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As news of U.S. airstrikes in Syria broke Thursday evening, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz took to Twitter with a simple message: "God bless the USA!"

The Republican congressman — along with other members of the state's all-GOP delegation — commended President Donald Trump for taking military action against the Middle Eastern country's government, which launched a chemical weapons attack Tuesday that killed more than 80 of its civilians.

"The world should never tolerate the use of chemical weapons on anybody," Chaffetz told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I'm proud of what the president did."

Two ships launched 59 cruise missiles at an airfield in western Syria, according to the Pentagon, aimed at the country's fighter jets and ammunition. The strikes purposefully avoided what U.S. officials believed was a storage of sarin gas, a nerve agent, in the area "so that would not be ignited and cause a hazard to civilians or anyone else," said Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser.

None targeted facilities that Russia — an ally of Syria — has in the country.

U.S. officials reportedly informed the Russian military before the attack, though it's unclear how President Vladimir Putin would react to the strikes.

"There's always the potential for consequences," Chaffetz said. "[But] it would have been totally wrong to allow the use of chemical weapons without the United States answering back. It was absolutely the right choice."

Rep. Chris Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, said the swift reaction from the Trump administration — which came about 72 hours after the chemical attack — will not depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power "nor solve the horrifying humanitarian disaster," but it will "damage Assad's ability to launch attacks against his own people."

That, he said, could have far-reaching effects on other potentially volatile countries.

"Other tyrants around the world are surely taking note as well," Stewart said in a news release.

Former President Barack Obama had been hesitant to use force against the Syrian government — and ultimately did not — drawing a stark contrast to Trump's rapid response. Trump spoke to reporters Thursday, calling the U.S. military action a "vital national security interest." The strike, he said, targeted the airfield from where the chemical attack was launched.

"Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," he said. "It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack."

In response, Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch parroted the next line from Trump's statement — "No child of God should ever suffer such horror" — adding a brief "Amen" at the end on Twitter.

The Tribune was unable to reach the senator for further comment.

Sen. Mike Lee didn't offer an opinion on the president's action, but in a statement said that Trump should come to Congress to seek approval for military action.

"Anytime we send our young men and women into harm's way, the president owes it to the American people to come to Congress and present a plan," Lee said. "The Constitution says that in order to declare war, you have to go to Congress and get approval. We want to hear the president's plan and have the ability to debate it."

Rep. Rob Bishop, whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, said the U.S. intervention has shown the Assad regime that America will "no longer sit idly by as the innocent are brutalized and murdered."

"The images from Syria this week have wrenched the hears of the world, and the U.S. has put its foot down," Bishop added. "I echo the sentiments of Speaker Ryan in looking forward to the administration further engaging with Congress on this issue."

Rep. Mia Love praised the air strike, but also said that there needs to be a comprehensive strategy on Syria approved by Congress.

"This bold strike against the monstrous Assad regime sends a clear message that we will not stand by idly," Love said. "Chemical weapons attacks against civilians is intolerable. My heart truly breaks for the victims and their families, who have suffered unimaginable horror."

Trump said the airstrike mission aimed to "prevent and deter" future use of chemical weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said other options were considered but ultimately rejected "for any number of reasons."

"In my view, the president made the exact, correct decision," he said.

Trump concluded his statement much like Chaffetz: "God bless America and the entire world."

ctanner@sltrib.com

Twitter: @courtneyltanner

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