Full Text Obama Presidency August 31, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing Syria Military Action with Congressional Approval Vote – Rose Garden Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama’s Decision on Syria

Source: WH, 8-31-13

President Barack Obama announces his decision to take military action against Syria, but with Congressional support, Aug. 31, 2013; Obama delivered a statement during a Rose Garden press conference with Vice President Joe Biden by his side.

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

President Obama laid out the case for a targeted military action against Syrian regime targets as a result of their use of chemical weapons that killed over one thousand people–including hundreds of children. The President also made clear that this would not be an open-ended intervention, and there will be no American troops on the ground.

While the President was clear on the need for action, he announced he would seek Congressional authorization for the use of force.

Watch the President’s statement now in his own words or read a transcript of his remarks:

Watch on YouTube.


Statement by the President on Syria

Rose Garden

Source: WH, 8-31-13

1:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century.  Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.

Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place.  And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see — hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead.  All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered.  Several hundred of them were children — young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.

This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.  It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.  It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.

In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.  This would not be an open-ended intervention.  We would not put boots on the ground.  Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.  But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.

Our military has positioned assets in the region.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.  Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.  And I’m prepared to give that order.

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.  I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  And that’s why I’ve made a second decision:  I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. 

Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard.  I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session. 

In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America’s national security.  And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote. 

I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors.  I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.  As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.

Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.  We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.  And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy. 

A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited.  I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end.  But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.

Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community:  What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?  What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced? 

Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare.  If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?  To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms?  To terrorist who would spread biological weapons?  To armies who carry out genocide? 

We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us. 

So just as I will take this case to Congress, I will also deliver this message to the world.  While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.

I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made.  Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends.  But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action.

And finally, let me say this to the American people:  I know well that we are weary of war.  We’ve ended one war in Iraq.  We’re ending another in Afghanistan.  And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military.  In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve.  And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war. 

Instead, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.

But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.  Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning.  And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations.  We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.

So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security.  I am looking forward to the debate.  And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment. 

Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country.  I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments.  We do what we say.  And we lead with the belief that right makes might — not the other way around.

We all know there are no easy options.  But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions.  And neither were the members of the House and the Senate.  I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons.  And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.

I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage.  Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.

Thanks very much.

                        END                2:02 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines August 30, 2013: President Barack Obama and John Kerry Press Case for US Military Action in Syria

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama and Kerry Press Case for U.S. Action in Syria

Source: NYT, 8-30-13

President Obama said that he had not made a final decision about Syria, but that he was not considering any military action that would require a long-term campaign or troops on the ground.
Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

President Obama said that he had not made a final decision about Syria, but that he was not considering any military action that would require a long-term campaign or troops on the ground.

President Obama said he was weighing a “limited” attack and Secretary of State John Kerry said there was “clear” evidence that Syria had used poison gas against its citizens….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Syria Crisis Considering ‘Limited, Narrow’ Military Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Barack Obama’s remarks on Syria crisis

Source:  Politico, 8-30-13


Obama met with his national security team Friday in the White House Situation Room. White House Photo.

By WHITE HOUSE TRANSCRIPT

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA,

PRESIDENT ILVES OF ESTONIA,

PRESIDENT GRYBAUSKAITÈ OF LITHUANIA,

PRESIDENT B?RZI?Š OF LATVIA

BEFORE MEETING

Cabinet Room

2:22 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, obviously, I’m very grateful to have my fellow Presidents here, as well as the Vice President.  Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the situation in Syria.

As you’ve seen, today we’ve released our unclassified assessment detailing with high confidence that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed well over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.  This follows the horrific images that shocked us all.

This kind of attack is a challenge to the world.  We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale.  This kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well-established international norms against the use of chemical weapons by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region, like Israel and Turkey and Jordan.  And it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us.

