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tv   News Nation  MSNBC  September 3, 2013 11:00am-12:01pm PDT

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o®. once a day xarelto® means no regular blood monitoring -- no known dietary restrictions. for more information and savings options, call 1-888-xarelto or visit tens of thousands of dollars in hidden fees on their 401(k)s?! go to e-trade and roll over your old 401(k)s to a new e-trade retirement account. none of them charge annual fees and all of them offer low cost investments. e-trade. less for us. more for you. and al♪ of them offer low cost investments. (announcer) answer the call of the grill with new friskies grillers, full of meaty tenders and crunchy bites. hi, everyone. i'm tamron hall. the news nation is following breaking news. the growing support for
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president obama in congress for a military strike against syria. in about 30 minutes, secretary of state john kerry, defense secretary chuck hagel and joint chiefs of staff general martin dempsey will testify before an emergency hearing called by the senate foreign relations committee. now, it will be the first public questioning of obama administration officials since the president called on congress to authorize an attack on syria. earlier today, the president held the latest in a series of meetings, this time with congressional leaders as well as the chairman and ranking members of the national security committees. the president emphasized this will not be like recent u.s. involvements. >> the key point that i want to emphasize to the american people, the military plan that has been developed by our joint chiefs and that i believe is appropriate is proportional, it is limited, it does not involve
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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 it the assad regime but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms. >> following the meeting, the president won strong support from house leaders of both parties. >> the use of these weapons have to be responded to and only the united states has the capability and the capacity to stop assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated. i'm going to support the president's call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this call for action. >> hundreds of children were killed. this is behavior outside the circle of civilized human
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behavior, and we must respond. >> however, there is still a lot of convincing to do. in a statement today, republican congressman paul ryan of wisconsin said, quote, the president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in syria. he needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen america's security. i want to hear his case to congress and to the american people. and democratic congressman allen grayson of florida had this to say this morning. >> this whole situation has nothing to do with us, not a single american has been attacked. not anyone of our allies has been attacked. >> and joining me now live from capitol hill, nbc news capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell, who's in studio. let me start with some interesting questions already. you cannot split this along partisan lines, as so many others have been in recent history. you have house majority whip kevin mccarthy says he's
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undecided about whether to support the resolution. as we noted there, allen grayson, paul ryan, back-to-back republican, democrat, both agreeing this is not the right step in their estimation. >> it's not a party line situation due to the gravity of it, due to the scope of what it means internationally. not your typical capitol hill sort of quarrel over some cliff or some budget or some of those things we've seen play out. it also comes at a time when the entire country is weary about war. members on both sides acknowledge that. those who have been attending these briefings, we've been talking to them. many do believe there is a compelling case to be made. when you talk about a compelling case on intelligence, that also raises questions for some who believe that what happened in past conflicts in iraq and so forth was not compelling enough. so this more work to do angle you're hearing, many people in both parties talk about a desire for the president -- and we'll certain will i hely hear it froy
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kerry and general dempsey, in being that voice of the administration in a very public setting today to make the case as they see it. i'm also talking to members who say they are hearing from the people at home. many members are still in their home states and districts. not everyone is here now, just those who are participating in these hearings are required to be here. so there is a sense of more discovery to do. those who have seen the information are in a better position, perhaps, to kind of move that discussion forward, but clearly there are many questions and worries about even if a strike takes place, what happens later? that's part of what makes this so unsettling for so many people, tamron. >> so kelly, gauge the temperature for me. you are there. as you mentioned, those who are required are there, participating in some cases in this hearing that we'll carry live in about 25 minutes. others are still in their districts, in their states, in some cases talking to constituents. do you get a sense of urgency that perhaps the break should be ended earlier and members of congress should return to
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washington as this unfolds? and it seems rather quickly, to be honest with you. >> they have sort of split the issue here. you have those who are participating in these briefings and these critical hearings who are member bs of the committees. they are here. they will have to take the first steps. committees will need to vote before the full congress. there is value in members hearing from their constituents at events around their states and districts today. so you can weigh that. we also have the president going overseas. typically you don't have these foreign poll siicy fights, if y will, when the president is overseas. so they have sort of come back early but not entirely. but there are ways to look at this and see if there's some value in still being at home, still talking to constituents before they have to cast that vote. >> and i ask you that because the timeline it seems is conflicting. you have general dempsey saying that, listen, we don't have to see action this week. it could come next week.
