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 –
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