Midstate congressmen back Trump's Syrian action, after rejecting Obama's 2013 plan

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 7, 2017 2:07 PM

Photo by DigitalGlobe/U.S. Department of Defense via AP

This satellite image released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows a damage assessment image of Shayrat air base in Syria, following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes on Friday, April 7, 2017 from the USS Ross (DDG 71) and USS Porter (DDG 78), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers. The United States blasted the air base with a barrage of cruise missiles on Friday, April 7, 2017 in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.

(Harrisburg) -- Three midstate congressmen say they support President Donald Trump's decision to attack a Syrian military airfield.

That bucks their past objections to a similar request from President Obama.

In statements today, Republican Representatives Charlie Dent, Lou Barletta and Scott Perry say the missile strikes were an appropriate response.

But in 2013, when President Obama requested congressional authorization to attack Syria, Dent, Barletta and Perry all opposed the request, which came shortly after a chemical gas attack that killed about 300 people in Syria.

That same year, Trump, then a private citizen, also urged President Obama to stay out of Syria.

Franklin and Marshall political science professor Terry Madonna says by switching his position, Trump may have offered some political cover for GOP congressmen.

"I think those visual images have created enough of an argument to say we've changed our mind, just as Trump did," he says.

Some might say the initial opposition was purely political, but Madonna says the GOP congressmen could try to highlight other issues.

"The loss of lives, the visual images of the children and the babies that were exterminated, and then the argument that despite assertions to the contrary, the Syrians have not surrendered their collection of gas materials," says Madonna.

Indeed, in his statement, Dent pointed to Russia and Syria failing to fulfill their promise after the 2013 attack to collect and destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

All other midstate GOP congressmen also opposed President Obama's request in 2013 to attack Syria, but haven't responded to requests for comment on President Trump's orders yesterday.

None of the congressmen were available for interviews to explain their changed positions.

Full statements are below:

Congressman Perry: "This was a targeted airstrike at the Shayrat Airfield in response to the horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians by their own government in Syria. This assault on the innocent is reprehensible by our own moral standards and those of the international community. There are no easy answers in Syria, but this heinous act warranted a response. We completely support our men and women in uniform for executing their missions with the professionalism we've come to expect from the strongest fighting force in the world."

Congressman Dent: "I strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons against innocent populations. Such heinous attacks, which are in violation of widely followed international prohibitions, serve no purpose other than to indiscriminately target and inflict horrific pain upon innocent men, women, and children. After the 2013 chemical attack in Syria, the Russians agreed to collect and dispose of Syria's chemical arsenal. Clearly, both Russia and Assad reneged on and failed to honor that agreement as evidenced by the most recent sarin gas attack.

The administration's targeted strikes demonstrate to President Bashar al-Assad and his enablers that such actions will no longer be tolerated and will be met with appropriate responses. The Syrian crisis has already claimed over 400,000 lives, and it is my hope that this action sends a clear message of American resolve to the Assad regime and the broader international community. The Administration and Congress have an important role to play in paving the way forward toward a political resolution of the Syrian crisis, and I will continue to remain engaged in that debate."

Congressman Barletta: "President Trump took decisive action to send a message to the world that our nation will not stand by while a dictator brutally murders civilians, including women and children. The targeted missile strikes on the airfield from where the Syrian government launched the gas attack were a necessary and proportionate response. I fully support the president's move."

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