This afternoon a communication from my junior senator, Martin Heinrich (D-NM), landed in my email. Heinrich is not a publicity hog, and you usually have to go searching to find out what he thinks about issues. Which is not always a bad thing, as his career in Congress has developed. Our newly elected senator has a seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he has not been conspicuous for his contributions. Today, however, he took a stand:
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.Uh oh.... He goes on to explain that he owes us his best judgment, and wants to be able to look his kids in the eye, and he's been seeing some very very nasty pictures in committee that the intelligence agencies are passing along. However, don't think he's eager to attack:
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. [His bold.]After the "despite," we get a "however" which goes over the facts of the chemical attack, with a confident assertion that we know Assad did it. And he characterizes the attack as part of a deliberate pattern of escalation on the part of the Assad regime, flouting international norms. Well yes, perhaps.
What's more, I believe that when any country chooses to ignore the international norms against chemical weapons, they have made a deeply immoral decision with worldwide implications, implications that the United States and the international community cannot ignore. If you want to understand why chemical weapons were singled out for international actions, you can watch videos that were taken in the aftermath of the Damascus attacks. These videos show the real effects of chemical weapons and are completely consistent with international forensic evidence showing that the agent was Sarin nerve gas. I would warn you not to view these with children in the room. They are real and they are horrible. [Unlike videos of drone attacks on wedding parties, or US white phosphorus attacks in Fallujah, which for the most part we were not permitted to see either.]
I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons.
It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama's request for the authorization of use of military force. [His bold, again.]
I decided that the senator's, uh, heartfelt letter deserved a response.
On your letter about SyriaI have suspected Heinrich of being a blue dog in the making for some time. This is a step too far.
After being a hearty initial supporter of yours when you first beat Heather Wilson for the House seat from ABQ, I have been progressively concerned and now dismayed by your failure to uphold the progressive values you initially espoused in that first campaign, and to which you have still paid lip service in subsequent campaigns. You appear to have been captured by the Beltway consensus, suffocating on the noxious fumes of corruption and conventional thinking that permeate that once and future swamp.
It was bad enough when you failed to support the CPC's People's Budget in the House. Now, however, falling in line with the administration's utterly inadequate arguments about Syria, and your Chair Dianne Feinstein's complete capture by the national surveillance state, you once again exhibit a profile in cowardice.
We have no business attacking Syria. There is no international consensus on military force in Syria, so any attack would be a lawless act of international vigilantism. There is no logical case to be made for how an attack would materially change the situation on the ground in Syria, so any attack would be a murderous gesture of futility. The latest diplomatic possibilities do not strengthen the hand of those threatening attacks, but rather argue for restraint. This makes your timing with today's letter even more preposterous. Hiding behind "seeing all the intelligence" has never prevented your colleagues and predecessors on the Intelligence Committee from making catastrophic and obviously stupid decision as a bloc. It is not enough to pretend you see facts we don't. We see enough facts to know your stance supporting the administration's request for unilateral use of military force against Syria is a craven failure of statesmanship. As you stated, "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." If this is your best judgment, it is simply not good enough.
I am unsubscribing from your mailing list and do not wish to receive future solicitations from you for my support. Shame on you, Senator.