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Congressman Vargas Urges Support For Military Action In Syria

Photo by Susan Murphy / KPBS

Above: Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) speaks from the steps of San Diego's Hall of Justice saying the evidence is clear that the Syrian regime killed hundreds of innocent children and civilians with gas, Sept. 5, 2013.

Speaking from the steps of San Diego’s downtown Hall of Justice Thursday morning, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) urged his constituents and Congressional colleagues to join him in supporting U.S. military action against the Syrian regime.

Speaking from the steps of San Diego’s downtown Hall of Justice, Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) urged his constituents and colleagues to join his support of action in Syria.

Vargas, a committee member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, returned Wednesday night from his second trip in a week to Washington, where he attended more classified intelligence briefings.

Vargas said the evidence is clear that the Syrian regime killed hundreds of innocent children and civilians with gas.

"That they did it on purpose it was not an accident and unfortunately was very successful," Vargas told reporters.

Before his latest trip, Vargas said he met with a small San Diego veterans group. He said the veterans asked him to ask Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel one question.

“And that question was, 'Do you promise that what you’ve told us is true? That the information that you’ve given to us in a classified form is true?'

Vargas said both Kerry and Hagel promised him it is true.

"And the reason that’s important is because last time we were lied to, and I think the American public understands that,” Vargas said.

San Diego’s four other Congressional representatives remain undecided on how to move forward with Syria.

Tony Zuniga/KPBS

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in order to earn his vote for military action, President Obama must “present a clear plan focused on effective humanitarian intervention or our national security interests.”

"Tens of thousands have been killed by the Assad regime in this brutal conflict -- relatively few by chemical weapons. A military response that places an arbitrary focus on such weapons will do little to protect civilians and sends a deeply misguided signal that totalitarian regimes should only use conventional weapons to carry out mass murder," Issa said in a released statement.

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) said making her decision will take thoughtful and cautious deliberation.

“It is unconscionable for a government to use chemical weapons against its own people,” Davis said in a released statement. “Making a decision on what is in the best interests of the American people will take thoughtful and cautious deliberation.”

Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) said he looks forward to attending classified briefings and in the meantime is monitoring comments from his constituents.

“I will need to determine our intended objective, the specific actions to be taken, the expected response, our exit strategy, and how these efforts will protect American interests both in the region and here at home."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said he’s uncertain about Obama’s strategy. Hunter recently visited the Syria-Jordan border and called for the U.S. to train and funnel small arms to the Free Syrian Army.

Hunter tweeted on Tuesday that Obama would be “inviting impeachment” if he strikes Syria without Congressional approval.

“I think he’s breaking the law if he strikes without congressional approval,” Hunter told The Washington Times. “And if he proceeds without Congress providing that authority, it should be considered an impeachable offense.”

Congress is scheduled to reconvene in Washington on Sept. 9.

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