would like to express my strong opposition to this ill-conceived and
ill-timed legislation. This bill will impose what is effectively a trade
embargo against Syria and will force the severance of diplomatic and
business ties between the United States and Syria. It will also significantly
impede travel between the United States and Syria. Worse yet, the bill
also provides essentially an open-ended authorization for the president
to send US taxpayer money to Syria should that country do what we are
demanding in this bill.
cites Syria's alleged support for Hamas, Hizballah, Palestine Islamic
Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other
terrorist groups as evidence that Syria is posing a threat to the United
States. Not since the Hizballah bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon
in 1983 have any of these organizations attacked the United States.
After that tragic attack on our Marines, who were sent to Beirut to
intervene in a conflict that had nothing to do with the United States,
President Ronald Reagan very wisely ordered their withdrawal from that
volatile area. Despite what the interventionists constantly warn, the
world did not come to an end back in 1983 when the president decided
to withdraw from Beirut and leave the problems there to be worked out
by those countries most closely involved.
me greatly about this bill is that although the named, admittedly bad,
terrorist organizations do not target the United States at present,
we are basically declaring our intention to pick a fight with them.
We are declaring that we will take pre-emptive actions against organizations
that apparently have no quarrel with us. Is this wise, particularly
considering their capacity to carry out violent acts against those with
whom they are in conflict? Is this not inviting trouble by stirring
up a hornet's nest? Is there anything to be gained in this?
I am also
concerned about the timing of this bill. As we continue to pursue Al-Qaeda
most of which escaped and continue to operate it seems
to me we need all the help we can get in tracking these criminals down
and holding them to account for the attack on the United States. As
the AP reported this week:
too, are Syria's claims, supported by US intelligence, that Damascus
has provided the United States with valuable assistance in countering
Syrians have in custody Mohammed Haydar Zammer, believed to have recruited
some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and several high-level Iraqis who were
connected to the Saddam Hussein government have turned up in US custody.
is providing assistance to the US in tracking these people down
any assistance it can only be considered an extremely positive
and welcome development. Does anyone here care to guess how much assistance
Syria will be providing us once this bill is passed? Can we afford to
turn our back on Syria's assistance, even if it is not as complete
as it could be?
the problem with this approach. Imposing sanctions and cutting off relations
with a country is ineffective and counterproductive. It is only one-half
step short of war and very often leads to war. That is why I am very
pleased to hear Chairman Hyde's comments here today regarding the
necessity of maintaining full diplomatic relations with Syria. As Chairman
Hyde has stated, you cannot make peace if you do not talk to each other.
Unfortunately that is just what this bill does: it will severely restrict
trade with Syria and may well even completely eliminate any trade between
the two countries. It will almost completely shut the door on diplomatic
relations. It sends a strong message to Syria and the Syrian people:
that we no longer wish to engage you. This cannot be in our best interests.
may even go further than that. In a disturbing bit of déjà
vu, the bill makes references to Syria's acquisition of weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) and threatens to impede
Syrian weapons ambitions. This was the justification for our intervention
in Iraq, yet after more than a thousand inspectors have spent months
and some 300 million dollars none have been found. Will this bill's
unproven claims that Syria has WMD be later used to demand military
action against that country?
Mr. Chairman: history is replete with examples of the futility of sanctions
and embargoes and travel bans. More than 40 years of embargo against
Cuba have not produced the desired change there. Sadly, embargoes and
sanctions most often hurt those least responsible. A trade embargo against
Syria will hurt American businesses and will cost American jobs. It
will make life more difficult for the average Syrian with whom
we have no quarrel. Making life painful for the population is not the
best way to win over hearts and minds. I strongly urge my colleagues
to reject this counterproductive bill.