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District Leaders: Syria Vote Highlights Lack of Representation in Washington

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Gray and Norton spoke Monday at the D.C. War Memorial to address the lack of representation in Congress for D.C. residents and how that plays into the debate on Syria.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray raised his voice to a fever pitch on behalf of Norton, who has to “sit idly by” while Congress debates the call to war, despite the fact that she “speaks out intelligently and eloquently.”

On the subject of the strike, he said, “The question is not whether chemical weapons have been used, it’s what is the best course of action in order to right this atrocity.”

Retired Col. Herbert Tillery, a District native who joined the U.S. Army in 1970 and served for more than 26 years, said he was “saddened, appalled and borderline outraged over being shut out of the congressional debate” as a veteran and as the father of a soldier. “My son and I are only two of 37,000 D.C. veteran residents who willingly and voluntarily served our country knowing full well the dangers and sacrifices that lay ahead for doing so.”

From August 1989 to July 1981, Tillery was responsible for 1,500 soldiers stationed in Germany, as he trained and sent troops to the first Gulf War. His son is currently stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany and has completed three back-to-back tours in Iraq.

“We have current members of Congress who extol the virtues of democracy for others around the world and are willing to vote to put our troops in harm’s way to sacrifice their lives during the protection of the freedom and democracy for others, but turn a blind eye in the support of the 600,000-plus residents in this very city in which they place the vote,” he said.

Capt. James Rimensnyder, a West Point graduate who currently serves as a D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer, drew on his combat experience in Iraq, where he was a platoon leader and intelligence officer between 2006 and 2009.

In 2006 while stationed in Baghdad, Rimensnyder watched Iraqis emerge from voting booths with their thumbs stamped with purple ink to certify their ballots. It was a day of great joy for the Iraqi people but “bittersweet” for the District native, who didn’t have a vote in Congress back home. He later had the opportunity to share those feelings with some of the Iraqis he met.

“I think we need to use situations like what’s going on in Syria to let people know that this is hypocritical in the eyes of other democracies,” Rimensnyder said. He declined to weigh in on his personal opinions about Syria.

Air Force veteran Robert Brannum, who attended the event but didn’t take the podium, said he strongly supports a strike on Syria and thinks the United States needs to “go it alone” to stand up to the Assad regime.

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