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At Rally, Fmr. Rep. Johnson Speaks Out Against Possible Military Strike

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) speaks during a candle light vigil in opposition to a possible military strike in Syria.

Former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) speaks on Sept. 9, 2013 in Urbana during a candle light vigil in opposition to a possible military strike in Syria. (Sean Powers/WILL)

Ahead of President Obama’s speech Tuesday night on Syria, about 80 people joined a candle light vigil Monday in downtown Urbana in opposition to a possible military strike.

The event was put on by a series of progressive organizations, including MoveOn.org. Similar vigils also took place in other cities across the country.

 Former U.S. Rep Tim Johnson (R-Urbana) is a critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he urged Illinois’ Congressional delegation not to support going into Syria.

“It’s not our obligation nor our position to impose our values, our way of life on people around the world through killing people,” Johnson said to applause. “The costs in an overall sense to our involvement from Korea through Syria are mind boggling.”

Johnson served six terms in Congress before retiring last year. His successor, Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville), has said President Obama has not made a case for attacking Syria. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) has stated his opposition to military action. But U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have expressed their support for a military response.

“My message to Sen. Durbin, Sen. Kirk, Rep. Davis, Rep. Shimkus, and all the other members of Congress is you need to stand up for principle,” Johnson added. “We need to stand up for human lives. We need to stand up for decency. We stand up for our pocketbooks; none of which are being achieved by this bi-partisan war mania.”

President Obama has not said what he would do if lawmakers reject his call for military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Still, Robert Naiman, who organized the Urbana rally, said the public has a unique opportunity to get their voices heard on the issue.

“I would say I’m against the war, and would want to stop it, but whatever your view, it is important to engage Congress,” Naiman said. “That’s the way we have the opportunity to participate in this decision.”

President Obama’s address begins Tuesday at 8:00pm CT on WILL-TV and 580 AM.