President Barack Obama said today that he is ready to use military force in retaliation for Syria’s deployment of chemical weapons.
He also said that he will seek authorization for the use of force from Congress.
While he believes he has the authority to order the strike on his own, he said, the issue demands a public debate.
The U.S., he said, is “prepared to strike whenever we choose… I’m prepared to give that order.”
The president said he will not await the results of a UN investigation delivering a definitive report about Syria’s Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, in which Secretary of State John Kerry reports that 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, were killed.
Congressional leaders have agreed to schedule a debate and vote as soon as Congress returns from its August and Labor Day recess, the president said today, after speaking with the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate today.
“We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual,” Obama said. “I know well that we are weary of war,” said Obama, who opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq before his election to the Senate and then the presidency. “But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.”
U.S. intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons and launching missiles, Obama said. “All this corroborates what the world can plainly see. ”
“This attack is an assault on human dignity… It risks making a mockery of the global ban on chemical weapons,” he said. “In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”
“This will not be an open-ended intervention. We will not put boots on the ground,” the president said. “But I am confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons.”
Obama made his statement from the Rose Garden of the White House shortly before 2 pm EDT. Vice President Joe Biden stood by his side.
The president months ago had declared that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would represent a “red line” demanding action. `Now is the time to show the world that America keeps its commitments,” he said today. “We do what we say.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, commenting on the president’s plan to seek congressional approval, said in a statement issued today:
Sen. McConnell: “President’s role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress” #Syria
— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) August 31, 2013
Let the debate begin:
Big move by POTUS. Consistent with his principles. Congress is now the dog that caught the car. Should be a fascinating week!
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 31, 2013