A Pasco man who was a prisoner of the Germans in World War II wants the United States to have nothing to do with the ongoing civil war in Syria.
"We ought to stay the hell out of there," Vincent DeLiso said. "We ought to get out of the whole Mideast. They've got so many fractures, you can't win over there."
Musse Adan Wacays, a Somali and Muslim, feels differently.
"I'm not in favor of a war, but we have to do something," he said. "(Syrian President Bashar Assad) only understands brute force."
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Tri-City residents interviewed by the Herald are split about possible U.S. involvement in the protracted conflict, much like national polls have shown. Congress is expected to debate next week President Obama's proposal for a "tailored" missile strike against Assad's forces in retaliation for using chemical weapons against civilians.
Nick Deranleau of Kennewick, who served in Iraq with the Army Reserves in 2005, said a lack of clearly defined good guys and bad guys in the conflict is one reason he doesn't want to see the U.S. get involved.
The chemical attack ascribed to Assad is deplorable, but opposition forces also have been brutal, as shown in a viral video depicting the beheadings of captured Syrian soldiers, Deranleau said.
"I don't want to be associated with people like that," said the father of two.
Robert Chisholm, a professor of history and political science at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, said Obama faces criticism from both the right and left about what to do in response to the reported use of chemical weapons against citizens in Syria.
"President Obama is hesitant to get involved, but having stated that chemical weapons are a red line, has to do something or be criticized for being weak," he said.
While he has no evidence, Chisholm wouldn't be surprised if Syrian rebels were responsible for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that left more than 1,400 civilians dead, including at least 400 children, he said. The Obama administration has blamed Assad for the attack.
"It's something I can see some of (the rebels) doing precisely to draw in the outside world," he said.
DeLiso said the United States has no business attacking Syria. He fears that an attack would give Israel an excuse for an attack of its own against Iran, a Syrian ally.
"Do you think (Syria is) just gonna sit there and let us hit them without retaliation?" DeLiso said. "They're gonna sink one or two of our destroyers."
Wacays, who has worked as an interpreter in Tri-City schools, said the U.S. has a human obligation to intervene, adding that the death of innocent civilians, especially children, can't be ignored.
While the U.S. military has been involved in some protracted wars, it served a vital purpose in his native Somalia by guaranteeing humanitarian aid properly was distributed when famine shattered the country into opposing factions, he said.
"I think America has a role to play," Wacays said.
Jim Stoffels, chairman of anti-war activists World Citizens for Peace, said any U.S. military involvement in Syria would be an illegal war of aggression, similar to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Stoffels' group has held rallies in Richland each day since Tuesday to protest Obama's proposal to intervene in Syria.
The group led similar rallies during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but Stoffels said the reaction from the public is very different this time.
"We've had more positive response (to the rally) than we've ever had before," he said. "It was very two-sided (with Iraq)."