“Menace’ must be confronted but calls first for congressional vote
by Chinta Strausberg
In a ten-minute speech Saturday starting at 12:50 p.m. Chicago time, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden emerged from the Rose Garden announcing that the U.S. is ready for a military strike against Syria but in the spirit of democracy not before congress takes a vote on this politically hot issue.
“Ten-days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st Century,” Obama said.
Referring to Friday’s presentation by himself and Secretary of State John Kerry who made the case for military action against Syria accused of killing 1,400 people of whom more than 400 were children. Yesterday, Kerry, who as a dove was against the Iraq War, told reporters he knows Americans are tired of war but that “fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility….”
Referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actions, President Obama said, “The U.S. presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
“Our intelligence shows that the al-Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in highly populated suburbs of Damascus and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place and all of this collaborates what the world can plainly see hospitals overflowing with victims, terrible images of the dead all toll over 1,000 people were murdered several hundred of them were children. Young girls and boys gassed to death by their government.
“This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security,” said Obama. “It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.
“It could lead to escalating use of nuclear weapons or their proliferation to terrorists groups who would do our people harm,” he warned. “In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”
Saying after careful deliberation, President Obama has decided that the U.S. “should take military action against Syria regime targets” but cautioned that it will not be an open-ended intervention and that the U.S. “will not put boots on the ground.”
Rather, Obama said the U.S. intervention would be “limited in duration and scope” and expressed confidence that the U.S. can hold the al-Assad regime accountable for using chemical weapons, “deter this kind of behavior and degrade their capacity to carry it our.”
President Obama said the U.S. has positioned assets in that region and that U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey has told him that “we are prepared to strike whenever we choose” and that “our capacity to execute this mission is not time sensitive.” “It will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now, and I’m prepared to give that order,” said Obama.
However, President Obama said while he has made his order based on what he is convinced is the United State’s security interests, the president said, “I am also mindful that I am the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is not just rooted not just in our military might but in our example as the government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
And because of those believes, President Obama made a second decision to seek authorization “for the use of force from the American peoples’ representatives in congress.”
Obama said for several days now congressmen have been clamoring they want to be heard on this issue before a strike against Syria has been executed. Saturday, President Obama gave them that opportunity. “I absolutely agree” saying on Saturday morning he spoke to each of the four congressional leaders who have agreed to schedule a debate and vote as soon as congress returns.
Obama said his administration would give congress a thorough briefing on what happened in Syria and “why it has such profound implications for America’s national security and all of us should be accountable as we move forward and that can only be accomplished with a vote,” he said.
“I am confidant in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I am comfortable of going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that so far has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold al-Assad accountable,” the President stated.
“As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to congress and undoubtedly they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closes ally fail to pass a resolution with a similar goal even as the prime minister supported taking action.”
Saying though he believes he has the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, Obama said, “I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate because the issues are too big for business as usual.”
Referring to the four leaders of congress, House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Party Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority House Leaders Nancy Pelosi, who issued a statement several days ago calling Syrian’s actions against its own people “a clear violation of any moral standard…,” and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnel, President Obama said they agreed attacking Syria “is the right thing to do for our democracy.”
“A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force even when that force is limited,” said Obama. “I respect the views of those who call for caution particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end, but if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the cost of doing nothing.”
To each member of congress and the global community, Obama asked, “what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we built if the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the congress of the U.S. is not enforced?
“Make no mistake. This has implications beyond chemical warfare,” Obama stated. “If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flaunt international rules…the governments who would choose to build nuclear arms, to terrorists who would spread biological weapons, to armies who carry out genocide?
“We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us,” the President stated.
Vowing to take his message to congress and to the world, Obama said, “While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply be investigated, it must be confronted. I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made.
“Privately, we have heard many expressions of support from our friends…,” but Obama challenged them to support his call to action.
To the American people, Obama said, “I know well that we are weary of war. We’ve ended one war in Iraq. We’re ending another in Afghanistan and the American people had the good sense to know that we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient, sectarian differences and the hopes of…spring of unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. That is why we are not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”
Rather, Obama said that is why the U.S. will continue to support the Syrian people “through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.”
Making it clear, Obama said, “We are the United States of America and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. By the ashes of World War, we built an international order and enforced the rules that give it meaning and we did so because we believed that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations.
“We aren’t perfect but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities; so to all members of congress of both parties I ask you to take this vote for our national security. I am looking forward to the debate and in doing so I ask you, members of congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment.
“Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time,” said Obama. “It’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad and now it is time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say and we lead with the belief that right makes might, not the other way around.
“We all know there are no easy options, but I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions and neither were the members of the House or the Senate,” he stated.
Saying he believes that the nation’s security and our values “demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons, Obama added, “our democracy is stronger when the president and the peoples’ representatives stand together.
“I am ready to act in the face of this outrage,” Obama said asking congress “to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”