McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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September 13, 2013

Locals speak out on Syria conflict

McALESTER — On Wednesday, McAlester area residents shared their thoughts on the possible U.S. intervention into Syria.

In a nationally-televised address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said he resisted calls for military action in Syria until Syria’s own citizens were gassed, including more than 1,000 men women and children.

Officials say more than 110,000 people have died in the conflict in Syria since March 2011.

Obama’s speech covered his reasons for possible action in the war-torn country.

“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory,” Obama said. “But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.”

Locally McAlester area residents seemed split on their feelings on U.S. intervention in Syria. World War II veteran William Moore, 91, of Crowder, said he would go himself to fight for the Syrians — if he was able.

“I didn’t complain when I was called into WW II and I wouldn’t complain now,” he said Wednesday morning.

Obama said Tuesday night that the use of chemical weapons requires the U.S. to respond with a targeted military strike, and he made a promise.

“I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria,” he said. “I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: Deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities.”

Thom Schildwachter, of McAlester, said Wednesday he supports a U.S. strike.

“When (Syria) chemically killed their own women and children, it’s a problem,” he said.

Betty Tyson, of Hartshorne, said the United States needs to stay out of Syria.

“We can’t fight everyone’s battles,” she said.

Milli Vestal, 86, of McAlester, agrees.

“Leave them alone,” she said. “How would we like for them to do to us what we want to do to them?”

Obama had said Tuesday, “America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.”

Mary Green, of Talihina, said the deaths of the Syrian children were difficult to explain to her own children, ages 12 and 8.

“Something needs to be done,” she said. “They are hurting their own children.

“When my kids saw those pictures they asked me if those (Syrian) children were sleeping and I explained to them that they were killed by their own government. They asked me ‘why would their government do that?’ It’s difficult because I try to teach them to trust the government.”

To share your thoughts on this issue, visit the McAlester News-Capital’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/mcalester

newscapital.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews. com.

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