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tv   Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 3, 2013 8:00pm-1:01am EDT

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say, we will not do that? you know, i just do not consider that going to war in the classic sense of coming to congress and asking for a declaration of war and training troops and sending people abroad and putting young americans in harms way. that is not what the president is asking. the washington post-abc news are that shows americans opposing missile strikes, nearly six in 10. there is differing numbers between every demographic and political group. pushing for the resolution looking at the use of military force in syria again this morning when president obama met ath congressional leaders the white house and concluded with secretary of state john
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kerry and the secretary of testifyingck hagel before the senate foreign relations committee this afternoon. our coverage for the next several hours includes mr. obama's comments before the meetings with members of congress. then members of the senate foreign relations committee here dempsey and secretaries john kerry and chuck hagel. we start with the president up the white house saying his confident about the resolution this week. want to thank the leaders of both parties for being here today to discuss what is a very serious issue facing the united states and the fact that i had a chance to speak to many of year- round congress as a whole is
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taking this issue with the soberness and seriousness that it deserves is greatly appreciated and indicates the position for us to present this to congress. as secretary kerry made clear in his presentation last week, we thathigh confidence seriously used in an indiscriminate fashion emma collette is that killed thousands of people including -- we haveildren high confidence that syria used in an indiscriminate fashion chemical weapons that kill thousands of people. as a consequence, a solid and the syria need to be held accountable. i made the decision that america should take action but i also believe that we will be much more effect of, stronger, if we
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take action together as one nation. this gives us an opportunity not only to present the evidence to all of the leading members of congress and various foreign- to why wemittees as have high confidence that chemical weapons were used and that assad used them but it also why it'san opportunity important that he be held to account. the norm against using chemical the worldat 98% of agrees to is there for a reason because we recognize there are certain weapons that, when used tom a can not only end up resulting in grotesque death but can end up being transmitted to non-state actors and can pose a risk to allies and friends of ours like israel, like jordan, like turkey.
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unless we hold them to account it also sends the message that international norms around issues like nuclear proliferation don't mean much. i'm going to be working with congress. we have sent up a draft authorization and we will be asking for hearings and a prompt vote. i'm very appreciative that everyone here has already begun to schedule hearings and intends to take a vote as soon as all of congress comes back early next week. the key point that i want to emphasize to the american people , the military plan that has been developed by the joint chiefs and that i believe is appropriate is proportionate, limited and it does not involve boots on the ground. this is not iraq and this is not afghanistan. this is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear
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message not only to the assad regime but also to other thinking the same thing. it also goes into a broader that we can bring about overtime strengthening the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition and we can bring peace and .tability i want to emphasize once again, we are visualizing something limited and proportional to degrade a saw the's possibilities -- to degrade and allowssibilities syria to ultimately free itself
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from the criminal wars, death, and activity we've been seeing on the ground. i'm confident that the concerns can be addressed and it is appropriate that we are delivered late but i also think everyone recognizes the urgency here that we will have to move relatively quickly. i look forward to an excellent discussion. i would not be going to syria if i was not serious about confrontations and about shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission. we will be more effect it. so long as we are accomplishing ist needs to be accomplished
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to convince them not to use chemical weapons and as long as the us to do that, i'm confident we will be able to come up with something capable of that. thank you, everybody. thank you, guys. >> a little more than an hour later, members of congress who met with the president spoke with reporters and president to andrewsw heading air force base to leave for the g 20 summit in russia where he will talk with leaders about the case for action in syria. over the next 25 minutes we will hear from leaders from intelligence, armed services, foreign affairs committee as and housency pelosi speaker jon banner after their meeting with the president. >> good morning to all of you.
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the use of chemical weapons is a barbarous act. it is clear to me that the united nations is unable to take action, nato not likely to take action. the united states, for our entire history, has stood up for democracy and freedom for people around the world. the use of these weapons has to be responded to him, and only the united states has the capability and capacity to stop assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated. i appreciate the president reaching out to me and my colleagues in the congress over the last couple of weeks. i also appreciate the president asking the congress to support him in this action.
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this is something that the united states as a country needs to do. i am going to support the president's call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. we have enemies around the world that need to understand that we are not going to tolerate this type of behavior. we also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that america will be there and stand up when it is necessary. >> good morning. the president honored us with his presentation this morning, that he does not take going into a military action lightly, that there are compelling reasons. the intelligence is clear that assad perpetrated this attack using weapons of mass destruction, really. weapons of mass destruction, deterring their use, is a pillar of our national security. assad has done that.
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that is a differentiation from what he has done up until now. people say he killed 100,000 people, so what is the difference with this 1400? this 1400, he crossed the line with using chemical weapons. president obama did not draw a red line. humanity drew it decades ago, 170-some countries supporting the convention on not using chemical weapons. it is really something that from a humanitarian standpoint cannot be ignored, or else we cannot say never again. secondly, from a national security standpoint, it sends a clear message to those who have weapons of the structure of any variety that they should forget about using them. it was a very constructive meeting. the president listened to our colleagues. the speaker was very clear, and
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i am sure he has told you his view. i associated myself with his remarks, about, again, i believe the american people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action, and that is that the responsibility for this chemical weapons use is clearly at the feet of assad. now we go to the next step of having further debate in the congress of the united states. and i'm hopeful, as the american people are persuaded that assad did this, that hundreds of children were killed. this is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior, and we must respond. >> are you ready then to, with your membership, getting on board with the president,
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because we have been hearing from the house all over the place? >> on these kinds of issues it is not a question of -- it is a question of discussion, make sure that people have the information they need to make informed decisions, to make sure they have the full value of the intelligence that says this is how this happened. then members have to decide -- they want to ignore the fact that this humanitarian disaster took place or not? then there is the larger issue of syria's behavior, if they get away with this. again, very respectful of all of
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the concerns that the members have, that our constituents have. in my district i do not think people are convinced that military action is necessary, but it is important for them to know that the weapons of mass destruction's use has taken us to a different place, that the president takes obviously -- any president would -- but this president does not take this lightly, and what happens will be targeted, tailored, of short duration, and will send the necessary measures, and we go from there. it is not a rush to whipping, of members discussing, and some will not be comfortable with it. i, from the humanitarian standpoint, think that waiting for the u.n. and waiting for putin to react to the chemical
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weapons use by assad is a luxury we cannot afford. i have to go. thank you all, very much. >> do you want to compare this to the holocaust? >> no, no. i'm thinking more of rwanda. i do not think of risk will reject, but i want to remind you because i have reading what some of you have written to say that the president has never gone forward if congress has not approved, when it has taken up the issue. i remind you in 1999, president clinton brought us all together similar to this meeting here, but over a time to talk about going into the balkans. the vote was 213-213. 187 republicans voted no, about 30 on each side, something like that went in a different way than the majority of their party.
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that was when the planes were really ready to go into bosnia. he went, and you know what happened there. i do not think the congressional authorization is necessary. it is a good thing, and i hope we can achieve it, and i look pretty confident on the evidence, the intelligence about the national interest that is at stake that we have a good conversation to have with our members. i myself -- i will tell you the story and then i have to go -- my grandson, as i was leaving san francisco yesterday, said to me, mimi, war with syria -- are you yes war with syria or no war with syria? five years old. we are talking not about war, but an action. yes or no? i said, what do you think? i think no war. i generally agree with that, but they have killed hundreds of
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children there. they have killed hundreds of children. and he said, five years old, were these children in the united states? and i said, no, that they are children wherever they are. i do not know what news he is listening to, but a five-year old child, with the wisdom, how does it affect our interests? it was outside the circle of civilized behavior, where humanity drew a line decades ago that i think if we ignore we do so to imperil many other people who would suffer. i go back to the point in the balkans, congress, failed for lack of majority, but president clinton went in. >> [indiscernible]
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>> i think that is a subject of discussion. some people want it broader and some people want it more narrow. that is an open discussion. >> i want to hear what my members have to say. thank you. >> as chairman of the senate intelligence committee, i am fully supportive of the president's action. i think it is key and critical. i think it is important to the security of the world, and particularly, the middle east. we are this afternoon -- we have a meeting of the intelligence
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committee to see all members are briefed, as representatives and i have been, and we will have a second meeting on thursday. the meeting we just attended, actually in my 20 years, was one of the best i have been to. it was thoughtful, it was considered. the president made the case, secretary of state made the case. i think the discussion was appropriate, and my hope is members left this meeting with a great sense of purpose, and that purpose is to get this passed in both houses. >> i agree with senator feinstein. that was one of the most effective bipartisan meetings
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that i have been a part of since i have been in congress -- democrats and republicans, working on an issue that is important not only to the american people, but to the world. the first issue is, it is clear throughout the world, not only with the united states, that you have the assad regime using chemical weapons to kill his own people, including over 400 children, probably around 1200 people right now that have been killed because of chemical weapons. the world decided years ago that chemical weapons would never be used, and yet we have a situation now where we have a regime that is using chemical weapons. we have to deal with this, not just the united states, but the world. we have to deal first with the humanitarian issue, so we do not allow anyone, whether assad, al qaeda, whether iran, north korea, to be able to use chemical weapons without any accountability whatsoever. it is a major issue. the united states has resources that no other country has, but
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we cannot be a sheriff for the whole world either. we are coalescing countries who are coming together to understand how serious this issue is as far as chemical weapons is concerned. we must do something. if we do nothing of now and allow this to go on, it sends a message that chemical weapons will be used. if we do not deal with it now, it will continue to go on, also with weapons of mass destruction. the issue of congress being involved is important, because we need to educate members and also we have to educate the american people -- how important the issue is, how we are acting, why we are acting, and what are the consequences if we do not act. we're not going to have another iraq or afghanistan. it is to deal with the issue and to hold assad accountable for
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using chemical weapons killing women and children. >> [indiscernible] >> i think right now the focus is to deter chemical weapons, but what will happen if this occurs, if it does occur, is it will hurt more right now. it will hurt his regime. it will make them weaker, no matter what occurs, because of the focus we have in holding him accountable for using chemical weapons. >> let me say strongly i think it is important we support the president, it is important it is bipartisan. i hope we have heavy votes in both the house and the senate. as my colleagues have mentioned, we are talking about weapons of mass destruction. this is a war crime. to turn weapons of mass destruction on your own
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population is the most despicable thing that any one can do. if we did not respond in kind, it was sending message every thug, every dictator, every terrorist group in the world that you can commit war crimes and murder your own citizens impunity and nothing is going to happen. the other side of this is iran, hezbollah, and other enemies are watching. they're watching to see how we handle this. when we tell iran they are not allowed to have a nuclear weapon, iran is watching us reon in syria as a test of how we will respond if and when they create a nuclear weapon. i think american credibility is on the line. it is certainly in the best interest of the united states. we have the capacity to do this. i believe the states stand for something. we stand for human rights. we stand for what should be done. since world war i we have said that weapons of this kind cannot be allowed to use. i support the president. i think we should also the degrading assad's military because i think that just to have a strike is fine, to send a
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message, but we have to be careful. as long as that man is in charge of syria, there's always going to be a problem and ultimately we want to talk about a post- assad syria. all those reasons, a military response, in the national interest -- we need to do what the president is asking us to do. >> are you confident the president is interested or open to a pinpoint strike that, as you say, would degrade the capabilities and not be a limited or tailored strike? >> the president made it clear he is not talking about a pinpoint strike. he is talking about a strike that has teeth, that sends the
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message that weapons of mass destruction on your own people is unacceptable, but a message that tells assad we are not going to let him stay where he is and wreak havoc and rain terror on his people. i think it is going to need both. >> what is the u.s. prepared to do in a broader strategy? >> i think the message will be loud and clear, and i think we are taking a first step and are confident it is going to work. >> [indiscernible] about why he made the decision on saturday, why he came to that conclusion? >> we did not go into what the details are, but the president has said he feels this is something where the president and congress does together. it is stronger if we can speak with one voice, stronger if both the executive branch and the legislative branches are saying
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the same thing, and i think he expects us to get the but -- look, there are a lot of people who are questioning this. we have our work today. he have to convince the american people, the congress, that this is morally right to do, and i think we will. >> was anyone in the meeting questioning this? >> questioning? >> military action? >> they made a compelling case that on a humanitarian basis that this is something that the united states is uniquely positioned to do. i think it was a very compelling case when you're talking about the slaughter of men, women, and children. i will always remember the pictures of those poor children foaming at the mouth and then dying. and i think we are in a position to help, and i think the president was very compelling today. >> [indiscernible] >> i cannot talk to every single
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leader, but the general consensus is strongly to support the president, and it was in both parties. the leadership in both parties in that meeting will support the president in doing this. >> was he talking about his trip to russia? >> the president said he would be speaking with other world leaders during his trip, but did not going to details. >> would the president go at it alone? >> i think congress will vote for it, once people understand what this stake is. it is humanitarian, and we cannot allow it to go unchecked, and is also in the u.s. national interest. hezbollah, a terrorist group, and iran are watching us. we absolutely have a stake, and it is not just syria. the military aspect of it. there is a compelling case that the president made to us. he will make it to individual members. the vote will be positive.
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thank you. i think that the resolution as a result will be narrowed to give the president lets you need to out a strike and to give people in the sense and the feeling that this is not going to an ongoing thing with no end. americans are weary and so when my. thank you. i think there is a compelling case to be made. i support him. when other people hear the case, they will support him. there is no doubt in my mind that chemical weapons were used and that assad's people use the
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evidence -- usually weapons. there is all kinds of evidence to things were intercepted to where the gas was used. there's just no doubt in my mind. that is something they are .uestioning now we have to make the case to the american people. >> administration officials testified for four hours today to seek congressional authorization to use military force in syria. there is a proposal being drafted for action against syria. it will possibly lasts less than 50 days. the senate foreign relation committee hosting secretary of state john kerry, secretary of
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generalchuck hagel and dempsey to get started on a resolution. and 40 three hours minutes. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> say no to war in syria! we cannot afford another war. we need education in healthcare in our country. no more war in syria.
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>> this hearing of the committee will come to order. let me first say that i know that actions of approval or disapproval of the audience -- we welcome you to be here but we welcome you to be observers of this important occasion. the chair will not tolerate actions that are in violation of
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the committee rules. let me welcome secretary kerry back to the committee that he chaired, secretary care on the committee he served on, and the chairman -- secretary hagel on the committee he served on, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. we are asked to make one of the most ethical decisions, the authorization of the use of military power. this time to respond to the horrific to michael attack of chemical attack of august 21 that took the lives of 1429 syrians, including at least 426 children. the images of that day are sickening.
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in my view the world cannot ignore the inhumanity and horror of this act. i do not take our responsibility to ought to rise military force lightly or make such decisions easily. i voted against the war in iraq and strongly have supported a withdrawal of u.s. troops from afghanistan. but today i support the president's decision to use military force in the face of this horrific crime against humanity. yes there are risks to action. but the consequences of inaction are greater and greater still reedit further humanitarian disaster in syria, regional instability to my the loss of american -- regional instability, the loss of american credibility, and the disintegration of international law. this decision will be one of the most difficult any of us will be
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asked to make. it is our role as representatives of the american people to make it. to put aside political differences and personal ideologies, to forget partisanship and free conceptions, to forget the polls, politics, and even personal consequences. it is a moment for a profile encourage to do what one knows is right. -- a profile in courage to do what one knows is right. at the end of the day, each of us with the site -- will decide whether to vote for or against military action based on our assessment of the facts and the conscience. the decision rests with us. it is not political. it is a policy decision that must be based, i believe, on what we believe is the national security interests of the united states.
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to be clear, the authorization we ultimately seek is for a focused action with a clear understanding that american troops will not be on the ground in combat and the language before us is a starting point. the president has decided to ask congress for our support. now the eyes of the world are on us. the decision we make, the resolution we present to the senate, and the votes we take will reverberate around the world. our friends and allies away our decisions -- and allies will weigh our decisions. what we do in the face of a chemical attack by the assad
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regime against innocent civilians will send a signal to the world that such weapons in violation of international law cannot be used with impunity. the question is, will be sent a message that the united states will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world by anyone for any reason? will we, in the name of all that is human and decent, authorize the use of military power against the inexcusable, and discriminate, and immoral use of chemical weapons? or will be standdown? what message do we stand -- do we send the world when such crimes go unpunished? will they use these weapons again? will they use them more widely and
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kill more children? will they use them against our allies, against our troops, against our embassies, or will they give in give them to terrorists who will use them against us here at home? are we willing to watch a slaughter just because the patrons of that slaughter are willing to use their veto at the united nations to allow it to happen so that their beneficiary can stay in power? and are we so tired of war that we are willing to silence our conscience and accept the consequences that will inevitably flow from the silence to our national interest? we will hear the arguments and the options presented to us today and we will look at the facts as we know them, according to the declassified assessment released last friday that secretary kerry has so passionately presented to the nation. according to that assessment, we know with high confidence that the syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the damascus suburbs on august 21. we know the assad regime has stockpiled chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and other gases and has thousands of munitions capable of delivering.