So I have said before and I meant what I said, that the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons.  Now, I have not made a final decision about various actions that might be taken to help enforce that norm.  But as I’ve already said, I have had my military and our team look at a wide range of options.  We have consulted with allies.  We’ve consulted with Congress.  We’ve been in conversations with all the interested parties.

And in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground; that would involve a long-term campaign.  But we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm.

Again, I repeat, we’re not considering any open-ended commitment.  We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.  What we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons, understanding that there’s not going to be a solely military solution to the underlying conflict and tragedy that’s taking place in Syria.  And I will continue to consult closely with Congress.

In addition to the release of the unclassified document, we are providing a classified briefing to congressional staff today, and we’ll offer that same classified briefing to members of Congress as well as our international partners.  And I will continue to provide updates to the American people as we get more information.

With that, I want to welcome President Ilves, President Grybauskait?, and President B?rzi?š to the White House.  These countries that they represent all share very deep ties to the United States, both as allies and because of the extraordinary people-to-people relations that we have with these countries.

I want to thank all the Presidents who are here, and their nations, for all that they do to promote democracy not only in their own countries but around the world.  The Baltics are among our most reliable allies in NATO, and our commitment to their security is rock-solid.  Our soldiers sacrifice together in Afghanistan, and the Baltics, of course, continue to help support our troops as we transition the NATO mission.

Today we’re going to spend some time talking about shared commitments to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, which will add jobs in the Baltics and the United States.  We’re working on development assistance projects, including building institutions and strengthening civil society in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  We will obviously have discussions about our NATO relationship and the security concerns that we share together.

So, again, I’ve had occasions to meet with all three Presidents in a wide variety of settings and wide variety of summits.  They have been outstanding friends to the United States of America.  We are very proud of them.  And I want to thank each of them for their leadership.  We know how far Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have come in just the past two decades, and I know that we’ll accomplish even more in the decades to come.

So with that, I want to give each of these leaders a chance to say a few words.  We’re going to start with President Ilves.

PRESIDENT ILVES:  Thank you.  I’d actually like to begin by thanking President Obama for inviting us here, and we are quite grateful to the United States and to you personally for your leadership, commitment and support.

The main issue on our agenda today is global and regional security, and the question, of course, on everyone’s mind is the situation in Syria.  For Estonia, the use of chemical weapons is deplorable.  The attack demands a response.  Those responsible must be held accountable.  Violations cannot be overlooked.

When it comes to our security, we appreciate the commitment that the United States has shown to our region and Europe as a whole, and we attach great importance to continued U.S. engagement in European security.

The transatlantic security link is unique and enduring as are the common values that underpin it.  As a NATO ally, Estonia takes its responsibility for our common defense seriously.  We are currently and will maintain committed to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.  We spend 2 percent of our GDP on defense.

We also believe in maintaining a strong transatlantic link in other areas, such as trade, cyber and energy security.  I look forward to exchanging views on all of these issues, as I also look forward to discussing what we can do together internationally to promote our common values:  democracy, human rights, rule of law.

We already cooperate in countries that lie to the east and the south of us — Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and Tunisia, as well, just to name a few.  I am sure that this global cooperation aimed at helping countries transition from authoritarian to democratic rule will be expanded in the future.

Recently, we’ve heard a lot of talk about pivots.  Today we are on the verge of a new rebalancing of the U.S. focus, this time to the Nordic-Baltic region.  Our region is one of the most secure, stable, and prosperous in Europe.  We are proud to be part of it.  We are proud of the partnership we have with the United States here, just as we are proud of our alliance and the enduring friendship of the American people.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Madam President.

PRESIDENT GRYBAUSKAITÈ:  So adding in line, I would like to emphasize that to go with the matter of security in the region, we are talking about economic security in the region.  And here, especially on energy security, the United States plays a very serious role.

We opened in our region already, in Vilnius, the NATO Center of Excellence for Energy Security, and bilaterally with the United States, the Center for Nuclear Security.  And this is important because we are on the borders of NATO with some other not-so-secure regions, and why this involvement of the United States is so important for all of our region.