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that would not change our military action or have a great impact if the military is to go through with some kind of limited strike. with that said, you've got republican senator bob corker earlier today saying that the senate resolution could be in mark up and we could see some movement this evening. let me play what he said. >> i think that, you know, there is a push to have a mark-up, not hastily, but to have a mark-up very soon so that members have the opportunity to see it before they come back. depending on progress, you could well see something this evening or early in the morning. >> so this evening, early morning if his timeline is right. to your point, you have these lawmakers who are at home who may want to chew on these details and get more feedback from their constituents, but when they get back to town on the 9th, hit the ground running on this, kelly. >> well, one of the things if we can just add a little glossary
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term here. mark-up means the committee with the responsibility, the jurisdiction. bob corker is the top republican on the foreign relations committee. they will be actually looking at the language of the resolution, giving members an opportunity to put forward changes. that is very critical, so the full congress would ultimately see a finished document that would be what are the limits of a military strike, that kind of thing. so that's important. not every member can participate in that at this point. so there's an urgency to get that document written, give people an opportunity to read through it. so there is a schedule that is not as glamorous, perhaps, or as headline making as we might typically see, but those wheels are in motion. it is important for people to review it and read the letter of the law. >> absolutely. i think they are headline grabbing for anyone, certainly because this is important. we're talking about lives at stake here. even the smallest details
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matter, even if they're in d.c. l lingo, as you pointed out. thank you very much. let me bring in senator bob casey of pennsylvania. thank you so much, senator, for your time today. >> thanks, tamron. >> first, let me gauge the temperature. we saw house leadership come out today in support of the president's actions, but as i pointed out, you have people on both sides who are saying that there needs to be more answers to the questions we may hear in about 30 minutes. where do you stand today, sir? >> i'll vote in favor of the resolution based upon a lot of evidence that's been presented both in the public record and -- i've had two classified briefings now. i think for members who are not yet decided or are still thinking about this and maybe leaning no, that's what these days are for, where as you and kelly were discussing, members can come back here on multiple occasions to get briefings. i had one today.
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i had one last week. a smaller briefing. but there will be another briefing on thursday and on friday. so there will be plenty of opportunities for large briefings and even some opportunities for very specific briefings. i think once that happens and once that process plays out when we're reaching the point at which we're voting, i think it'll pass, but we've still got some work to do. i would argue that's our work as well as the administration. >> let me play a little of what senator ron johnson of wisconsin had to say this morning on msnbc. let's listen in. >> really, what is the main goal? what are the specific objectives? what are the strategies to achieve those objectives? then, quite honestly, are we prepared for the repercussions? >> so the series of questions there. let's take it at if the evidence that you've seen is accurate, we know this consists of blood samples and hair, even still the
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u.n. has not completed its investigation. we know that. we also know from the very beginning, sir, that it is quite clear chemical weapons have been used, but the argument for at least some is that there's no proof of who used those chemical weapons. with all of that said, going back to senator johnson's questions that i think a lot of people want to know, the average american, what are the repercussions? even if this is a limited and strategic strike we are to see in our future. >> well, first of all, i have no doubt he used them. i have no doubt that he used them before on other occasions. but no question that he used it in this case where thousands of people were adversely impacted, more than 400 children. but in addition to what we know about the use of them, i also am firmly convinced if we don't act and make it very clear to mr. assad but also to the iranian regime, to hezbollah, to any terrorist organization in the world, even al qaeda, who's always in our sights, that we're not going to tolerate the use of
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chemical weapons at any time, anywhere. secondly, i think this is going to be very important in terms of the message that it sends to the regime in iran, who plots against us every single day, and to terrorist organizations like hezbollah. they will be watching whether or not we take this seriously, whether or not we're going to do more than condemn the use of chemical weapons, whether or not we're going to enforce the rule that's been around for almost 100 years. >> you see what happened with david cameron and lawmakers in the u.k. who pushed back and have been allies of the u.s. on many other ventures, questionable ones that did not turn out the way they should have. still, nevertheless, been there. you don't have the support of the allies here. you still have again limited information, depending what committee some of the lawmakers serve on. the question of what is the main goal? i think again, sir, you have average americans who say, okay, the administration does not want to remove assad from power, they want to strike and it brings us