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we know that personal involvement in the program are carefully vetted to ensure loyalty to the regime and security to the program. we have evidence chemical weapons have been used on a smaller scale against the opposition on several other locations in the past year, including in the damascus suburbs. the sarin gas has been used on some of those occasions and it was not the opposition that used it. we know that chemical weapons personnel from the syrian scientific studies and research center, subordinate to the regime's ministry of defense, while operating in the damascus suburb from sunday, august 18 until earning the morning august 21, near an area the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including serendipity and --
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including sarin. spatial intelligence have shown preparations of chemical weapons prior to the attack, including the distribution of gas masks. satellite collaboration -- instruct areas where the chemical attack reportedly occurred. clearly tying the pieces together. that is what we know in terms of who deploy these weapons. more evidence is available and we will be looking at all of the classified information in a closed session of the committee tomorrow that more clearly establishes the use of chemical weapons by the regime, the military responses available to us, and the results we expect from those responses. as of now, in my view, there is a preponderance of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that assad's forces targeted civilians with chemical weapons
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grade having said that, at the end of the data chemical weapons attack against innocent civilians in syria is an indirect attack on america's security with broader applications for the region and the world. a precedent will be set for the deterrence of use of weapons with the use of military force that sends a message that the world will not stand down. we will either send a message to syria, iran, north korea, and any other nonstate actors that the world will not tolerate the senseless use of chemical weapons by anyone. or we will choose to stand silent in the face of horrific human suffering. we need to consider the consequences of not acting. our silence would be a message to the ayatollah that america will not stop syria in the acquiring of chemical weapons. our silence would embolden kim
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jong-un, who has a large chemical weapons cachet and would send a message that we are not serious about protecting south korea from the use of chemical weapons. and it would double terrorist efforts to acquire chemical weapons. clearly, at the end of the day our national security is at stake. i want to thank the witnesses to present the facts as they know them. at the end of the day we will decide whether to send a message to the world -- there are lines we cannot cross a civilized human beings or stand silence in the face of threats. the president is asking for the authorization for use of limited force. it is not his intention or ours to involve ourselves fully in syria's civil war. what is before us is a request, "to prevent or deter the use or proliferation of chemical
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biological weapons to protect the united states and its allies and partners against a threat posed by such weapons ergo this is an -- by such weapons ergo -- by such weapons,: this is not a declaration of war. we know the facts, we will hear the arguments, we will have the debate, and then it will be up to each of us to search our conscience and make a decision on behalf of the american people. i trust that we can achieve that in a bipartisan way. i have been working with senator corker as we move towards a resolution. i hope we will get bogged -- get broad but partisan support freedom i just want to acknowledge the president -- bipartisan support.
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i just want to acknowledge -- i think you for being here with us. senator corker? >> i thank you for your comments. i want to thank our witnesses for being here, not only for their service to our country in their current capacity but in their service in every way for many years. i thank you for being here. today your beginning the formal request of tasking each of us to make the most important incision many of us will make during our tenure in the united states senate. i have noticed a distinct sense of humility as we have gone about the various questions, conference calls, and earlier meetings we have had today and previously this week. i know that every member here knows that whether they decide to support an authorized nation for the use of military force are not -- notary force or not, they are making a decision about our country's national interest.
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i know everybody is going to be taking that decision very very seriously. one of the issues that many members will have is the fact is that should be supports an authorization for the use of military force -- everyone knows i am generally inclined to do so and working closely with senator menendez for something that will be a starting point for this committee's discussion. i know each member will have its input and have its imprint on what it is that we end up deciding to vote upon. one of the problems that members have, and i think this hearing and tomorrow's hearing is important to answer, while we make policy, you implement. the implementation of this is very important.
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i think there have been mixed signals about what the implementation actually is going to mean and the effect it is going to have on the country that we are involved in. i want to say that i was just in the region, as i know many people have been. i am still totally dismayed at the lack of support we are giving to be vetted moderate opposition. we publicly's dated what that support is going to be -- buckley stated what that support is going to be, even though it is going to be carried out in a covert way.
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our policy is we are going to train, equip, if humanitarian aid to the vested opposition and yet when you sit down with the people who are coalescing around, very little of that has occurred. i know that the case has to be made and i know that each of us have had the opportunity to hear that case, to see intelligence, to understand on what basis these claims have been made great my guess is that most everyone here fully believes that chemical weapons has been used on civilians to a large degree. i know that case is going to be made to the american people today as you're making it to us. it is my hope that a big part of what you're going to do here today, and i know we talked about this earlier this morning at the white house, but it is to make a case as to why syria is important to our national
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interests, why syria matters to the region, why it is important for us to carry out this strategy and how we are going to continue to carry out that stated strategy. one of the things i do not want to see in this authorization is, after it is authorized and force takes place, i want to see us continue to carry out the strategy that has been stated, and that is building the capacity of the vetted moderate opposition. i would like to have you today also address how the use of military force supports that strategy, how it is going to affect the region and the aftermath. i thank you for being here today. i know a big part of what we're discerning today and what we are making decisions upon is the credibility of the united states of america. i know the people in the region are watching. i know that we have been hesitant to move on with many of the activities that we have stated we are going to the carrying out. today i hope that each of you will bring clarity to this. i know we are going to talk about chemical warfare.
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i hope you will give us even more clarity about our opposition, strengthening, and how this will affect us overall. i hope we will all leave here today with a clear understanding of how the strategy is going to be carried out. i thank you and i look forward to your testimony. >> secretary kerry? >> members of the committee, ranking member corker, thank you very much for having us here today. we look forward to this opportunity to be able to share with you president obama's vision with respect to not just this action, but as senator corker has a choir -- has inquired appropriate lee about syria itself and in the course of action in the middle east -- inquired appropriately, about syria itself, and the course of action in the middle east. as we convene for this debate --
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it is not an exaggeration to say to all of you, my former colleagues, that the world is watching not just to see what we decide, but it is watching to see how we make this decision, whether in a dangerous world we can still make our government speak with one voice. they want to know if america will rise to this moment and make a difference. and the question of whether to authorize military action is come as you have said -- is, as you have said, this is obviously one of the most important decisions and responsibilities of this committee or any senator in the course of their career. the president and the administration appreciates that you have returned quickly to the
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nation's capital to address it and that your appropriately beginning a process of focusing great care in great position, which is the only way to approach the potential use of military power. ranking member corker, i know you wanted to discuss, as you have said, why syria matters to our national security and our strategic interests. i look forward, with secretary hegel and general dempsey, to laying that out here this afternoon. but first, it is important to explain to the american people why we are here. it is important for people who may not have caught every component of the news over the course of labor day weekend to
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join us, all of us, in focusing in on what is at stake here. that is why the president of the united states made a decision as he did, contrary to what many people thought he would do, of asking the congress to join on this decision. we are stronger as a nation when we do that. the assad regime and only undeniably the assad regime unleashed an outrageous chemical attack against its own citizens. we are secure because a dictator and his family's personal enterprise, in their lust to hold onto power, were willing to affect -- to infect the air of damascus that -- the air of damascus with a poison that killed mothers and fathers and children. some people amazingly have questioned the evidence of this assault on conscience.
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i repeat again today that only the most willful desire to avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it. it it happen. and the assad regime did it. i remember iraq. secretary hegel remembers iraq. general dempsey especially remembers iraq. secretary hegel and i and you on the day us remember iraq and a special way because we were here for that vote. we voted. we are especially sensitive, chuck and i, to never again asking any member to take a vote on all t intelligence. -- on faulty intelligence. that is why our intelligence committee has scrubbed and re- scrub the evidence. we have declassified
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unprecedented amount of information and we ask the american people and the rest of the world to judge that information. we can tell you beyond any reasonable doubt that our evidence proves the assad regime prepared for this attack, issued instructions to prepare for this attack, warned its own forces to use gas masks -- we have physical evidence of where the rockets came from and when. not one landed in regime- controlled territory. not one. all of them landed in opposition control over contested territory. we have a map, geographical
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evidence, showing the impact and its concrete. within minutes of the attack, 92 , the social media exploded with horrific images of the damage that had been caused sprawled on the hospital floor with no wounds or blood but all dead. of human chaos and desperation were not contrived. it they were real. no one could contrive such a scene. are certain none of the opposition has the weapons are the capacity to effect a strike at this scale particularly from the heart of regime territory. just think about it in logical terms, common sense. with high confidence, our intelligence community says after the strike regime issued and then fretted
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about the know, possibility of human inspectors discovering evidence of then they began to systematically try to destroy it. contrary to my discussion with their foreign minister who said we are nothing to hide. i said if you have nothing to hide, let the inspectors in today and let it be unrestricted. it was not, and they did not. it took four days of shelling before they finally allowed the men under prearranged structure. we have now where the hair and blood samples from first responders in east damascus have
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tested positive for sarin. i can tell you we know things beyond a reasonable doubt for the standard we send people to jail for lives. we're here because of what happened two weeks ago, but also we're here because of what happened nearly a century ago. in the darkest moments of world war i when the vast majority of the world came together to declare that no uncertain terms that chemical weapons crossed the lines and must be the end for use from ever. over the years that followed, over 180 countries, including iran, iraq and russia agreed and joined the chemical weapons convention. even countries with whom we agree on little, agreed on that conviction. some have tried to suggest the debate we're having today is
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about president obama is red line. i could not more forcefully state that is just plain and simply wrong. this is about the world redlined, humanities red line. a line that anyone with a conscious ought to drop. this is about congress up red line. you agreed to the chemical weapons convention. you the congress have spoken out about grave consequences if assad use chemical weapons. i said to you, that is one of the reasons why a assyria is important. as we debate and the world watches and you decide in the world wonders, not whether the regime executed the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, that fact i think is now beyond question. the world wonders whether united
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states of america will consent through silence to standing aside will this -- while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence. in the nearly 100 years since the first global commitment against chemical weapons, only to tyrants there to cross the world's brightest minds. now he has become the third. i think all of you know that history holds nothing but empty for those criminals. history reserves all so very
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little sympathy for the enablers. so the reality is the gravity of this moment. that is the importance of the decision that this congress bases and the world is waiting to learn about in these next days. a ranking member corker the central question, why should americans care, beyond what i just said, which ought to be enough in the judgment of the president and this administration? well, it is clear that in addition to what i have just mentioned about the syria accountability act and threats to the middle east, we cannot overlook the impact of chemical weapons and the danger they pose to a particularly volatile area of the world in which we have been deeply invested four years.
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because we have great friends here yet we of allies. deep interest there. since president obama's policy is that assad must go, if it's not insignificant that the -- to deprive him of the capacity to use chemical weapons or to degrade the capacity to use chemical weapons actually in this ongoing civil war, and that has an impact. that can help to stabilize the region alternately. in addition, we have strategic national security interests. to avoid the creation of the safe haven in syria or the base of operation for extremists to use the weapons against our friends. all of us know the extremes of both sides are there waiting in the wings, working -- pushing and fighting.
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they would be desperate to get their hands on these materials. the fact is if nothing happens to begin to change the current calculation, that area can become even more so an area of ungoverned space extremists threaten either the united states or more immediately, allies and friends of ours like jordan, israel, lebanon on or others. forcing him to change the calculation about the ability to act with impunity can contribute to his realization that he cannot gas or shoot his way out of his predicament. it has been the president's primary goal to achieve a negotiated resolution, but you have to have party is prepared to negotiate to achieve that. syria is important because quite simply, i cannot put this to you more plainly, then to just ask each of you to ask yourself, if
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you are assad or any one of the other despots in the region and the united states steps back from this moment together with our other allies and friends, what is the message? the message is he has been granted impunity. the freedom to choose the weapons again or force us to go through the cycle again with who knows what outcome after once refusing it. we would grant him the capacity to use the weapons against more people with greater levels of damage because we would have stood and stepped away. as confidently as we know what happened in damascus on august 21, we know that stepping away
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is an invitation to use it with impunity. opportunity for dictators to pursue their own weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. i will tell you there are some people hoping the united states congress is hoping to not vote for this proposal. iran is looking for us to look the other way. hezbollah is hoping isolationism will prevail. north korea is hoping ambivalence carries the day. they are all listening for our silence. if we do not answer assad today, we will erode a standard that has existed for those 100 years. in fact, we will erode the standard that has protected our
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own troops in war, and we will invite even more dangerous tests down the road. our allies and partners are also counting on us in the situation. the people of israel, jordan, turkey, each look next door in see they are one stiff breeze away from the potential of being hurt, of the civilians being killed as the consequences of choices assad might take in the absence of action. they anxiously await our assurance that our word means something. they await the assurance that if children lined up in shrouds were their own children would keep the world promise. that is what they're hoping. the authorization that president obama seeks is definitively in the national security interest.
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we need to send a message to the dictators, allies, 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. so this is a vote for accountability. norms and laws keep the civilized world civil mean nothing if they're not enforced. as justice jackson said at the nuremberg trial, the ultimate step and avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make states men responsible to the law. if the world's worst despot sees they can flaunt against the world's best weapons, then those
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prohibitions are just pieces of paper. that is what we mean by accountability. that is what we mean by we cannot be silent. let me be clear, president obama is not asking america to go to war. i say that sitting next to two men who know what war is. senator mccain knows what war is. they know the difference between going to war, and what president obama is requesting now. we all agree there will be no american boots on the ground. the president has made crystal clear we have no intention of assuming responsibility for syria's civil war. asking only for the power to make clear, to make certain the united states means what we say, that the world, when we join together in a multilateral statement means what we say.
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he is asking for authorization to degrade and deter the capacity to use chemical weapons. some will undoubtedly ask, and i think appropriately, what about the unintended consequences? some feared retaliation that leads to a larger conflict. let me put it bluntly. if assad is arrogant enough, and i would say foolish enough to retaliate to the consequences of his own criminal activity, the united states and allies have ample ways to make him regret the decision without going to war. even his supporters say publicly that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. some will also question the extent of our responsibility. to them i say, when someone
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kills hundreds of children with a weapon the world has banned, we are all responsible. that is true because of the geneva convention and chemical weapons convention. for us, the syria accountability act. it is also true because we share a common humanity and common decency. this is not the time for armed armchair isolationism. this is not the time to be spectators slaughtered. we have spoken up against unspeakable horror many times in the past. now we must and up and act and protect our security, protect our values, and lead the world with conviction that is clear about our responsibility. thank you. >> [inaudible]
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>> the committee will be in order. the committee will be in order. please restore order. >> nobody supports launching cruise missiles. the american people do not want this. >> secretary hagel. >> the first time i testified before this committee when i was 27-years-old, i had feelings very similar to that protester. i would say that is exactly why it is so important 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. i think we all could respect those who have a different point
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of view, and we do. >> mr. chairman, thank you. chairman menendez, senator corker, and members of the committee, as we all know in the coming days, congress will debate how to respond to the most recent chemical weapons attack in syria. large scale gas attacks perpetrated by the syrian government against its own people. as a former senator and a member of this committee, i welcome this debate, and i strongly support president obama's decision to seek congressional authorization for the use of force in syria. as each of us knows, committing the country to using military force is the most difficult decision america's leaders can make. as ranking member cooker noted.
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all of us that are privileged to serve the nation have the responsibility to ask tough questions before the commitment is made. the american people must be assured leaders are acting according to u.s. national interest with well-defined military objectives. with an understanding of the risks and the consequences and -- involved. the president, along with the entire national security team asked those questions before we concluded that the united states should take military action i want to express how we reach this decision by clarifying the military objectives and risk of not acting at this critical juncture. as president obama said, the use of chemical weapons is syria is not only an assault on humanity,
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it is a serious threat to america's national security interests and those of our closest allies. the syrian regime's use of chemical weapons poses a grave risk to friends and partners along syria's border, including israel, jordan, turkey, lebanon, and iraq. if assad is prepared to use chemical weapons against his own people, we have to be concerned that terrorist groups that have forces in syria would acquire them. and would use them. that risk of chemical weapons proliferation poses a direct threat to our friends, partners and the u.s. personnel in the region. we cannot afford for hezbollah or any terrorist group determined to strike the united states to have a sentence to acquire or use chemical weapons. the regime actions risk eroding the century old international norm against the use of chemical weapons that secretary kerry has
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noted. the norm that has helped protect the united states homeland. weakening this norm would impose regimes to other acquire or use chemical weapons. for example, north korea maintained a mass of stockpile of chemical weapons that threatens the treaty ally, the republic of korea and the 28,000 u.s. troops patient there. i have just returned from asia. we had a very serious and long cover station with the defense minister about the threat, the real threat of the stockpile of chemical weapons. our allies throughout the world must be assured the united states will fulfill commitments. the united states must demonstrate through actions that the use of chemical weapons is
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unacceptable. the president has made it clear that our military objectives in syria would be to hold the regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks, and deter the regime from further use of chemical weapons. the department of defense has developed military options to achieve these objectives and we have assets to successfully execute this measure. we believe we can achieve them. military action would be limited in scope. general dempsey and i have assured the president that u.s. forces will be ready to act whenever the president gives the order. we are also working with our allies and partners in this effort, key partners including france, turkey, saudi arabia and
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other friends who have assured us of their strong support of u.s. action. in defining our military objectives, we made clear that we are not seeking to resolve the underlying conflict through direct military force. instead, we are contemplating actions that are tailored to respond to the use of chemical weapons. a political solution created by the syrian people is the only way to ultimately end the violence in syria. and secretary kerry is leading international efforts to help syria move towards a negotiated transition. a transition that means a free and inclusive syria. we are also committed to doing more to assist the syrian opposition. assad must be held accountable for using these weapons. having defined america's interest and our military objectives, we also must examine the risks and the consequences
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of action, as well as the consequences of inaction. there are always risks in taking action. the regime could feel empowered to carry out even more devastating chemical weapons attacks without a response. chemical weapons make no distinction between combatants and innocent civilians and inflict the worst kind of indiscriminate suffering as we have recently seen. the refusal to act would undermine the credibility of america's other security commitments, including the president's commitment to prevent iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. the word of the united states must mean something.
