News / Middle East

Obama: Syria 'Atrocity' Must Have Response

President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama has delayed an expected military strike against Syria, instead telling Americans he will seek congressional approval to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
 
In a Saturday address at the White House, Obama said he has decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets, saying that while he holds authority to order a strike, he thinks it is important for the country to have a debate on the issue.
 
The president ruled out any action that would put American ground troops in Syria, and called what happened in Damascus nearly two weeks ago the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, adding that the U.S. must not turn a "blind eye" to it.
 
Obama has said he has confidence in a report from the U.S. intelligence community that indicated the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad was responsible for the attack, referring to an unclassified document that directly blames the government for planning and carrying out the August 21 chemical attack that, the document says, killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.
 
Calling the attack "an assault on human dignity," Obama said not responding risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and that he does not feel compelled to await the outcome of the U.N. probe.
 
"I am comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable," he added.
 
The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks and threatened to retaliate and defend itself against any foreign military attack. Syrian allies expressed support for the Assad government.
 
As he spoke in the White House Rose Garden, protesters outside the grounds chanted and waved signs to voice opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
 
"We don’t think that the U.S. should be judge, jury and executioner in this situation, and that a U.S military intervention will not assist in bringing peace to the region, it will only further inflame war," said Eugene Puryear of the Answer Coalition, which is protesting any U.S. intervention in Syria. "So, regardless of the chemical weapons situation, we’re saying U.S. intervention is not the answer."
 
Heba Boustany was with a group supporting Syrian rebels and calling for action.
 
“We don’t exactly want intervention with bombs and missiles and everything, we just want someone to at least acknowledge that [President Bashar al-Assad] used chemical weapons and to say something about it and tell him ‘no more.’ Just make him scared to do anything more, because if you don’t say anything to him, he’s going to keep on using it.”
 
Congress
 
Later Saturday the president formally asked Congress to allow him to use military force in Syria to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the potential for more chemical attacks.
 
Senior administration officials briefing reporters said the president's determination to respond to the chemical attack in Syria was generally set a week before, and that Obama wrestled with issues such as the role of Congress in authorizing use of military force, and the need to take into account the feelings of Americans weary of war.
 
In his statement, Obama recognized the anti-war sentiment that follows the war in Iraq and coincides with a war winding down in Afghanistan, but said the U.S. has an obligation to act.
 
Senior administration officials also said Obama was assured by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey that the precise timing of when a possible military strike in Syria would occur does not matter. On the likelihood Syrian targets will be hardened before any strike, the officials said the U.S. military has capabilities and options and is not concerned about this.
 
In a White House meeting with advisers Friday night, senior administration officials said, there was robust debate about risks of any decision and the question of seeking congressional authorization.
 
Senior national security officials held conference calls with Senate leaders on Saturday. On Sunday, the White House plans to hold a classified briefing on Syria for the House of Representatives.
 
Republican leaders in the House say they are glad Obama is seeking authorization for any military action, and in a Saturday statement they said that under the U.S. constitution, "the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress."
 
U.S. congressional leaders expect the House and Senate to take up the matter when they return from their summer recess the week of September 9.
 
Obama said Congress would be voting for the national security of the United States.
 
UN probe, world reaction
 
A United Nations inspection team wrapped up its work in Syria and left the country Saturday. A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. chief will get a briefing on Sunday from the head of the inspection team. There is no word about when the team will present its full report. The U.N. spokesman said the team collected samples that will be analyzed in laboratories, as well as witness statements and interviews with doctors and survivors.
 
Protesters around the world took to the streets on Saturday to protest for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria. Anti-war demonstrations were held outside the White House and in other countries including France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Jordan and Turkey.
 
Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the U.S. Security Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to deploy international monitors to investigate and report on human rights abuses in Syria.
 
Some world leaders also expressed support for military action. British Prime Minister David Cameron sought but failed to get parliament's approval for Britain's participation in a strike on Syria, but he said he supports the U.S. president's decision not to let the Syrian government go unpunished for war crimes. 
 
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr expressed confidence that the Obama administration has carefully weighed an appropriate response.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a volunteer coalition to stop the killings in Syria. In a televised speech Saturday, he also criticized Russia and China for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria.
 
Also Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it is winning the war against "rebels."
 
In a statement, Putin urged the U.S. to allow the U.N. chemical weapons team to present its findings.
 
"As for the position of our American colleagues and friends who state that the government forces have used weapons of mass destruction, in this case used chemical weapons, and say that they have evidence — let them present them to the U.N. inspectors and the U.N. Security Council."
 
