Obama Makes Case for Strike on Syria

In a prime-time address, the President asked Congress to postpone a vote so his Administration can pursue a diplomatic solution

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Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama addresses the nation in a live televised speech from the East Room of the White House in Washington on Sept. 10, 2013

In a rare prime-time address to the nation, President Barack Obama laid out the case for U.S. intervention in Syria, even as he told the American people that he had asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on the use of military force against the Assad regime.

Responding to 36 hours of whirlwind diplomatic efforts to avoid a strike, with Russia pressuring Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to the international community, Obama said he was ordering the military to maintain it’s readiness to attack the Assad regime if necessary, but also that he was turning the focus of his Administration to finding a peaceful solution to the international crisis.

Facing a war-weary nation that opposes American intervention in Syria by as much as a 2-to-1 margin, Obama’s 15-minute address was notable for its conversational tone, with the President devoting much of the time toward allaying the concerns of the public with a chorus of questions and answers.

“I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them,” Obama said. But the chemical-weapons attack on Aug. 21, which Obama said was ordered by the Assad regime, killed more than 1,400 people, a development the President said is a threat to American national security.

“The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons — to degrade his regime’s ability to use them,” Obama said, saying the military response would be a significant blow to the Assad regime, which he compared to the Nazi regime of World War II. “Let me be clear, the United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”

Congressional leaders of both parties have pressured Obama to deliver an address to the nation to explain the case for military action in Syria for more than two weeks. Obama said America should not be the world’s policeman. Still, he said that when the U.S. has the ability to prevent the gassing of innocent children, the nation must act. “The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them,” Obama said.

Obama tried to convince the American people to engage in Syria, despite the legacies of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, saying he was initially skeptical of military action. “We cannot resolve somebody else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan,” Obama said. It’s a promise his entire Administration, believing it is essential to building support for a strike on Assad.

Obama’s full remarks are below:

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here. Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over a hundred thousand people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America has worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition and to shape a political settlement.

But I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening, men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk. On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off limits, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.

This was not always the case. In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 government that represent 98 percent of humanity.

On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity.

No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cellphone pictures and social media accounts from the attack. And humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.

Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.

Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack. And the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other day until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.

The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.

Let me explain why. If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.

As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians.

If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel.

And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. That’s my judgment as commander in chief.

But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possessed the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more warmaking power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq, our troops are coming home from Afghanistan, and I know Americans want all of us in Washington, especially me, to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home, putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class. It’s no wonder, then, that you’re asking hard questions. So let me answer some of the most important questions that I’ve heard from members of Congress and that I’ve read in letters that you’ve sent to me.

First, many of you have asked: Won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are still recovering from our involvement in Iraq. A veteran put it more bluntly: This nation is sick and tired of war.

My answer is simple. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities.

Others have asked whether it’s worth acting if we don’t take out Assad. As some members of Congress have said, there’s no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria.

Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.

Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad or any other dictator think twice before using chemical weapons.

Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don’t dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other — any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America.

Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that’s so complicated and where, as one person wrote to me, those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights? It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al-Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition we work with just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.

Finally, many of you have asked, why not leave this to other countries or seek solutions short of force?

And several people wrote to me, we should not be the world’s policeman. I agree. And I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years my Administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations. But chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

However, over the last few days we’ve seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they’d join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use.

It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.

I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to met his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom. And we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.

We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st. And we will continue to rally support from allies, from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East who agree on the need for action.

Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture, to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.

And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.

To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way? Franklin Roosevelt once said our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.

Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used. America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.

With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

MORE: 3 Things Obama Must Accomplish in Syria Speech

MORE: Chaos Reigns in Congress as Syrian Military Strike Slips to Plan B

20 comments
se123
se123

can somone explain how Syria killing 1,400 people with anything is a danger to our national security? 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

President Obama's speech was utterly tone-deaf for the following reasons:

1) His utter refusal to acknowledge the brutality of the Syrian rebels.

2) The sense of empowerment given to those rebels if the U.S. should conduct a limited or expansive strike.

3) The consequent backlash of Syria and its allies against the U.S., it's allies, and other interests in the region.

4) The sense that Assad will not alter his views or position, and will therefore maintain the current status quo.

5) The sense that only 10% of Americans (and a comparable number of Congressmen) back the strike.

6) The sense that no one - no one - on the world stage takes President Obama seriously.

In other words, the President wasted his time with such a wandering, long-winded, and utterly uninspiring speech.

paulgeorges
paulgeorges

It reminds me WORDS of the fable of La Fontaine the villagers and the snake.


