Area residents skeptical over proposed Syria strike
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 11:00

Defenders Day attendees voice doubt, concern

by John G. Bailey

    During last weekend’s Defenders Day commemoration of the Battle of North Point, area residents were asked their opinion on the proposed U.S. military strike on Syria now under consideration.
    In August, forces under Syrian president Bashar al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on rebel fighters seeking to overthrow his government. The attack reportedly killed as many as 1,400 people, most of whom were noncombatants.
    Citing an international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, President Obama declared his intention to employ U.S. military strikes against Syria to deter further use of such weapons.
    The celebration of American military virtue 199 years ago at Defenders Day contrasted with the skepticism toward military action in Syria among those interviewed.
    Christine Anthony, a senior at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, spoke up when her mother, sitting nearby, declined to comment on the issue. “I think [the proposed attack] is the stupidest thing ever.”

Anthony contrasted the U.S. war on Afghanistan in response to the 9-11 attacks to the current situation in Syria.
    “The U.S. has no purpose in the fight. It won’t prevent [the further use of chemical weapons]. It will probably end up provoking another war and the unnecessary deaths of American soldiers.”
    John Bent lives in Essex but grew up in Dundalk. He and his wife Rita were sitting at a picnic table.
    “I think we should keep our business to ourselves,” he said.
    Mrs Bent concurred, saying, “Send medical teams [in response to the chemical attacks], but that’s about it.
    She was skeptical that U.S. involvement would remain limited.
    “Why send troops back out again after they’re just getting back from Afghanistan and Iraq?” she wondered. “Many other countries are telling us not to do it. It would just sour our relations with Russia and China. Why anger other countries?”
    Anna Edwards, originally from Malta, now lives in Dundalk. She was sitting with her teenaged granddaughter Angela Seebold.
    “Everytime there’s a fight in another country,” Edwards said, “we’ve got to get involved. The thing is, the people over there have been fighting for so many years and we can’t stop them.”
    Edwards returned from a visit to Malta recently and paraphrased what Maltese, British and Germans were saying about the proposed attack: “‘Oh Americans, they gotta kill somebody.’” Seebold interjected, “[The U.S. government] has forgotten how to talk, they only know how to kill.”
    However, Edwards expressed conditional support for an attack.
    “I think it would be a good idea, but only if America had other countries with them.”
    Melissa Green sat on a bench with her father Rich Hartman. “I’m just concerned for our troops about another war and more lives taken,” Green said.
    Hartman agreed. “I think it would be best to stay out of it,” he said.
    Both said they were moved by televised scenes of Syrian children suffering from the chemical attack.
    “I know something about chemical weapons,” Hartman said. “I had three brothers who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and they all died early.”
    Green thought the proposed U.S. attack would just lead to more dead children, saying, “A parent should never have to bury their child.”
    Joellen Parish was interviewed while walking with her son along the main path at the commemoration site. “I think [the U.S. government] should worry about our citizens before worrying about another country,” she said.
    “They should take care of what’s here first,” she continued, noting the closed VA medical center nearby. “If the Syrians want to kill themselves, let ‘em.”
    Parish was concerned about the consequences from a U.S. attack. “If we stick our necks out where we don’t belong there, [the Syrians] will come over and kill us here.”
    Emily Spears was selling chips and taking donations at the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society tent.
    “I’m against it,” Spears said of the proposed strike. “I don’t think it’s necessary. They’re not hurting our country, so why should we bother them? We don’t need another war.”
    Asked if  the she thought a U.S. strike would stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, she replied, “They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. If anything, an attack would just stir them up more.”
    Husband and wife Rocky and Susan Mason of Dundalk were resting at a picnic table. Mr. Mason professed to not knowing much about the issues involved in the proposed attack but was nonetheless resolute.
    “I’m against it,” he said.
    Echoing a concern voiced by others, Mrs. Mason noted better ways to spend money here in the U.S.; education was at the top of her list. She also expressed war weariness.
    “We’ve already been through two wars, and we’re just getting out of them,” she noted.
    Would the U.S. attack achieve the intended objective?
    “Only temporarily,” she said. “Once we leave, the [chemical] attacks would start again. We can’t be over there forever.”
    NOTE: Since the day of the interviews, the Syrian government and Russia — one of Syria’s major allies — have expressed a willingness to seek a negotiated settlement to the crisis. The U.S. government had not given a definite response at press time.