With Vice President Joe Biden at his side, President Obama promised in a Rose Garden address that he would seek authorization from Congress to strike at Syria.
Obama said inaction against the regime of Bashar al-Assad “risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”
“It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm. In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”
“After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” said Obama.
He added that he’s “confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.”
“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.”
But, he continued, “mindful that I’m president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy… I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
There’s no indication that Congress will return earlier than Sept. 9, though, to begin considering such an authorization.
Obama said he’d spoken today with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to discuss bringing the issue to the floor after recess.
He lamented that the UN Security Council is “completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.”
“I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective,” Obama continued, saying the congressional leaders “agreed it is the right thing to do for our democracy.”
The president said it’s a tough crossroads the country faces, but “I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions.”
“We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us,” Obama said. “…We will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.”
“We are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus… I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”
After the address, Obama went golfing with Biden at Fort Belvoir.
Obama’s remarks, which were carried live on Syrian state television, respond to days of insistence by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that he abide by the War Powers Resolution and come to lawmakers for authorization.
“I appreciate the president’s decision to seek congressional authorization for military action,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). “I agree those who use chemical weapons against their own people should be held accountable. Authorization for the use of force in this case should be contingent on the president setting clear military objectives that can meet articulated policy goals, including degrading any party’s ability to use these weapons again. The coming days will determine if such a military operation can be identified. I look forward to the debate.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Obama “made a strong case today, and wisely chose to seek congressional support, even though he believes he is not required by law to do so.”
“A congressional vote to authorize the use of force would strengthen the president’s decision to take military action. It is important that the president is seeking support and participation from other countries, including Arab countries,” Levin added. “I have again urged the president to use this time to help the Syrian people defend themselves by assisting vetted elements of the Syrian opposition in obtaining more effective weapons such as anti-tank weapons.”
I understand and support Barack Obama’s position on #Syria.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 31, 2013