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back to the then what scenario, which i don't believe is unreasonable to ask. >> there's no question that in terms of the debate we're still in the early stages. so the administration has to make it very clear about what the goals are. members of congress do as well as we're deliberating and debating. i think at the end of the day when we actually have a vote, number one is i think there will be enough support to pass this, but number two, the effort won't solely be an american effort. there will be our allies in one way or another helping us. one of the reasons we have to do a good bit of the work here is we're the only country in the world with the capacity that is necessary here. that doesn't mean the french and folks in the middle east and others won't be helping us. but i don't think at the end of the day there will be any doubt that this is an allied effort, a concerted effort by a number of countries to say chemical weapons are illegal, and their use will not only be condemned
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but the subject of reprisal and action. >> why do you believe that you've been so quickly -- you point out we're in the early stages of this debate. obviously, you've come to your conclusion at this point. why do so many other lawmakers on both sides need to be given more information or coerced if those are the right terms to use? obviously we've not spoken to every lawmaker. >> well, part of it is, tamron -- part of the answer is members of congress have to deal with hundreds of issues. some concentrate on various issues. for most members, this is very new. i've been tracking it maybe more closely than a lot. i had some early indications about the facts here that maybe some didn't have. i learned a lot today, though, in the briefing i had, which only strengthens the determination i've made and i think that ultimately most members of congress will have made by the time we vote next
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week. >> and without congressional approval, what will happen? >> i think we're going to get the support in the congress to stand behind the decision the president has made about our national security interests and about the need to take action. >> senator bob casey, thank you so much for your time. again, we're awaiting this hearing that will started in a few minutes. syria's neighbors worry that u.s. air strikes will deepen the humanitarian crisis by sending another massive wave of syrian refugees spilling over their border. the u.n. revealed today 2 million syrians have poured into neighboring countries at a rate of about 5,000 people a day. the u.n. estimates that lebanon is already home to 700,000 refugees while the lebanese government puts that number closer to 1 million or about one-fifth of lebanon's population. nbc's ayman mohyeldin joins us live from beirut with the latest there. we've been talking about this for many days now, how the different countries there are
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bracing for the air strike and again this humanitarian crisis that has started and will inevitably get worse. >> reporter: absolutely. just hearing in the previous discussions you were having, the foe us us ccus is on the day of strike. the focus here is about the day after. that's really the unpredictable fact factor. does syria respond? does hezbollah respond? does iran respond? that's the uncertainty that makes people extremely anxious, extremely nervous. i think that's the question they want answered from the united states, if, in fact, it does pursue this military operation. what scenarios could unfold that would make the violence in this region more enflamed? lebanon has warned against the strikes, saying it would destabilize the region. lebanon is in a unique position. a lot of the violence in syria has spilled over into lebanon over the past two years. there have been car bombings here, assassinations. a lot of the violence runs into
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lebanon. that's why they're so afraid. more importantly, already 700,000 refugees and that's on the low end of the estimate according to u.n. officials. that why lebanon is buckling under the pressure of humanitarian crisis. also, not just lebanon. jordan and elsewhere. you were talking about reactions from different parts of the region, countries like turkey very much wanting u.s. involvement but not only as a punitive measure. they actually want the u.s. and its allies to topple the regime of president bashar al assad. meanwhile, other countries very much concerned it could enflame with more retaliatory strikes with iran or syria's allies. >> ayman mohyeldin live in beirut, lebanon. thank you very much. that senate hearing on syria is expected to start in about 15 minutes. we will certainly go to it live on capitol hill and bring you the latest developments. you see the room is filling up now. plus, new developments out of israel where the u.s. conducted an unannounced joint missile test with the israeli
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military over the mediterranean today. we'll get a live report from tel aviv. >> 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 that may be interested in testing some of these international norms that there are consequences.
