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Remarks: U.S. Secretary of State Kerry at House Armed Services Committee.

Remarks: U.S. Secretary of State Kerry at House Armed Services Committee.

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Published by margafret
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Remarks at House Armed Services Committee on September 9, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Remarks at House Armed Services Committee on September 9, 2013.

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Published by: margafret on Sep 10, 2013
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Opening Remarks Before the House Armed ServicesCommittee in Washington, DC on September 10, 2013
Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith, and distinguished members of the committee, I’m
privileged to be here this morning with Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey, and we are all of us
 –
all three of us
 –
very much looking forward to a conversation with you about thiscomplicated, challenging, but critical issue that our country faces.
And we don’t come to you lightly. I think Secretary Hagel and I particularly come here with an
enormous amount of respect for this process, for what each of you go through at home, and thechallenges you face with constituents, and the complexity of this particular issue. So this is good.
It’s good that we’re here, and we look forward to the conversation.
 And as we convene at this hearing, it is no exaggeration at all to say to you that the world is
watching. And they’re watching not just to see what we decide; they’re watching to see how we
decide it, and whether or not we have the ability at this critical time when so much is on the linein so many parts of the world. As chal
lenges to governance, writ large, it’s important that we
show the world that we actually do have the ability to, hopefully, speak with one voice. And webelieve that that can make a difference.Needless to say, this is one of the most important decisions that any member of Congress makesduring the course of their service. And we all want to make sure we leave plenty of time here for
discussion. Obviously, this is a very large committee, and so we’ll try to summarize in these
comments and give the opportunity for the Q&A.
But I just want to open with a few comments about questions I’m hearing from many of your
colleagues, and obviously, from the American people and what we read in the news.First, people ask me
 –
and they ask you, I know
 –
why we are choosing to have a debate on Syria
at a time when there’s so much that we need to be doing here at home. And we all know whatthat agenda is. Let me assure you, the President of the United States didn’t wake up one dayand just kind of flippantly say, “Let’s go take military action in Syria.” He didn’t choose this. Wedidn’t choose this. We’re here today because Bashar al
-Assad, a dictator who has chosen tomeet the requests for reform in his country with bullets and bombs and napalm and gas,because he made a dec
ision to use the world’s most heinous weapons to murder more than –
inone instance
 –
more than 1,400 innocent people, including more than 400 children. He and hisregime made a choice, and President Obama believes
 –
and all of us at this table believe
 –
thatwe have no choice but to respond.
Now, to those who doubt whether Assad’s actions have to have consequences, remember that
our inaction absolutely is guaranteed to bring worse consequences. You, every one of you here
 –
we, all of us
 –
America will face this. If not today, somewhere down the line when the
 
permissiveness of not acting now gives Assad license to go do what he wants
 –
and threatenIsrael, threaten Jordan, threaten Lebanon, create greater instability in a region already wrackedby instability, where stability is one of the greatest priorities of our foreign policy and of ournational security interest.
And that brings me to the second question that I’ve heard lately, which is sort of: What’s really
at stake here? Does this really affect us? I met earlier today with Steve Chabot and had a good
conversation. I asked him, “What are you hearing?” I know what you’re all hearing. The instantreaction of a lot of Americans anywhere in our country is, “Woah, we don’t want to go to waragain. We don’t want to Iraq. We don’t want to go to Afghanistan. We’ve seen how thoseturned out.” I get it, and I’ll speak to that in a minute.
 But I want to make it clear at the outset, as each of us at this table want to make it clear, thatwhat Assad has done directl
y affects America’s security –
 