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every witness here today has served in uniform, fought in a war and seen its ugly realities up close as has already been noted. we understand that our country faces few decisions as grave as using military force. we are not unaware of the costs and ravages of war. we also understand that america must protect its people and its national interest. that is our highest responsibility. all of us who have had the privilege and responsibility of serving this great nation owes the american people, and especially those wearing the uniform of our country, a vigorous debate on how america should respond to this horrific chemical weapons attack in syria. i know everyone on this committee agrees and takes the responsibility of office just as
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seriously as the president as everyone sitting at the table. thank you. >> thank you. i know general dempsey is available to answer questions from the members of the committee. in that regard, let me start off by urging members, tomorrow there will be an intelligence briefing for the committee about the issues at hand a potential military action. in this setting we are obviously somewhat constrained about what we might discuss with greater specificity tomorrow. you make and have made a compelling case, and i think it is important, and i appreciate you reiterating with a high degree of confidence that exists in our intelligence assessments. i think those are conditions that are needed to move forward. this weekend i was at a soccer
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tournament. i had a group of moms come up to me and say, we saw those pictures, they are horrific. we cannot imagine the devastation those parents must feel about to their children, but why us? 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 for the use of force? >> i would say unequivocally that the president's actions will make us more secure, less likely that assad can use weapons, and the absence of taking the action the president has asked for will be far more threatening and dangerous and potentially a ultimately cost
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lives. >> do you consider the consequences of inaction greater than the consequences of action? >> i do. >> general dempsey, what do we envision in broad terms this potential military campaign to be in terms of the effect? what do we expect at the end of any authorized action to see the results look like? what is the expectation? >> thank you, chairman. the task i have been given is to develop military options to deter the regime's calculus about the use of chemical weapons and degrade the ability to do so. that is to say the activities directly related to chemical weapons themselves and the means used to employing them.
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anything further than that i would refer to speak about in a classified setting. >> at me ask you this, in the process of achieving those goals, would there not the a collateral consequence to the regime of further degrading its overall capabilities? >> yes. secretary, we received from the administration a proposed resolution for the authorization of force. of course, that is a negotiation between the congress and the administration. would you tell us whether you believe that a prohibition for having american boots on the ground, is that something the administration would accept as part of a resolution? >> it would be preferable not
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to, not because there is any plan or desire whatsoever to have boots on the ground, i think the president will give you every assurance in the world, as am i, secretary of defense and the chairman, but in the event syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of someone else, then it was clearly in the interest of our allies. i do not have to take off the table an option that might be available to our country. that was the only
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thing i could think of that would immediately lead the mind to say -- >> if we said there would be no troops on the ground for combat purposes, that -- >> whether or not they had to answer in order to be secure,-- i am absolutely confident that it is easy to work out language that will satisfy the congress and the american people that there is no door open here to which someone can march in ways the congress does not want it to while still protecting the national security interest of the country. i am confident that can be worked out. the bottom line is the president has no intention and will not and does not want to put
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american troops on the ground to fight this or be involved in the fighting of the civil war. >> i appreciate that and the response about chemical weapons and the possibility of securing them. i do think we will have to work on language that makes it clear that this is an overriding issue. what do think is the calculus of iran and north korea if we fail to act in what is the calculus of the allies if we fail to act. >> if we fail to act, we will have fewer allies. we are going to have fewer people count on us in the region.
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we have huge doubts right now. i hear them. i have the privilege of talking with many of the leaders of these countries with respect to what they may or may not be inclined to do. i have heard their warnings very clearly about what is at stake in the region. i think it is fair to say that our interest would be seriously set back in many respects if we are viewed as not capable, or willing, to follow through on the things we say matter to us. as i said earlier in my testimony, this really is not president obama's red line. the president drew a line if that anyone that should draw with respect to this convention that we have signed up to, and has been in place since the
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horrors of world war i. the truth is through all of world war ii, vietnam, both gulf wars, afghanistan and iraq, but the combatants in those efforts have never resorted to this use. so i think it is clear with the usages that i referred to that we would be opening pandora's box with respect to a whole set of dangerous consequences as a result of the united states not keeping its word and it would make our life very difficult with respect to north korea and iran. there is no question in my mind that those countries are watching. many are watching what we're doing with great interest. that is why even the quality of the debate in nature of the debate are very important.
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>> thank you, and thank you for your testimony. i want to first thank you for bringing this to congress. i think our foreign policy through the years has been to focused on the administration. i want to thank you for bringing this year and giving an opportunity to have the debate in advance. i want to focus on the strategy with the bedded opposition. i do not know how anybody -- i know of no one who has been to the area and spent time with opposition that is not incredibly dismayed at the lack of progress that is occurring there. i know there is a lot of capacity that has to be built. i know there are interagency discussions about whether we should move to industrial strength training, moving away
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from the kind of activities taking place to build capacity more quickly. i would like for whichever one of you to respond to talk to us for those of you that have been to the region, who are watching what is happening with iraq. why have we been so slow? why have we been so inept at helping build capacity of the opposition we have said publicly that we support? >> well, it's a worthy and important question. i have had a number of meetings since i came in and of the word. -- in february.
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beginning with the meeting in rome, and subsequently and istanbul and jordan. as little as a year ago, no great clarity to the structure of opposition or to the were in -- who they were and they certainly had no experience in this kind of an endeavor. over the course of the year they evolved significantly. are they where they need to be? not completely, but they have changed over the course of the past few months. at our insistence, the insistence of all the supporters, the so-called london 11, they reached out and expanded significantly the base within syria. they elected new leadership.
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they brought in minorities, christians, others. they've built up a much more competent leadership. >> -- i only have a few minutes. what i am aware of why it is so slow in helping them with lethal support. why has that been so slow? >> i think we need to have that discussion tomorrow in classified session. suffice it to say, that is increasing significantly. it has increased incompetency. -- in its competency. i think it has made leaps and bounds. >> i would add that it was june of this year the president made the decision to support legal assistance to the opposition. we have been very supportive
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with hundreds of millions of dollars of non-lethal assistance. the vetting process has been significant. the department of defense has not been directly involved in this. this is a covert action. as secretary kerry noted, probably to go into much more detail would require a closed classified hearing. >> is there anything about authorization you are asking that in any way takes away from our stated strategy of empowering opposition to have the capacity over time to join in with the transition government as we have stated from the beginning? is there anything about this that in any way supplements that?
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>> to your question about opposition, the path to the resolution of the syrian conflict is through a developed capable opposition. we know how to do that. secondly, nothing in this resolution that would limit what we're doing now. we are very focused on the response to chemical weapons. subsequent to that we would probably return to have a discussion about what we might do with the moderate opposition in a more overt way. >> i am very sympathetic to the issue of chemical warfare and what this means to u.s. credibility and what this means to the fact that people are watching in the region and this will have an impact, but i want to say i am not sympathetic regarding the lack of effort that is taking place on the ground as it relates to the opposition.
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i hope the end state that you imagine is something that enhances the strategy we have already laid in place, and i hope you will answer that yes or no at this time. >> the answer to whether i support additional support is yes. >> this authorization will support those activities in addition to responding to the weapons of mass destruction? >> i do not know how the resolution will evolve -- >> what is it you are seeking? >> i cannot answer what we're seeking. >> the action, if it is authorized, but that the consequences of degrading chemical capacity inevitably will also have downstream impact on military capacity.
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>> this authorization is only about weapons of mass destruction? >> that is correct. this authorization is a limited, targeted effort to focus on deterring and degrading the chemical weapons capacity of the assad regime. >> against any other enemy other then the assad regime? >> no, senator. >> is it to be utilized in any other country except inside syria? >> no, senator. >> i will say in response to your answer to senator menendez, i didn't find that a very appropriate response regarding boots on the ground. i do want to say that that is an important element to me. i hope that as we together work through this, we work through something that is much clearer than the answer you gave.
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i do not think, while we all feel the actions by the regime are reprehensible, i did not think there are any of us that are willing to support the responsibility of having combat troops on the ground. >> let me be very clear now, because i do not want anything coming out of the hearing that leaves any door open to any possibility. let's shut the door now as tight as we can. all i did was raise a hypothetical question about some possibility, and i am thinking out loud on how to protect america's interests, but if you want to know if there is any -- the answer is what ever prohibition clarifies it to congress, there will not be american boots on the ground with respect to the civil war. >> thank you. >> thank you for holding this hearing. i ask unanimous consent of my statement be entered into the full record.
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i will answer some think a lot of people have been asking me. i will ask questions about the intel if i can. mr. chairman, thank you for showing as the images of children, because even though it is really hard to look at, we have to look at it. children gasping for air, young bodies lined up in a row should shock the world. the failure to act, i think gives license to use the weapons again and sends a terrible signal to other brutal regimes like north korea. can i thank you for bringing up north korea? how many of us have been there where we see thousands of our troops standing there a stone's throw away from north korea? we need to think about it. maybe because i am california, i
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tend to look at asia, but this is very serious. we see that danger up close when we go to that line. since i came to the senate i voted against the iraq war, but did vote for the use of force against osama bin laden. i voted to support air strikes in serbia but i voted against action in afghanistan. i approached this serious issue in the same way i approach those, with a very heavy hearts and very independent mind. i have heard some of my colleagues compare his decision on syria with the decision to invade iraq in 2003. i believe it is a totally false comparison. you drew that line again. the bush administration prepared to invade and occupy a country with well over 100,000 troops.
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in this case the president has been clear no ground invasion, occupation will have that in the resolution. why should we take any targeted action against syria? not only is it important to keep north korea and mind, but also, allowing the continued use of chemical weapons to go unanswered makes it much more likely that we will see it again in syria and we will see it used may be elsewhere, and terrorists that attain those and use them use them on america on allies and troops, use them against israel and other friends. it makes it more likely. this is key. we will be viewed as a paper tiger when it comes to the nuclear program, and that is dangerous, not only for us and
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our friends, but for the world. in 1997 the senate supported a ban on chemical weapons. by a vote of 74-26. shouldn't an overwhelming vote like that mean something? as should the senate stand behind its word and action? in 2003 we passed the syria accountability act by a vote of 89-4. i wrote that bill with senator santorum. we had huge votes in favor of it. it said acquisitions of weapons of mass destruction threaten the security of the middle east and the national security of the united states. shouldn't an overwhelming vote like that mean something? shouldn't the senate stand behind words and actions? i believe, as secretary kerry
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said and i will reiterate that not only has the president on a line on the use of chemical weapons, and not only has the world done so, but we in the senate did i know there is tremendous reluctance to get involved in another military effort, and sometimes the easiest thing to do is to walk away, but i believe we cannot close our eyes to this clear violation of long- standing international norms. i believe in america's morality, reputation and credibility are on the line. i applaud the administration and president for coming to congress. it is the right thing to do. i will support the targeted effort, but not a blank check to respond to syria unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death. my question involves the intel. i do not know how much you can
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give us, so i will try to make this pretty broad so you can answer it. a lot of people are fearful because of what happened in iraq. i do not know how many intelligence agencies were involved in this. i do not know whether you can disclose that, but my question is, was there any argument about this fact that they agree there is high confidence that these weapons were used by the regime? was there any debate, dissension between the various agencies? >> the intelligence community represented has released a public document, unclassified,
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available for all to see in which they make the judgment with high confidence that the facts are as they have set forth. i think that speaks for itself. >> i will press just a little bit harder here if i can. out of all the different agencies, because i remember in iraq, eventually the word came down everyone agreed, but that we found out there was disagreement. to your knowledge did they all come to the same conclusion? >> i have no knowledge of any agency that was a dissenter or any agency that had an alternative theory. i do know, i think it is safe to
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say they had a whole team that ran the scenario to test the theory to see if they could come up with an alternative you to see who could have done it. >> last question on intel and russia. i read in a publication today that members of the russian parliament will come here to lobby colleagues, to tell colleagues there is no such intelligence, that there is no proof. i met with the russian ambassador several times on this matter. i knew right away they were going to do nothing to help us. how could they make that case, given what they said? -- what you said. >> honestly i do not know. i have had personal
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conversations with the foreign minister. no matter what you show, that is the argument they take. as to why they do that, i will not speculate. the president is leaving this evening to go to st. petersburg for the summit. he will have ample opportunity to hear firsthand from the russian president and i am confident it will have a discussion about it. >> thank you. >> i want to add. i think it is important not to get into unnecessary struggle over this for a lot of reasons. the russians are cooperating in this effort to try to make a negotiated process work. i think they are serious about trying to make the way forward.
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on major issues like start, north korea, iran, the russians are cooperating. we have to deal with this thought fully and hope that the president might have a change of heart. >> first of all, let me say that i have seen the pictures of what happened and have been seeing pictures for two years of what has been going on over there. you cannot have an ounce of compassion and not be moved tremendously by what has been happening there. it is horrendous. there has been 100,000 people killed. we all know that these people have used gas on multiple occasions, but the deaths have
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only been in the hundreds and not the thousands. all of this is moving, no doubt about it. nonetheless, i am reluctant. if this was an attack about any american interest, this would be a no-brainer for me. i am reluctant at this point. part of this stems from where this is going to go as to the limit we're going to put on it. you said you met with the counterpart in russia. first of all, you say they are cooperating on all major issues. i did not view them as cooperating. they're printing them currency, providing them with information, technology, a tremendous amount of military power. the question i have is, what is your counterpart telling you as to what they are going to do when and if america pulls the
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trigger? >> senator, i understand reluctance about this. i asked you to confront a greater reality if we do not do something. if you think it is bad today, think about what happens if they confirm the suspicion that the united states is not going to do anything. one of the reasons he has been using the materials is because they have up until now made that the west at large will not do anything about it. impunity is already working to kill a lot of people and make things more dangerous. i guarantee you that is in the assessment. if we make it worse by not doing something, worse than that, our
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interests will be set back. israel will be a greater risk. jordan will be a greater risk. the longer this goes on, the more you will see the humanitarian crisis grow. we are ready the largest contributor because of the generosity of american people. we are already the largest contributor to refugee camps on the borders. many of you have been to them. you want to see them grow? you want to see jordan -- >> of course not. >> i believe the best way to curb that and reduce the threat is by acting. >> i do not disagree with anything you have said, but let's take that and expand on it.
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are we going to give them credibility if we go in with a limited strike and the day after our week after and the month after he crawls out of the rat hole and says, i stood up to the strongest power on the face of the earth and i won? so now it is business as usual. he may say i will not use chemical weapons anymore but will continue to use conventional weapons, and we will go on with business as usual and thousands will be killed and allies will say what is the matter with the united states, you said you would do something about this. you did a limited strike, but did not finish him off. the problem is just as bad as it was. what does that do to the credibility? that concerns me. >> let me speak to that. a good question. first of all, i think general dempsey will be able to tell you
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he may be able to crawl out of the hole and say i survived but no way with reality and other assessments he will be able to say he is better off. there is no question that he and the military effort will not be better off. opposition will know that and people in syria will know that. already today just with a threat that action may be taken, defections have gone up, and people in syria are reconsidering whether it is a long-term bet. moreover, general dempsey has made it clear and the president has made it clear, that there will be additional support to the opposition that is only now in the third month of receiving
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or about to receive -- that they are about to receive that the process will increase. >> my time is almost up. i really want to get a handle on this. i need to be reassured on this. the other thing that really troubles me is what happens if this gets away from us? since the last war, hezbollah has really beefed up. what will the response be? >> i have been on the phone today and appeal confident it will be able to do was a miscalculation. the rest of the community,
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turks, jordanians, saudis, united states, france and others all have a capacity. as i said in my statement, you have to make the calculations. if he is foolish enough to respond to the world enforcement's against criminal activity, if he does, he will invite something far worse and something i believe absolutely unsustainable. there are plenty of options here. russia does not have an ideological commitment here. this is a geopolitical transactional commitment. our indications are in many regards that is the way they view it. there may be more weapons but
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will not elicit some kind of dangerous confrontation. they have condemned the use of chemical weapons. the russians have. the iranians have. as the proof of the use becomes even more clear, i think it will be more difficult for iran and russia to decide against the evidence that there is something worth defending. this is the kind of calculation you have to make. the calculation if we do not respond. if we don't respond, we are going to be back here asking you to respond to some greater confrontation with greater potential for damage and danger because somebody miscalculated as a result of believing the united states isn't good for what it says. that will invite much greater
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danger for the american people, much greater risk or our armed forces, and conceivably, much greater chances of a conflagration that we don't want to see. >> thank you, mr. chairman. foret me thank all of you being here but also thank you very much for your service. senator corker, i thank you for arranging this hearing. it is very clear that the type of conduct that president assad has done in syria, the pattern of his actions creating a humanitarian crisis, and now the use of chemical weapons. the evidence that has been presented, it is clear that we have to respond. a military response is justified. , and the your efforts way you have described it is what i think we need to do. we have to have a tailored
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mission that deals with integrating and deterring the use of chemical weapons. -- degrading and deterring the use of chemical weapons. it has to be done in a way that the text civilians the best we can. it is going to be a very limited duration. i want to come back to the point that the chairman raised in your own comments. you said we should shut that door as tightly as possible when dealing with putting our troops on the ground in syria. i have read the resolution that you presented to us. i think it is rotter and what you have -- broader than what you have stated. i understand that and i understand the president's strong desire to keep the mission very tight. it certainly does not close the door on the introduction of ground troops. i have also heard your comments about the unexpected, something could happen. i would just point out that the president as commander-in-chief
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has the authority, the inherent authority to act in urgent situations when time requires that action. i would suggest as you have come to congress for this authorization, if circumstances change and there's time to come to congress, you will have the opportunity to come back to congress and seek our participation. we are a separate antigovernment as you recall. i want to urge you in the strongest possible terms to work with our leadership to draft a resolution that is as tight as we can make it to allow you to carry out the mission that you have defined here today. so that we can go back and tell the american people that we in congress are supporting your action but are not leaving the open door for the introduction of american troops into syria. about thetalk specific military operations and i am going to leave most of this for tomorrow in our discussions. i just want general dempsey and
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secretary hagel to understand whether the mission is to degrade the weapons and deter the use of chemical weapons, have you put into that equation the fact that obviously syria is aware that we are contemplating military action and therefore may try to change the equation during this. of time to make it -- this period of time to make it more difficult to carry out that mission? >> yes, senator, it has. time works both ways. you recall about a week and a half ago or was a significant week of military planning that caused the regime to react. time works both ways. we have some significant intelligence capabilities and we continue to to refine our targets. have issued your
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concern about military involvement in syria, that it could draw a sin in a way that we do not want be drawn into an internal conflict. are you also putting into your tos ways -- plans ways prevent that trying in of america into the internal conflict in syria? >> senator, we are. as i noted in my opening statement, we have taken great in looking atime all, not only the options to present to the president, but to continue -- contingencies that may be a consequence of the president's selecting one of those options including what you have just noted. it is imperfect. as i said and i think everyone recognizes, there is always risk. we have tried to minimize that risk in every way we can. it president has insisted on that collateral damage across
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the board. we have taken a lot of time to focus exactly on your point. >> secretary kerry, you point out that we don't act, we are liable to lose some friends. i want to point out, we have a direct interest here. we not only have a humanitarian reason to respond to the use of chemical weapons, we have a direct american interest in that region and we have americans that are in that region that are at risk if additional chemicals are used. i see a direct connection to u.s. interests. you say we might use some friends if we don't act. why don't we have more participation in the u.s. military response in addition to just support? it seems to me that this appears to be -- we understand america will be the lead but it doesn't seem like we have a growing list of countries that are actively joining us in the military
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operations. >> well, first of all, there is no definitive list at this point in time because the president has not made a decision as to his is ethically -- as to specifically which set of choices he is going to operate on. secondly, as many countries as we could conceivably need to be able to be helpful in a limited operation have volunteered to be helpful, and they stand ready to take part in any specific operation, and we are very comfortable with that. but the bottom line in many ways remains that we are talking about very specific kinds of capacities that in some cases, only the united states of america possesses. and so that remains open. it is a process that will evolve as this debate evolves, as the president makes his decisions and the joint chiefs of staff of
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the military present him with the various options, and those will probably evolve as you mentioned, we will make adjustments in syria and i can ensure the syrians that general dempsey and his people will make adjustments as time goes on. >> i would hope we would have stronger international participation. is there consideration of a role for nato to play here, considering that turkey is on the direct front line here on the use of chemical weapons? is that being considered? >> as you say, is it being considered, everything is being considered, and all obese things -- all of these things are being evaluated. discussions have taken place. i will be meeting on saturday
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with european ministers and i know this topic will come up. most of them are all of them are members of nato. we will have discussions when we are there. at the moment, this is a limited operation with the scope of support that the president makes the judgment that we ought to have. we will have very broad -- we have already very broad -- we have had some 53 nations or countries and organizations have acknowledged that chemical weapons were used here and have condemned it publicly. 31 nations and stated publicly that the assad regime is responsible, and 34 countries have indicated that the allegations are true and they would support some form of action against syria. there's a broad coalition
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that is growing of people that think we ought to take action against syria, but but the question is whether or not it makes sense for whatever number to be part of it is a decision that our military and the president have to make as we go along here. >> i will reserve the rest of the questions for the closed session. senator rubio. >> order. the gentleman will sit down or i will have the officer remove you. make sure the committee is in order. [indiscernible] >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me begin by answering a question i get asked a lot as we discussed this very important issue, that is why we even care about what is happening in syria. i think my belief reflects the belief of most of this committee. what happens in syria is of vital national interest to our national security.
