Residents Weigh In On Syria At West Hartford Forum

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Video report by Jeevan Vittal, Fox CT

Text by Daniela Altimari, The Hartford Courant

Standing before about 100 people packed into a meeting room Monday at West Hartford Town Hall, local attorney Margaret P. Levy laid out why she believes that a U.S. strike against Syria would be a mistake.

“The notion that we could go in and strike and get out quickly is just not borne out,” said Levy, who is 68 and has been active in the peace movement.

“None of us wants to get into a 10-year war. … It just seems really important to not go in. … There seems to be no benefit to doing so.”

Levy was among those who turned out on a steamy Labor Day afternoon to press their congressman, John Larson, on Syria. The crowd spilled out into the hallway as citizens waited to ask questions and share their opinions on whether the U.S. ought to launch a punitive attack on the Syrian government.

The tone was civil but passionate. Several speakers urged caution, saying that a limited strike could evolve into a protracted war and, ultimately, U.S. “troops on the ground.” Others expressed apprehensions that President Barack Obama’s push for a military response lacks both a clear objective and the support of the international community. There were also concerns that an assault on Syria could destabilize the Middle East and leave the U.S. vulnerable to retaliation.

None of those arguments swayed Roger Bunker of Bloomfield, who came to the forum to urge Larson to back the Obama administration. “I certainly sympathize with the idea of having a global response [and] world peace … but I don’t believe that’s the issue that’s before us,” he said. “The issue that’s before us is whether or not we can allow someone to use gas on civilians.”

The back and forth, which played out over nearly two and a half hours, recalled the intensity of similar town hall-style meetings on the Iraq war and Obama’s health care overhaul. Larson was among the first members of Congress to hold a public forum for constituents in the aftermath of Obama’s announcement that he intends to seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria.

Outside, about 30 protesters gathered on the south steps of town hall in support of Obama’s plan. They held signs saying, “Save the Syrian Children,” and they chanted “U.S. Act Now” and “Assad Must Go.”

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