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Congressman Roe shares his criteria for military force

Editor’s note: Directly following the town hall meeting at the Johnson County Crewette building last Thursday, Congressman Phil Roe sat down with Tomahawk staff for an interview. The interview will be published verbatim in three parts.
Today’s question came from The Tomahawk Assistant Editor, Paula Walter:
“Yesterday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted ten to seven to approve a resolution authorizing the United States to conduct a limited military strike against the government of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. The resolution would limit the number of days action may be taken along Syria’s borders and would not allow U. S. troops on Syrian ground. The measure will now go to the Senate floor for debate and then onto the House if it makes its way out of the Senate.
President Obama has stated that the world has drawn a red line against the use of chemical weapons and based on information from several sources, including UN inspectors, Syria has crossed that line. If the measure makes its way to the House, will you vote for the resolution that would allow a military strike? Why or why not?”
Congressman Roe: “Let me back up and say the world did not draw a red line. The president did a year ago, and now the world has. He changed its tune. If I had to vote today with the information I have, the answer would be no. Now, I am going to a classified briefing on Monday at 5:00 when I get back. I’m flying out Monday morning, and I’m going to listen to that briefing. And I’m going to take all the information that we have. It will be a classified briefing. So I’ll have some information that probably you don’t have on the news media.
You have to meet three criteria for me to use military force. Number one, is there a risk to the United States of America? Are we at risk if we don’t exercise this attack? And I think the answer is no. If you stopped the average person in Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville, New York City, and ask them, ‘Do you feel threatened by Syria?’ they’re going to say ‘What?’ Number two is what is your mission? When you fire a missile or fly an airplane over there, what are you expecting to accomplish? I haven’t heard that we’re going, Assad, whatever. Well, once you unleash the dogs of war, the word limited is an oxymoron. You don’t know what will happen when you do that. You’re at war when you do that, when you attack somebody limited. And thirdly, how do you declare when it’s over? What have you accomplished? When do you stop? And I don’t see an answer to any of those questions that would make me vote yes, yet. I’ll wait. I said I would publically, and I will.
I go back to Vietnam when I was a soldier, and I saw where limited action got a lot of my friends killed. And you can’t limit that. You cannot tie our military’s hands and say you can and can’t do this in a mission. You have to allow them to do what they need to do. What if a plane gets shot down? Are we going to leave that soldier like we did in Benghazi? I can assure you 40 years ago when I was in Korea in the Army it never dawned on me that my friends, my buddies would leave me behind. I mean, the fact that they said this is limited action, I thought, yeah, that’s when you couldn’t go into a lounge but people could shoot at you from over there. You couldn’t go into Cambodia. It’s absolute nonsense. And we’re seeing it in Afghanistan. I’ve been there twice.
We have a Secretary of State who called friends of mine, in the 70’s, baby killers. And this is a guy who wants us to fire missiles that don’t have a brain. You talk about smart bomb. Well, shrapnel is not smart when it blows up. And, again, that’s maybe personal, but it is personal. We lost a young man here, Specialist Green, right here from Mountain City, a hero in my opinion. And do I want to go sit by another parent and tell them that their child died in Syria for what? I don’t think I could tell them what for. The use of killing for weapons is terrible. And as a father and grandfather, I understand that, but hacking a million people up with machetes in Rwanda was terrible too and we didn’t do anything there. There are terrible things that happen in the world.
Lastly, then we’ll go to the next question, is if the world drew the red line, where is the world? I don’t see them. I’m looking for England and Canada and Germany and France and Italy and Spain and Norway and the rest of the NATO. Where are they now? I don’t see them anywhere. So, I think I made that fairly clear, and I’ll listen to the debate on the House. I’ll probably participate in that debate. I’m also, I guess, very tired of politicians who’ve never served, and whose kids never served, never put on a uniform, never left the country, decide young men and women should go die. I think maybe you should go see, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve gone to Afghanistan and I want to go back again, because I was in the Army at the time our country didn’t support and I want those young men and women in harms way in Afghanistan to know at least one congressman has their back. It’s personal for me because I served 40 years ago at that time. I want them to know that this guy who is sitting in a nice leather chair in Washington, D.C., and not putting himself in harm’s way. It worries my wife to death when I go. I’m a Methodist Presbyterian, sort of, if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. Presbyterians are where everything’s preordained.”
Paula Walter: “Could you see action other than military? Could you see the government doing something else that you might agree with?”
Congressman Ro:: “Oh, absolutely. I should’ve said this, but one of the things we’re the best in the world at is humanitarian aid. I would certainly not allow that war to spill over into Israel. I absolutely wouldn’t. I mean, there I would draw a line. But I would ask the king of Jordan. We have a friend in Johnson City who has him on speed dial. He served as a special operations director in Jordan. And that’s a small country. It’s only got six million people. With the refugees there, let’s take our medical people like me and our medics and our nurses and our doctors and our food and help the people. I mean, they’re there. I can’t imagine being in the middle of a war like that. In Turkey, ask them. They need our help for humanitarian aid. We’re the best in the world at it. I would absolutely support that humanitarian aid in a heartbeat.
Look, we have a country over there, Syria, that has Alawites, Shiites, Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Iran. I’ve probably only named a tenth of them. How do you ever sort that out? And then the rebels, the free army, whatever they are. If you can, if somebody can tell me, if we give them a gun, who are they going to shoot at? I don’t think you can. So anyway, I’m very passionate about this because 58,479 young men died in Vietnam. Enough. I don’t want to see another one die like Specialist Greene here did.