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the syrian relationship with iran is significant. significant. it is a key part of their regional power. iranians love to brag that syria gives them a border with israel. it is a supporter of hamas, hezbollah. it is also ventures because of the instability that is allowing portions of syria to quickly become kind of what afghanistan --s before nine/11. before 9/11, the premiere operational space for jihadists. now, added to that, there is the chemical attack, which
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undermines the post world war ii world order, which basically said these things are on --ceptable. allies look at the are unacceptable. allies look at the united states and our capability of living up to our security promises is now at risk as a result of all this. this is why what is happening in syria matters to our national interest, why do so clearly tied to it critical national security interest in the united states. not all of this was true two years ago when i joined other voices on this committee. at that time, they became the predominant rebel force in syria and not others, but that did not happen. the choice was made to lead from behind, to watch as this thing unfolded. others advocated that we should just mind our own business. we are sitting here now as proof that we can ignore them, but eventually they grow until they come to visit us at our doorstep. a moment ago you said that one of the calculations that assad used in deciding to use chemical weapons was that the u.s. would not do anything about it.
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i understand perhaps why he made that calculation. yes, this is a horrible incident where a thousand people died, look but before this incident, 100,000 people died, including snipers that were used to pick off of buildings, women that were raped, they would go into villages and carry this out, and nothing happened. this is a reminder of what happens when we ignore the world, when we look inward and ignore these problems. they only get worse and more difficult to solve. that is the fact we have here right now. we are left with options, all of which are less than ideal. i want to ask specifically about the one the president is considering. the first option is to help syrians remove assad and replace it with a more moderate government. today the rebel forces on the ground are not just the moderate rebels. jihadists now control major parts of the country, creating a real prospect that after the fall of assad, a new civil war could be triggered.
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triggered. one that could involve sectarian violence and massacres of minorities. it comes with a long set of complications. the other option advocated is doing nothing. that would embolden assad and iran. portions of the country will still be uncovered and it will send a message to the world that there is no red line they should fear crossing. north korea can act crazier, if that is even possible. our allies in south korea and japan may start to doubt their security arrangements with us. iran will move toward the bomb. the third is the action the president is asking us to consider, what he calls a shot
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across the bow. a military strike of limited duration and hope that has three goals as i understand it that have been outlined here today. goal number one is to hold assad --countable and to grade his degrade his accountability for attacks in the future. a limited strike would accomplish these things. i am a bit skeptical that what the president is asking for will provide the support needed to achieve these objectives. and that these objectives are even realistic at this point. here is my first question. i will ask this of general dempsey. the reason why he is using these chemical weapons is he is afraid if he doesn't, he could lose this war, be overthrown and killed. that is the calculation he has made. he wants to beat the rebels. my question is this. can we structure an attack that
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tips that calculation where basically he will decide that he would rather risk being overrun by rebels then risk a limited attack from the u.s. if he uses chemical weapons. how are you going to unbalance that and lead him to calculate that he is better off risking losing to the rebels? >> i think it may be even more insidious than that. he has reached the point where he now thinks of chemical weapons is just another weapon in his arsenal. that is the part that makes this so very dangerous. i certainly want to degrade his capabilities coming out of this. i want to come out of it stronger than we go into it. >> that leads me to my second question. how confident are you that we can, in fact, put in place a military plan that is limited in scope and duration that can effectively degrade his capability to carry out future
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chemical attacks? >> i am confident of the capabilities we can bring to --ar to deter and a grade. degrade. we will have not only an initial target said but subsequent target sets, should they become necessary. >> this question is for secretary kerry. one of the concerns i have and i have heard others express is that assad could take five or six days of strikes and emerge from that saying i have faced down the u.s. and held onto power and survived them, and that -- at that point be further emboldened domestically and perhaps even abroad. i understand the argument that inaction would be worse. have you taken into account what the invocations would be as to what it could mean for the long- term prospects of the conflict?
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>> yes, we absolutely we have. the president is asking for a limited authority to degrade his current capacity and to deter him from using it again. he is not asking for permission from the congress to go destroy the entire regime or do a much more extensive kind of thing. that is not what he is asking. so he will be able to stand up, and no doubt he will try to claim that somehow this is something positive for him. i think general dempsey has made it clear, and i think we believe deeply, as do others who are knowledgeable about this in the region, that there is no way that it will in fact be beneficial for him, it will not
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translate for him on the ground, that the defections that are taking place now and other things that will happen will further degrade his capacity to prosecute this going forward. i want to emphasize something, to come back to it. i don't want anybody misinterpreting this from earlier. this authorization does not contemplate and should not have any allowance for any troop on the ground. i just want to make that absolutely clear. i was hypothesizing about a potential that might occur at some point in time, but not in this authorization, in no way, be crystal clear there is no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for american troops on the ground within the authorization the president is asking for. i don't want anybody in the media or elsewhere to misinterpret that coming out of -- of here.
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i said it earlier and i repeat it again now. that is important. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your testimony. i agree that we should not turn our backs on such a blatant violation of international norms with respect to the use of chemical weapons. and that if we stand quietly by while a tyrant like assad uses chemical weapons on his own people, that we will be giving carte blanche to any dictator anywhere in the world to develop and use chemical weapons. i think the question now is, how do we respond specifically? how do we best send a message that it is completely unacceptable to develop, much less use, these types of weapons, and how do we do that without inadvertently spreading the conflict beyond the borders of syria?
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that is really the question that we have today. we have heard that we want to deter the future use of chemical weapons, but according to the president and to your testimony today, we don't want to tip the scales on the ground. so how do we ensure that we can do that without spreading the conflict throughout the region, and how do we set aside targets -- how do we hit assad hard enough so that we deter the future use of chemical weapons and don't affect the conflict on the ground? >> the language about not using american military power to tip the scale would be our direct action. the resolution is not asking for permission for the president to be able to use the united states armed forces to overthrow the regime.
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i want to go back to the earlier questions about developing a moderate regime that has capabilities to be a stabilizing force inside of syria. our military is focused on the chemical weapons but will have the added benefit of degrading and also supporting the diplomatic track. >> the president has made it very clear that the policy of this administration -- and sometimes people have said, questioned precisely what it is. i will tell you precisely what it is. the president is asking for the congress to take steps that will specifically deter and degrade assad's capacity to use chemical weapons.
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he is not asking the congress for authorization to become whole hog involved in syria civil war, to try to change the regime through military action. this is an action to deal with the problem of chemical weapons. but there is a separate track which the president has already committed the administration and the country to come which is that assad must go, that he has lost all moral authority or capacity to ever govern syria, and the president is pursuing that track by helping the opposition, by now having made the decision to legally arm that opposition by upgrading the efforts of the opposition to be able to fight the fight -- not the united states, the opposition -- and to be able to come to a negotiated settlement
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because the president is convinced, as i think everybody is, that there is no military solution, that ultimately you want to get to geneva, you want to negotiate a settlement, but under the terms of geneva one, there is an agreement which the russians signed onto which calls for a transition government to be created with a mutual consent of the current regime and the opposition, and that transition government will establish the rules of the road for the syrian people to choose their new government. there is no way possible that by mutual consent assad is going to be part of that future. the russians have agreed that that is in fact geneva i and the purpose of the geneva ii meeting is to implement geneva i.
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it is complicated, obviously. how do you get there? that is part of the struggle. the president is convinced that as the support for the opposition increases, there is much greater likelihood that you will wind up ultimately with a negotiated settlement. the alternative is that you stand back and do nothing and and syria implodes, and al qaeda, hezbollah and others become more of a threat and it becomes much more of a sectarian conflagration. -- secretary hagel in general >> secretary hagel and general dempsey, you have made a number
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of statements throughout the spring cautioning against intervention in the conflict in syria. why do you feel at this point that it is appropriate for us to take action? what has changed? >> i will let general dempsey respond for himself. well, first, very clear intelligence and evidence that the assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people. so we are dealing with a new set of realities. based on facts. i think it is at least my opinion that that needs to be addressed, that needs to be dealt with. i have said in public and also addressed in my statement, and what secretary kerry and general dempsey have said, that is the most specific reason. the dynamics have changed. one additional point in regard to your question on this, as to your previous question. if, in fact, the president is given the authorization from congress to go forward, as he has already said he believes he has within his constitutional power as commander-in-chief to
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act as well, and he has given his reasons, which we all support, why he came to the congress. there are parallel actions that would work along with whatever action the president would take. opposition strength, which secretary kerry has noted. second, defections within the syrian government and military, as secretary kerry has noted. other intelligence, other consequences, and this is about getting to an end game. the endgame is a diplomatic settlement. it is driving this toward what we believe the government views as the only way out of this. we do not want to see the country of syria disintegrate,
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result in ungoverned space, which i think the consequences would be devastating for our partners, our allies, and the entire middle east. then we would all have to respond in some way. i would just add that on to answering your last question. >> in response to your question about the past year, over the past year, we have provided a full range of options, based on my assessment of their linkage to our national security interest. on this issue, that is the use of chemical weapons, i find a clear link to our national security interest, and we will find a way to make our use of force effective. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm trying to reconcile the two tracks of goals we have going here, military action and then negotiated settlement.
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secretary hagel, you said we are not going to resolve the underlying conflict in syria. why aren't we trying to resolve that? >> i was referring in my statement to the authorization to use military force. that specifically is not why we have come to the congress or the president asked for the congress's support. as he has said, the authorization is for a specific and focused military action. >> but our stated goal really is to remove assad and move to a negotiated settlement. why wouldn't we not use this opportunity to move toward that goal? >> that is one option. those options would range from an invasion -- there are a lot of military options on the table. what the president has said,
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what this authorization is about, is a limited authorization for a limited exercise. the goal of removing assad from office is still the policy of this administration. >> general dempsey, how come you -- general dempsey, how confident are you that you can calibrate, tailor, find to military action that does not have spillover effects? >> the task was to do that, to deter and degrade and to be limited in scope and duration. that is the test. >> how can you calibrate that? >> we can calibrate it on our side. there is always the risk of escalation on the other, but they have significantly limited capabilities to do so, and most of the intelligence informs us
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we can talk about that in closed session. >> what plan is being undertaken right now in case this does spin out of control? i am glad to hear you are bringing into the equation what i feel is our number-one national security interest, and that is those chemical weapons falling in the hands of al qaeda or possibly even hezbollah? how do we know that we will prevent that from happening? >> this is this moment in time, and as the president said, he is asking for a limited military response, recognizing that neither he nor most of america want to be dragged in to a civil war in syria. >> but our goal is to get rid of assad.
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>> our goal is to help the opposition. you have to look overall. the president and all of us agree -- can you imagine assad running syria? can you imagine this man -- >> i'm trying to reconcile why if we are going to go in there militarily, if we are going to strike, why not try to do some kind of knockout punch? is it because we have no faith that there is nobody on the ground, the military rebels -- is it not ready to change, is that the problem? >> the reason is the president is listening to the american people and has made a policy decision that that is not something the united states of america needs to engage in or ought to engage in. that is a much broader operation. is the congress of the united states ready to pay for 30 days or 30,000 airstrikes, and is there a legal justification for
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doing that? you can run through a whole series of different questions here that are very serious about what you are talking about. >> what do we know about the opposition here? have we been tracking them for the last two years? it seems like initially the opposition was more western leaning, more moderate, more democratic, and as time has gone by it has become degraded and more infiltrated by al qaeda. >> that is basically not true. that is basically incorrect. the opposition has become increasingly more defined by its moderation, by the breadth of its membership, and by its adherence to a democratic process and to an all-inclusive,
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minority-protecting constitution which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of syria. one other point about the opposition. it is my understanding, because i talked to the president of the opposition yesterday. he is in germany now, meeting with the german parliament. he is coming to great britain and will be meeting with the parliament in great britain. he is prepared to come here as soon as those meetings are over in order to meet with you, and you can have an opportunity to talk to him and meet with the opposition and have a much better sense of who they are. >> secretary hagel, do you have a feel for the number of members of the opposition? how large is there force? >> i don't know the numbers, the intelligence community has those numbers, but as the secretary said, the momentum has shifted with those who are close to the situation. >> i am a numbers guy. do you know the force strength of the rebel forces? >> i don't have them committed to memory.
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>> but we have them? how many would be considered moderate versus elements of al qaeda? how do we know that hezbollah doesn't already have access to chemical weapons? do you have any feel for that at all? >> i think we need to talk about that in our classified session. but let me just say to you that in terms of the opposition numbers, you see ranges up to 100,000 in total opposition. you see ranges -- i don't want to go into all the numbers, but in the tens of thousands in terms of operative, active combatants. i've seen some recent data on the numbers of extremist, actually lower than former expectations. syria historically has been secular, and the vast majority
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of syrians, i believe, want to remain secular. it is our judgment, and the judgment of our good friends, who actually know a lot of this in many ways better than we do, because it is their region, their neighborhood -- i'm talking about the saudis, the jordanians, they will be interested in having a fairly rapid transition to secular -- the secular component of syria will reemerge. >> that tends to argue for a more robust response. you said this is the world's red line, and i agree. do we know how many additional countries will be supportive of this action? what do we have right now, and what is your goal? >> our goal is to have a strong coalition in support as much as possible, and we are working that right now.
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but the military and the president are going to have to decide how many they want to actually have take part in the action. as i said, we already have more partners ready to do something kinetic than the military feels under this particular operation we need to effect that. obviously we want them to participate because we want it to be a broad coalition, but the final numbers will have to be decided by the president and by the specific operation that he designs together with you in the authorization. >> i look forward to tomorrow's briefing. thanks. >> i would like to thank secretary kerry and hagel and chairman dempsey for your service to our nation and for
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your testimony in front of us today. i think the authorization of use of force is a commitment of american military strength is one of the most important issues we will ever debate in this congress, and i'm grateful to have the opportunity to have this conversation today. hodges what we decide, but how we decide it, will send a very important message around the world that this congress can still function in a nonpartisan way in the interest of the people of the united states. as i have listened to delawareans in recent days, i think they reflect the views of a nation that is -- i have heard specific and pointed concerns that we not rush into action based on uneven or inaccurate intelligence, that we not be drawn into a civil war we don't fully understand or where we cannot quite discern the good guys from the bad guys, and more than anything that we not lead to an open-ended participation, direct military invasion and occupation of a country in a part of the world that is often confounding and is full of competing priorities.