An Iranian delegation visited Damascus Saturday to consult with the Syrian government, following a similar visit Friday by an official delegation from Yemen.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 01, 2013 8:18 PM
I would like to ask how come US has right to punish other countires. How come US has an obligatgion to punish other countries? Punishment is a role of God, or US is a god? Does Obama forget US used pesticide in Vietnam war, atomic bombs in WWII? What kinds of difference excist between chemical weapons and pesticide and atomic bombs droped from war planes over civilians?

It is skeptical US probe and intelligence have good reason to make everybody say "Yes, Syrian government, not rebels, used chemical weapons." It is time for American people to show your honest and modestiness before the God. Mr, Obana, wake up, you are not theGod, nor a judge and prosecuter at least in foreign affairs. Thank you.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 02, 2013 2:10 PM
The US has no right to do that, and the UN has mandate or army to carry out its function. The world is in the hands of the madmen in leadership positions. No one call for accountability and no one should account for anything. Welcome to a FREE world.

by: us from: us
September 01, 2013 10:42 AM
So when do we get to see the proof behind the alleged nerve gas attacks? It is easy to say they were used, how did they collect the samples? Usually chemical analysis takes days to do, amazing how they got results instantly, makes you think it is all made up just to start another war and steal natural resources from yet another country.

by: ali baba from: new york
September 01, 2013 4:02 AM
When we discussed about war crimes. we should not focus about crime done by one side and excuse the other side .the fact that both sides committed a war crime Bashar use chemical weapons. the other side is formed by different groups . it is include many Islamic terrorist organization such as Muslim brotherhood and Osama bin laden group. j understand that Us loves Muslim brotherhood and feel the pain when they kicked from Egypt. these groups committed serious war crime in Syria .they burnt churches .they kill women and children and force million to flee to neighboring countries. my questions Why united state is sympathize with this radical group . the radical group committed war crime and they go unpunished and Us work as a catalysis to punish Bashar to please the radical Muslim group !!!!!!!!!!!

by: TonyBellchambers from: London
August 31, 2013 11:43 PM
The reason that death by chemical weapons is deemed unacceptable is because it offends the sensitivities of Cameron and Obama who are quite happy with killings that are perpetrated by gun, shell, bullet, missile, bomb or knife.

It's OK for a cruise missile from a helicopter gunship or an F16 bomber or a military drone to vaporise a family or decapitate a child but killing with gas is a problem because we can see the exquisite pain and terrible suffering inflicted by our armed forces or the murderous militias of dictators.

We and you can kill provided we cannot hear the screams of terror or feel the shocking agony of having our body torn in half and feeling the blood escape as death takes us and life is violently extinguished to satisfy the political aims of a jumped up two-star general in a suit sitting behind a desk with his finger on the button, his ears blocked with cotton wool to attenuate the screaming and a bottle of whisky to deaden the senses before dinner.

No chemical weapons - they spoil the appetite for killing the usual way!

by: Anonymous
August 31, 2013 11:39 PM
Absolutely Bashar al Assad should face any crimes he commited just like anyone else in the world. He isn't above the law. He can't murder men, women and children and get away with it. He caused genocide in Syria. He should be arrested and given to the Syrians to deal with him. Maybe put him in the same type of jail he has been putting opposition in. That should teach him a lesson. Keep him there for life.

by: Shane from: USa
August 31, 2013 9:17 PM
American intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people and has set the stage for a possible U.S. military strike on Syria.

The disclosure — part of a larger U.S. intelligence briefing on Syria’s chemical attacks — raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions for the American government. First and foremost: What, if anything, did it do to notify the Syrian opposition of the pending attack?

In a call with reporters Friday afternoon, senior administration officials did not address whether this information was shared with rebel groups in advance of the attack. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the information had been shared.
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
September 01, 2013 4:07 AM
what about the second side whom started civil war and they have connection with all terrorism organizations ?Are they good guys to feel sorry about them?

by: Janet Birdplop from: Pennslyvania
August 31, 2013 7:43 PM
Update: I have heard from educated and aware friends that the presstitute media on the evening news are beating the drums for war. This shows what paid whores the US media is and their total disconnect from reality. Anyone who wastes their time on the US media is a brainwashed idiot, a danger to humanity.

Update 8:52 PM August 30: Is the White House idiot going to be a victim of his own careless presidential appointments?

Does he have no one to tell him how to escape the dilemma his moronic Secretary of State and National Security Advisor have put him in? Someone needs to tell the WH Fool that he must say that he accepts the conclusion of the world community that there is not sufficient evidence for launching a military attack on Syria and killing even more people than were killed in the alleged, but unproven, chemical attack, and that he awaits further and better evidence.

