both Republicans and Democrats to not vote as a block for political purposes.

“I think there should be shared accountability,” Leach said. “One cannot constitutionally bind the President. In fact, there is a law that frames it—the War Powers Act. My own personal sense is to act against Congressional advice when you’ve called for it would be a mistake.”

Leach also warned that certain international decisions can have unintended consequences. He said a decision in favor of military action against the Syrian government could certainly fall into that category.

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