East Tennesseans protest in front of the federal courthouse against a possible U.S. attack on Syria.

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(WBIR - Knoxville) As Congress prepares for a vote about whether to take action in Syria, Monday that country offered to destroy its chemical weapons in order avoid a U. S. airstrike.

If this is a breakthrough and Syria really is backing down, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it's because of the threat of U.S. military action. It's action the President still wants lawmakers to approve.

An Associated Press poll released Monday, shows only one in five Americans support any U. S. military action in Syria. A different poll by USA Today, a WBIR-TV Gannett partner, indicates nearly two out of three surveyed from last Wednesday through Sunday said they are against military action. That's 15-point opposition increase compared to a USA Today poll taken a week before.

USA TODAY POLL: Opposition to Syrian airstrikes surges

A group of about two dozen people wanted to make sure our local representatives know how they feel about a potential strike on Syria and so they gathered in front of Knoxville's Howard Baker Federal Courthouse, which houses offices for Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker, and Representative "Jimmy" Duncan, armed with signs expressing their opposition.

Lance McCold of Knoxville said, "I think it's a big mistake to do something in Syria."

Carol Nickle, also of Knoxville, said, "I think it is ridiculous to take any military action against Syria."

Erik Johnson of Maryville said, "The human suffering will be inconceivable, the number of people who would be devastated in their daily lives. Not only in Syria, but also if we begin to involve our U.S. troops."

Local radio talk show host Hallerin Hilton Hill has been talking about the potential attack on his program and Monday morning posed a question to his listeners, asking, "What would Ronald Reagan do about Syria?".

Hill explained, "Given the fact that East Tennessee is majority conservative and / or Republican, and given the fact that the most celebrated Republican President in this area is Ronald Reagan, I just simply asked the question, 'What would Reagan do?'. That was really interesting because you had a range of thoughts. One was that Reagan would strike. One was that Reagan would have never let it get this far. He never would have allowed Syria to amass chemical weapons in the first place. He would have been preemptive in some way. And then there were others who said Reagan wouldn't be involved in this at all. But it was interesting to change the lead face on the story from President Obama to President Reagan and see if it made a difference and how people perceived the story."

Hill says although he's heard from some in favor of attacking Syria, most of his callers are against an attack. Similar to those who stood outside the federal courthouse Monday afternoon.

Nickle said, "I am against war. I am against war on Syria. And this will be war on Syria."

McCold said, "Chemical weapons are horrible, but so is being shot by a bullet."

President Obama is expected to address the nation Tuesday night. The Senate will then take its first vote on Wednesday.

STORY: Where Congress Stands on Syria

GRAPHIC: Where Congress Stands on Syria

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