The Villager and the Serpent Aesop tells of a peasant Charitable, but not too wise One winter's day was traveling Around the land he tended. He saw a serpent stretched out in the snow Cold and frozen, paralyzed Having little time to live. The villager took him home And, without considering the cost Of such an action, Laid him out before the fire Warmed him and revived him. The frozen serpent began to sense the warmth Which revived his soul as well as his evil nature. He lifted his head a bit and whistled; Coiled his body and then struck Against his benefactor, his saviour and his father. "Ingrate!" said the peasant. " 'Tis thus you repay me? You will die!" And with these words, in righteous rage He took a knife and sliced the beast Making 3 serpents with 2 cuts; A trunk, a head, and a tail. The evil one tried to rejoin himself But 'twas to no avail. Charity is a virtue but be careful toward whom There's no point showing it to ingrates who seal their own doom.Should we help the snake as a sign of gratitude want to bite us? Remenber of Libya and the fate of the American ambassador to sign kind of "gratitude." Not to forget they tried to kill French and Italien ambassador too! What happens now  to Christians in Malloula ? If  exterminated will we  defend those who spit in our face

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/09/10/obama-makes-case-for-strike-on-syria/#ixzz2eZdXiJ9N

arvay
arvay

When this jerk talks to us about Syria, here's who's REALLY talking. Somehow this isn't getting much attention, although it's blazingly relevant. If this were gun control, the articles would light up with the names of those tying to work against public opinion.

We see you.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/176040/obamas-syria-war-really-about-iran-and-israel#axzz2eFYXl9MD

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-04/adelson-new-obama-ally-as-jewish-groups-back-syria-strike.html

http://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-organizations-in-us-support-syria-strike/

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Iran supports Russian offer on Syria to put chemical weapons under int'l control - Iranian FM spokeswoman

"The Islamic republic of Iran favourably welcomes the (Russian) initiative which aims at halting all military action" against Syria, Afgham said.  "We want our region to be cleared of all weapons of mass destruction ... These efforts should also target the chemical weapons in the hands of Syria's rebel groups," she added. 
 

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_10/Iran-supports-Russian-offer-on-Syria-to-put-chemical-weapons-under-intl-contril-Iranian-FM-spokeswoman-0598/

DanSlaby
DanSlaby

Our involvement needs to be a working relationship with Russia under UN mandate to secure and remove the chemical weapons that will end up in the hands of terrorist groups, and inflict casualties in Moscow as well as New York, let alone Israel and other moderate Arab nations. We have a national interest to insure that these stockpiles of chemical weapons are properly destroyed. Russia needs to recall these chemical weapons that it sold to Syria.

There needs to be a stand-in governing body ready to take control over the country when Assad  is arrested composed of the Syrian Army and insurgents. Furthermore, there needs to be a mechanism for the UN to take control over the chemical weapons in Syria which may include Special Ops to coordinate security at Syrian military depots with the Syrian military to return the chemical weapons for disposal. The simplistic bomb and run, or no-fly zone, does not stop rockets with chemical weapons. Too many armchair warriors have no idea of the complexity of fighting in a theater where the enemy uses chemical weapons. Assad did not use chemical weapons because President Obama is waffling; he used chemical weapons against a failed rebel assassination attempt and to warn against an Israeli attack (or joint American-Israeli) on securing his chemical weapon stockpiles. An attack on Syria may involve a Syrian response of chemical rockets on Turkey, Jordan, Israel and refugee camps. 

I trust President Obama to weight the consequences of any action before implementing any decision, including ignoring the saber rattling of the press looking for a sensational story. President Obama is the most competent Commander in Chief I've known; a President whose courage to remain silent before his accusers while contemplating the advice of his commanders, balancing the military cost against political reality, and always putting country before politics.  He is respected by those he respects for the bravery, duty and honor in serving this nation faithfully.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

In Syria there are Patriotic opposition, which is against any weapons to illegal armed groups. This internal opposition, which does not leave the country and to support the actions of government troops to eliminate terrorist locust in the country. This opposition, which after the war will throw Bashar Assad call and put up their candidates to the post of President. Patriotic opposition in Syria is not afraid of elections. Afraid election only Barack Obama and other enemies of Syria.

jmac
jmac

The man deserved the Peace Prize.  After W,  he's a breath of fresh air.  Not only did the nation finally get health care reform - finally - we got someone who can listen to both sides, adjust, learn and not stay stuck in one boyhood ideology.    Good for us.  

