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SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich says he’ll vote for a Senate resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Syria.
The first-term Democrat says he doesn’t support sending American troops into Syria but says it’s essential to deter the regime of Bashar al-Assad from again using poison gas.
Heinrich acknowledges that his decision runs counter to the positions of many of his closest supporters but he says he’s convinced it is the right decision.
Heinrich disclosed his decision in a letter to constituents.
Here is a portion of the letter.
The last week has been the most difficult I have experienced in my more than eight years in public office. What I share with you now will not win me any popularity awards, and some of you may well never forgive me for my decision today. All I ask is that you read this entire letter and seek to understand how I came to make this decision.
I have always believed that my decisions in public office should reflect my best judgment and what I believe to be the best course for our nation. Most of the time that leads to votes that are well aligned with most of you as constituents. Just as importantly, it means that I can look my children in the eye and explain my positions with honesty, never having to explain why a vote was the result of politics or pressure. Today, I am taking a position that I believe is in line with those values.
From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.
Bashar al-Assad is a dictator who has shown a willingness to reduce residential neighborhoods to rubble, to imprison and torture children, and who has watched callously as his actions have killed over a hundred thousand civilians and displaced millions of Syrian refugees.
Despite that, I remain of the belief that as a nation, we cannot become directly entangled in a civil war that we do not fully understand. It is for this reason that I do not think we should arm the Syrian rebels and I do not support sending American troops into this conflict.
However, over recent months I also learned of the facts that are now the subject of so much debate here and around the world. What I can tell you from my perspective, having seen the public evidence as well as much that remains classified, I do not have any doubt about the following facts:
One: a chemical weapons attack occurred on August 21;
Two: that attack was planned and carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime; and
Three: that as a result, hundreds of children and non-combatants were gassed to death in the suburbs of Damascus.
I have seen how Assad incrementally tests the international community as he employs more and more brutal tactics in order to cling to power. And I can tell you that August 21 was not just some anomaly, but that it is part of a long and predictable pattern of behavior.