Oklahoma Anti-War Protest Raises Questions About U.S. Involvement In Syria

Jul 12, 2013

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) speaking during a press conference Wednesday to voice opposition to U.S. involvement in Syria.
Credit Oklahoma House of Representatives / YouTube

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers and other activists plan to hold a rally at the Oklahoma Capitol Friday evening to protest growing U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war.

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) is one of the organizers of the rally. He says giving arms, ammunition, and political support to a disunited group of rebels is a “grave error.”

“There are [sic] a coalition of over six groups that are involved in trying to overthrow the Assad government,” Wesselhoft said in a press conference Wednesday. “At least two of these groups we know to be known terrorist organizations that have attacked us in the past.”

Rebecca Cruise is the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies who specializes in security studies. She says the dilemma is between humanitarian issues and state security.

“So it is this question – a moral obligation, perhaps, to help save human lives,” Cruise says. “But on the other hand, are we willing to send…American lives to go and protect these individuals?”

Former Seminole State Rep. Ryan Kiesel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. He said Wednesday there are no good options for the United States in Syria.

“There is no evidence and no indication that giving the various rebel groups…small arms will in any way mitigate the humanitarian crisis that’s unfolding before our eyes,” Kiesel says.

The College’s Dean Suzette Grillot is an expert on weapons proliferation and the author of The International Arms Trade. She says there’s no way to monitor any weapons the United States provides once they’re in the hands of Syrian rebels.

“It certainly raises all kinds of political and security questions when you start to supply arms to those who can send them who knows where?” Grillot says. “And where they’ll end up next, and what kind of wars we’re going to end up having to get involved in in the future.”

Kiesel says intervening with military aid raises more consequential questions for the United States down the road.

“If we become part of this civil war, it will undermine our position later on as the United States tries to take a leadership role in assisting the Syrian people in building democratic institutions that we enjoy here in the United States,” Kiesel says.

The “Syria: Not Our War” rally begins at 7 p.m. on the south steps of the State Capitol.