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the relatively short-term nature of the engagement we are talking about without american boots on the ground, without troops on the ground, is something that i believe members when they hear all of the testimony will find their way to support. >> senate foreign relations
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committee chairman robert menendez speaking in the last hour on "andrea mitchell reports." we're just minutes away from the hearing. senators will be questioning secretary of state john kerry, defense secretary chuck hagel and general martin dempsey. let's bring in msnbc military analyst jurl ja analyst colonel jack jacobs. also joining us, nbc news pentagon correspondent. thank you all for joining us. mick, let me start with you here. much has been made over the comments that martin dempsey made regarding a timeline here. we know that congress is in recess and this process is moving along, but if military strikes are to happen, general dempsey has said it does not -- we're not expedited by the calendar here necessarily. >> that's right. the u.s. military has plenty of assets in the region.
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pretty much 24/7, 365 days a year. that's not the problem. but you know, general dempsey in previous testimony before congress and in letters that he sent up to capitol hill has been very reluctant to get the u.s. military involved at almost any level there in syria because there's always the question of what happens next. in regard to attacks against chemical weapons facilities, not the chemical weapons themselves, but facilities, you know, general dempsey in a letter just six weeks ago to the chairman of the senate armed services committee, senate carl levin, said even if you were to take out all the armaments and syrian military that's guarding the chemical weapons sites, there's no guarantee they could be under control. and here's the one line in the letter that sounds somewhat foreboding. he says that our inability to
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fully control syria's storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access to those chemical weapons. so this date, syrian military hasn't been able to control those chemical weapons, but if you take out all that military infrastructure, dempsey, in his letter to the senate, seems to indicate that those could be at risk to fall into the hands of extremists. that's one of those untold, you know, unpredictable consequences that general dempsey and others have been warning about. >> and that was one of the potential consequences, mick, that was brought up regarding libya, who are the rebels and how these weapons -- how to prevent the weapons from getting into the wrong hands. again, we're seeing movement at this hearing. let me bring it back also to one of the questions many have asked regarding arming the rebels. they were expecting a supply to reach them. as we know, that's not happened.
