Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, warned Friday that the United States launching missile strikes against Syria means going to war against the Middle Eastern country.
"That's what it is. Don't think that we're just going to lob some Tomahawk missiles in there and call it a day and say, 'Hey, we did our part.' I don't think it ends with that," the congressman said.
Chaffetz, a guest on KSL-TV's "Sunday Edition With Richard Piatt" that airs at 9 a.m. Sunday, said he's still planning to vote against President Barack Obama's request for authorization to take action in Syria.
"At this point, my constituents don't want to see us go to war in Syria, and neither do I," the 3rd District representative said. Of the 1,000 telephone calls and emails his office has received about Syria, only three were in favor of the strikes, Chaffetz said.
He said Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should have done more to deal with the crisis in Syria that over the past 18 months has resulted in more than 100,000 dead, a million refugees and the use of chemical weapons.
It was last month's deadly sarin gas attack linked to Syrian President Bashar Assad that prompted the president's call for military action. Obama is scheduled Tuesday to deliver an address to the American people on the issue.
Chaffetz said he will listen to the case the president makes and continue to review intelligence reports on the situation, but he doesn't expect to see "a clear and present danger" to the United States.
"In your heart, you look at those kids and you see the devastation of chemical weapons, of course you just wanna knock 'em. But you also have to, I think, take a deep breath," Chaffetz said.
Middle East expert and documentary filmmaker Dodge Billingsley said while he agrees there is no imminent threat to U.S. interests at this point, the Syrian government's chemical weapons stockpile is being overlooked.
Those weapons, Billingsley said, could be inherited by a new Syrian government at some point that could include terrorists such as al-Qaida.
"That is a far more dangerous outcome for the region in the long term," he said.
Other members of Utah's congressional delegation are either opposed to supporting military action in Syria or have yet to decide where they stand.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, got a call late last week from the president about Syria but is still reviewing intelligence reports before deciding how he'll vote, his spokesman, Matthew Harakal, said.
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