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Kerry to Congress: ‘Plain Wrong’ to Say Syria Debate Is About Obama’s Red Line; It’s About Yours

Foreign Relations hearing featured Kerry admission that he doesn't know plans, Paul's vote prediction, and Menendez tips on beating off bullies with wood. UPDATE: Deal reached on authorization of force

by
Bridget Johnson

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September 3, 2013 - 4:37 pm
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WASHINGTON — Facing a committee whose members’ skepticism wasn’t easily distinguished by party lines, Secretary of State John Kerry led the administration’s charge for action in Syria in the first open hearing before the congressional committee he used to lead.

Though Congress still isn’t back in session, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee returned for a nearly four-hour hearing today that also featured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey as witnesses.

Kerry, with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry and a sprinkling of antiwar protesters in the audience, reiterated his assertion that the evidence pointing to Bashar al-Assad’s guilt in gassing his own people is irrefutable.

“My colleagues, we know what happened. For all the lawyers, for all the former prosecutors, for all those who have sat on a jury, I can tell you that we know these things beyond a reasonable doubt that is the standard by which we send people to jail for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“Now, some have tried to suggest that the debate we’re having today is about President Obama’s red line. I could not more forcefully state that is just plain and simply wrong. This debate is about the world’s red line. It’s about humanity’s red line. And it’s a red line that anyone with a conscience ought to draw.”

It’s also, Kerry added, about “Congress’ own red line.”

“I will tell you there are some people hoping that the United States Congress doesn’t vote for this very limited request the president has put before you. Iran is hoping you look the other way. Our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test. Hezbollah is hoping that isolationism will prevail. North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day. They are all listening for our silence,” he said.

Israel, Jordan and Turkey, Kerry continued, “are one stiff breeze away from the potential of being hurt, of their civilians being killed as a consequences of choices Assad might take in the absence of action.”

“We need to send to Syria and to the world, to dictators and to terrorists, to allies and to civilians alike the unmistakable message that when the United States of America and the world say, never again, we do not mean sometimes. We do not mean the somewhere. Never means never,” he said. “So this is a vote for accountability. Norms and laws that keep the civilized world civil mean nothing if they’re not enforced.”

While Kerry stressed “President Obama is not asking America to go to war,” Hagel said, “We are not unaware of the costs and ravages of war, but we also understand that America must protect its people and its national interests.”

And Kerry got nostalgic about his own military — or, most specifically, post-military — life after Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin staged the first antiwar outburst of the hearing.

“We don’t want another war. Nobody wants this war,” Benjamin shouted as Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) banged the gavel and Capitol Police led her out of the room. “Cruise missiles — launching cruise missiles means another war. The American people do not want this.”

“You know, the first time I testified before this committee — when I was 27 years old — I had feelings very similar to that protester,” Kerry said. “And I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country, and that the Congress itself will act representing the American people.”

Menendez said he was at a soccer tournament over the weekend when a group of moms came up and said, “Senator, we saw those pictures. They’re horrific. We can’t imagine the devastation those parents must feel about their children. But why us? Why us?”

“And so, I ask you, would you tell them that we would be more secure or less secure by the actions that are being considered, for which the president has asked for the authorization of the use of force?” he asked the panel.

“Senator, I would say unequivocally that the president’s actions will make us more secure, less likely that Assad can use his weapons or chooses to use his weapons. And the absence of taking the action the president has asked for will, in fact, be far more threatening and dangerous and potentially ultimately cost lives,” Kerry said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), after a drawn-out monologue about times she did (Serbia) and didn’t (Iraq) cast votes in approval of force, asked if all intelligence agencies who reviewed the Syria evidence arrived at the same conclusion.

“To my knowledge, I have no knowledge of any agency that was a dissenter or anybody who had, you know, an alternative theory,” Kerry replied. “And I do know — I think it’s safe to say — that they had a whole team that ran a scenario to try to test their theory to see if there was any possibility they could come up with an alternative view as to who might have done it, and the answer is they could not.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) drew praise from Syrians on Twitter for his criticism of an administration leading from behind.

“The choice was made to watch as this thing unfolded. Others advocated that we should just mind our own business. And what we’re seeing here now is proof and an example of when America ignores these problems, these problems don’t ignore us. We can ignore them, but eventually they grow and they come to visit us at our doorstep,” Rubio said.

The senator called out Kerry on noting “that one of the calculations that Assad used in deciding to use chemical weapons was that the U.S. wouldn’t do anything about it.”

“And I understand perhaps why he made that calculation because, yes, this was a horrible incident where 1,000 people died. But before this incident, 100,000 people had died, including snipers that were used to pick off civilians, including women that were raped as part of a — they were going to these villages to carry this out, and nothing happened. So, of course, he reached that calculation,” Rubio continued. “…Can we structure an attack that tips that calculation, where he’ll basically decide that he would rather risk being overrun by rebels than risking a limited attack from the U.S. if he uses these chemical weapons?”

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Top Rated Comments   
Let me get this straight: Assad murders 100,000+ of his people using conventional weapons and Obama is cool with that - no problem. But he gases 1,400 (assuming it was him and not the rebels) and now he deserves to be punished. We need to SEND HIM A MESSAGE.

Assad is a butcher and deserves whatever he gets, but it is not our job to be the world police. If we go after all the evil dictators with no respect for their own people's lives, we'll have to go into a lot more places than Syria. Unless and until we have an international consensus with many nations prepared to commit their resources to the effort, we need to stay out of civil wars in the Middle East.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"And what we’re seeing here now is proof and an example of when America ignores these problems, these problems don’t ignore us. We can ignore them, but eventually they grow and they come to visit us at our doorstep,” Rubio said.

