Kerry: Obama Seeks “Accountability” for Syrian Chemical Weapons Use

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Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington, Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, about the situation in Syria.

In statement of official outrage aimed at rallying the international community, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that it is “undeniable” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its people, further raising the potential for a U.S. military response in the coming weeks.

“What is before us today is real and it is compelling,” Kerry said in brief remarks at the State Department nearly a week after a reported chemical weapons attack killed hundreds. “What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world.”

In a thinly-veiled message to countries, like Russia, who raise doubts that the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad,  was behind the attack, he told those who have not condemned the attack to “check their conscience and their own moral compass.” “This international norm cannot be violated without consequences,” he said. “Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Obama Administration officials say no decision has been made on the nature of the response and Kerry’s remarks indicated that they believe there is still time for diplomacy. But in his statement, Kerry suggested that it may soon be the time for action. “The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress,” he said, adding that Obama would make an “informed decision” on what to do next. Earlier Monday, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner said Boehner has yet to be consulted on a possible response.

After the U.S. government confirmed a chemical weapons attack earlier this year, Obama authorized the expansion of aid to Syrian rebels—including weapons. Reports surfaced over the weekend that U.S. naval forces have been moved closer to Syria to be ready if Obama decides to strike.

Over the weekend, administration officials ramped up their rhetoric on Syria following a Saturday meeting of the National Security Council where Obama was presented with a review of his available options in response to the chemical weapons attack. Obama also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande, whose support would be key to any military option.

Update: 6:03 PM: Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, said the White House reached out to him this afternoon:

“This afternoon, the Speaker had preliminary communication with the White House about the situation in Syria and any potential U.S. response.  The Speaker made clear that before any action is taken there must be meaningful consultation with members of Congress, as well as clearly defined objectives and a broader strategy to achieve stability.” – Brendan Buck, Boehner spokesman

Kerry’s complete remarks follow below:

Well, for the last several days, President Obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in Syria. And today, I want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons. What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and—despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured—it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.

There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences.

And there is a reason why, no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us.

As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing, while chaos swirled around him, the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can never ignore or forget.

Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.

So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscience, and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission, these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria. Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses.

We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead. Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up.

At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night. And as Ban Ki-moon said last week, the U.N. investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used, a judgment that is already clear to the world.

I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate, immediate transparency, immediate access, not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. Failure to permit that, I told him, would tell its own story.

Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systemically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons.

In fact, the regime’s belated decision to allow access is too late, and it’s too late to be credible. Today’s reports of an attack on the U.N. investigators—together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods—only further weakens the regime’s credibility.

At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons.

But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.

Thank you.

35 comments
CertIsGood
CertIsGood

I voted for Mr. President Obama and I demand accountability for his failure to deliver on his message of hope.  Under his leadership (at least that is what the rest of simple folks like me think)..this country has gone deeper into the red on national debt, poverty has increased,  folks like me face increased costs thanks to Obamacare.  In the end he misled , lied to us like all others before him.  So before this grandiose meaningless show on Syrian issues please focus on the issues that you were elected.  WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DON'T CARE WHAT THE REST OF WORLD THINKS ABOUT  US.  SO LEAVE THE WORLD ALONE AND FOCUS ALL THE MIGHT OF GOVERNMENT MACHINERY ON IMPROVING LIVES OF AMERICAN PEOPLE.


Bobbytheman
Bobbytheman

I hope our "intelligence" on this issue is better that the "intelligence" that was used to start the war in Iraq.




ZlightbenderZoe
ZlightbenderZoe

@TIME I think American drones used chemicals on Syria. Just to pull attention of Egypt and benghazzi

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

President of the Syrian Arab Republic told about threat of US invasion, about his relationship with Putin and about common fate of Russian and Syrian people. All in exclusive interview in Izvestia. http://izvestia.ru/news/556048

About the relationship between President Bashar Assad and Secretary of State John Kerry told French intellectual Thierry Meyssan

Mr. and Ms. Kerry with Mr. and Ms. al-Assad during a private dinner in one of the restaurants of Damascus in 2009. http://www.voltairenet.org/article176730.html

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

President Bashar al-Assad stressed that Syria is a sovereign country that will fight terrorism and will freely build relationships with countries in a way that best serves the interests of the Syrian people.

In an interview with the Russian newspaper of Izvestia, President al-Assad stressed that "the majority of those we are fighting are Takfiris, who adopt the al-Qaeda doctrine, in addition to a small number of outlaws."