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having reviewed the intelligence this morning in classified briefing, having participated in a number of briefings from you and folks leading in your agency's department, i am persuaded that this is not that circumstance, that the intelligence is solid. that we have a clear violation of a long-standing, global red line against the use of chemical weapons. as you stated, something embedded in america's statutes --d are treaty, something that and our treaty committments, something that is a global standard. as i watched the images that were presented at the beginning of this hearing and as i have spoken to family and friends and neighbors at home is that we take a real risk here if we do not act. this is an instance where one of the world's worst dictators has steadily ratcheted up and as sending crescendo of death in
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his own nation. he began with the police and military taking on peaceful demonstrators, graduated to snipers killing innocent civilians, has used helicopters and jet fighters against his own people, has a ploy to luster bombs and scud missiles over the last two years. air is no doubt that bashar al- assad and his regime is willing to go to any lengths to stay in power. the challenge now for those of us who seek an appropriate path forward, is to make sure that would craft an authorization for the use of military force that responds to america's legitimate concerns him a but still allows the administration to act in a
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decisive and timely way to both deter and punish the assad regime for what they have done. i have a few questions for you, if i might. the first two general dempsey. i think it is worth repeating, how do we strike the right balance between military action that is too insignificant to actually effectively deter or degrade assad's capabilities, and one that is decisive and overwhelming that it reaches beyond the scope of an authorization and actually becomes a regime change --thorization e pre-k's i will authorization? >> i will not recommend an option that will not effectively deter and degrade. that is the task i have been given. not just based on intelligence but based on the resolution comes out of this committee. quick and could you accomplish that mission with an authorization that is limited in scope and terms of time duration and in the scope as has been discussed with secretary kerry
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in terms of not introducing u.s. troops on the ground? >> the less limiting, the better off i will be in crafting a set of options, but i completely different to the secretary of state to give me what i need to do that. >> our goal here is to not pass or even consider an authorization that seems so narrow that it prevents any effective message to be sent here, as i think you said in a compelling way in your opening statement. our actions here are not just meant to deter assad but to send a strong message to actors around the world who might use chemical weapons or who might
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keep nuclear weapons. how do we craft an authorization, had a we take action that is effective in deterring other countries that are watching our decisiveness and our action? >> i think the language that the administration submitted with respect to military action necessary to degrade and deter and prevent the use of chemical weapons specifically is very targeted, but as i have said several times now, and will repeat again, i know the administration has zero intention of putting troops on the ground, and within the confines of this authorization, i'm confident we would have zero problem including some kind of prohibition there if that makes you comfortable. i would not urge and excessively pinpointed, congressionally mandated set of targets. i think in the course of the classified briefings, the intelligence community and the military community will make it very clear to you why that is not advisable. i think they have to have -- the general needs some latitude here to be able to be sure he can accomplish his task. i think the broad confines and constraints of this particular operation are not hard for us to arrive at in agreement.
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i am confident we will do it very quickly. >> one of my other concerns, mr. secretary, is the flood refugees and their impact on the region. in a visit in january in jordan i was moved both by the humanitarian situation are facing and by the very real impact this is having on our regional allies, on jordan, turkey, the destabilizing impact on lebanon, and of course the real impact it is potentially going to have on our close ally, israel. i was encouraged to hear there was a successful missile defense test earlier today, secretary hagel. what steps are we taking to ensure that our allies in the immediate area are able to defend themselves from a potential response by the assad regime? >> in jordan, you know we have patriot missile defense batteries in jordan. we are working closely with the israelis. they have a very sophisticated iron dome missile defense system and we are in constant coronation with all the allies in the region. as you may know, general density
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-- dempsey was just in jordan for a commander's meeting which included all the senior military from the neighboring countries and our partners. we are closely connected with and assisting our allies on this and other issues. >> last question, i'm interested in are having a follow on about -- in our having a follow-on conversation about how this specific strike and this specific authorization can also lead to a broader strategy for supporting engagement with the opposition that will lead to the diplomatic resolution of the syrian civil war that you have spoken about repeatedly. i don't think these are mutually exclusive. i do think it is possible for us to take action that reinforces the global red line against chemical weapons use but to still continue to strengthen and
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broaden our engagement with the opposition in a way that moves toward a post-assad future that is sustainable and secure, and i look forward to your info with us in our next hearing on that topic. >> absolutely, senator. i look forward to it, too. we can have that discussion in the confines of that committee and i think that might be helpful. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you all for your testimony. i want to thank the state department for making information available with regard to on classifying certain information and also for the classified hearings that have taken place with regard to the chemical attack. i think that what happened suspends disbelief, to assume that the regime was not in charge of this.
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secretary kerry, in your initial testimony, you asked us to ask ourselves what assad's calculation would be if we fail to act. i think that is an appropriate question. i think it is appropriate for us to ask you, or the administration, what is the calculation of assad right now when rather than after we have proof that he did engage in what he engaged in, that we are waiting for a congressional authorization. i think one would have to suspend disbelief to assume that we would not be better off attacking those targets right now or a week ago than waiting three weeks for congress to take action. just drawing some parallel to the conflict in libya. i think the president's statement was, before we went
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ahead and engage in combat there, or along with nato, the president said, i refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass rape to take action. and did so without congressional authorization under the war powers resolution. we had some dispute when he came back, but initially we went ahead. here, we have evidence that chemical weapons were used. how can we assure our constituents that this is not political, when the administration comes to congress to ask for authorization to take action that the president clearly has said he has authority to take? >> senator flake, it is somewhat surprising to me that a member of congress, particularly one on the foreign relations committee, is going to question the president fulfilling the vision
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of the founding fathers when they wrote the constitution and divided power and foreign policy, to have the president come here and honor their original intent of the founding fathers in ways that do not do anything to detract from the mission itself. general dempsey will tell you that he advised the president of the united states that not only was there not a deterioration in this mission by waiting, there might even be some advantages. so in fact, we are not losing anything by waiting. i personally believe there are advantages, because we have time to work with our friends in the international community, because we have time to make the case for the american people and share with them the evidence that we have shared with you in the last days, because we have an opportunity to be able to build greater support, and as
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the general has said, we can adjust to any changes or shifts that they make in that time. this does not in any way deteriorate the fundamental mission of degrading and deterring the use of chemical weapons. if at any moment assad were foolish enough to believe that this time of waiting is somehow an invitation to do more of this criminal activity, i can assure you that the president of the united states -- and i think you all would probably speed up your process and hope the president would respond immediately. this is working. there are defections taking place. there is great uncertainty in syria. we are building support and greater understanding, and i would far rather be playing our hand than his at this point in time. i don't think we are losing anything. i think the president made a
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courageous decision to take the time to build the strength that makes america stronger, by acting in unity with the united states congress. >> if i may, i can certainly understand that that is the secondary goal, or the primary goal, that in the intervening time, and causes our allies to get with us, and causes russia to maybe put the pressure on to the assad regime, something like that is great, but purely in terms of military strategy -- i don't have a military background, but i would have to suspend disbelief, and i think all of us would, to assume we are better off in a couple of we -- weeks doing what we are planning to do and what we will authorize the administration to do. general dempsey, is there evidence that the assad regime is right now moving some of the
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targets -- general dempsey, surrounding targets with civilians or others to make it more difficult to give effect to our strategy? >> for the interest of clarity, what i actually said to the president is the following. the military resources we have in place can remain in place, and when you ask us to strike, we will make those strikes effective. in other sessions in the principals committee, not with the president -- we talked about some targets becoming more accessible than before. there is evidence of course that the regime is reacting not only to the delay, but they were reacting before that to a very unfortunate week of military planning, so this is a dynamic situation. >> secretary hagel, you seem eager to jump in. >> i was just going to add something that you added, and that is the international community. in addition to what the president has already noted, a nation is always stronger when
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it is together, when he gets the congress and the american people with him. also, the international community, many of the members of the international community are with us on this. i think the president feels strongly that would be an important part of whatever decision he might make. it doesn't end with whatever military option the president decides to go with, as we have all heard. that is all the more important that we would want the international community with us. >> secretary kerry, what will happen if the congress says no and does not authorize this strike, this use of force? what will the president do? >> i cannot take you what the president is going to do,
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because he hasn't told me. but the president retains the authority, always had the authority to strike before coming to congress, and that doesn't change. but i tell you what will happen, where it matters, in pyongyang, in tehran, in damascus, folks will stand up and celebrate, and in a lot of other capitals in parts of the world people will scratch their heads and sign condolence for america's willingness to stand up and make itself felt where it makes a difference to the world. i think it would be an enormous setback to america's capacity in the role of leadership that we play. >> senator durbin.
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>> on saturday i was standing with a group of friends watching the television screen with the announcement that any minute the president would make a statement. i turned to him and said, i'll bet the missiles were launched and we will hear about it now. to my surprise, of course, the president came forward and said i have that authority, i have made that decision, but i am going to respect our constitutional democracy and give congress, that is the american people through congress, a voice in this decision. from where i was standing, i thought it was good news. as long as i've been in congress, the house and senate, i have argued about that congressional responsibility. some presidents have respected it, some have not. most of the time congress, in writing or in speeches, insists on being given this authority and then starts shaking when it
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is given, because it calls on us to be part of the story, life- and-death decisions. it is one of the toughest calls we will ever make as members of congress, but i salute the president for respecting the constitution and giving us that responsibility. i think the turnout today, on short notice, in the midst of a break, of this committee is an indication we are taking this seriously and solemnly. i also note to senator kerry -- secretary kerry and secretary hagel, we all served together some 12 years ago and faced similar awesome, historic decisions related to iraq and afghanistan. we saw those differently in some respects, but i voted against the iraqi resolution and going to war in that country, and felt that the events that transpired afterwards gave me some justification for my vote.
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but i voted for the war in afghanistan, believing that it was a clear response to 9/11. we were going after those responsible for killing 3000 innocent americans, and we were going to make them pay the price. i still think that was the right thing to do. but i did not know at the time that i voted for that authorization for the use of military force, that i was going for the longest war in the history of the united eights in -- united states, and the authority to several presidents to do things that no one ever could have envisioned at that moment in history. so i take this very seriously. i understand this president and his values, but i take very
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seriously that the language is as precise as possible when it comes to this whole question of expanding this mission into something much larger, something that would engage us in a new level of warfare or a new authority for this president or a future president. so hope we can have your word of assurance that we can work together in bipartisan fashion to craft this in a way that carefully achieves our goal, but does not expand authority anywhere beyond what is necessary. >> senator, thank you, very important statement, and you not only have my word that it will not do that, but we will work with you very, very closely, with the white house in shaping this resolution. there is no hidden agenda. there is no subterfuge. there is no surrogate strategy here.
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there is one objective, and that objective is to make sure we live up to our obligations about holding the norm with respect to international behavior on the use of chemical weapons, and that is what the president is seeking in this authorization. >> let me speak to the issue of chemical weapons. the french have done an assessment of what they believe the syrians have in terms of their chemical weapons arsenal. general dempsey, are you familiar with this? >> i'm not familiar with the french assessment. i am familiar with our own. >> we have a copy of it here, and it has been published. we have talked a lot about sarin gas and other nerve agents. what we hear from this report, and i will ask you if it is close to what your assessment is, the syrians have more than 1000 tons of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, several hundred tons of sarin, representing the bulk of their
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arsenal. it has also been speculated that they have a missile capability of delivering these chemical weapons in israel, portions of turkey, jordan, iraq, and beyond. what is your assessment of their potential when it comes to the delivery and capacity when it comes to the amount of chemical agents they have available? >> our assessment very closely matches the french assessment. >> my question to you, secretary kerry, is in light of the vulnerability of these countries, what has been the response of the arab and muslim world to this? you have listed four or five who stepped forward to say they support our efforts. it would seem that if this danger in the region is so profound that we would have even greater support. >> senator, i think this is something i would be happier discussing in greater detail with you in a closed session. there are obviously some countries for whom public statements are more complicated than others. i think we should talk about
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that in the other session. >> fair enough. general dempsey, we saw these photographs earlier. it was heartbreaking. page three of "the washington post," a group supporting the president's effort has a photograph that is riveted in my mind as a father and grandfather. children on the floor in shrouds, victims of the gas attack. what the administration is asking as far as military authority to launch additional attacks, what have you been charged with in terms of the issue of collateral damage? as it would affect innocent people and civilians in the nation of syria. >> senator, the guidance we received on targeting is to maintain a collateral damage estimate of low. just briefly on how we come up our assessment, it is based on how much we know about a target through intelligence.
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its proximity to civilian structures, and weapon effects, as we decide what weapon against it. i collateral damage estimate of low means just that, that it will keep collateral damage lower than a certain number which i would rather share in a classified setting. that doesn't mean that we would have the same constraint in what damage could be done to regime personnel. that is a separate issue. even in that case, i could tell you more in a classified setting. >> i look forward to that. >> thank you, senator. senator mccain. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it is very good to see teresa here with you in good health and good spirits. i apologize for what i am about to do to john. --hn, when you tell the enemy
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setup.e is a >> you're going to attack them, they are obviously going to disburse and try to make it harder. i am looking right here at a story, syria said to be hiding weapons and moving troops. there is even open-source reporting that they may be moving some of their assets into the russian naval base. let's not get -- it is ridiculous to think that it is not wise from a military standpoint to advise the enemy you're going to attack. pentagon planners were instructed not to offer strike options that could help drive mr. assad from power. the concern is the wrong groups will be able to take advantage of it. a senior military officer said, is there any truth to that? >> the president asked us for a
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range of options and we provided him a range. >> i am asking if there is any truth. any truth to the story in "the wall street journal." >> our options were not limited to -- >> any truth to the story in the wall street journal? >> no. >> secretary kerry, the same article, the delay reflected broader u.s. approach rarely discussed publicly that underpins decision-making according to former and current --s. officials, the and the administration doesn't want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear. the outcome may be worse than the current stalemate. is that story accurate? >> no. by the way, can i add something?
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on the warning issue, i don't disagree with you. in fact, the general wouldn't disagree either. we are all -- >> the general said it would be let's not get into that. >> although want to say is that there were leaks which are the bane of everybody's existence. the fact is that the newspapers began to carry stories about a strike and targeting well before any decisions were made. that began a process of moving. now, -- >> i got it. i would like to move on to more important questions. >> i thought all your questions were important. >> thank you, john. i will try to run a number that. -- to remember that. the president said today that the purpose of military action in syria is not just to respond to chemical weapons use, but to degrade his military capabilities as part of your broader strategy. the president said, to allow syria to ultimately free itself. do you agree with that assessment? >> i said up front, they will automatically be as a result of degrading his ability or
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chemical weapons, there will be downstream impact which will have an impact on his military capacity. i agree with the president. >> general dempsey, do you agree with that statement? >> i agree. i have never been told to change the momentum. i have been told to degrade capability. >> without a change in momentum that syria could ultimately free itself? >> i think they all are connected. degrading military capability as you know is a pretty significant part of momentum shifts. >> john, over the weekend, the washington journal ran an important op-ed, i hope you saw it. a syria analyst spent a great deal of time inside syria including this month. i want to read her assessment of the situation on the ground. i quote the story. the conventional wisdom holds that extremist elements are mixed in with moderate rebel
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groups. this isn't the case. moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory. contrary to media accounts, the war in syria is not being waged entirely or predominantly by dangerous islamist and al qaeda diehards. with jihadist's pouring into walking to are not the front lines. they are concentrating their efforts on consolidating control in the north and rebel held areas of the country. , aerate opposition forces collection of groups known as the free syrian army, continue to lead the fight against the syrian regime. while traveling with some of these battalions, i've watched villages from government forces and extremist groups. they have demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authorities, working closely with councils, and they
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have struggled to ensure that their fight against assad will pave the way for a flourishing civil society. john, do you agree with that assessment of the opposition? >> i agree with most of that. they have changed significantly. they have improved. as i said earlier, the fundamentals of syria are secular. i believe they will stay that way. >> it is a secular state. they would reject radical and in some cases come in the area in which they have control, people are demonstrating against them. that is the information i have. when we see these commentators say, we do not know which side will win, we do not know who the bad guys are -- if you agree with this assessment, we certainly know who the bad guys are. i believe we do for the most part. there are some worse than al-
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nusra. they tend to be in the northern area and the east. >> i thank you. again, i would like to ask again, can you share with the committee that the administration does not see a protracted stalemate and conflict in syria as somehow a good thing or a goal of u.s. policy. >> the goal of u.s. policy is not a stalemate. the goal is a negotiated solution that results in the departure of assad and the free choice of the syrian people. >> finally, i would like to ask if we reject this , does it send us seriously bad message to our friends and allies, encourage just.emies, and would our friends, particularly those
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fighting in syria -- would dispirit our friends, particularly those fighting in syria and around the world? >> i have gotten to know my counterparts in the media's particularly well because of the number -- in the mideast particularly well because of the number of crises we have had to deal with in that region. i cannot emphasize enough how ,uch they are looking to us now making judgments about us for the long term, and how critical the choice we make here will be, not just to this question of we maybut to the support or may not anticipate in the mideast these process, to the future of egypt, to the transformation of the middle east, to the stability of the region and other interest that we have -- interests that we have. relationships are relationships.
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they are integrated. that is why this is so important. >> i would also emphasize if it is the wrong kind of resolution, it can do just as much damage. i thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator udall? >> thank you, thank you very much. i think all the witnesses for their testimony and for their service here today. chairmannt to thank for the way he has conducted this hearing. deploreryone here, i what bashar assad has done to his own people by attacking them with chemical weapons. assad has committed an atrocious crime so heinous that international law singles it out as an assault deserving of international action. let there be no mistake. his horrific acts deserve an international response. ?hat should that response the
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that is why we are here today, to ask that question and many others. i hope this hearing will do more than rubberstamp the decision that has already been made by this administration. whate grave concerns about the administration is asking of us, of our military, and of the american people. here is the situation as i see it. limited international support, we are being told the united states must retaliate for the use of chemical weapons with the surgical bombing campaign of our own. we are being told we are bombing in order to send a message. sending?age are we to the international community, we are saying once again the united states will be the world's policeman. you break the law, and the united states will step in. we are on shaky international legal foundations for this potential strike.
