SEATTLE, Wash. - Rep. Adam Smith (D – WA), who returned from a trip to the Syrian border two days ago, told KIRO 7 he cautions against a one-time missile strike in Syria.
"I'm listening and learning. The president has laid down his course; I'm going to give him a chance to make his case. My initial take is that this is not something we should take responsibility for. We're not in a position to stop Assad from using chemical weapons. So telling the entire world we're going to do that, I think is a big risk," Smith said.
See raw interview footage above.
Rep. Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, spoke to refugees during his trip. In light of what he called a "terrible situation," he said that he would prefer to see the U.S. train and arm the free Syrian movement.
The support would help them against not only the Assad regime, but also other rebel groups influenced by al-Qaida.
"If Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, I would hope it would teach us the limitation of U.S. military force to fix problems. It's not that we don't care; it's not that we don't want to help. It's that getting in the middle of a civil war and stopping the violence, is an enormously difficult thing to do," he said.
Meanwhile, Rita Zawaideh, a Seattle travel agent, has already been to the Syrian border to help refugees several times this year.
Her trips are part of the Salaam Cultural Museum's missions. With doctors across the country, Zawaideh flies to Jordan, where thousands of Syrian refugees seek aid.
She said she keeps returning to help because of the children she meets there. Some of them are missing legs, or have shrapnel all over.
"Or talking to a teenage girl, and the first thing she wants to know, she says, 'Am I ever going to get married?' Because she's lost a limb," Zawaideh said.
She feels the U.S. is slow in realizing the severity of the problem.
When President Barack Obama first announced possible action, she said the people were excited.
"Then nothing happened, and then they got depressed. Nobody cares about us anymore," Zawaideh said.
To prove otherwise, she's bringing letters written by Seattle elementary school students to the Syrian children.
"They say, 'We wish you could get back home. We love you.'"
If possible, she would like to bring letters from the Syrian children back to Seattle.
Zawaideh said she is not afraid and has not taken any special precautions for her safety. She said that being acutely aware of her surroundings and speaking the language helps the situation.
"This has to be done. I have to go back," she said.
While Zawaideh can choose to return with medicine, clothing and toys, the government's response is much more complicated.
Rep. Smith said that ideally, the U.S. should garner international support for tough sanctions.
As far as military strikes, "We do not have a moral obligation to do the impossible," he said.