BANGKOK — U.S. congresswoman and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth said Thursday that she did not favor American military intervention in Syria and urged Middle East nations to find a resolution to the crisis.
Speaking at a university in Bangkok, Duckworth said she opposed a military strike against Syria in retaliation for alleged chemical attacks or arming the rebels out of concern the weapons could be used against Americans.
“I don’t know if they are actual rebels or whether they are terrorists,” the Illinois Democrat told the audience, comprising mainly Thai university students. “If I could guarantee that everyone who comes to get weapons that we would provide was actually a legitimate rebel and not al-Qaida, then I would be more supportive of it.”
Duckworth, who was born in Thailand, was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq in 2004 when her chopper was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both her legs and partial use of one arm. In 2012, she became the first disabled woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.
During a speech that marked the beginning of her trip to Thailand, Duckworth called the Iraq War “a mistake.” She also said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had made the international community hesitant to take action against Syria.
“I think if this was 15 years ago, we would probably have reacted sooner,” she said. “There’s a real reluctance among American leadership, and myself especially, in committing our troops to another endless war that we don’t know when it’s going to end.”
Born in Thailand to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a Thai mother, Duckworth lived in the Southeast Asian country until she was in the third grade.
She can still speak Thai fluently, with only minor mispronunciations in tone.
Duckworth said Mideast countries should take the lead in stopping Syria’s humanitarian crisis. “The nations in the Middle East have a responsibility to do something as well. This is their backyard,” she said.
Duckworth also met Thursday with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
President Barack Obama signaled Wednesday that the U.S. was moving toward a punitive strike of Syria for recent poison gas attacks that allegedly killed hundreds of people.