NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 9, 2013

Our view: Markey lacks spine on Syria debate

Congress is engaged in a great debate over whether to grant President Obama authority to launch a military strike against Syria as punishment for its government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.

This debate, still in its preliminary stages as Congress has yet to return formally from its summer recess, is an important one. It involves the scope of presidential powers, the wisdom of casting the United States in the role of “world policeman,” as well as the risk of the conflict expanding beyond Syria and engulfing the entire Middle East. Our allies have largely abandoned us. We are on our own.

It is a time for reasoned argument and impassioned debate, a time for legislators to consider the will of their constituents and their own consciences and to speak their minds freely and openly. Now especially, it is a time our representatives must act in what they believe is the best interest of the country.

But when the first call came to stand up and be counted, our newly minted Sen. Ed Markey huddled in the corner and mumbled “present.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday voted 10-7 to authorize President Obama to use military force against Syria, in the words of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “to change the military equation on the battlefield.”

The resolution would limit military action to 60 to 90 days and confine it within the borders of Syria. No U.S. ground forces would be permitted in the country. The resolution now moves to consideration by the full Senate.

The vote was bipartisan. McCain and fellow Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona voted with seven Democrats — including Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire — in favor of the resolution. Two Democrats and five Republicans were opposed.

Only Markey, elected in June to finish out the term of former Sen. John Kerry, failed to express his opinion on the matter. It was an appalling display of political cowardice and an abject failure to represent the interests of the people of Massachusetts.

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