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September 8, 2013

Locals split about US involvement

David Pellegrino would know a thing or two about the potential and the dangers of military force. The seven-year Air Force veteran, now 50 and a state employee from Boxford, does not think intervention in the Syrian civil war has a clear advantage for America.

“It’s not our national interest. We don’t know who to trust,” he said. “There’s no real plan for after the bombing ... How effective is that going to be? We hit some ammunition sites and then what?” Pellegrino asked.

President Obama pressed his case for American military strikes against the Syrian government Friday, promising to address the public Tuesday night. At least locally, he has quite a climb.

Many local residents remained unconvinced Friday that the United States should attack Syria for its alleged use of sarin nerve gas against civilians in suburban Damascus Aug. 21. The American government has said that 1,400 civilians were killed in the attack, including more than 400 children, and has blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack.

Uprisings in Syria beginning in 2011 have ground into a sectarian civil war that United Nations officials estimate has killed more than 100,000.

Residents worried about videos showing brutal executions by Syrian rebels, the infiltration of jihadists and groups affiliated with al Qaida, whether an attack would suck the U.S. into another conflict and whether an American strike would be effective or even make things worse.

Maurice Aguiler, 45, of Lawrence, does not support Obama’s plans for Syria, noting the “horrors” in that country “are being perpetrated on both sides of the conflict.” Aguiler, a Lawrence police sergeant, said evidence of this is in the “endless videos of anti-Assad forces executing unarmed, captured soldiers.”

“We should not intervene on any side of this sectarian atrocity, especially since the factions looking to overthrow Assad are saturated by extremists whose ultimate goals are yet unknown to us,” he said.

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