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Today
US supplies weapons to Syrian rebels, their representative says
A representative of the National Coalition of Syria's Opposition and Revolutionary Forces Khalid Saleh says that the US has started to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_11/US-supplies-weapons-to-Syrian-rebels-their-representative-says-4623/

In this regard, I would like to once again remind:
External assistance to the opposition, which leads the armed struggle against the legitimate government, is a gross violation of fundamental rules of international law. In the Declaration on principles of international law, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, it is noted, in particular, that no state shall organize, assist, and financing of armed actions aimed at the violent overthrow of the regime of another state.
 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov affirmed that arming the Syrian opposition by foreign countries contradicts with the international law, saying "the Syrian people determine their destiny." "I understand that the international law disallows arming the opposition as this contradicts the principles of the international law," Lavrov said at a press conference in London

AbrahamYeshuratnam
AbrahamYeshuratnam

Obama didn't take timely action, as Cameron and Sarkozy did in Libya, which has led to bloodbath and refugee problem in Syria. Why Obama is aiding terrorists? The Palestinian Authority is doling out millions of dollars in cash grants to convicted terrorists recently released from Israeli prisons in a program announced the same day as the P.A. accepted $148 million in the latest round of U.S. aid. The authority announced Aug. 18 it would disburse $15 million in so-called “Dignified Life Grants” to more than 5,000 prisoners who had served more than five years in Israeli lockups, but had been recently released as a show of good faith by the Jewish state to bolster the Middle East peace process, according to Palestinian Media Watch. The announcement came on the same day the State Department’s Michael Ratney, consulate general of the U.S. in Jerusalem, signed off on $148 million in aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, currently in the throes of a budget crisis In addition to this blunder, American arms are being used for killing Christians.The village of Maaloula has been taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice: conversion or death. A resident of the town said the rebels shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as they moved through the village, and proceeded to assault Christian homes and churches. “They shot and killed people,” he said. “I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Another witness stated, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’ “The village is located just 25 miles from Damascus, and sites within the village are dedicated as United Nations world heritage sites.

When America is drowning in $17 million debt, Obama is giving billions of dollars to untrustworthy regime in Cairo.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

The Syrian "Opposition"

The term opposition is a misnomer when applied to the Wahabist-al-Qaeda-foreign mercenary- terrorist forces operating in Syria. These forces are non-state actors and are operating entirely outside of the law. The term "opposition" forces which has been applied by the West since day one seeks to add credibility to what are in fact genocidal, murderous, mass-killers-for-hire and even cannibal elements.

Opposition means a political force that has an alternative agenda and tries to bring that about through peaceful political means. Opposition is not a force that has one goal; to remove the president. That applies to the West’s "opposition" in Russia as well.

"Opposition" stands up and makes their voice heard during debates, votes, etc., it does not launch chemical weapons attacks or try to remove a government and president by force using foreign imported weapons and fighters.

True nature of Syrian "opposition"

The monsters that the country in question (US) is backing and whose army is getting ready to risk their own lives to support have committed and continue to commit crimes of such a brutal nature that there are almost no words one can use to describe the true horror. These include:

1) the infamous 'Cannibal Commander" who was filmed cutting out and eating the organs of a Syrian soldier;

2) the sawing off of the heads of two men of god, two innocent Christian Priests;

3) the regular brutal execution of countless captured soldiers, innocent civilians, women and children;

4) regularly raping and then executing women and girls and dumping their bodies in the street;

5) mass kidnappings, murders and executions of civilians and non-combatants;

6) treating non-Muslim civilians, women and children as animals by twisting and defiling Islamic Law;

7) real and ongoing genocide;

8) the launching of over 15 chemical weapons attacks on civilians;

9) and lastly the mass kidnapping and killing of over 426 children to allow for an invasion pretext by their paymasters.
 

Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_10/Who-to-trust-in-Syrian-conflict-US-that-tries-to-remove-Assad-by-force-or-Russia-that-seeks-peaceful-resolution-7130/

almonjer
almonjer

Obama is just another LYING politician (I voted for him the first time). FACTS OF HISTORY CONVENIENTLY LEFT OUT OF HIS SPEECH(ES):

-DC gave Sadaam Hussein his WMD

-DC VETOED the resolution in the UN condemning him for using them against the Kurds and Iran

-DC cares about Muslim/Arab kids? US sanctions on Iraq AFTER the Iraq war killed at least 500,000+ children KNOWINGLY (7,000 a month). The people in the Middle East are not that STUPID to believe we care about their kids, and we in America shouldn't be that STUPID either (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/01/world/iraq-sanctions-kill-children-un-reports.html)

Obama is for all intents and purposes no different than George Bush, and should be treated accordingly BEFORE he finishes off the country economically and bleeding us to death through WAR.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@DanSlaby 

The Ministry of defence of USA on Wednesday,  was forced to disavow the statement of Chuck Hagel, that Russia supplies to Syria chemical weapons. The Pentagon denied this statement, thereby acknowledging that it was not true.


Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Legitimate President of a sovereign country Bashar al-Assad in the interview to the Turkish newspaper «Cumhuriyet»  expressly said that he is not cling to his chair and is ready to leave the office if he is not supported by the people during the elections.