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this is even prior to a military strike that could potentially involve the united states here. >> well, you know, statements out of the white house so far indicate that in conjunction with any kind of military strikes, missile strikes, against the syrian military, that the u.s. -- there's an indication anyway, that it would step up its efforts to arm the syrian rebels. then there's a report today in "the new york times," nobody's been able to confirm it, that there's actually a 15-member team trained by the cia there in the region that has recently or is about to enter syria to engage in a rebel movement against the syrian military. so there's some behind-the-scenes machinations, maneuvers going on that we're not privy to, but still, many question whether that's sufficient enough to topple the
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regime of president assad. >> but the goal, mick, at least from the administration, is that is not their goal, at least for any actions from our air strike. let me bring in colonel jacobs on that. that's the other part, i think, colonel, that people are conflicted about. one, the words of secretary kerry last week combined with the actions of the president, the words of the president and where we are now and also the goal here. if we are expecting somehow assad to shrug off any military action, even if it's precise and limited, some of these things being asked from leaders in washington, even if those things exist. >> i think the administration is being disingenuous here. it says it wants to strike in a limited way, but a properly organized limited strike is going to attack lots and lots of his infrastructure, airfields, mobile missile launchers and aircraft if it possibly can. and command and control facilities. this will make, they hope will
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make, assad's position far less tenable. having said all that, they're going to strike and may strike again, but it's going to be limited, only in that sense. >> so if you're at this hearing, which is set to start, what is your first question, colonel? >> depends on who i'm talking to. if i'm going to be really aggressive about it, my question is, why was the secretary of state out front being very, very assertive in what was probably the best speech of his life, making a tremendous case for action, only to be short circuited by a president who knows he can launch a strike and then 60 days later go back to congress? what's the holdup? >> let me bring in atia. you're in israel. as i mentioned today, we saw missile tests over the mediterranean conducted there in conjunction with the u.s. what is the feeling there, as we saw that limited action but certainly timing is everything and we're looking at messages
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and any movement at this point. >> absolutely, tamron. i think what the israelis were showing today is that they're no longer just saying that they're ready for any kind of action or retaliation from syria or any of their allies just in case the u.s. does strike. they were showing it, really, today. the israeli missile defense organization along with their partners from the u.s. missile defense agency launched a test to test their aeroweapons system, the radar of that weapons system, basically a fighter jet left from an air force base in central israel. they dropped a spar row missile. that's a missile that stimulates a ballistic missile. they say the radar successfully detected and tracked the target. also, today in the evening newscast here in israel, the defense minister went on air. he said, we conducted a successful test that tested our systems and we'll continue to research and develop and equip the idf, that's the israeli defense forces, with the best
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systems in the world, showing again to the region and the world that the israelis are prepared for anything if it should happen. but we should also mention, on that same newscast, they showed images of the israeli forces dismantling an iron-dome battery. this is a missile defense system that became very popular during the war in november with gaza. it successfully stopped the majority of the rockets flying in from the gaza strip towards israel, blasting them in the air. the israelis last week erected these iron-dome batteries throughout israel just in case. we saw at least one of the batteries being dismantled. it shows the israelis are on a lower state of alert, really. they don't expect the u.s. to strike syria. if they do, not until after congress is in session on monday. the israelis really hoping for a quiet weekend. tomorrow is the start of the jewish new year. they want to spend that time with their families, but it's
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not to say the last several days, the last week thousands have been standing in line for gas masks for hours on end in the steaming heat here in tel aviv and throughout the country. they want to be prepared just in case syria or their allies decide to retaliate on israel, which would be the closest target allied to the u.s. >> and speaking of, let's go to ali in tehran. are you there? >> yes, i am. >> we know that bashar al assad met with leaders of iran. how is this at least play manager out from what you're hearing regarding, i guess, reaction to this possible military strike and the ongoing and continuous threats from iran? >> well, obviously, tamron, iran is very against any sort of action against syria. syria is iran's closest ally in the region if not in the world. iran has been very, very vocal about any sort of attack on
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syria. iran has already got enough headaches with its nuclear program. the new president has a lot on his hands. i don't think he wants to wade into another inferno in syria quite yet, unless it looks like the u.s. want to remove assad. that's tehran's red line. they do not want to see assad removed from power. if there was going to be some minor strikes and surgical strikes, iran may hold back. they can still influence syria in politics. they may not go in neck deep. they've also said that if the u.s. attacks syria, that will spell the end of israel. they keep threatening israel with any sort of attack on syria. so they're very clear about that. also, what may affect this if an attack happens on syria, is that
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it may affect nuclear negotiations with iran. the speaker of iran's parliament said that an attack on syria would complicate the nuclear issue dramatically. other members. of parliament have said this. this would give way to the hard line iran has been talking about, saying a deal with the united states is never going to work because they're not sincere and their plan is to destabilize the region. so this syria thing is a major, major -- has a major domino effect on iran, both on the nuclear program and both how dramatically it'll get involved with the whole syrian issue. we're going to have to see how it plays out over the next few days and what iran's reaction will be. >> absolutely. to point out this, secretary of state john kerry said a no vote from congress could encourage iran to move forward with its suspected weapons program and could make intervention harder down the road. so again, a larger impact of the
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region from the humanitarian crisis that we talked about at the top of the hour trickling over to iran and its alleged nuclear program. so we're going to continue to follow the developments, keep our team in place, and we'll bring you this hearing which appears to be starting within a few minutes. a quick break and we will return to that hearing. ♪ we go, go, we don't have to go solo ♪ ♪ fire, fire, you can take me higher ♪ ♪ take me to the mountains, start a revolution ♪ ♪ hold my hand, we can make, we can make a contribution ♪ ♪ brand-new season, keep it in motion ♪ ♪ 'cause the rhyme is the reason ♪ ♪ break through, man, it doesn't matter who you're talking to ♪ [ male announcer ] completely redesigned for whatever you love to do. the all-new nissan versa note. your door to more. ♪ humans. even when we cross our t's and dot our i's, we still run into problems. namely, other humans.
