News / USA

Obama Leaves Door Open for Diplomatic Solution on Syria

Obama: Syria Could Prevent Airstrikes by Turning Over Chemical Weaponsi
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September 10, 2013 3:21 PM
President Barack Obama says a proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control could prevent U.S. military strikes on Syria. As VOA’s Kent Klein reports from the White House, the president has been making his case for military strikes to Congress and the American people after Syria’s alleged chemical attack on civilians.
"Obama: Syria Could Prevent Airstrikes by Turning Over Chemical Weapons" - related video report by Kent Klein
U.S. President Barack Obama says a negotiated diplomatic solution on Syria is still possible as long as it produces a verifiable and enforceable way to deal with Syrian chemical weapons.  Mr. Obama spoke on the eve of a televised address Tuesday to the American people. 

The president gave interviews to major television networks as he prepares to appeal directly to the public about his plans for a limited military strike to degrade the chemical weapons capabilities of Syria's government.

On the Public Broadcasting Service NewsHour, Mr. Obama said again there is no doubt about Syrian government responsibility for the August 21 chemical attack that the U.S. and its allies say killed at least 1,400 people.

But he said a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community offers some hope of heading off the need for military action.

"I have instructed [Secretary of State] John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground, and if we can exhaust these diplomatic efforts and come up with a formula that gives the international community a verifiable, enforceable mechanism to deal with these chemical weapons in Syria, then I am all for it, but we are going to have to see specifics,"  Mr. Obama said.

Despite intense personal lobbying, Mr. Obama still faces an uphill battle convincing lawmakers and their constituents that military action would not entangle the U.S. in the Syrian civil war or a wider regional conflict.

Americans are horrified by the chemical attack in Syria, but polls show strong national sentiment against a military strike.

Mr. Obama said Americans are understandably wary about military action "in the absence of some direct threat" against the United States, especially after U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

But he told PBS he will use his address on Tuesday to make the case that action is necessary for long-term U.S. national security interests.

"But I believe I can make a very strong case to Congress as well as the American people about why we can't leave our children a world in which other children are being subjected to nerve gas," he said.  "And that it is in our interest, if we can take a limited step that makes a meaningful difference, it is worth it for us to do that.  And I firmly believe that."

In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Obama called the diplomatic proposal a "modestly positive development," but said it is important to maintain pressure. He said he wants to see "with a sense of urgency" language for a plan that is enforceable and verifiable.

Earlier, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said failure to respond would undermine U.S. credibility and embolden others such as Iran and North Korea.

"The decision our nation makes in the coming days is being watched in capitals around the world, especially in Tehran and Pyongyang," she said. "They're watching to see whether the United States will stand up for the world we're trying to build for our children and future generations."

President Obama received support Monday from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who referred to the Russian proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.

"As was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians, that would be an important step," she said. " But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community's efforts sincerely, or be held to account."

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken says the United States is "taking a hard look" at the diplomatic proposal.

"We are going to take a hard look at this, we will talk to the Russians about it, but it is very important to note that it is clear that this proposal comes in the context of the threat of U.S. action and the pressure that the president is exerting," he said.

The White House says it will continue to seek congressional authorization, even while reviewing the diplomatic proposal for Syria to give up control of its chemical weapons.

President Obama dropped in to a briefing at the White House for House of Representatives lawmakers, and is scheduled to go to Capitol Hill Tuesday to make another direct appeal to skeptical lawmakers.

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by: Jack from: Rhode Island
September 09, 2013 9:39 PM
But the chemical weapons were ALL supplied by the USA!!! The whole thing is a LIE and a CHARADE. The USA should turn itself in!!!

by: Phelm Burnload from: New York City
September 09, 2013 9:31 PM
U.S. Record Makes It Impossible to Trust Their Statements on Chemical or Biological Warfare Dangers:

The final point concerns the relevancy of the material above with the aims of the U.S. government to bomb Syria for the purported use of chemical weapons. The argument is simple. The actions of the U.S. government for decades on the matter of biological and chemical weapons demonstrate that it cannot be trusted on this matter. The government was intimately involved with cover-ups on the use of these weapons. Their cover-up is likely still ongoing.

Recently, the Washington Post published an article by Joby Warrick on possible dangers from Syrian use of biological weaponry. The story is specious on its own account, but it is also telling that Warrick never refers to any of the facts I’ve related above about the U.S. history with Unit 731.

Furthermore, as awful as the material involved here is, it must be assessed in the context of other U.S. criminal activities associated with biological and chemical warfare, from the lies told about WMD, leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to experiments done on U.S. citizens, to the facilitation of chemical weapon attacks by other countries, e.g., Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Certainly, the videos released on the Internet, most lately with the imprimatur of Congressional Intelligence committees, contain scenes of ghastly deaths that are frightening to watch. The constant bombardment of propaganda from media and government sources, not least supposed “liberal” or “progressive” politicians, is meant to achieve a sense of urgency and fear in the population that will allow at the least acquiescence towards the military’s new war actions in the Middle East.

