, Salem, MA

August 31, 2013

Contemplating war

Attack on Syria is an unpopular option on the North Shore

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — As goes the nation, so goes the North Shore when it comes to the possibility of responding with force to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

National polls show a reluctance to intervene militarily, and a random sampling of local opinion yesterday got the same results — even as President Obama appeared poised to act, after he’d earlier warned Syria that use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that the government should not cross in its battle with rebels.

“They should stay out of it,” said Anne Dzierzak of Danvers. “Our soldiers are under enough stress.”

For sure, she said, the gas attack — said to have killed more than 1,400 people, most of whom were women and children — is “horrible. But do we need to get involved in another war? ...I have three sons. I can’t imagine mothers sending their sons to another war.”

Adding that she works at Beverly’s Spears American Legion Post, Dzierzak recalled friends just back from Iraq and Afghanistan and the toll these wars have levied on young veterans, including both physical and emotional wounds. “It takes a lot out of them,” she said.

“It’s very complex,” said Paul Benson of Salem, a UMass professor. “I guess it’s hard to watch what’s going on there and not think that something needs to be done.” On the other hand, he noted, “People are very reticent (to intervene) given the failures of past American policy. ... My own view is mixed. I would approve of a limited military strike to send a message.”

Congress needs to be involved, Benson believes, but there are pitfalls there, too. “It might end up like the British Parliament.” Prime Minister David Cameron went to Parliament for approval in joining the United States in some kind of military response and was narrowly defeated.

To do nothing, Benson worries, seriously undercuts the credibility of the president. “If he doesn’t do something, no one is going to believe what he says.”

Army veteran Kurt Pretzler, who served in the 1980s, had a quick response: “Do it. They’re using chemical weapons over there. That’s no good. They’re doing it on their own people.”

Speaking at Beverly’s Vittori Rocci Post, Pretzler expressed impatience with the idea of seeking congressional approval for military action. “The president can do it on his own. He’s the commander in chief.”

There seemed genuine revulsion for the use of chemical weapons. “I’m sad that they used a gas attack,” said Aaron Burke of Hamilton. “It would have been better if they hadn’t. That’s not an acceptable way to wage war.”

Burke would like to see some action, but within strict limits. “We should help,” he said, “but not directly.” He also expects the administration to seek input from Congress before acting. “That’s what I’d prefer.”

Michael Dynice of Marblehead feels he’s heard it all before. “I heard there were nuclear weapons in other foreign countries, and a lot of people had to die in order to find out that they didn’t have them,” he said. The legacy of Iraq, where the war was predicated on weapons of mass destruction that were never discovered, has left him skeptical, particularly of the media.

“I work in the motion picture industry,” he said. “I know what ‘making pretend’ is all about.” Dynice also doubts our ability to judge cultures different from our own. “We believe all men are created equal. There are others that don’t.” He regrets this, but doesn’t see it as a reason to go to war.

“I think we should go to Congress,” he said, “and find a peaceful solution to this — not by ending lives.”