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we need to know if we have exhausted all diplomatic and economic sanction options to effect syria's behavior. we need to increase our attention on the source of assad's ability to continue to ruthlessly kill his own people. that is support from nations including russia and china who are cynically trying to hold the moral high ground. assad would not be able to maintain his grip on power if he were not being supported from outside. the full force of international outrage should come down on those nations that are refusing to allow the u.n. to act and find a solution. finally, i see this potential bombing campaign as a potential next step towards full-fledged war. you have been here before. the iraq war began as an international effort to kick some hussein out of kuwait, and
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then years of a no-fly zone to keep saddam from threatening his neighbors or reconstituting his arsenal of chemical weapons. as we all know, this limited military action eventually led to what is one of the biggest blunders in u.s. foreign policy. a war that i voted against. many who voted for it came to regret that vote. americans are understandably weary after the fiasco of iraq in over a decade of war, how can this administration make a guarantee that our military actions will be limited? how can we guarantee that one surgical strike will have any impact other than to tighten the vice grip assad has on his power? or allow rebels allied with al qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in syria? i take our role extreme the seriously here like many of the other senators have said. i will hear the president and his team out. the president made the right
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decision to pursue an authorization for the use of military force. i hope these hearings will give the american people the answers they deserve. there are troubling questions that need to be answered. secretary kerry, i want to start with you. you have assured the american people -- i watched your national television performances that the u.s. action will not include -- that you said this today, will not include the use of ground troops. it will be limited in nature to deter assad and others from using chemical weapons. yet the use of force proposed by the administration states that it would allow the president to use the armed forces "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict with syria."
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this is a very open-ended proposal with no specific limits on types of forces that would be used, no limit on their duration. why was a proposed in a way that it conflicts with the statements of no ground troops and what kind of language -- the precise language are you willing to back in terms of showing the american people that we really mean what we say in terms of no boots on the ground? >> senator, all good questions. i will respond to all of them. i want to address the suspicion and concern that you have which is appropriate. i think everybody understands that iraq left a lot of folks reeling for some period of time. it is appropriate to ask the questions you have asked.
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let me try to emphasize. this is not sending a message, per se. this is having an affect, an impact. this is taking action to achieve something more than just a message. it is to degrade his current capacity. it will make it harder for him to do that in the future and it will also facilitate our ability to hold him accountable in the future if he does. he will know that. this will affect his calculation. that is number one. >> secretary kerry, by degrading his capacity, don't you in fact make him weaker and make the people out there like al qaeda and these other extremist forces stronger? this is what i want general
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dempsey to talk about a little bit too. could you answer that? by degrading him, you make these extremist forces stronger, do you not? >> i don't think you do. you actually make the opposition stronger. the opposition is getting stronger by the day. i think general idris would tell you that, that his daily concern is not the opposition. it is assad. what assad is doing with his scuds, with his airplanes, his tanks, his artillery to the people of syria. i think it is important also to look at this because you raise the question of, doesn't this make the united states the policeman of the world? no. it makes the united states a multilateral partner in an effort that the world has accepted the responsibility for. if the united states which has
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the greatest capacity to do that doesn't help lead the effort, then shame on us. we are not standing up to our multilateral and humanitarian and strategic interests. >> can i stop you, secretary kerry? if you're talking about multilateral efforts, what we are talking about is the world being able -- this is a breach of a treaty. the world put within the united nations that enforcement mechanism. what we have done here with russia and china holding up the ability of the u.n. to act, we have turned -- >> with all due respect. >> we should be standing up. we should be standing up and making sure that they are condemned, those countries that are not allowing us to move forward to find a solution. >> i don't disagree. the fact is that just a few
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weeks ago, just a few weeks ago at the u.n., we saw a condemnation of a chemical attack. without blame, without citing assad, without saying who was responsible, simply a condemnation of a chemical attack and the russians blocked it. we have no illusions. if the un security council having difficulties from its conscience? yes. does that mean the united states of america and the rest of the world should shrink from it? no. i would urge you, you said how do we know it won't result in x or y or z happening if we don't do it? let me ask you. it is not a question of what will happen if we don't do it. it is a certainty. are you going to be comfortable if assad as a result of the united states not doing anything
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gases his people yet again and the world says, why didn't the united states act? history is full of opportunity and moments where someone it and stand up and act when it made a difference. whether you go back to world war ii or look at a ship that was turned away from the coast of florida and everybody on it lost their lives, those are the things that make a difference. that is what is at stake here. i would say to you, these -- it is a guarantee if the united states doesn't act with other countries, we know what assad will do. that is a guarantee. i can't tell you what is guaranteed that some country will do if we do act. i know what happens if we don't. i am pretty darn clear that a lot of things that people think will happen to happen if the united states act -- it will have enforced this international standard with respect to the use
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of chemical weapons. if the multilateral institutions set up to do it is being blocked, that doesn't mean we should turn our backs and say there is nothing we can do. that is not the case. we did it in bosnia and made a difference. we saved countless lives. i believe the president of the united states believes we can do that now. >> i don't believe that we should have given up so easily on using the united nations. we have not taken russet to-- russia to task. that is what we should be pointing out. i want to respectfully disagree with you and say also i very much appreciate your service. i know that you're trying very hard to find on the diplomatic side, a peaceful resolution. thank you for your courtesy. >> senator. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman.
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i heard from people across the state who all believe what is happening in syria is awful, despicable. they do have concerns about the administration and what the plan really is. they want to know what the core national security interests of the united states are that are at stake in syria, what is our ultimate goal of proposed strikes and what happens if he strikes are not effective? to that end, i would ask you what exactly it is that we are going to be voting on. senator durbin also asked about the narrowness or expense. would we be voting within the next 24 hours? >> the chair is working with a ranking member and others to come to an agreed-upon -- that we will meet the goals of achieving the ability for the
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administration to pursue the military actions they have sought the congresses support for. by the same token, taylor it sufficiently so that this is not an open-ended engagement and specifically not with boots on the ground. we're not there yet. it is our aspiration to try to get their before the end of the day. and then to look forward to the possibility of a markup tomorrow. we will see if we can get there. if we do, we will give all members ample notice. we start off with a classified briefing and will move from there. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i appreciate you coming to congress.
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president obama specifically asserted on saturday that he already had the authority. when the british parliament rejected a motion supporting u.k. participation, the prime minister said that he would respect the will of the british people and there would be no british military intervention. where does president obama stand now that he has come to congress? >> he intends to win the passage of the resolution. >> on the case that he does not, is the plan -- >> we are not contemplating not. it is too dire. >> we talked about the risks of delays. there are already reports that i delaying the military action, that assad is moving military assets, hardware, troops to civilian neighborhoods. reports indicate that russia plans to send an anti-submarine ship to the mediterranean in the next few days. i wonder what this means to our
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contingency planning and what this impact is going to be for our military operations. >> the movement -- there are already four russian warships and they are staying a respectful distance. i don't see that as a factor. >> has the administration created a threat assessment of how russia, how iran, how hezbollah is going to respond to a u.s. attack? >> we all agree that that would be best handled in a classified session. >> in terms of what success looks like, senator udall specifically said what happens if gases are used again. i wonder if we do a limited strike as is proposed and still
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assad goes back and uses chemical weapons on his people, that creates an entirely new set of hearings and how does this end? where are we one month from now? >> as i said, we are preparing several targets come in the first of which would set the conditions for following assessments. the others would be used if necessary and we haven't gotten to that point yet. what we do know is that we can degrade and disrupt his capabilities and that should put us in a better position to make the kind of assessment you're talking about. >> let me add to that. senator feinstein brought this up today at the white house. it would not be sensible to pass this resolution with a view to degrading his capacity and
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preventing him from doing it if he were full is enough to do it again, the general does have follow-on possibilities and since the objective would remain the same, it would be important for assad himself to know that you have not limited this to one specific moment with respect to chemical weapons. you can still have a limited authorization but with respect to chemical weapons, it would be a huge mistake to deprive general dempsey and company of their options to enforce what we are trying to achieve. >> a negotiated departure of assad. you keep mentioning trying to get him to do this from the negotiating table. it seems to me that somebody who will go to any length to stay in power to the point of using
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chemical weapons against his people, that wouldn't he be just driven to a more serious level of determination to keep our? >> that is a very appropriate question. i don't believe so and there are a number of reasons why. most of them are best discussed and i look forward to it, and a private session. there are very strong indications. from a number of discussions that have taken place between countries over the past months that assad would not necessarily avoid making a different decision under different circumstances. i think we ought to leave it at that. in a private session, we ought to dig into it. >> i was going to ask about chemical weapons stockpiles.
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in terms of steps that we could take in terms of command and control of the regime's chemical weapons stockpiles. to make sure these things are protected in a way that they cannot be used. >> absolutely. this is something that ought to be done in the other session. i will say generically that general dempsey and his team have taken great pains at the instruction of the president to make certain that whatever we do doesn't make people less safe or potentially more exposed to weapons or that those weapons would have less control and so forth. all of these things have entered into the calculation. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i just want to add onto my original response to you. the resolution sent to us by the administration will not be a resolution that we will be working on but it is a good
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opening to what the desires are and intentions are, but it will not be the specific resolution we will be working on. senator murphy. >> thank you very much. we all are referencing conversations we have had over the last week. i have never seen a greater level of public engagement on an issue since the health care reform debate of 2009. while there are hard-liners that have come to me with a resolution that we should go in, most people see both sides of this issue. they wrinkly appreciate the fact that they have an american president who has taken so much time and put so much thought into arriving at this decision even if they disagree. they appreciate even more that this president trusts them and their elected representatives
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enough to bring this conversation to the united states congress, albeit the fact that it may be messy to get from point a to point b. given all of the commotion we will hear from our constituents, that comes out to me loud and clear. when i look at this question, i see two questions inherent. we have to ask ourselves, is there a moral or national security imperative? i think you have made the case that there is. atrocities that we cannot let stand, a country that is very vital security interests. there is a second question. that is the one that i have trouble with and some of my colleagues have trouble with. that is this. will our action lessen the acuity of that action or advance our security interests?
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there has to be a problem that needs to be solved and a way to solve it. that is why i struggle with this. frankly, i don't think the fact that i and many others struggle with that question means that we lack courage or that we are enabling the syrian regime. i think that we wonder whether there is a limit to the ability of american military power to influence the politics on the ground in the middle east. clearly there is not some direct linkage between what happened in iraq and what happened in syria, it does chill the ability of people to believe that military might influence politics on the ground after they have watched the last 10 years. the second problem people have is the question of escalation. i think one of the most important things that you said in your prepared remarks was
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this, you said that we would be prepared to respond to a miscalculation of assad whether it be in reprisal against his own people or attacks against our allies in the region. we would be prepared to respond without going to war. some people will find that statement incongruous. how do you respond without going to war? let me ask the question this way. there are a variety of responses from assad. he could launch another attack against his own people. he could launch a conventional weapons attack. he or his allies could launch attacks against our allies in the region. i don't expect you explain this as early what the response will be today. does this resolution that we are debating give you the ability to respond to those reprisals or in any of those situations that i just outlined, responses within
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syria against his own people or responses outside of syria against our own allies, would you have to come back to congress for a new authorization of force? >> excuse me, sorry. as i think the president has made clear and as we have seen in many of these crisis over the course of my career, i saw presidents do both. i supported some and i opposed others. on a number of occasions, presidents acted without the authorization of congress. there is no question that the president would have the authority and the right and conceivably the imperative to respond without authorization if assad were to attack again. i can't speak for the president
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in terms of what decision he would make, but he has the authority. that right would be available to him. if i can just a quickly with respect to -- it is absolutely appropriate to ask a question, will this make a difference? totally appropriate. and to think about this question of escalation. let me say something quickly about both of those. if the congress decides not to do this, it is a guarantee whether it is with assad in syria, or nuclear weapons in iran, or nuclear weapons in north korea, we will have invited a certain confrontation at some point in time that will require you to make a choice that will be even worse with a potential of even greater conflict. that, i guarantee you. that is the message that will be sent.
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there is a distinction between this and iraq. we lived through that here. in iraq, intelligence reported that weapons of mass destruction existed here it we didn't know if they existed. so we had a massive invasion in order to try to find if they existed and we found they didn't. here, we have weapons of mass destruction that not only we know exist, they have been used. not once, not twice, not tree times. multiple times. we estimate in the teens, and the opposition estimates more than that. now we have this most recent use of weapons of mass destruction in contravention of nearly 100 years of prohibition against their use. >> i don't think that is the dispute. >> the dispute is what are you going to do about it? the dispute is what are you
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prepared to do? that is the dispute. if you believe that by doing nothing you're going to stand up for the norm and somehow reduce the threat of use at some future time? your right to believe that, but i think and the president believes that flies against all common sense and all human behavior. >> let me ask this question about iran. i think it is important. the circumstances are very different. not to trivialize what has happened in syria, but the stakes of iran obtaining a nuclear weapon which could kill millions is different than syria killing thousands with chemical weapons. i wonder whether or not it lessens our moral authority to make a decision with respect to iran. second, i worry about this weariness we have talked about within the american public.
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it may ultimately make it harder for us to rally the american public with respect to a response to iran having gone through what could be a slightly protracted engagement with syria. i want to challenge you on the automatic nature of a failure to step in in syria. >> let me just make it very clear. the world decided after world war i and the horrors of gas in the trenches and the loss of entire generation of young people in europe, that we would never again allow gas to be used in warfare. so, if all of a sudden at this moment, the third instance -- it was used by adolf hitler. it was used by saddam hussein.
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now it has been used by bashar al-assad. three people in all of history. if the united states, knowing it and knowing that we have drawn the line that the world has drawn with us, is unable to stand up and confront that, it is an absolute certainty that gas will proliferate. we've had a sarin gas in the tokyo subway.do you want to have cantuation where the gas be available to these groups because assad can continue to subjeguate his people, looking for governance that is representative and differnent with respect to their rights?
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i don't know how we could live with that. is there a difference between gas and nuclear weapons? i suppose it would depend on the scale. it would depend on the scale. the world decided that chemical, biological and nuclear are prohibited in warfare. we as a nation and as a global community have struggled to try to enforce that through the years. it is hard for me to imagine that the united states would not stand with world against that. is it going to be effective? i am convinced that what we can do will reduce the possibilities of more use of gas and degrade his capacity to use this weapon. i think it is imperative for us to take that step. it is significantly different from what took place in iraq originally with respect to weapons that we didn't know existed and the two just are not
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similar. >> senator paul. >> thank you for coming today. it is not often that i get to complement the president. i can probably count the number of times on one hand. when i first heard that the president was going to come to congress, i was presently surprised. i was proud that he was my president. i didn't vote for him but i was proud that he did this. i was just about to stand on my feet and clapped, but then i heard, if i lose the vote, i will probably go ahead and did the bombing anyway. it does concern me. i want to be proud of the president but every time i am just about there, i get word that he doesn't really mean it.
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he is going to sort of obey the constitution if he wins. i heard secretary kerry say if we win, sure. if we lose, what? make me proud today. stand up for us and say you're going to obey the constitution and if we vote you down, which is unlikely, but if we do you will go with what the people say through their congress and not go through with a war that your congress votes against. can you give me a better answer? >> i can't give you a different answer than the one i gave you. i don't know what the president also decision is. i will tell you this. he still has the constitutional authority. it would be in keeping with the constitution. >> i disagree with you there. i don't believe he has the authority. i think congress as this. madison was explicit when he wrote the federalist papers. he wrote that history supposes the constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the executive is the branch most likely to go to war and therefore the constitution vested the power and the congress.
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it is explicit throughout all of madison's writings. this power is a congressional power and not an executive power. they didn't say big war, small war. they didn't say boots on the ground, not boots on the ground. they said, declare war. ask the people on the ships if they are involved in war or not. if we do not say the constitution applies, that we will abide by this vote, you are making a joke of us. you're making us into theater. we play constitutional theater for the president. if this is real, you will abide by the verdict of congress. you are probably going to win. just say it is real and let's have a real debate in this country and not a meaningless debate that in the end you lose and say, oh well, we had the authority anyway. >> a couple of items. i assure you there is nothing meaningless. there is everything real. >> only at our vote makes a difference. >> i will leave to the man who was elected to be president the responsibility for telling you what his decision is.
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the president intends to win this vote. >> we have had a lot of discussion about whether or not we are going to make the world safer with this. i think that is an open question. i think it is conjecture at best. you can say, we think assad will be less likely to launch chemical weapons after this. we may be able to degrade his capacity, but he has a thousand tons. are we going to wipe it out? most groups say we aren't going to directly bomb weapons because of what might happen to the surrounding population. most people say, assad acted illogically. why would he release chemical weapons on his own people when it brought the anger of the entire world? he is already acting irrationally. now we are going to determine him and he will act in a rational manner. i think it is equally likely that he either does it again or doesn't.
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i don't think you can say for certain which is better. we can't say that by attacking them he is not going to lunch another chemical attack. will the region be more stable or less stable? we all say we want stability in the middle east. that is a national interest for our country. i think there are equal arguments on both sides. will israel be more likely to suffer an attack on them or less likely? i think there is a valid argument for saying it will be more likely to suffer an attack? will russia be more likely or less likely to supply more arms and get more heavily involved? there is a valid argument they might become more likely to be involved. iran, more likely or less likely? if a run gets involved, more likely or less likely that israel launches a reprisal attack on japan?-- on iran?
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there are all kinds of unknowns that i can still you're absolutely the answer and neither can you. i think there is a reasonable argument that the world may be less stable because of this. they may not deter any chemical weapons attacks. what i would ask is, how are we to know? i haven't had one person come to me and say they are for this work. we get calls by the thousands. nobody is calling in favor of this war. i was home all month. i didn't have one person come up and say, do they all agree it is around this? yes. we all agree. people are not excited about getting involved. they don't think it is going to work. they are skeptical of what will occur. i would appreciate a response. reassure us that the boat is-- the vote is meaningful and valid,and also that you are convinced that all of the different items will be better and not worse.