And of course, as a country which presides today the European Union’s Council, we are engaged very much in starting negotiations on the free trade agreement between the United States and European Union.  And I’m very happy that we got one meeting, and now we were thinking October for a second one.  And I think that it is a generational challenge and opportunity for all of us — for United States and Europe — to move fast these kinds of relations and to have very efficient and resultative outcome.  And I hope that we will be able to do it fast.

So together with the military new challenges, we are trying to battle new economic challenges together with the cyber challenges, which our region all the time receives and receives.  And I want to say that every day, every day practically we see this aggressiveness and new forms of challenges our region is facing, so why I just can also confirm that Baltic and Nordic cooperation is a new phenomena — I would say unique phenomena in Europe, which is very much reliable and you can find from us as being — we are strategic partners for the United States.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President.

PRESIDENT B?RZINŠ:  This week is important for American people, 50th anniversary of March on Washington.  As I say, for us, this is 15 years over when Baltic-American Charter was signed.  This is the right moment to review and to move forward.

For us, we are thankful to you giving your presidential time to the determined goals of the Baltic nation — U.S.-led military exercise in Baltics strengthen Nordic — the distribution network to Afghanistan.  British-American Freedom Fund, which helps Baltic students to study in American universities.

Of course, we see — together, at the same time being very active in Europe — we will become members of eurozone on the 1st of January.  We are actually working at the same time to become members of OECD.  And of course, our focus is to look for new possibilities in Europe using our past experience.  We are focusing to Central Asia countries and also to Eastern Partnership countries.  And this is particularly important in relations to Afghanistan and to develop this country in a peaceful manner.

Latvia has past crisis, but at the same time, we have to do much, much more.  And having this really good NATO support and such partners as U.S., we can move forward.  And it’s clear that today’s meeting is a reason and demonstration of the stable, long-term interest of the United States and Baltics.  And we are proud, free, and at peace.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much.

Q: Mr. President, is your decision on Syria imminent?  And why did you feel like it’s appropriate to move forward without formal authorization from either the United Nations or Congress, particularly given that the British Parliament had an opportunity to vote?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We are still in the planning process.  And obviously, consultations with Congress as well as the international community are very important.  And my preference obviously would have been that the international community already acted forcefully.  But what we have seen, so far at least, is a incapacity at this point for the Security Council to move forward in the face of a clear violation of international norms.

And I recognize that all of us — here in the United States, in Great Britain, in many parts of the world there is a certain weariness given Afghanistan; there’s a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq.  And I very much appreciate that.  On the other hand, it’s important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal that that international norm doesn’t mean much.  And that is a danger to our national security.

And, obviously, if and when we make a decision to respond, there are a whole host of considerations that I have to take into account, too, in terms of how effective it is.  And given the kind of options that we’re looking at, they would be very limited and would not involve a long-term commitment or a major operation.

We are confident that we can provide Congress all the information and get all the input that they need, and we’re very mindful of that.  And we can have serious conversations with our allies and our friends around the world about this.  But, ultimately, we don’t want the world to be paralyzed.

And, frankly, part of the challenge that we end up with here is that a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it.  And that’s not an unusual situation.  And that’s part of what allows over time the erosion of these kinds of international prohibitions, unless somebody says:  No, when the world says we’re not going to use chemical weapons, we mean it.

And it would be tempting to leave it to others to do it.  And I think I’ve shown consistently and said consistently my strong preference for multilateral action whenever possible.  But it is not in the national security interests of the United States to ignore clear violations of these kinds of international norms.

And the reason is because there are a whole host of international norms out there that are very important to us.  We have currently rules in place dealing with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We have international norms that have been violated by certain countries, and the United Nations has put sanctions in place.  But if there’s a sense that over time nobody is willing to actually enforce them, then people won’t take them seriously.

So I’m very clear that the world generally is war-weary.  Certainly, the United States has gone through over a decade of war.  The American people, understandably, want us to be focused on the business of rebuilding our economy here and putting people back to work.  And I assure you, nobody ends up being more war-weary than me.