God help the moron and the unfortunate country that the fool represents.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 02, 2013 2:02 PM
But you're still in the country and have not checked out. If you cannot listen to their media news and don't trust the government, why are you still an American citizen? I suggest you go live in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan where women's rights and rights of citizens are gratuitously flamboyant.

by: Philemena Druckhorst from: Slovenia
August 31, 2013 7:41 PM
Two decades of jobs offshoring has left the US with a third world labor force employed in lowly paid domestic nontradable services, a workforce comparable to India’s of 40 years ago. Already the “world’s sole superpower” is afflicted with a large percentage of its population dependent on government welfare for survival. As the economy closes down, the government’s ability to meet the rising demands of survival diminishes. The rich will demand that the poor be sacrificed in the interest of the rich. And the political parties will comply.

Is this the reason that Homeland Security, a Nazi Gestapo institution, now has a large and growing para-military force equipped with tanks, drones, and billions of rounds of ammunition?

How long will it be before American citizens are shot down in their streets by “their” government as occurs frequently in Washington’s close allies in Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain?

Americans have neglected the requirements of liberty. Americans are so patriotic and so gullible that all the government has to do is to wrap itself in the flag, and the people, or too many of them, believe whatever lie the government tells. And the gullible people will defend the government’s lie to their death, indeed, to the death of the entire world.

If Americans keep believing the government’s lies, they have no future. If truth be known, Americans have already lost a livable future. The neocons’ “American Century” is over before it begun.

by: Madeline Eggburp from: USA
August 31, 2013 7:39 PM
If Obama goes it alone, he will be harassed for the rest of his life as a war criminal who dares not leave the US. Indeed, a looming economic collapse could so alter the power and attitude of the United States that Obama could find himself brought to justice for his war crimes.

Regardless, the United States government has lost its credibility throughout the world and will never regain it, unless the Bush and Obama regimes are arrested and put on trial for their war crimes.

Obama’s destruction of US credibility goes far beyond diplomacy. It is likely that this autumn or winter, and almost certainly in 2014, the US will face severe economic crisis.

The long-term abuse of the US dollar’s reserve currency role by the Federal Reserve and US Treasury, the never-ending issuance of new debt and printing of dollars to finance it, the focus of US economic policy on bailing out the “banks too big to fail” regardless of the adverse impact on domestic and world economies and holders of US Treasury debt, the awaiting political crisis of the unresolved deficit and debt ceiling limit that will greet Congress’ return to Washington in September, collapsing job opportunities and a sinking economy all together present the government in Washington with a crisis that is too large for the available intelligence, knowledge, and courage to master.

When the proverbial hits the fan, the incompetent and corrupt Federal Reserve and the incompetent and corrupt US Treasury will have no more credibility than Obama and John Kerry.

The rest of the world–especially Washington’s bullied NATO puppet states–will take great delight in the discomfort of “the world’s sole superpower” that has been running on hubris ever since the Soviet collapse.

The world is not going to bail out Washington, now universally hated, with currency swaps, more loans, and foreign aid. Americans are going to pay heavily for their negligence, their inattention, their unconcern, and their ignorant belief that nothing can go wrong for them and that anything that does is temporary.

by: Doris Bottomburp from: California
August 31, 2013 7:32 PM
A foolish President Obama and moronic Secretary of State Kerry have handed the United States government its worst diplomatic defeat in history and destroyed the credibility of the Office of the President, the Department of State, and the entire executive branch. All are exposed as a collection of third-rate liars.

Intoxicated with hubris from past successful lies and deceptions used to destroy Iraq and Libya, Obama thought the US “superpower,” the “exceptional” and “indispensable” country, could pull it off again, this time in Syria.

But the rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence. A foolish Obama was pushed far out on the limb by an incompetent and untrustworthy National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and the pack of neoconservatives that support her, and the British Parliament cut the limb off.

What kind of fool would put himself in that vulnerable position?

Now Obama stands alone, isolated, trying to back away from his threat to attack without authorization from anyone–not from the UN, not from NATO, not from Congress who he ignored–a sovereign country. Under the Nuremberg Standard military aggression is a war crime. Washington has until now got away with its war crimes by cloaking them in UN or NATO approval. Despite these “approvals,” they remain war crimes.

But his National Security Advisor and the neocon warmongers are telling him that he must prove that he is a Real Man who can stand alone and commit war crimes all by himself without orchestrated cover from the UN or NATO or a cowardly US Congress. It is up to Obama, they insist, to establish for all time that the President of the United States is above all law. He, and he alone is the “decider,” the Caesar, who determines what is permissible. The Caesar of the “sole superpower” must now assert his authority over all law or Washington’s hegemony over the world is lost.
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