I hope that bringing up the history of the United States in relation to the largest operational use of biological and chemical weapons in history will give pause to those who are otherwise credulous of U.S. intentions. The record is clear: the U.S. has lied and covered-up when it comes to biological and chemical weapons, and government sources cannot be trusted, certainly not when the bulk of their information is kept secret from the public.

by: Mrs. Mandlevitz from: Tel Aviv
September 09, 2013 9:30 PM
Japan’s Use of Chemical Weapons in China:

The crimes of the Japanese Imperial Army were not limited to bacteriological weapons. They also used chemical weapons extensively in China from 1937 until 1945, according to declassified US records. But you won’t read much about that in any secondary sources, as the records on this were scooped up by the Americans and Soviets, and the event practically written out of history. None of the Japanese military hierarchy tried after the war for war crimes were charged with use of chemical or bacteriological weapons. Those involved were protected by the U.S. military and amnestied for any crimes. The knowledge of the weaponry involved, including that derived through lethal experiments, was sent to Ft. Detrick, the CIA, and other “intelligence channels.”

If anything, the size of the chemical war and the damages and fatalities wrought thereby are even more secret today than Japan’s biological weapons program.

The scope of the chemical war unleashed in China can be ascertained by the damage left afterward. According to Nationalist Chinese sources in Taipei, approximately 700,000 chemical munitions were left abandoned in China after World War II. The Chinese government says that approximately 2,000 people still die each year from encounters with such ordinance. An ongoing clean-up of the chemical mess, in part paid for by Japan, is still ongoing in 2013.

When recently, for a longer article I am writing relating to this subject, I asked DoD for official response to these issues, the DoD spokesperson referred me to Ft. Detrick’s public affairs office. The official at Ft. Detrick said they had no knowledge of these events and could not comment, all relevant material having been sent to the National Archives years ago. Meanwhile, a former official at Ft. Detrick confirmed to me a statement that he made to historian Sheldon Harris in 1999 concerning the destruction of records on Unit 731 at Ft. Detrick occurring as late as 1998. I’ll have more to say about that in the future, but meanwhile those interested can pursue the matter at this link from the Congressional Record.

by: Serena from: Washington D.C.
September 09, 2013 9:29 PM
But the experiments were only part of the crimes, as the Imperial Army implemented the use of the bacteriological weapons against the Chinese and Soviets during World War II, killing, according to recent estimates, somewhere between a quarter and half-a-million people with plague, typhoid, and other diseases, and leaving others injured for life. Japan bombed cities with specially constructed bacterial bombs, as part of a plan that included well-poisonings, the release of infected rats and fleas (bred specially for the purpose), and other forms of mass inoculations.

After World War II and the blanket amnesty for all the BW researchers, who were led by Kwantung Army Lt. General Shiro Ishii, British and Canadian researchers have alleged that some of the Japanese personnel were utilized in a campaign of biological warfare by the United States during the Korean War. The issue is still hotly debated today, and the U.S. still keeps secret today many documents related to that war.

The crimes of Unit 731 and assorted entities, the U.S. amnesty of those involved, and collaboration with Ishii and others in collecting the “scientific” information taken from the murder of thousands, would have remained secret forever, had it not been for the conscience of a few of those Japanese scientists and technicians involved who came forward to talk to Japanese researchers in the mid-1970s. In America, the revelations were due to the tireless work of journalist John W. Powell, who used FOIA extensively to document the case of the U.S. cover-up, publishing in 1981. Even so, the subject has never entirely entered the mainstream of U.S. consciousness.

by: Doris Loadburp from: UK
September 09, 2013 9:28 PM
Here, in summary, are the primary facts. As you read this, remember that the U.S. government not only amnestied those involved in the following war crimes, but paid them for the information they could provide, and in some cases hired them. The decision was made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department, and possibly the new CIA and the new president, Truman. The idea for the deal was prompted by General Douglas MacArthur, military doctors at Ft. Detrick, and officials in the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service. It was famously decided that all that you are about to read now would be kept as “top secret,” not to be released outside “intelligence channels.” And it wasn’t… for about 35 years.

From the time the Japanese Imperial Army occupied Manchuria (in the early 1930s) until the end of World War II, its special Unit 731, and dozens of associated units, engaged in wide-scale lethal experiments on biological and chemical warfare, including the use of poisons for assassination purposes and the wide-scale use of herbicides. These experiments were conducted on thousands of prisoners, estimates ranging from 3000 to 20,000 POWs and civilian prisoners. The exact number may never be known.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 10, 2013 10:55 AM
Seems Phelm Burnload from: New York City, Serena from: Washington D.C., Mrs. Mandlevitz from: Tel Aviv are one and the same person living and appearing in many places at once. What magic are you using here?

by: Ken from: Florida
September 09, 2013 9:26 PM
There are many reasons why one should oppose the military action against Syria being planned by the Obama administration. But given that the action is being trumpeted as a righteous response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, there is one reason to oppose the U.S. action that carries with it more than the usual amount of painful irony.

It is difficult to know how to introduce this subject, as it is so dark and evil, and the U.S. population has been lied to for so long about it, that I fear the initial reaction very likely can only be shock and denial. And yet, the crimes to which I am about to refer are quite well documented, and were themselves the focus of a Congressional bill in 2000 directing the National Archives to specially search for and release the relevant documentation. The deaths involved are said to approach half-a-million souls, and the injuries of many are still ongoing.

by: Markt
September 09, 2013 8:36 PM
Finally, cooler heads are prevailing. Teddy Roosevelt was know for saying "speak softly and carry a big stick" but he never said you had to swing it.
There is hope, after all.....
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