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is to be expected given the emotions and everything else involved in this very serious decision from our nation's leaders and our president regarding what to do. journal jack jacobs is here with us. colonel, people can dismiss protesters here and there, but the bottom line is when you look at the polling, the american public have no stomach for this. they want the case to be made clearly if action is to happen. >> i saw a poll just before we came on the air from a completely different source than we've seen before that said that about 60% of the people polled were opposed to any kind of intervention of any kind, including a missile strike of the type we have planned. they're terribly worried, of course, about what would happen afterwards. >> the repercussions. what are the repercussions here? >> once you launch a strike, it may be out of your control altogether. >> they are preparing to start. senator bob menendez, chairman here.
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let's listen in. >> this hearing of the senate foreign relations committee will come to order. let me first say that we welcome you to be here on this important occasion, but we welcome you to be observers of this important occasion. the chair will not tolerate actions that are in violation of the committee rules. let me welcome secretary kerry
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back to the committee he chaired, secretary hagel to a committee he served on, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general dempsey to the committee. we convene this hearing as we have convened many before to make one of the most difficult decisions we are entasked to make. the authorization of the use of american military power. this time in syria to respond to the horrific chemical attack of august 21st that took the lives of 1,429 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 authorize military force lightly or make such decisions easily. i voted against the war in iraq
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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 graver still. further, humanitarian disaster in syria, regional instability, loss of american credibility around the world, and an emboldened iran and north korea and disintegration of international law. this decision will be one of the most difficult any of us will be asked to make, but 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 preconceptions, to forget the polls, politics, and even personal consequences. it's a moment for a profile of
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courage and to do what one knows is right. it is our responsibility to evaluate the facts, assess the intelligence we have, and then debate the wisdom and scope of a military response fully and publicly, understanding ramifications and fully aware of the consequences. at the end of the day, each of us will decide whether to vote for or against a resolution for military action based on our assessments of the facts and our 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 in the national security interests of the united states. to be clear, the authorization we will ultimately seek is for focused action with a clear understanding that american troops will not be on the ground in combat and the language before us is but a starting point. the president has decided to ask congress for our support. now the eyes of the world are
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upon 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 await our decision, as does the despot in pyongyang, the terror in tehran and terrorist groups, wherever they may be. whatever we do in the face of the chemical attack will send a signal to the world that such weapons in violation of international law cannot be used with impunity. the question is, will we send 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 american military power against the inexcusable, indiscriminate and immoral use of chemical weapons, or will we stand down? what message do we send the world when such a crime goes
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unpunished? will those who have these weapons use them again? will they use them more widely and kill more children? will they use them against our allies, against our troops or embassie embassies? or will they give them or sell them to terrorists who would 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 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 interests? 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 from
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the intelligence community that the syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the damascus suburbs on august 21st. we know that the assad regime has stockpiled chemical agents and has thousands of munitions capable of delivering them. we know president assad makes the decisions when it comes to the stockpile of chemical agents and personnel involved in the program are carefully vetted to ensure loyalty to the regime and the security of the program. we have evidence that chemical weapons have been used on a smaller scale against the opposition on several other occasions in the past year, including in the damascus suburbs. that sarin gas has been used on some of those occasions. we know chemical weapons personnel from syrian scientific studies subordinate to the regime's ministry of defense were operating in the damascus suburb from sunday, august 18th until early in the morning on august 21st near an area the