But what I also believe is that part of our obligation as a leader in the world is making sure that when you have a regime that is willing to use weapons that are prohibited by international norms on their own people, including children, that they are held to account.

Political Headlines August 30, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Says Syria Must Be Punished as Warning to Others

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Syria Must Be Punished as Warning to Others, Kerry Says

ABC News

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday made an impassioned case for punishing Syria, stating that a chemical attack by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad killed 1,429 people, a toll that he said included 426 children.

“Instead of being tucked safely in their beds,” there were “rows and rows” of dead children, Kerry said….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 30, 2013: Still Undecided, President Barack Obama Favors ‘Limited, Narrow’ Act in Syria

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Still Undecided, Obama Favors ‘Limited, Narrow’ Act in Syria

 

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama Friday said he has “not made any decisions” on whether to launch a military strike on Syria, but sought to assure the American public and the international community that if he does, it will be a “limited, narrow act.”

“We’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach,” Obama said, adding, “We have consulted with allies. We have consulted with Congress.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines August 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech: Syria represents ‘a challenge to the world’ – considering ‘limited, narrow act’ military response

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Syria represents ‘a challenge to the world’

Source: USA TODAY, 8-30-13

President Obama said Friday he is considering a “limited, narrow act” as a military response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens….READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts August 30, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Statement on Syria and evidence of chemical attack

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement on Syria

Remarks

John Kerry
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
August 30, 2013

President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria. And last night, the President asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the Congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week. I will tell you that as someone who has spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it’s important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards.And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That’s our responsibility, to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the Administration and the Congress with the responsibility for their security. That’s why this morning’s release of our government’s unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings are as clear as they are compelling. I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Read for yourself, everyone, those listening. All of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available, and read for yourselves the verdict reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st.

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack, and I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves. But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know we can’t talk about publicly.

So what do we really know that we can talk about? Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened. We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so.

We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that these were specific instructions. We know where the rockets were launched from and at what time. We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.

And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness and death.

And we know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors. And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn’t report – not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders, the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried to save them, they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger.

This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.

We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact, and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. We know this.

And we know what they did next. I personally called the Foreign Minister of Syria and I said to him, “If, as you say, your nation has nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story.” Instead, for four days they shelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombarding block after block at a rate four times higher than they had over the previous 10 days. And when the UN inspectors finally gained access, that access, as we now know, was restricted and controlled.

In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of them, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.

So the primary question is really no longer: What do we know? The question is: What are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?

As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference, and especially against silence when it mattered most. Our choices then in history had great consequences and our choice today has great consequences. It matters that nearly a hundred years ago, in direct response to the utter horror and inhumanity of World War I, that the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again.

That was the world’s resolve then, and that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear redline for the international community. It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That’s why we signed agreements like the START Treaty, the New START Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which more than 180 countries, including Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, have signed on to.

It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to our close friends Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon – all of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are. And if unchecked, they can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends. And it matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States of America and our allies.

It matters because a lot of other countries, whose polices challenges these international norms, are watching. They are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it, because then maybe they too can put the world at greater risk.

And make no mistake, in an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do or not do matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things, but we need to ask, what is the risk of doing nothing?

It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.

This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?

So our concern is not just about some far off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world. It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations. This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us. And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world. My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.

America should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation, and we are not alone in our will to do something about it and to act. The world is speaking out, and many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledged, quote, “to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.” The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, “to hold the Syrian Government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.” Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally, the French, said the regime, quote, “committed this vile action, and it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last 90 years in all international conventions.” The Australian Prime Minister said he didn’t want history to record that we were, quote, “a party to turning such a blind eye.”

