When I answered the phone the other night, it was a robocall and my reflexes were sluggish because I caught just enough of the pre-recorded message to keep me from hanging up: an opportunity to ask questions about potential military action in Syria with Congressman John Garamendi — just stay on the line to participate.
Hmmm. Talk to Garamendi, right here, right now. OK, I’ll bite. I can listen in while I’m watching cat videos on YouTube and if I don’t like it, I can still hang up.
I was connected to an ongoing conversation, wherein citizens within Garamendi’s constituency were asking questions about possible war with Syria and he was answering them. Over and over, he stated that he was not in support of the war, and most everyone seemed relieved to hear that. A moderator would occasionally break in and remind people that if they wanted to ask a question, press star-3 to be placed in the queue. Sadly, by the time the live-chat ended, my number never rolled up.
But yet, my questions remain.
Before sharing them, let me backtrack to last Sunday, when I bumped into Garamendi at the Yolo Land Trust’s Day in the Country event, and I asked him how progress was coming on balancing the budget and resolving the sequestration-triggered cuts (as he’d just visited Winters a few weeks ago to discuss this matter as it pertains to housing cuts), and he responded that there was no progress at all because “we’re going to war with Syria.”
Fabulous. We’re going to kill people because the people currently killing the people aren’t killing them properly. Side bonus: What a great excuse for Congress to avoid doing its job, the one it still hasn’t done from last year: balance the budget. War is so convenient, isn’t it?
Garamendi’s response was frustrating. I would hope that anyone elected to Congress would have the ability to multi-task, but apparently it’s not so. His response also brings me to my first question: Mr. Garamendi, at the precise moment of writing this column, our national debt clock indicates that we are $16,742,072,294,588.41 in debt. (That’s $17 trillion in round numbers.)
The website notes that in the last year, our national debt has increased an average of $1.94 billion per day. By the time I finish this column, it will have gone up another $100,000. We have insurmountable debt, don’t have a balanced budget, haven’t paid for the last two wars, and still have troops in Afghanistan. How are we going to pay for this new war?
Second question: How much, exactly, is this Syrian war going to cost? Is there a budget in mind, or are we just winging it with a blank check?
Third question: What exactly are we getting for our money? What’s the plan? How much bang is there to this buck?
Fourth question: Will this action take the chemical weapons out of the Assad regime’s hands?
Fifth question: Will this action ensure that no unstable Middle Eastern governments or fanatical fundamentalist religions groups can get their hands on chemical weapons?
Sixth question: Given that the entire world already knows which targets the U.S. intends to bomb and Google maps of the sites have already been splashed across the news networks, what are the chances that the chemical weapons are actually in those bunkers anymore? If I can find the intended targets on Google, so can the Syrians. Since we’ve practically taken out banners and strung them all over Syria, announcing our intentions, imagining that the chemical weapons haven’t all been relocated by now is delusional. No, worse than delusional. Downright moronic. So, I may have already answered question four and five myself: No, and no. The chemical weapons will be hidden somewhere else, and all we’ll get for our investment is to reinforce the Middle East’s hatred of America.
Seventh question (and, Mr. Garamendi, you will recall that I asked you this at the Day in the Country event, but I know it was a busy day, so I’m asking again): If we can blow billions on bombing Syria, why can’t we take an entirely different approach and spend that money helping targeted Syrians escape safely to neighboring countries? (And by the way — what a bargain. The cost of one bomb would feed a village for a year.)
I saw a Richard Engel report on walking routes that allow Syrians to escape into Turkey and Jordan. These governments are giving the refugees safe haven, setting up huge encampments and providing food and water. The need is massive, and growing. When the camera panned to the entrance route into Turkey, the mass of people walking through looked about 10 bodies wide and a mile long. It was, literally, an exodus.
Why can’t we support the efforts of Turkey and Jordan? Why not spend those millions on things those refugees need, and use our military to protect them while they escape? This would cost a fraction of what a war costs, and hey, one or two of them might decide that Americans aren’t that bad.
If we go to war with Syria, this is what I predict: We bomb their chemical weapons depots to smithereens, kill lots of innocent people in the process (including some of our own) and accomplish nothing, because the weapons aren’t even there. So we keep on bombing this and that, because it feels better to beat our chests than admit our mistakes.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime just keeps killing its own people — chemicals, bullets, bombs, does it really matter? Dead is dead. Unless the people get out, they’ll always be targeted. As a fringe benefit to bombing Syria, tension with Russia ratchets up another notch while Vladimir Putin continues to thumb his nose at the U.S. Do we really want to go back to Cold War days? Doesn’t anybody remember how unpleasant that was?
Meanwhile, the national debt clock is ticking, ticking, ticking.
So, this is my eighth question, Mr. Garamendi: Am I wrong?
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com