As Congress deliberates the question of possible U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war, Christian leaders with ties to Syria are urging American Christians to contact their elected representatives to oppose military action against Syria.  Pope Francis will lead a worldwide day of prayer for peace in Syria on September 7th.  As Pope Francis condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, he also added, “war, never again.”  Metropolitan Philip, who is the Antiochian Orthodox Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America, recently wrote:

As those of us with deep roots in that land already know, more bombs and destabilization of the country will only lead to further bloodshed and devastation.  In my opinion, based on a lifetime of knowledge in that area of the world, it serves neither the interest of the United States, nor the Syrian people (or the people of the Middle East at large for that matter) to bomb and further destabilize the country.  Extremists groups such as Al-Qaeda are waiting in the wings to prey on any weakness in the Syrian government and infrastructure.  The results of such a bombing would be yet another step in the extermination of our Christian presence in the Middle East, a presence that dates to the dawn of Christianity.  Our Church has already suffered greatly and has new martyrs waiting to be glorified –we do not need any more!

Patriarch Gregory III is the Patriarch of Antioch and leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is part of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church.  The Melkite Catholics are headquartered in Damascus, Syria, and there are approximately 1.6 million members in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Sudan.  Patriarch Gregory recently stated:

We must listen to the Pope’s appeal for peace in Syria.  If Western countries want to create true democracy, then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons.  This attack being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world’s trust in the West.  What or who have led Syria to this thin red line, this point of no return?  Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months?  Every day, Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill, and not one country has done anything to stop them; even the U.S. has decided to send in more weapons.

I have far more confidence in these voices than in Mr. Obama who, aping Senator Kerry, said, “I drew a red line, before I didn’t draw a red line.”  Our feckless Secretary of State John F. Kerry compared possible military intervention in Syria to the invasion of Normandy during World War II.  (However, Secretary Kerry did not mention that the best estimate of American war dead on June 6, 1944, just the first day of the Normandy invasion, was 2,499, with many thousands more injured and missing.)  Long ago, Mr. Kerry condemned American military “atrocities” in Vietnam, but he has been strangely silent regarding, as one example, the al-Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Syria which is participating to overthrow al Assad, which carried out almost 600 attacks in Syria since November 2011.  Despite Secretary Kerry’s silence on these terrorist attacks, the State Department has issued a travel warning advising Americans not to travel to Syria.  You can read the travel warning here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5897.html .

Nevertheless, the United States ratified the United Nations Charter in 1945, which is now the supreme law of the land.  As a result, the now binding provisions of the Charter describe when military force may be used under both U.S. and international law.  Article 2(4) of the Charter makes it illegal for any country to either use force or threaten to use force against another country.  Article 2(7) prohibits intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in another country, as in a civil war.  From a practical point of view, it is a truism that civil wars are particularly resistant to outside “solutions.”  The only time military force is lawful under the Charter is when the Security Council approves it, or under Article 51, which allows a country to defend itself if attacked.  The use of chemical weapons within Syria (as alleged) is a terrible, despicable act that is a complete violation of international law.  However, it is not an armed attack against the United States.  I will be in touch with my elected congressional representatives to urge them to vote against any authorization for the use of U.S. military force in Syria.  Mr. Obama says he wants that authorization, but he will act with or without congressional authorization.  So what is Congress voting for?  I presume Mr. Obama seeks congressional approval rather than permission in order to get political cover in case things go badly.  Congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona stated earlier this week that telephone calls to his office are running 498 to 2 in opposition to military intervention in Syria.  Is there any real wonder why?