So now that we know what we know, the question we must all be asking is: What will we do? Let me emphasize – President Obama, we in the United States, we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who endured regime gunfire and obstructions to their investigation. But as Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, has said again and again, the UN investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the UN investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons were used. By the definition of their own mandate, the UN can’t tell us anything that we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know. And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the UN Security Council, the UN cannot galvanize the world to act as it should.

So let me be clear. We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests.

Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things we do know.

We also know that we have a President who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria, it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway. The President has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately, we are committed – we remain committed, we believe it’s the primary objective – is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table, and we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That’s what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of a planet where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

Thank you very much.

RELATED LINKS

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013»

Political Headlines August 30, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Outlines Evidence of Chemical Attack by Syria

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Kerry Outlines Evidence of Chemical Attack by Syria

Source: NYT, 8-30-13

Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement on Friday about Syria at the State Department in Washington.
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement on Friday about Syria at the State Department in Washington.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday there is “clear” and “compelling” evidence that the government of President Bashar al-Assad used poison gas against its citizens….READ MORE

Full Text Political Documents August 30, 2013: White House: US Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

Source: WH, 8-30-13

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

Syria: Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack

Political Musings August 29, 2013: President Barack Obama honors 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama honors 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” (Getty Images)

VIEW SLIDE SHOW

President Barack Obama honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 2013 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC….READ MORE
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the "Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action" ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Aug, 28, 2013.

Political Headlines August 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Parliament Votes No

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No

Source: NYT, 8-29-13

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.
Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.

President Obama is ready to pursue a limited military strike even with a rejection of such action by Britain and mounting questions from Congress, officials said….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 29, 2013: Obama administration takes executive gun control actions

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama administration takes executive gun control actions

Source: LAT, 8-29-13

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Thursday it had closed a loophole in the gun laws that allowed the acquisition of machine guns and other weapons and had banned U.S….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No

Source: NYT, 8-29-13

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.
Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters

A United Nations team on Thursday with a sample from one of the sites in the Damascus area where a chemical weapons attack is suspected. World leaders reacted to the heightened expectation of an attack, and Ban Ki-moon urged restraint.

President Obama is ready to pursue a limited military strike even with a rejection of such action by Britain and mounting questions from Congress, officials said….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 28, 2013: Where Martin Luther King Stood at Lincoln Memorial, President Barack Obama Reframes a Dream for a New Era

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Where King Stood, Obama Reframes a Dream for a New Era

Source: NYT, 8-28-13

President Obama commemorated the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama commemorated the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

President Obama stepped into the space where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke and summoned his iconic dream of a colorblind society in a celebration of a half-century of progress….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Let Freedom Ring Ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington & Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

FULL TRANSCRIPT: President Obama’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington

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Source: WaPo,  NYT, 8-28-13
Video: During his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama says that while no one can match Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s brilliance, the spirt from 50 years ago lives on.

President Obama delivered the following remarks at the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 2013, at the Lincoln Memorial.

Special coverage: March on Washington anniversary

Special coverage: March on Washington anniversary

The latest on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Video playlist: Memories of the march

Hear memories of the 1963 march and how it altered the lives of those who attended.

1963 march: Historical photos

1963 march: Historical photos

PHOTOS | The landmark civil rights protest on drew more than 200,000 people to the District.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: To the King family, who have sacrificed and inspired so much, to President Clinton, President Carter, Vice President Biden, Jill, fellow Americans, five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise, those truths remained unmet. And so they came by the thousands, from every corner of our country — men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others. Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer. In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well.

With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn’t always sit where they wanted to sit. Those with less money hitchhiked, or walked. They were seamstresses, and steelworkers, and students, and teachers, maids and pullman porters. They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors.

And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the great emancipator, to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions, how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV.

Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters, had lived in towns where they couldn’t vote, in cities where their votes didn’t matter. There were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home. They had seen loved ones beaten and children fire- hosed. And they had every reason to lash out in anger or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with the moral force of nonviolence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglas once taught: that freedom is not given; it must be won through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day.

