Congressman holds town hall on Syria

By Matt Porter

September 3, 2013 Updated Sep 4, 2013 at 10:08 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) With the decision on Syria headed to Congress, local representatives are holding town hall meetings across the county, including Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., in Owego.

Reed held an open forum at the Owego Town Hall where an overwhelming majority of the more than 30 people attending pushed for restraint.

Rainer Langstedt from Spencer joined many in asking the congressman to vote "no" on any military actions against Syria.

"They should stay away because you've seen the results in Egypt and Libya, we went in there and messed up and this is going to be a third one," Langstedt said.

However, a few, including Gerry Mctamney from Nichols, said not acting could embolden our enemies.

"It's the message that we're sending to the rest of the world," Mctamnay said. "If our enemies think they can do something and get away with it, maybe they'll do it again."

Reed expressed sorrow for last month's chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400, including more than 400 children.

But he drew no "red line" like the Obama administration.

"It's too much of a risk," Reed said, "And it's not something that's going to deal with the issue, which is how are we going to secure these chemical weapons and make sure they're not used on Americans or American interests."

Proponents of a strike said not acting could make other enemies of the state in Syria and elsewhere believe chemical weapons can be used as part of war.

With Congress left to decide, Reed said he's asking his district their opinions.

"We want to listen to people, and the final decision will be made when we go to the floor, yes or no," he said.

Father James Dutko of Saint Michael's Orthodox Church in Binghamton has traveled in the Middle East and said there's more the United States can do without launching missiles.

"Could we be increasing humanitarian aid to refugees," Dutko asked. "Could we be trying to develop the world's conscience on this?"

He said there's a window to do something more to create a lasting peace.

"To find a way that leads to resolution that not necessarily leads to more violence," Dutko said. "Is that possible? I think with God that anything is possible."

President Barack Obama said his targeted strike would not affect the outcome of the Syrian civil war, but it would punish the Assad regime and keep them from future chemical attacks.

Chemical warfare has been banned for more than 80 years as part of the Geneva Convention.