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>> i would be very happy to do that. will israel be more likely to suffer an attack or will it be safer? i can make it crystal clear to you that israel will be less safe unless the united states takes this action. iran and hezbollah are two of the three biggest allies of assad. iran and hezbollah are the two single biggest enemies of israel. if iran and hezbollah are advantaged by the united states not curving assad's use of chemical weapons, there is a much greater likelihood that at some point down the road, hezbollah will have access to these weapons of mass destruction. israel will for certain be less secure.
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i would also argue -- >> but it is more likely that hezbollah will attack because of this attack? >> israel feels confident in its ability to deal with hasbro but -- with hezbollah if they were to do so. israel has on several occasions seen fit to deal with threats to its security. not once has assad responded to that to date. i think there are a bunch of things we should talk about in a classified session. let me just make it clear to you that you asked these questions. will this or that be more likely to happen? if the united states of america doesn't do this, is it more or less likely that assad does it again? do you want to answer that question? >> i think it is unknown. >> senator, it is not unknown. if the united states doesn't hold him accountable on this, it
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is a guarantee assad will do it again. it's a guarantee. i urge you to go to the classified briefing and learn that. secondly, let me point out to you that with respect to this question of americans wanting to go to war, you got three people here who have been to war. you have john mccain who has been to war. not one of us doesn't understand what going to war means. we don't want to go to war. we don't believe we are going to war in the classic sense of taking american troops to war. the president is asking for the authority to do a limited action that will degrade the capacity of a tyrant who has been using chemical weapons to kill his own people. >> i think by doing so you announce in advance at your goal is not winning. i think the last 50 years of
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secretaries of defense would say >> of course not. 100% of americans will say no. we say no. we don't want to go to war in syria either. it is not what we are here to ask. the president is not asking you to go to war. he is not asking you to send one american troop to war. he is simply saying we need to take an action that can degrade the capacity of a man who has been willing to kill his own people by breaking a 100-year- old prohibition, and will we stand up and be counted to say we want to that? i don't consider that going to war in the classic sense of coming to congress and asking for a declaration of war and training troops and sending people abroad and putting young americans in harms way. that is not what the president is asking for. general, do you want to speak to that?
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>> not really, secretary. [laughter] >> great. thank you to all of you. i want to echo what senator paul and others have said. i very much appreciate and celebrate the president's decision to bring this matter to congress. i also believe with others that the constitution reserves the power to initiate military action. there is only one commander-in- chief. after the vote is taken, it is the commander-in-chief that has to decide how to execute the decided upon mission. i applaud the president for doing it. i view it not only as a matter of constitutional law, a reflecting of very important underlying value. the value is this. we shouldn't put service members in harms way if they don't have the consensus of the american
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public behind them. to send young men and women into war or into military action where they are exercising military options with a divided political leadership is the worst thing we can do. we need to come to a consensus and execute on that consensus. it would be my hope that congress's consensus would be what the president would do. there is a basic principle at stake. it is a principle of international law. no use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians. i don't know of a higher principle of the relations of state of international legal morale. that is the principal that is at stake as we wrestle with this request of the president on this committee. that is a principle that is very clear as you said, it is not about the weapons of mass
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destruction existing. they exist. they have been used. they have been used against civilians. including women and children. it is a principle that is squarely at stake. we know that bashar al-assad doesn't care about the principle. contrary to what you said, we know that vladimir putin does not care about the principle. i hope congress still cares about the principal. it is a principle that syria signed onto. the geneva convention, the soviet union signed onto the geneva convention and again, the chemical weapons convention. we know that there are some who don't care but i hope that congress shows that we do care about our action. a couple of questions, first
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russia. the fact -- we have not done enough to demonstrate that russia is becoming a pariah nation by being pro-chemical weapons. it is hard to read their action and come up with any conclusion other than the current government of russia is pro-use of chemical weapons against civilians. we should make them where being a pro-chemical weapons nation like a carcass around their neck. at some point, they will ask themselves the question, do we really want to be the nation that is pro-use of chemical weapons against a civilian population? if we make that as painful as we can every day at the u.n., even if they block it, we come back we should make it painful everyday so that at some point they will ask themselves the question. why do we want to carry this water for a dictator who is using chemical weapons against his own civilians? we haven't done enough on that score. the fact that they are going to block us shouldn't dissuade us.
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we should do more and more. that will contribute to a political negotiation. when i asked you about the syrian opposition's position on chemical weapons, i was unclear about their position on chemical weapons. i understand that the opposition may have made some commitments that have been negotiated. they are anti-chemical weapons, they could commit to turn over to michael weapons to the international community if they take control of those weapons during the course of the civil war or if they are -- can you talk about the opposition and their commitment to get rid of this stockpile of chemical weapons that is currently being used? >> we have had some discussions about that. i hope that when the president comes here that he will make that position clear to all of you. >> that would be very helpful. that would be one of the best things the opposition could do.
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there is a little bit of a confusion. we can talk shorthand here in ways that might make it hard for senators and certainly the public to follow. we are here talking about military action on the same time saying there will be no solution to the civil war. those can seem to be at odds. i want to stake my understanding of how they fit together. if we take action, action to degrade the ability of syria to use chemical weapons, action to degrade their ability to violate international law, it will take away a significant asset that they have in their battle against the opposition. it will level the playing field by removing the ability to use chemical weapons. it will therefore increase the odds that the parties will then come to the table to try to figure out that political solution. is that the connection between the military option you are proposing and the stated end
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goal of a solution to the civil war only being achieved through a political and? >> it is the collateral connection to it. it is not the purpose of it is a collateral connection. >> i don't have any other questions. i will save them for tomorrow. >> thank you, senator murphy. >> there is great horror and disgust at assad's use of chemical weapons and great sympathy for the people of syria. that their leader would use chemical weapons upon his own people. that this murderous regime is so dedicated to retaining power that they would use those weapons. at the same time, in our own country there is great concern. we could be invoking the law of unintended consequences.
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as we talk about using our own military in syria. back in 2001 and 2002, the threat was obviously that the next attack at the united states could come in the form of a mushroom cloud from iraq and although there were inspectors on the ground for 100 days who could not find it before the war started, nonetheless, that were began. i think people are understandably apprehensive. because of what did precipitate a war in iraq. i continue to look forward to additional evidence being presented and my hope is that we can act in a way that does not bog us down. i think there are many people
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who want us in the middle of a syrian civil war. many people. but i don't think that the american people want that. i think they are very wary of having our country once again drawn into a civil war in another country. the concern that i think many people have is that we don't fully understand as well what the reaction of the russians will be. this is a tough job and we really appreciate the sensitivity with which you are handling this. you talked about the russians having four vessels and the mediterranean. syria is a proxy state of russia. are you concerned that a strike
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by the united states could increase the amount of military assistance that russia sends into the syrian regime? >> it could, senator. there is some indication they have assured the regime that if we destroy something, they can replace it. that is not a reason for me to hesitate to act. there is always unintended consequences of conflict. as the secretary has mentioned, we know what the consequences could be if we do not act. >> thank you. it is my understanding that you and chemical -- the united nations chemical inspection team last saturday. when do we expect to obtain that data and the analysis made by
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the u.n. and we do we expect the information to be made public? >> senator, i am looking over at my successor and i do not know if there is a new initiation process on the committee, but he does not even get a nameplate. [laughter] i was worried about you. >> in the house, they put it up for you. >> during the sequester, you have to do it yourself. >> senator, welcome to the committee and welcome to the senate.
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good to see you here. with respect to the process, we are hearing anywhere from 2-4 weeks is the range. >> would it be wise for us to wait for that information in order to ensure that there is a signal sent to the international community as to the veracity of the analysis that chemical weapons have been used? >> let me speak to that. it is a very important and legitimate question. first of all, the mandate of the united nations inspection team, which we have great respect for and we are grateful to them and to secretary-general for their courageous efforts to go in under difficult circumstances, and we have obviously pushed for inspections and other
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circumstances. the distinction here is that there mandate will only allow them to say that a chemical weapons attack took place. they have no mandate to assign blame. secretary general has reaffirmed this is what they will not do. they will not assign blame, they will confirm what happened. can they provide additional information in terms of details and some additional evidence? the answer is yes. will they tell us anything that we do not know today the on to reasonable doubt? the answer is no. -- beyond a reasonable doubt? the answer is no. they do not have the technical
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means or the capacity to put together what we have released to the world in an unclassified document. when you add what we have in classified form, we have an even more persuasive case about what has happened. iran and syria itself have both admitted that a chemical weapons attack took place. iran and syria are already telling us an attack took place, but they have chosen the improbable and illogical notion that the opposition did it, not the regime. >> my only suggestion would be that the united states declassified a higher percentage of the information that we have so the american people and the
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international community can see it. that would be helpful in this whole discussion. we declassify it and it would give more assurance to the international -- >> i understand and i have to tell you the unprecedented level of declassification already could possibly put at risk some sources of methods. one of the reasons it was chosen to release, somehow it leaked from someplace in the world and it was already in several newspapers. as a result of that, it was further declassified. add itself isn't -- that it self is an intercept, an actual conversation that shows the regime acknowledging its own culpability and expressing fear about the u.n. discovering it. there is already a sufficient level.
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>> on the draft resolution, >> on the draft resolution, would that draft authorized allow the u.s. military to conduct military operations outside of syria? >> no. >> would allow military operations against foreign governments other than syria? >> no. >> what it authorize military operations against nonstate actors? >> no. >> they have been testifying for in excess of 3.5 hours. i appreciate their information. let me say that i appreciate the thoughtfulness with which each member has come to this issue at this hearing and expressed their concerns and their views and i
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have listened closely and understand some of those concerns. i have listened to my colleagues expressed concern as to whether the actions would degrade the ability of assad to pursue chemical weapons attacks in the future. i am reminded of an experience i had in my own life. general dempsey is originally from my area, jersey city. i grew up in a tough neighborhood. we had a bully in the neighborhood. i was walking along the street one day and he slapped me in the face and i went away and told my mom and she said avoid him. a week later, i saw the bully again and i did my best to avoid
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him and this time, he punched me in the notice. i went back to her and said, i tried to avoid him. just avoid him. on third time, i got a piece of wood and i whacked the bully and i never got whacked again. assad has made a calculation, inching up several times that he can use chemical weapons or he believes he can use chemical weapons without consequences. in doing so, there is a global message that other state actors and other nonstate actors to leave a can do so as well. that is a critical challenge for the national security of the united states. i hope members will consider that as we move towards final action. i want to advise members, i think we are close to eight -- close to a resolution. they should consider that it is likely that we will be in a business meeting sometime after the classified hearing tomorrow
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morning and we look forward to working with all of the members of the committee. >> i think you have said it. i want to thank the witnesses for spending this much time. i look forward to the classified meeting tomorrow. i want to thank all of the members for incredible thoughtfulness. i appreciate everybody coming back and taking it so seriously. thank you. >> this hearing is adjourned.
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>> the media is an increasingly for everyriteria first lady. but, the biographical, the human 19thes, not limited to the century, 20th century, or media, or anything else. it is how these people and/or -- and do her -- how these -- endure./or >> tonight and on a clock a.m. east -- 9:00 eastern on c-span.
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>> over the next four hours, our coverage of the administration's push for congressional approval authorizing the military force in syria. they begin with president obama , followed byg members of congress. in five minutes, reaction from those who met with the president, including house speaker john boehner and nancy pelosi. ,n a half hour, senator kerry chuck hagel, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. we will start with the president saying he is the congress will pass the resolution next week. >> i want to thank the leaders of both parties for being here today to discuss what is a very serious issue facing the united
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states and the fact that i had a chance to speak to many of year- round congress as a whole is taking this issue with the soberness and seriousness that it deserves is greatly appreciated and indicates the position for us to present this issue to congress. as secretary kerry made clear in his presentation last week, we have high confidence thatas is show as is seriously used in anthe most ago so are yo seriously used in an indiscriminate fashion emma collette is that killed thousands of people including
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over 400 children -- we have high confidence that syria used in an indiscriminate fashion chemical weapons that kill thousands of people. as a consequence, a solid and the syria need to be held accountable. i made the decision that america should take action but i also believe that we will be much more effect of, stronger, if we take action together as one nation. this gives us an opportunity not only to present the evidence to all of the leading members of congress and various foreign- policy committees as to why we have high confidence that chemical weapons were used and that assad used them but it also gives up an opportunity why it's important that he be held to account.
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the norm against using chemical weapons that 98% of the world agrees to is there for a reason because we recognize there are certain weapons that, when used tom a can not only end up resulting in grotesque death but also can end up being transmitted to non-state actors and can pose a risk to allies and friends of ours like israel, like jordan, like turkey. unless we hold them to account it also sends the message that international norms around issues like nuclear proliferation don't mean much. i'm going to be working with congress. we have sent up a draft authorization and we will be asking for hearings and a prompt vote. i'm very appreciative that everyone here has already begun to schedule hearings and intends to take a vote as soon as all of congress comes back early next week.
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the key point that i want to emphasize to the american people , the military plan that has been developed by the joint chiefs and that i believe is appropriate is proportionate, limited and it does not involve boots on the ground. this is not iraq and this is not afghanistan. this is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the assad regime but also to other countries thinking the same thing. it also goes into a broader strategy that we can bring about
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overtime strengthening the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition and we can bring peace and stability. i want to emphasize once again, we are visualizing something limited and proportional to degrade a saw the's possibilities -- to degrade assad's possibilities and allow syria to ultimately free itself from the criminal wars, death, and activity we've been seeing on the ground. i'm confident that the concerns can be addressed and it is appropriate that we are delivered late but i also think everyone recognizes the urgency here that we will have to move relatively quickly.
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i look forward to an excellent discussion. i would not be going to syria if i was not serious about confrontations and about shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission. we will be more effect it. so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished is to convince them not to use chemical weapons and as long as the opposition allows us to do that, i'm confident we will be able to come up with something capable of that. thank you, everybody.
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thank you, guys. >> a little more than an hour later, members of congress who met with the president spoke with reporters and president obama is now heading to andrews air force base to leave for the g 20 summit in russia where he will talk with leaders about the case for action in syria. over the next 25 minutes we will hear from leaders from intelligence, armed services, foreign affairs committee as well as nancy pelosi and house speaker jon banner after their meeting with the president. >> good morning to all of you.
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the use of chemical weapons is a barbarous act. it is clear to me that the united nations is unable to take action, nato not likely to take action. the united states, for our entire history, has stood up for democracy and freedom for people around the world. the use of these weapons has to be responded to him, and only the united states has the capability and capacity to stop assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated. i appreciate the president reaching out to me and my colleagues in the congress over the last couple of weeks. i also appreciate the president asking the congress to support him in this action. this is something that the united states as a country needs to do. i am going to support the president's call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. we have enemies around the world that need to understand that we are not going to tolerate this type of behavior.
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we also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that america will be there and stand up when it is necessary. >> good morning. the president honored us with his presentation this morning, that he does not take going into a military action lightly, that there are compelling reasons. the intelligence is clear that assad perpetrated this attack using weapons of mass destruction, really. weapons of mass destruction, deterring their use, is a pillar of our national security. assad has done that.
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that is a differentiation from what he has done up until now. people say he killed 100,000 people, so what is the difference with this 1400? this 1400, he crossed the line with using chemical weapons. president obama did not draw a red line. humanity drew it decades ago, 170-some countries supporting the convention on not using chemical weapons. it is really something that from a humanitarian standpoint cannot be ignored, or else we cannot say never again. secondly, from a national
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security standpoint, it sends a clear message to those who have weapons of the structure of any variety that they should forget about using them. it was a very constructive meeting. the president listened to our colleagues. the speaker was very clear, and i am sure he has told you his view. i associated myself with his remarks, about, again, i believe the american people need to hear more about the intelligence that supports this action, and that is that the responsibility for this chemical weapons use is clearly at the feet of assad.
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now we go to the next step of having further debate in the congress of the united states. and i'm hopeful, as the american people are persuaded that assad did this, that hundreds of children were killed. this is behavior outside the circle of civilized human behavior, and we must respond.
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>> are you ready then to, with your membership, getting on board with the president, because we have been hearing from the house all over the place? >> on these kinds of issues it is not a question of -- it is a question of discussion, make sure that people have the information they need to make informed decisions, to make sure they have the full value of the intelligence that says this is how this happened. then members have to decide -- they want to ignore the fact that this humanitarian disaster took place or not? then there is the larger issue of syria's behavior, if they get away with this. again, very respectful of all of the concerns that the members
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have, that our constituents have. in my district i do not think people are convinced that military action is necessary, but it is important for them to know that the weapons of mass destruction's use has taken us to a different place, that the president takes obviously -- any president would -- but this president does not take this lightly, and what happens will be targeted, tailored, of short duration, and will send the necessary measures, and we go from there. it is not a rush to whipping, of members discussing, and some will not be comfortable with it. i, from the humanitarian standpoint, think that waiting for the u.n. and waiting for putin to react to the chemical weapons use by assad is a luxury we cannot afford. i have to go. thank you all, very much. >> do you want to compare this to the holocaust? >> no, no. i'm thinking more of rwanda. i do not think of risk will reject, but i want to remind you because i have reading what some of you have written to say that the president has never gone forward if congress has not approved, when it has taken up the issue. i remind you in 1999, president clinton brought us all together similar to this meeting here, but over a time to talk about going into the balkans. the vote was 213-213. 187 republicans voted no, about
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30 on each side, something like that went in a different way than the majority of their party. that was when the planes were really ready to go into bosnia. he went, and you know what happened there. i do not think the congressional authorization is necessary. it is a good thing, and i hope we can achieve it, and i look pretty confident on the evidence, the intelligence about the national interest that is at stake that we have a good conversation to have with our members. i myself -- i will tell you the story and then i have to go -- my grandson, as i was leaving san francisco yesterday, said to me, mimi, war with syria -- are you yes war with syria or no war with syria? five years old. we are talking not about war, but an action. yes or no? i said, what do you think? i think no war. i generally agree with that, but they have killed hundreds of children there. they have killed hundreds of children. and he said, five years old, were these children in the united states? and i said, no, that they are children wherever they are. i do not know what news he is listening to, but a five-year old child, with the wisdom, how does it affect our interests?