On the alleged use of chemical weapons, President al-Assad said that the statements by the US administration, the West and other countries were made with disdain and blatant disrespect of their own public opinion, adding that "there isn’t a body in the world, let alone a superpower, that makes an accusation and then goes about collecting evidence to prove its point."

Bashar al-Assad stressed that these accusations are completely politicised and come on the back of the advances made by the Syrian Army against the terrorists.

Here is the full content of the interview: http://syriaonline.sy/?f=Details&catid=12&pageid=6977

anti-government
anti-government

Nobody elected the USA to be the policemen of the world.

We have plenty of problems here at home and barely enough money and resources to solve them. Why are we constantly wasting men, money and attention on worthless places like Syria?  Let the Syrians go their own way. It's not our problem!

We have millions of our fellow Americans living below the poverty line. We have larger-than-ever federal budget deficits and balance-of-payments deficits. We are spending our way to bankruptcy to maintain our gigantic military-industrial complex and enrich the already wealthy few who sell arms to our government and around the world. We have no legitimate national security interest in Syria's internal affairs and would be much better off spending money on infrastructure and poor people here in America. War is the last refuge of the incompetent. The way to have peace is to be peaceful.

PEACE IS PATRIOTIC!

falcon269
falcon269

How about some accountability, too, for the Palestinian refugees killed by Israel in a refuge camp?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Both Putin and Assad must be trembling with fear by this time. Imagine Obama and Kerry directing their collective anger at you ?

Heizzzenberg
Heizzzenberg

Slaughter thousands at will with bullets....receive an angry letter or two...but don't you dare use a chemical weapon to do it! grrrr....rawr! 

That is if they even used it....frankly I don't believe it was the Assad regime in this case, and even if they did...I don't see how that's any more horrific then the slaughter going on daily via regular munitions... This administration and it's "moral" rationale is a joke, plain and simple.

paul.abbotson
paul.abbotson

Is Obama going bonkers or is he in the hands of the US Military-Industrial  complex that Eisenhower warned JFK about in his valedictory? Surely Americans will not be fooled twice  in ten years about the use of chemical weapons in the middle east.

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

"Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass."

No! They should check the evidence. Kerry is demanding that we dismiss on the basis of emotion quite credible claims that the gas attack is a rebel ploy to draw in the West. It is a classic method for causing a stampede to war. If the government has good evidence of the Assad regime's guilt let them bring it forth -- preferably with a request to Congress to vote on a declaration of war. Secretary Kerry had better be prepared to check his own conscience if he has been negligent in investigating the facts.



fitty_three
fitty_three

Good.  Time for Obama to take Assad out.

jmac
jmac

@paul.abbotson  Some of us weren't fooled by Bush jr. stating that Saddam used chemical weapons "on his own people."   Some of us knew that was 15 years previously and we had given Saddam the chemicals when he was fighting Iran.   Some of us knew that AFTER he used the weapons on the Kurds, Cheney went over there and shook  Saddam's hand.

What you are basically saying is any dictator anywhere is going to be allowed to use chemicals on his own people because Bush lied through his teeth to you.   You're the buffoon, not today's president.   


Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

@mukhtarkarim@TIME@TIMEPoliticsIf it was Sarin, it could have been produced by the rebels just as the members of AUM Shinrikyo produced it for their 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway. You don't have to be a government to make this stuff.


paul.abbotson
paul.abbotson

Alas they will not  formally  declare a war on Syria thus evading any need to go to Congress, they will simply  'kick ass' as  the crude US military echelons tend to say. The resulting additional  massive  killing of innocents, this time by foreign  forces, will b e put down to 'collateral damage' as usual. What as bunch of warmongering  hypocrites!


Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/26/kerry-obama-seeks-accountability-for-syrian-chemical-weapons-use/#ixzz2d6s3StDQ

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@fitty_three As if the man has the cojones. If it was George Bush is in the White House, Assad better listen. Ask Saddam Hussein.

jmac
jmac

@ReneDemonteverde @fitty_three  You idiot.  George W. Bush should have been after bin Ladin - not bullying a petty dictator who had nothing to do with 9/11.   And certainly not lying about why he had to invade.  

UT_mish3al
UT_mish3al

@1_Vital @TIME @TIMEPolitics يخي رسالتك واضحة بس تهجئتك زبالة. اذا بعدك مب فاهم ما عليه لأن آراءك السياسية ما تهم أحدا.