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regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. human intelligence as well as signal and geospatial evidence has proven this. we have multiple streams of intelligence that show the regime launched a rocket attack in the suburbs of damascus on august 21st. satellite corroboration that the attacks were launched from a regime-controlled area and struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred. clearly tying the pieces together. that is what we know in terms of who deployed 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. but as of now, in my view, there is a preponderance of evidence
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beyond a reasonable doubt that assad's forces willfully targeted civilians with chemical weapons. having said that, at the end of the day, the chemical weapons attack against innocent civilians in syria is an indirect attack on america's security with broader implications for the region and world. if chemical weapons can be used with impunity, in violation of the geneva protocol, signed by syria itself in 1968, they 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 either for the unfettered and unpunished use of chemical weapons or a precedent will be set for the deterrence of the use of such weapons through the limited use of military force that sends a message that the world will not stand down.
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we will either send a message to syria, iran, north korea, hezbollah, al qaeda, and any other non-state 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 the world are not serious about stopping their march to acquire nuclear weapons. israel would no longer believe we have their back and would be hard pressed to restrain itself. our silence would embolden kim jong-un, who has a large chemical weapons cache and would send a message we're not serious about protecting the region and would embolden hezbollah and hamas to acquire chemical weapons. clearly, at the end of the day our national security is at stake. i want to thank our distinguished witnesses that will present the facts as they
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know them. we'll evaluate them, debate a resolution, and at the end of the day, each of us will decide whether to send a message to the world that there are lines we cannot cross as civilized human beings or stand silent and risk new threats. let me say before i turn to senator corker, the president is asking for an authorization for the 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, and i quote, to prevent or deter the use or proliferation of chemical or biological weapons within, to, or from syria and to protect the united states and its allies and partners against a threat posed by such weapons. this is not a declaration of war, but a declaration of our values to the world. a declaration that says we are willing to use our military power when necessary against anyone who dares turn such heinous weapons on innocent civilians anywhere in the world. we know the facts.
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we'll hear the arguments. we will have the debate. 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 that i hope will get broad bipartisan support and before i turn to him, i just want to acknowledge the presence, and we're thrilled to see her here today, of teresa heinz kerry on this momentous occasion. glad to see you so well and being here with us. with that, senator corker. >> mr. chairman, i thank you for your comments. the time we spent together recently. and 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, many years. i thank you for being here. today you're beginning the
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formal request of asking each of us to make the most important decision many of us will make during our tenure on the united states senate. i know that everybody here take that decision very seriously. i've noticed a distinct sense of humility as we've gone about the various questions, conference calls, the earlier meetings we've had today and previously this week. and i know that every member here knows that whether they decide to support an authorization for the use of military force or not, they're making a decision about our country's national interests. i know that 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 we support an authorization for the use of military force, and i think everyone here knows i am very
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generally inclined to do so and am working closely with senator menendez for something that will be a starting point for this committee's discussions and i know each member will have its input and imprint on what it is that we end up deciding to vote upon. but one of the problems that members have, and i think this hearing and tomorrow's hearing is important to answer, is while we make policy, you implement. the implementation of this is very, very important. and i think there have been mixed signals about what that implementation actually is going to mean and the effect it's going to have on the country that we're 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 given to the vetted, moderate
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opposition. we publicly stated what that support is going to be, even though it's being carried out in a covert way. but it is to some degree humiliating to be in a refugee camp when our policy has been that we are going to train, we're going to equip, we're going to give humanitarian aid to the vetted opposition. yet, when you sit down with the people who are coalescing, very little of that has occurred. so i know today's focus is going to be largely on the issue of chemical warfare, and i know that the case has to be made and i know each of us have had the opportunity to hear that case, to see intelligence, to understand on what basis these claims have been made, and my guess is that most everyone here fully believes that chemical weapons have been used on