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it was outside the circle of civilized behavior, where humanity drew a line decades ago that i think if we ignore we do so to imperil many other people who would suffer. i go back to the point in the balkans, congress, failed for lack of majority, but president clinton went in. >> [indiscernible] >> i think that is a subject of discussion. some people want it broader and some people want it more narrow. that is an open discussion. >> i want to hear what my members have to say. thank you. >> as chairman of the senate intelligence committee, i am fully supportive of the president's action. i think it is key and critical. i think it is important to the security of the world, and
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particularly, the middle east. we are this afternoon -- we have a meeting of the intelligence committee to see all members are briefed, as representatives and i have been, and we will have a second meeting on thursday. the meeting we just attended, actually in my 20 years, was one of the best i have been to. it was thoughtful, it was considered. the president made the case, secretary of state made the case. i think the discussion was appropriate, and my hope is members left this meeting with a great sense of purpose, and that purpose is to get this passed in both houses. >> i agree with senator feinstein. that was one of the most effective bipartisan meetings that i have been a part of since i have been in congress -- democrats and republicans, working on an issue that is important not only to the american people, but to the world. the first issue is, it is clear throughout the world, not only with the united states, that you have the assad regime using
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chemical weapons to kill his own people, including over 400 children, probably around 1200 people right now that have been killed because of chemical weapons. the world decided years ago that chemical weapons would never be used, and yet we have a situation now where we have a regime that is using chemical weapons. we have to deal with this, not just the united states, but the world. we have to deal first with the humanitarian issue, so we do not allow anyone, whether assad, al qaeda, whether iran, north
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korea, to be able to use chemical weapons without any accountability whatsoever. it is a major issue. the united states has resources that no other country has, but we cannot be a sheriff for the whole world either. we are coalescing countries who are coming together to understand how serious this issue is as far as chemical weapons is concerned. we must do something. if we do nothing of now and allow this to go on, it sends a message that chemical weapons will be used. if we do not deal with it now, it will continue to go on, also with weapons of mass destruction. the issue of congress being involved is important, because we need to educate members and also we have to educate the american people -- how important the issue is, how we are acting,
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why we are acting, and what are the consequences if we do not act. we're not going to have another iraq or afghanistan. it is to deal with the issue and to hold assad accountable for using chemical weapons killing women and children. >> [indiscernible] >> i think right now the focus is to deter chemical weapons, but what will happen if this occurs, if it does occur, is it will hurt more right now. it will hurt his regime. it will make them weaker, no
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matter what occurs, because of the focus we have in holding him accountable for using chemical weapons. >> let me say strongly i think it is important we support the president, it is important it is bipartisan. i hope we have heavy votes in both the house and the senate. as my colleagues have mentioned, we are talking about weapons of mass destruction. this is a war crime. to turn weapons of mass destruction on your own population is the most despicable thing that any one can do. if we did not respond in kind, it was sending message every thug, every dictator, every terrorist group in the world that you can commit war crimes and murder your own citizens impunity and nothing is going to happen. the other side of this is iran, hezbollah, and other enemies are watching. they're watching to see how we
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handle this. when we tell iran they are not allowed to have a nuclear weapon, iran is watching us carefully to see how we respond in syria as a test of how we will respond if and when they create a nuclear weapon. i think american credibility is on the line. it is certainly in the best interest of the united states. we have the capacity to do this. i believe the states stand for something. we stand for human rights. we stand for what should be done. since world war i we have said that weapons of this kind cannot be allowed to use. i support the president. i think we should also the degrading assad's military because i think that just to have a strike is fine, to send a message, but we have to be careful. as long as that man is in charge of syria, there's always going to be a problem and ultimately we want to talk about a post- assad syria. all those reasons, a military response, in the national interest -- we need to do what the president is asking us to do. >> are you confident the president is interested or open to a pinpoint strike that, as you say, would degrade the capabilities and not be a limited or tailored strike? >> the president made it clear he is not talking about a pinpoint strike. he is talking about a strike that has teeth, that sends the message that weapons of mass destruction on your own people is unacceptable, but a message that tells assad we are not
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going to let him stay where he is and wreak havoc and rain terror on his people. i think it is going to need both. >> what is the u.s. prepared to do in a broader strategy? >> i think the message will be loud and clear, and i think we are taking a first step and are confident it is going to work. >> [indiscernible] about why he made the decision on saturday, why he came to that conclusion? >> we did not go into what the details are, but the president has said he feels this is something where the president and congress does together. it is stronger if we can speak with one voice, stronger if both the executive branch and the legislative branches are saying the same thing, and i think he expects us to get the but -- look, there are a lot of people who are questioning this. we have our work today. he have to convince the american people, the congress, that this is morally right to do, and i think we will.
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>> was anyone in the meeting questioning this? >> questioning? >> military action? >> they made a compelling case that on a humanitarian basis that this is something that the united states is uniquely positioned to do. i think it was a very compelling case when you're talking about the slaughter of men, women, and children. i will always remember the pictures of those poor children foaming at the mouth and then dying. and i think we are in a position to help, and i think the president was very compelling today. >> [indiscernible] >> i cannot talk to every single leader, but the general consensus is strongly to support the president, and it was in both parties. the leadership in both parties in that meeting will support the president in doing this. >> was he talking about his trip to russia? >> the president said he would be speaking with other world leaders during his trip, but did not going to details. >> would the president go at it alone? >> i think congress will vote for it, once people understand what this stake is.
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it is humanitarian, and we cannot allow it to go unchecked, and is also in the u.s. national interest. hezbollah, a terrorist group, and iran are watching us. we absolutely have a stake, and it is not just syria. the military aspect of it. there is a compelling case that the president made to us. he will make it to individual members. the vote will be positive. thank you. i think that the resolution as a result will be narrowed to give the president lets you need to have to carry out a strike and to give people in the sense and the feeling that this is not going to an ongoing thing with no end. americans are weary and so when my. thank you. i think there is a compelling case to be made. i support him. when other people hear the case, they will support him. there is no doubt in my mind that chemical weapons were used and that assad's people use the evidence -- usually weapons. there is all kinds of evidence to things were intercepted to where the gas was used. there's just no doubt in my mind. that is something they are questioning. now we have to make the case to the american people. >> administration officials
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where the gas was used. there's just no doubt in my mind. that is something they are questioning. now we have to make the case to the american people. >> administration officials testified for four hours today to seek congressional authorization to use military force in syria. there is a proposal being drafted for action against syria. it will possibly lasts less than 50 days. the senate foreign relation committee hosting secretary of state john kerry, secretary of defense chuck hagel and general dempsey to get started on a resolution. this is three hours and 40 minutes. >> say no to war in syria! we cannot afford another war. we need education in healthcare in our country.
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no more war in syria. >> this hearing of the committee will come to order.
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the all -- the artillery to go after the rocket launchers. those weapons that were used to deliver the chemicals. it is critically important the syrians be held to fight for themselves. they are dying church tried to get rid of assad we have not facilitated the delivery to vetted military opposition, weapons, antitank
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which could take on assad's tanks, his auxiliary, his rocket launchers, which delivered those chemical weapons. the opposition is willing to do this. are fighting right inside damascus. but they have not yet been provided with certain capabilities, it including anti--- capabilities. there were military vehicles that helped the attack by using chemical weapons. there were syrian army vehicles in the attack. it will be very difficult for our cruise missiles to go after those particular components of the syrian chemical capability. it would be much easier for the syrian opposition provided we to be provided
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the capabilities in terms of their other weapons to go after system.chemical weapons to succeedimportant and it will require a number of things in addition to what i have said, it will require members of the international community to be standing there with us, flying there with us, and actually participating with us when the action is taken. it is very important congress support the action. that will make a great difference, as well. -- >> [indiscernible] >> we must take that care to make sure these weapons are not turned on us.
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antitank weapons are not turned on us. they can only be turned on assad's tanks. i do not know of any target for antitank weapon other than assad's thanks. there are other kinds of it will bes where much more essential we take the precautions to make sure they will not fall into the wrong hands. that is why the word vetted is just as important as opposition. i am confident at least some of these weapons will not be used for any purpose except going after those tanks. those tanks protected the thatlery, the rockets were used to deliver the chemical weapons, so that, if we do facilitate these kinds of .apabilities we are directly linking this response to the use of chemical weapons. that is very important to the president. it will be helpful to do that.
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it is also important the american -- to the american people to see it is not us that will be acting alone. we will be acting with allies. we will be acting with arab nations. we have been assured that this morning. we will hopefully be acting with the support of congress. it is very important to the success and effectiveness of the mission. >> the chairman of the armed services committee, are you satisfied this can be done with almost no risk to any u.s. forces? >> i cannot. i think this will be, there will be no boots on the ground. that is obvious. there are always risks, even if it is at a distance, cruise missiles, or other kinds of capabilities. the risk is very slight. there will be a limited duration to this. ist needs to be unlimited support for the efforts of vetted syrian opposition.
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i should not say unlimited. there are certain give abilities you will not provide. i should not use the word unlimited. what has got to be far more robust is our support to this. opposition. i believe that will happen. senator mccain, senator graham, were after similar assurances of robust support. am confident, after being in the overall -- overall -- oval will make more robust our support for the syrian opposition vetted to make it clear the them -- to the american people and assad that ofs is not just some strike limited duration. this is support for the majority of the syrian people who are willing to take him on. thanks. >> administration officials testified for nearly four hours
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today on capitol hill. about president passes obama's request to seek authorization to use military force in syria. the foreign relations committee, secretary of state kerry, defense secretary of state hagel, and dempsey. >> say no to war in syria. we cannot afford to have another war. we need to have health care, education.
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no more war in syria.
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>> this hearing of the committee will come to order. let me first say that i know that actions of approval or disapproval of the audience -- we welcome you to be here but we welcome you to be observers of
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this important occasion. the chair will not tolerate actions that are in violation of the committee rules. let me welcome secretary kerry back to the committee that he chaired, secretary hagel on the committee he served on, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. we are asked to make one of the most ethical decisions, the authorization of the use of military power. this time to respond to the horrific to michael attack of august 21 that took the lives of 1429 syrians, including at least 426 children. the images of that day are sickening. in my view the world cannot ignore the inhumanity and horror of this act. i do not take our responsibility to ought to rise military force lightly or make such decisions easily. i voted against the war in iraq and strongly have supported a withdrawal of u.s. troops from afghanistan. but today i support the president's decision to use military force in the face of this horrific crime against humanity. yes there are risks to action. but the consequences of inaction are greater and greater still reedit further humanitarian disaster in syria, regional
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instability, the loss of american credibility, and the disintegration of international law. this decision will be one of the most difficult any of us will be asked to make. it is our role as representatives of the american people to make it. to put aside political differences and personal ideologies, to forget partisanship and free conceptions, to forget the polls, politics, and even personal consequences. it is a moment for a profile in courage to do what one knows is right. at the end of the day, each of us will decide whether to vote for or against military action based on our assessment of the facts and the conscience. the decision rests with us. it is not political. it is a policy decision that must be based, i believe, on what we believe is the national security interests of the united states. to be clear, the authorization we ultimately seek is for a focused action with a clear understanding that american troops will not be on the ground
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in combat and the language before us is a starting point. the president has decided to ask congress for our support. now the eyes of the world are on us. the decision we make, the resolution we present to the senate, and the votes we take will reverberate around the world. our friends and allies will weigh our decisions. what we do in the face of a chemical attack by the assad regime against innocent civilians will send a signal to the world that such weapons in violation of international law cannot be used with impunity. the question is, will be sent a message that the united states will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world by anyone for any reason? will we, in the name of all that is human and decent, authorize the use of military power against the inexcusable, and discriminate, and immoral use of chemical weapons? or will be standdown? what message do we send the world when such crimes go unpunished? will they use these weapons
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again? will they use them more widely and kill more children? will they use them against our allies, against our troops, against our embassies, or will they give them to terrorists who will use them against us here at home? are we willing to watch a slaughter just because the patrons of that slaughter are willing to use their veto at the united nations to allow it to happen so that their beneficiary can stay in power? and are we so tired of war that we are willing to silence our conscience and accept the consequences that will inevitably flow from the silence to our national interest? we will hear the arguments and the options presented to us today and we will look at the facts as we know them, according to the declassified assessment released last friday that secretary kerry has so passionately presented to the nation. according to that assessment, we know with high confidence that the syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the damascus suburbs on august 21. we know the assad regime has stockpiled chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and other gases and has thousands of munitions capable of delivering. we know that personal involvement in the program are carefully vetted to ensure loyalty to the regime and security to the program. we have evidence chemical
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weapons have been used on a smaller scale against the opposition on several other locations in the past year, including in the damascus suburbs. the sarin gas has been used on some of those occasions and it was not the opposition that used it. we know that chemical weapons personnel from the syrian scientific studies and research center, subordinate to the regime's ministry of defense, while operating in the damascus suburb from sunday, august 18 until earning the morning august 21, near an area the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. spatial intelligence have shown preparations of chemical weapons prior to the attack, including the distribution of gas masks. satellite collaboration -- in strict areas where the chemical attack reportedly occurred. clearly tying the pieces together. that is what we know in terms of who deploy these weapons. more evidence is available and we will be looking at all of the classified information in a closed session of the committee
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tomorrow that more clearly establishes the use of chemical weapons by the regime, the military responses available to us, and the results we expect from those responses. as of now, in my view, there is a preponderance of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that assad's forces targeted civilians with chemical weapons grade having said that, at the end of the data chemical weapons attack against innocent civilians in syria is an indirect attack on america's security with broader applications for the region and the world. if chemical weapons can be used with impunity in violation of a geneva protocol crafted by the league of nations and signed by the united states in 1925, in fact signed by syria itself in 1968, it can be used without fear of reprisal anywhere by anyone. in my view, such heinous and immoral violations of decency demand a clear and unambiguous response. we are at a crossroads. a precedent will be set. a precedent will be set for the deterrence of use of weapons with the use of military force
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that sends a message that the world will not stand down. we will either send a message to syria, iran, north korea, and any other nonstate actors that the world will not tolerate the senseless use of chemical weapons by anyone. or we will choose to stand silent in the face of horrific human suffering. we need to consider the consequences of not acting. our silence would be a message to the ayatollah that america will not stop syria in the acquiring of chemical weapons. our silence would embolden kim jong-un, who has a large chemical weapons cachet and would send a message that we are not serious about protecting south korea from the use of chemical weapons. and it would double terrorist efforts to acquire chemical weapons.
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clearly, at the end of the day our national security is at stake. i want to thank the witnesses to present the facts as they know them. at the end of the day we will decide whether to send a message to the world -- there are lines we cannot cross a civilized human beings or stand silence in the face of threats. i will turn it to senator corker for his opening statement. the president is asking for the operational use of limited force. it is not his intention or ours to involve ourselves fully in syria's civil war. what is before us is a request, "to prevent or deter the use or proliferation of chemical biological weapons to protect the united states and its allies
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and partners against a threat posed by such weapons." this is not a declaration of war. we know the facts, we will hear the arguments, we will have the debate, and then it will be up to each of us to search our conscience and make a decision on behalf of the american people. i trust that we can achieve that in a bipartisan way. and partners against a threat i have been working with senator corker as we move towards a resolution. i hope we will get broad bipartisan support. i just want to acknowledge -- i thank you for being here with us. senator corker? >> i thank you for your comments. i want to thank our witnesses for being here, not only for their service to our country in their current capacity but in their service in every way for many years. i thank you for being here. today your beginning the formal request of tasking each of us to make the most important incision many of us will make during our tenure in the united states senate. i know everybody here on the
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dais and those that are not take that decision very seriously. i have noticed a distinct sense of humility as we have gone about the various questions, conference calls, and earlier meetings we have had today and previously this week. i know that every member here knows that whether they decide to support an authorized nation for the use of military force or not, they are making a decision about our country's national interest. i know everybody is going to be taking that decision very very seriously. one of the issues that many members will have is the fact is that should be supports an authorization for the use of military force -- everyone knows i am generally inclined to do so and working closely with senator menendez for something that will be a starting point for this committee's discussion. i know each member will have its input and have its imprint on what it is that we end up deciding to vote upon.
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one of the problems that members have, and i think this hearing and tomorrow's hearing is important to answer, while we make policy, you implement. the implementation of this is very important. i think there have been mixed signals about what the implementation actually is going to mean and the effect it is going to have on the country that we are involved in.
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i want to say that i was just in the region, as i know many people have been. i am still totally dismayed at the lack of support we are giving to be vetted moderate opposition. we publicly stated what that support is going to be, even though it is going to be carried out in a covert way. our policy is we are going to train, equip, if humanitarian aid to the vested opposition and yet when you sit down with the people who are coalescing around, very little of that has occurred.
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i know today's focus is going to be largely on the issue of chemical warfare. i know that the case has to be made and i know that each of us have had the opportunity to hear that case, to see intelligence, to understand on what basis these claims have been made great my guess is that most everyone here fully believes that chemical weapons has been used on civilians to a large degree. i know that case is going to be made to the american people today as you're making it to us. it is my hope that a big part of what you're going to do here today, and i know we talked about this earlier this morning at the white house, but it is to make a case as to why syria is important to our national interests, why syria matters to the region, why it is important for us to carry out this strategy and how we are going to continue to carry out that stated strategy. one of the things i do not want to see in this authorization is,
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after it is authorized and force takes place, i want to see us continue to carry out the strategy that has been stated, and that is building the capacity of the vetted moderate opposition. i would like to have you address that. i would like to have you today also address how the use of military force supports that strategy, how it is going to affect the region and the aftermath. i thank you for being here today. i know a big part of what we're a big part of what we are making decisions on is the credibility of united states of america. people in the are watching. have beent we hesitant to move on with many activities got restated the

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