Kerry: We Can't Be 'Spectators'

Hagel tells lawmakers of 'risks with inaction'

By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 3, 2013 4:09 PM CDT

(Newser) – John Kerry and defense chief Chuck Hagel were on Capitol Hill today making the case for a military strike on Syria. "This debate is about the world's red line," said Kerry. It is "a red line that anyone with a conscience ought to draw." Some of their arguments, via CNN, the New York Times, and AP:

  • Hagel: "There are always risks in taking action, but there are also risks with inaction. The Assad regime, under increasing pressure by the Syrian opposition, could feel empowered to carry out even more devastating chemical weapons attacks."
  • Kerry: "This is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to the slaughter."
  • Hagel: "The Syrian regime's actions risk eroding the nearly century-old international norm against the use of chemical weapons," a norm that has kept America safe.
  • Kerry: "I remember Iraq. Secretary Hagel remembers Iraq. ... We were here for that vote. And so we are especially sensitive, Chuck and I, to never again asking any member of Congress to take a vote on faulty intelligence."
  • Hagel: “The use of chemical weapons in Syria is not only an assault on humanity, it is a serious threat to America’s national security interests and those of our closest allies. We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use chemical weapons.”
  • Kerry: "There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war." But he said he wouldn't rule out the possibility under dire circumstances, like chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
President Obama, meanwhile, has won the support of both John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi in the House.

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill as defense chief Chuck Hagel listens.
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill as defense chief Chuck Hagel listens.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Capitol Hill.
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, right, and other protesters hold up anti-war signs in the hearing room on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, right, and other protesters hold up anti-war signs in the hearing room on Capitol Hill Tuesday.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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