That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought that day. That was the spirit that they carried with them like a torch back to their cities and their neighborhoods, that steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come, through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches, far from the spotlight, through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, the carnage of Edmund Pettus Bridge and the agony of Dallas, California, Memphis. Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered and never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. (Applause.) Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed. (Cheers, applause.)

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair, not just for African-Americans but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities.

America changed for you and for me.

And the entire world drew strength from that example, whether it be young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid. (Applause.) Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the depth that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries — folks who could have run a company, maybe, if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way even though they didn’t have to — (applause) — those Japanese- Americans who recalled their own interment, those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust, people who could have given up and given in but kept on keeping on, knowing that weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning — (cheers, applause) — on the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all, in ways that our children now take for granted as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. (Applause.) Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr., they did not die in vain. (Applause.) Their victory was great.

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether it’s by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all in the criminal justice system and not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails — (applause) — it requires vigilance.

(Cheers, applause.)

And we’ll suffer the occasional setback. But we will win these fights. This country has changed too much. (Applause.) People of good will, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents. (Applause.)

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination — the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march, for the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice — (applause) — not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?

This idea that — that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood, that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security — this idea was not new.

Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms, as a promise that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all should have an equal chance.

Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures — conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.

What King was describing has been the dream of every American. It’s what’s lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores. And it’s along this second dimension of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one’s station in life, that the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short.

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half-century ago. But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white employment (sic), Latino unemployment close behind. The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it’s grown.

As President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life. (Applause.) The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call — this remains our great unfinished business.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves. The task will not be easy. Since 1963 the economy’s changed.

The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.

And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests — those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools — that all these things violated sound economic principles.

We’d be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market — that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth, that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity — that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse- making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided.

But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations, where politics is a zero-sum game, where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie. That’s one path. Or we can have the courage to change.

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate.

But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together. We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.

And I believe that spirit is there, that true force inside each of us. I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child. I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man. It’s there when the native born recognizing that striving spirit of a new immigrant, when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who were discriminated against and understands it as their own. That’s where courage comes from, when we turn not from each other or on each other but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone. That’s where courage comes from. (Applause.)

And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. (Applause.) With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. (Applause.) With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up. That’s how a movement happens. That’s how history bends. That’s how, when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching. (Cheers, applause.)

There’s a reason why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young, for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream different and to imagine something better. And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose serves in this generation.

We might not face the same dangers as 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling processions of that day so long ago, no one can match King’s brilliance, but the same flames that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains. (Applause.)

That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge — she’s marching. (Applause.) That successful businessman who doesn’t have to, but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con, who’s down on his luck — he’s marching.

(Cheers, applause.) The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same doors as anybody’s son — she’s marching. (Cheers, applause.) The father who realizes the most important job he’ll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn’t have a father, especially if he didn’t have a father at home — he’s marching. (Applause.) The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again and walk again and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home — they are marching. (Applause.) Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day, that change does not come from Washington but to Washington, that change has always been built on our willingness, we, the people, to take on the mantle of citizenship — you are marching. (Applause.)

And that’s the lesson of our past, that’s the promise of tomorrow, that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. And when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. (Cheers, applause.)

Political Headlines August 28, 2013: Former President Bill Clinton praises Martin Luther King, implores people to ‘push open those stubborn gates holding America back”

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Clinton praises King, implores people to ‘push open those stubborn gates holding America back”

Source: Washington Post, 8-28-13

For President Bill Clinton, this day 50 years ago in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial, marks “one of the most important days in American history.” Clinton joined President Barack Obama and the family of Martin Luther King Jr. Wednesday….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 28, 2013: Former President Jimmy Carter pays tribute to Martin Luther King, says nation still has a ‘tremendous agenda’ ahead

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Carter pays tribute to King, says nation still has a ‘tremendous agenda’ ahead