America’s security. We have a huge
national interest in containing all weapons of mass destruction. And the use of gas is a weaponof mass destruction. Allowing those weapons to be used with impunity would be an enormouschink in our armor that we have built up over years against proliferation. Think about it. Ourown troops benefit from that prohibition against chemical weapons.I mentioned yesterday in the briefing
 –
many of you were there, and some of you I notice fromdecorations, otherwise I know many of you have served in the military, some of you still in the
reserves. And you know the training we used to go through when you’re learning. And I went to
Chemical, Nuclear, Biological Warfare school, and I remember going into a room and a gas mask,
and they make you take it off, and you see how long you can do it. It ain’t for long.
 Those weapons have been outlawed, and our troops, in all of the wars we fought since WorldWar I, have never been subjected to it because we stan
d up for that prohibition. There’s areason for that. If we don’t answer Assad today, we will irreparably damage a century
-oldstandard that has protected American troops in war. So to every one of your constituents, if 
they were to say to you, “Why did you vote for this even though we said we don’t want to go towar?” Because you want to protect American troops, because you want to protect America’sprohibition and the world’s prohibition against these weapons.
 The stability of this region is also in our direct security interest. Our allies, our friends in Israel,Jordan, and Turkey, are, all of them, just a strong wind away from being injured themselves orpotentially from a purposeful attack. Failure to act now will make this already volatileneighborhood even more combustible, and it will almost certainly pave the way for a moreserious challenge in the future. And you can just ask our friends in Israel or elsewhere. In Israel,
they can’t get enough gas masks. And there’s a reason that the Prime Minister
has said this
matters, this decision matters. It’s called Iran. Iran looms out there with its potential –
with itsnuclear program and the challenge we have been facing. And that moment is coming closer in
terms of a decision. They’re watching what we do here. They’re watching what you do and
whether or not this means something.
 
If we choose not to act, we will be sending a message to Iran of American ambivalence,American weakness. It will raise the question
 –
 
I’ve heard this question. As Secretary of Stat
e as Imeet with people and they ask us about sort of our long-term interests and the future with
respect to Iran, they’ve asked me many times, “Do you really mean what you say? Are you reallygoing to do something?” They ask whether or not the United Stat
es is committed, and they askus also if the President cuts a deal will the Congress back it up? Can he deliver? This is allintegrated. I have no doubt
 –
 
I’ve talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday –
Israel doesnot want to be in the middle of this. But we know that their security is at risk and the region is atrisk.I also want to remind you, you have already spoken to this. Your word is on the line, too. You
passed the Syria Accountability Act. And that act clearly states that Syria’s chemical wea
pons
threaten the security of the Middle East. That’s in plain writing. It’s in the act. You voted for it.We’ve already decided these chemical weapons are important to the security of our nation. Iquote, “The national security interests of the United Sta
tes are
 –
the national security interestsof the United States are at risk with the weapons of mass
 –
 
the chemical weapons of Syria.”
 
The fourth question I’ve been asked a lot of times is why diplomacy isn’t changing this dynamic.Isn’t there some alternative that could avoid this? And I want to emphasize on behalf of President Obama, President Obama’s first priority throughout this proc
ess has been and isdiplomacy. Diplomacy is our first resort, and we have brought this issue to the United Nations
Security Council on many occasions. We have sent direct messages to Syria, and we’ve hadSyria’s allies bring them direct messages: Don’t do this. Don’t use these weapons. All to date, to
no avail.In the last three years, Russia and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutionscondemning the regime for inciting violence or resolutions that simply promote a politicalsolution to the dialogue
 –
to the conflict. Russia has even blocked press releases
 –
press releasesthat do nothing more than express humanitarian concern for what is happening in Syria, ormerely condemn the generic use of chemical weapons, not even assigning blame. They have
blocked them. We’ve brought these concerns to the United Nations, making the case to the
members of the Security Council that protecting civilians, prohibiting the use of chemicalweapons, and promoting peace and security are in our shared interests, and those generalstatements have been blocked.
That is why the President directed me to work with the Russians and the region’s players to get
a Geneva 2 peace negotiation underway. And the end to the conflict in Syria, we all emphasizetoday
 –
is a political solution. None of us are coming to you today asking for a long-term military
 –
 
I mean, some people think we ought to be, but we don’t believe there is any military solution
to what is happening in Syria. But make no mistake: No political solution will ever be achievableas long as Assad believes he can just gas his way out of this predicament. And we are withoutquestion building a coalition of support for this now. Thirty-one countries have signed on to theG-20 statement, which is a powerful one, endor
sing the United States’ efforts to hold Assad

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