Gee, Senator Rubio. I don't recall seeing any gassed Syrians on my doorstep.
There do seem to be an awful lot of illegal immigrants coming to visit me though...
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Look...

John Kerry lied about his injuries in Vietnam in order to accumulate enough medals to impress the morons in Massachusetts that he was their War Hero (replete with the requisite treasonous behavior) such that they elected him Lt. Governor (a job with no responsibilities other than to check the obits to see if the governor had died the night before) which he parlayed in to a seat in the Senate.

Bully for him.

Problem is that he was wrong on his stance on the Vietnam War and has a perfect record of incorrectness on every single issue of foreign affairs since then.

Witness he and his Cash Cow dining with the same Assad that he is now demonizing as a modern day Hitler.

John Kerry can go to hell. He is the perfect Secretary of State for the Traitor-in-Chief Obama - a man so dull that he would not last a single hour out here in the real world.

My loathing of all things Obama continues apace. This SOB is well on his way to destroying the Republic.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (43)
All Comments   (43)
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The RED LINE is Obama's. it's not mine or the world's oe the Congresss's IT"S HIS. He tried to pass it off but he owns it.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, now the left is declaring the domino effect. Israel, Jordan and Turkey, Kerry continued, “are one stiff breeze away from the potential of being hurt, of their civilians being killed as a consequences of choices Assad might take in the absence of action.” Please, how is that going to happen with half of the people ready to revolt and the economy in ruins. Also show us some proof about the chemical weapons use. Everytime the question is asked they run away from answering it. Trust us is not a good response from an administration that trusts no one.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
TELL SAUDI ARABIA TO DO THE STRIKE. THEY HAVE THE MISSLES, THE MONEY AND IT'S IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD. PERIOD.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agreed, but PLEASE STOP SHOUTING!

31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Best quote:

"To my knowledge, I have no knowledge..." - John Kerry
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The President intends to win this vote..." Is that a threat, Lurch? We know you have something on all these fawning idiots, Menendez for example--there must be tapes of his cavorting in the Dominican Republic, right? And even Rand Paul is talking about how he was going to compliment the President for going to Congress...yeah, even the good eye doc has something to hide I'll bet. And Rubio? Good-looking young guy, sexy wife but they've been married a while, yeah...get on it, guys.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would like to understand Obama's position, I really would, but I can't. Assad has said to have killed 100,000 plus people in his own country, which had escalated from a riot to all out civil war. I think that's the picture that has been painted. Right? So Obama and company are OK with killing by any other means other than chemical warfare? That said: "All is right with the world." Assad has not attacked any other country and a couple of countries are in support of his regime. We have supported the rebellion. That has been wrong in itself. There's no mystery here, Assad is a bad "dude", probably as bad as they get. But in Obama and companies infinite wisdom we have declared ourselves the worlds policeman totally circumventing the useless UN and decided it is in "our" best interest to intervene and slap their hands. That is pretty much what it will be and as for a "happy ending" there wont be one.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Per the "I didn't set a red line" comment by Obama. The following is an exchange taken from the White House record of the press conference given by Jay Carney on Dec 14, 2012:

Q Last week, Syrian troops were seen loading bombs with chemical weapons onto trucks,

and the President warned Syria the use of chemical weapons is a red line.

Isn’t use of chemical weapons a bit late for the red line? Shouldn’t the red line be movement of chemical weapons? I mean, once they’ve been used, damage is done.

MR. CARNEY: The President addressed this very clearly from this podium what his views are on that matter, and they regard both the use of chemical weapons, the potential for use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, as well as movement in the sense of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction like chemical weapons. I think our warnings about any consideration of the use of these weapons were extremely clear and stark. Our promise of significant consequences should the Assad regime go down that road were very clear and stark, and they remain in place.

Link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/14/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-12142012

Now, what were you saying again, Mr. President?


32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, but that's just what Jay Carney said. He's not the President! He must have misunderstood what the President said!


Yeah, that's it!
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't be fooled by the Senate into thinking they can proscribe the acts of war, once declared. That is the exclusive domain of the Commander in Chief. They are trying to dupe the public into believing that the Senate can bind the Commander in Chief in wartime. That is an attempt at unconstitutional usurpation. It is a ruse and you are the dupe.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let me get this straight: Assad murders 100,000+ of his people using conventional weapons and Obama is cool with that - no problem. But he gases 1,400 (assuming it was him and not the rebels) and now he deserves to be punished. We need to SEND HIM A MESSAGE.

Assad is a butcher and deserves whatever he gets, but it is not our job to be the world police. If we go after all the evil dictators with no respect for their own people's lives, we'll have to go into a lot more places than Syria. Unless and until we have an international consensus with many nations prepared to commit their resources to the effort, we need to stay out of civil wars in the Middle East.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Once again this whole exercise in pushing for war is all about Obama and not about helping anyone. While they wag the dog on us again saying look over here, we are not talking about the failure of Obama to have a serious foreign policy, to prepare our military prorperly for the role he intends for them, nor to retain effective military officers to execute the plan. Once in motion can we rely on Obama to see this mission through and to plan to have effective military support to secure our military personnel. Who will be left on the battefield this time would be a good question? I have zero confidence that these people are telling the truth, that they know what they are doing and that whatever plan they hatch will not blow up in their face. Zero! I say no war, no battles, no risk taking with our military. If they intend to do something like this we need regime change in America first. Yes elections do have consequences. We have the worst president in history and this is just too bad but the US is not ready to take on this risk. Most likely Iran will have nukes in place too. Congratulations american citizens for electing this bozo for two terms.
32 weeks ago
32 weeks ago Link To Comment
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