A Tale of Two Congress Members
In 2010 in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt. I know many who did just that.
Here’s what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:
“I have repeatedly stated … that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances.”
Meanwhile, former Congressman Perriello has advocated, with his colleagues at the Center for American Progress for the United States to “increase its assistance to the Syrian opposition with the goal of supporting an alternative opposition government that is better organized than at present.” According to Perriello the U.S. has a “national security interest” in “preparing the groundwork for a political and economic transition to a new regime in Syria in the foreseeable future.”
Perriello told The Atlantic: “Within that context, you have to look at a set of tactics. A lot of people seem to be dismissing the idea that there’s any role for a surgical, strategic strike short of regime change. While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. … And that I think you can do largely from the air without a lot of involvement on the ground. … He knows if we intervene, his days are over, so part of what he’s doing, like a petulant child, is seeing how far he can push before we come in. Traditionally, the use of chemical and biological weapons, with very few exceptions, has been something you cannot do without invoking dramatic action. … One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose.” In the same interview Perriello refused to support the Constitutional requirement to take the question of war to Congress for its authorization.
Would Perriello resist a war if the president were a Republican? Would Hurt then support war? We can’t know. But both have expressed their ideologies on war clearly and quite consistently thus far. Perriello voted for every war dollar that came before him while he was in Congress, including a 2009 “emergency” supplemental that included a bailout for bankers and barely passed. Perriello has written and spoken publicly hundreds of times of his support for war. Hurt has spoken and written a number of times now of his opposition.
I was part of groups of residents that met with Perriello to discuss his funding of war in Afghanistan. It was like talking to a brick wall. I was part of a group of residents who met with Hurt to discuss authorization for missile strikes or wider war in Syria. It was like talking to a human being.
Whoever the Democrats put up against Hurt in the next election might possibly be his superior on any number of issues. But check his or her position on war with a magnifying glass. Militarism swallows roughly half of federal discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense. You can’t be in favor of a trillion dollar military and in favor of schools or housing or anything else. The military is the main thing our government does. It matters whether we get it right, or whether we thoughtlessly get it backwards.