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A state representative has organized what he promises will be a bipartisan rally Friday evening at the state Capitol to protest potential U.S. involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war.

Rep. Paul Wesselhöft, R-Moore, said he hopes to help spur a nationwide antiwar movement in the wake of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he will arm Syrian rebels.

“When I found out that [Obama] did that, I knew we had made a commitment to the rebels,” Wesselhöft said. “That officially put us in a proxy war with Russia because Russia is supporting the regime in Syria.”

He said the issue transcends partisanship.

“I didn’t want this to be a political issue. This is a moral issue,” Wesselhöft said. “People from all political spectrums can have a moral objection to getting America involved in another war, especially a civil war. We have exhausted our military. We don’t need them to be involved in another war that’s not our business.”

Obama said last month that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons on rebels, a claim the Syrian government denies. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the two-year conflict.

Local organizations involved in the protest include The Peace House Oklahoma City, Americans Against the Next War, Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research, the High Noon Club and the conservative newspaper Oklahoma Constitution, said Wesselhöft.

“My gosh, you’re bringing the most liberal and most conservative in the middle in agreement on an issue,” said Bob Dani, founder of the High Noon Club, a conservative political discussion group. “And that takes away the politics from the issue.”

Wesselhöft said he hopes the rally’s 7 p.m. starting time will attract younger protesters. Musical entertainment will precede the event beginning at 6 p.m.

Nathaniel Batchelder, director of The Peace House, is among the scheduled speakers.

“We want this to be a rally for no war, not a rally that drifts into other issues that might be divisive for all of us,” he said.

“We look back with deep sadness about the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, and the potential for the Syrian conflict to expand beyond its borders, the complications internationally, the many groups that are opposing the government.”

 

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