Al Cardenas: Congress Must Prevent 'Reckless Action' on Syria

Monday, 09 Sep 2013 01:00 PM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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Al Cardenas called on Congress Monday to prevent President Barack Obama from taking "reckless action" in attacking Syria, even if it means conducting a filibuster.

The chairman of the American Conservative Union also told Newmax that a strike on Syria would not pass "the Ronald Reagan test" because it would not result from a direct threat to U.S. national security.

In an interview with Newsmax TV Monday, Cardenas expressed concern about not hearing "from the president a plausible reason why we should go ahead and do that."

Story continues below.

"There are basically two plausible positions," he said. "One, to impact regime change, and the other is to stay out of the civil war conflict. But neither of those positions is the one espoused by the president.

"He wants to punish, so to speak, the Assad regime for killing slightly over 1,000 poor citizens by poison gas. We've had over 150,000 people killed in the civil war. He all of a sudden wants to punish the regime without a regime change in mind, and frankly without a set course that Americans can be optimistic about.

"It's a bad decision," he continued. "It will make us look bad, of course, in the region, and I would urge all members of Congress to vote no."

Cardenas is a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and his American Conservative Union is best known for sponsoring the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C.

The Senate is due to vote this week on whether to approve a resolution authorizing U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of his regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.

The conservative said if Congress authorizes what he described as "random strikes" against Syria, "all they'll accomplish will be to kill innocent civilians."

"We've been told by intelligence sources that these poison gas canisters have been moved. We really don't know where they are," he added. "So we're going to spend half a billion dollars to attempt to inflict damage on Syria without taking out these gas weapons, without inflicting a regime change, and killing thousands of people perhaps in the process.

"We're going to act like we're very upset that 1,000 have been killed and we're going to send hundreds of cruise missiles to kill thousands more? Tell me where that makes any sense."

Cardenas contends that over the course of nearly five years of the Obama administration the United States has consistently made the "wrong decision" regarding the Middle East.

"We push for Mubarak to leave Egypt only to have (Mohamed) Morsi, a much worse Muslim Brotherhood alternative, come into power," he said. "The Egyptian people sought the ouster of Morsi and now it's a black eye on the United States. Now we're talking about taking these additional steps, and very few people in the Middle East want us to take them. So I don't know why the president wants to be proactive when in reality, every time he's done so, he's been counterproductive in terms of our standing in the Middle East."

Asked about the division within the Republican Party about striking Syria, Cardenas responded, "The establishment of the party is perhaps supporting President Obama not because they think his policy is sound, it's because there's been a tradition in the United States that he's a commander in chief and whenever the commander in chief wants to take action, military action, we ought to support him.

"Well in this case, it doesn't meet Ronald Reagan's national security test and therefore that whole traditional understanding of supporting the commander in chief, whether we agree with him or not, should not work," he continued.

"For those traditionalists who believe that a commander in chief should be supported, my answer to them is not this commander in chief."

Cardenas said he would support Republican efforts to head off a vote on an authorizing resolution, including filibuster by that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is said to be considering.

"It's a serious enough matter that I would support a filibuster in the Senate, or any action that prevents the president from this reckless action," Cardenas said.

"The president insisted at first that [his administration] constitutional authority to embark on this foolish mission. In my opinion, they don't. Wise heads prevailed and now he's seeking the approval of the Congress."

Noting that Assad said in an interview Sunday with CBS News' Charlie Rose that there would "repercussions" if the U.S. struck at Syria, Cardenas said "those are the kind of things" that Congress should consider and "weigh in on."

He added, "That's why Congress needs to vote just like they voted when President Bush sought Congress' approval to take action regarding Iraq."

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