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civilians to a large degree. so i know that case is going to be made to the american people today, as you're making it to us. but it's 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's to make a case as to why syria is important to our national interest, why syria matters to the region, why it's important for us to carry out the strategy and how we're going to continue to carry out that stated strategy. one of the things i do not want to see in this authorization is after, if it's 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. so i'd like to have you address
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that. i'd like to have you today also address how this use of military force supports that strategy, how it's going to affect the region in the aftermath. so i thank you for being here today. i know a big part of what we're discerning today and what we're making decisions upon is the credibility of the united states of america. i know that people in the region are watching. i know that we've been hesitant to move on with many of the activities that we've stated we're going to be carrying out. so today i hope that each of you will bring clarity to this. i know we're going to talk about chemical warfare, but i hope you'll give us even more clarity about our opposition strengthening, about how this is going to affect us overall, and i hope we'll all leave here today with a clear understanding of how this strategy is going to be carried out. i thank you and look forward to your testimony. >> secretary kerry.
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>> well, members of the committee, ranking member corker, thank you very, 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 inquired appropriately about syria itself and the course of action in the middle east. mr. chairman, thank you for welcoming teresa. this is her first public event since early july. we're all happy she's here. as we convene for this debate, it's not an exaggeration to say to you, all of you, my former colleagues, that the world is watching not just to see what we decide, but it's watching to see how we make this decision.
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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 our nation to take military action, is, as you have said, mr. chairman, and you've echoed, mr. ranking member, this is obviously one of the most important decisions, one of the most important responsibilities of this committee or of any senator in the course of a career. the president and the administration appreciate that you have returned quickly to the nation's capitol to address it and you are appropriately beginning a process of focusing with great care and great precision, which is the only way to approach the potential use of military power. ranking member corker, i know
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that you want to discuss, as you said, why syria matters to our national security and our strategic interests beyond the compelling humanitarian reasons. i look forward with secretary hagel and general dempsey to laying that out here this afternoon. but first, it is important to explain to the american people why we're here. it's important for people who may not have caught every component of the news over the course of the labor day weekend to join us, all of us, in focusing in on what is at stake here. that's why the president of the united states made the decision as he did, contrary to what many people thought he would do, of asking the congress to join in this decision. we are stronger as a nation when we do that. so we're here because against multiple warnings from the
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president of the united states, from the congress, from our friends and allies around the world, and even from russia and iran, the assad regime and only undeniably the assad regime unleashed an outrageous chemical attack against its own citizens. we're here because a dictator and his family's personal enterprise in their lust to hold on to power were willing to infect the air of damascus with a poison that killed innocent mothers and fathers and their children, their lives all snuffed out by gas in the early morning of august 21st. now, some people here and there amazingly have questioned the evidence of this assault on conscience. i repeat here again today that only the most willful desire to
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avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it. it did happen, and the assad regime did it. now, i remember iraq. secretary hagel remembers iraq. general dempsey especially remembers iraq, but secretary hagel and i and many of you sitting here remember iraq in a special way because we were here for that vote. we voted. so we are especially sensitive, chuck and i, to never again asking any member of congress to take a vote on faulty intelligence. and that is why our intelligence community has scrubbed and rescrubbed the evidence. we have declassified unprecedented amounts of information, and we ask the american people and the rest of the world to judge that
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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 rocket landed in regime-controlled territory, not one. all of them landed in opposition-controlled or contested territory. we have a map, physical evidence, showing every geograph geographical point of impact, and that is concrete. within minutes of the attack, 90, i think, to be precise, maybe slightly shorter, the social media exploded with horrific images of the damage that had been caused, men and women, the