Source: Washington Post, 8-28-13

Former President Jimmy Carter is paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on this historic anniversary, even as he extols the nation to continue to work for a better America. Carter joined members of the King family as well as President Barack Obama….READ MORE

History Buzz August 28, 2013: 9 things about MLK’s speech and the March on Washington

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

9 things about MLK’s speech and the March on Washington

Source: CNN, 8-28-13

martin-luther-king-i-have-a-dream-speech

“I have a dream this afternoon that my four little children will not come up in the same young days that I came up within, but they will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 28, 2013: President Barack Obama Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by civil rights icon, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was King’s stirring and historic address at the Lincoln Memorial that electrified the crowd of 250,000 and helped pave the way for laws ending segregation and other indignities suffered by blacks that stretched back to the 17th century when they were first brought to the country as slaves….READ MORE

On This Day in History… August 28, 1963: 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech at the Lincoln Memorial

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

“I Have a Dream”: The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Famous Speech

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On This Day in History… August 28, 1963: 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech at the Lincoln Memorial, during the March on Washington
 
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Fifty years ago this week, on August 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He spoke to a crowd of more than 200,000 people who had come to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in what was one of the largest demonstrations the capital had ever seen. The speech has become part of our collective American memory, our national canon. We have all heard its cadences, its most famous lines, but rare is the opportunity or time to read the speech in full. To commemorate the occasion, to honor King’s memory and the continued work of the civil rights movement, we give you “I Have a Dream” as the latest in our primary text series. –The Editors

Download the Audio mp3 of Address

KING

Martin Luther King, Jr.: I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time!

Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality—1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied. As long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racist, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

For the speech sources, we used the text of the National Archives, cross-referenced with audio of the event kept at Stanford University. 

Political Headlines August 27, 2013: US Considering Air Strikes Against Syrian Targets

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

US Considering Air Strikes Against Syrian Targets

The U.S. may be gearing up for military intervention in Syria after accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons last week….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 26, 2013: US moves closer to military action against Syria

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

US moves closer to military action against Syria

Source: USA TODAY, 8-26-13

The Obama administration moved closer to military action against Syria on Monday as Secretary of State John Kerry said the government of Bashar Assad used chemical….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 26, 2013: Obama Issues Medal of Honor to Afghan War Veteran

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Issues Medal of Honor to Afghan War Veteran

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama on Monday bestowed the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, praising his courageous actions during one of the most intense battles in Afghanistan and crediting him with speaking openly about the invisible wounds of war….READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts August 26, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry condemns chemical weapons attack in Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks on Syria

Source: State Dept, 8-26-13

Remarks

John Kerry
Press Briefing Room
Washington, DC
August 26, 2013

Well, for the last several days President Obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in Syria, and today I want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons.What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Last night after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.

What is before us today is real, and it is compelling. So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts informed by conscience and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission – these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses.

We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead.

Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the UN investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night. And as Ban Ki-moon said last week, the UN investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used – a judgment that is already clear to the world.

I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallim and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate – immediate transparency, immediate access – not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. Failure to permit that, I told him, would tell its own story.

Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the UN investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons. In fact, the regime’s belated decision to allow access is too late, and it’s too late to be credible. Today’s reports of an attack on the UN investigators, together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods, only further weakens the regime’s credibility.

At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The Administration is actively consulting with members of Congress and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with the leaders of our key allies, and the President will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons. But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.

Thank you.

Political Headlines August 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Meets with Top Advisers on Syria, Calls UK’s David Cameron

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Meets with Top Advisers on Syria, Calls UK’s David Cameron

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Three days after an alleged, large-scale chemical-weapons attack in Syria, President Obama spent much of Saturday meeting with his highest-level national-security and intelligence advisers, grappling with what to do if Syria has crossed the “red line” of chemical-weapons use.

The U.S. intelligence community is still gathering evidence about Wednesday’s attack in a suburb of Damascus that sent thousands to hospitals and left hundreds reported dead, the White House said….READ MORE

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