WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry has invited him to a private meeting to discuss the Obama administration’s evidence justifying a military strike in Syria.
Nolan, a Democrat, has been one of the fiercest critics of Obama’s planned response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria, and reportedly clashed with Kerry during a conference call with House Democrats on Monday. In an interview, Nolan said “it’s very clear to me that Secretary Kerry is operating under some different information than what the rest of us were told or presented with,” and that Kerry invited him personally to his office to look over the evidence together.
Nolan said he found contradictions in the administration’s case for attacking Syria, but he couldn’t elaborate because the information was classified.
“As I understand, it will be a one-on-one [meeting], although if someone else wants to attend they’re certainly welcome to,” he said. “He’s the one who proposed it, and I accepted it, and I hope it happens, and I’m looking forward to it.”
A State Department spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday night.
Nolan said he doesn’t doubt that there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria in August, though “I haven’t seen anything directly tying [President Bashar] Assad himself to an order to that affect.” Either way, he said, Assad or those responsible should be tried in the International Criminal Court rather than suffer an American military attack. He said the United States has no allies in Syria and could be dragged deeper into the conflict if it decides to attack.
“This will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it will result in the killing of lots of additional—including innocent—people, it will undoubtedly result in some kind of response that will incite changing circumstances and a need for perhaps escalation on our part,” he said.
Nolan and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann have been the two Minnesota lawmakers most outspoken against intervening in Syria, and Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson announced Tuesday that he would also oppose military action there. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen indicated Sunday that he opposes a military response, at least under the parameters currently before Congress.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who has been skeptical of a strike there, said Tuesday that the chemical attack in Syria “requires an unequivocal response from the U.S. and the international community,” though she couldn’t commit to voting for military action until the authorization language was worked out.
In a Monday statement, Nolan vowed to “vote and work against” any potential military action proposed by the Obama administration, especially while he still has questions about their justification for an attack.
“You should never go into war with a high level of confidence that your information is correct,” he said in an interview. “You better have absolute, certain information if you’re going to war, you better damn well know what all the hard facts are, not a ‘high degree of confidence’ in them.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry