Obama seeking congressional OK for Syria action

President challenges lawmakers to consider 'what message will we sent if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price'
Associated Press
Aug 31, 2013

Delaying what had loomed as an imminent strike, President Barack Obama abruptly announced Saturday he will seek congressional approval before launching any military action meant to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds.

With Navy ships on standby in the Mediterranean Sea ready to launch their cruise missiles, Obama said he had decided the United States should take military action and that he believes that as commander in chief, he has "the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization."

At the same time, he said, "I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective." His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation.

Congress is scheduled to return from a summer vacation on Sept. 9, and in anticipation of the coming debate, Obama challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we sent if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price."

The president didn't say so, but his strategy carries enormous risks to his and the nation's credibility, which the administration has argued forcefully is on the line in Syria. Obama long ago said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that Syrian President Bashar Assad would not be allowed to cross with impunity.

Nor was it clear what options would be open to the president if he fails to win the backing of the House and Senate for the military measures he has threatened.

Only this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat when the House of Commons refused to support his call for military action against Syria.

Either way, the developments marked a stunning turn in an episode in which Obama has struggled to gain international support for a strike, while dozens of lawmakers at home urged him to seek their backing.

Halfway around the world, Syrians awoke Saturday to state television broadcasts of tanks, planes and other weapons of war, and troops training, all to a soundtrack of martial music. Assad's government blames rebels in the Aug. 21 attack, and has threatened retaliation if it is attacked.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he was appealing to a Nobel Peace laureate rather than to a president, urged Obama to reconsider. A group that monitors casualties in the long Syrian civil war challenged the United States to substantiate its claim that 1,429 died in a chemical weapons attack, including more than 400 children.

By accident or design, the new timetable gives time for U.N. inspectors to receive lab results from the samples they took during four days in Damascus, and to compile a final report. After leaving Syria overnight, the inspection team arrived in Rotterdam a few hours before Obama spoke.

The group's leader was expected to brief Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday.

Republicans generally expressed satisfaction at Obama's decision to seek congressional support, and challenged him to make his case to the public and lawmakers alike that American power should be used to punish Assad.

"We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised," House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other House Republican leaders said in a joint statement.

"In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people."

New York Republican Rep. Peter King was among the dissenters, strongly so. "President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents," he said. "The president doesn't need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own red line."

Senior administration officials said Obama told aides on Friday night that he had changed his mind about ordering a strike against Syria without seeking congressional approval first, making a final decision after a long discussion with his chief of staff Denis McDonough.

It was unclear what pressure Republican or Democratic lawmakers had brought on Obama, if any, although dozens have signed letters calling on him not to act unilaterally.

But had he gone ahead with a military strike, he would have become the first U.S. leader in three decades to attack a foreign nation without mustering broad international support or acting in direct defense of Americans. Not since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan ordered an invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada, has the U.S. been so alone in pursuing major lethal military action beyond a few attacks responding to strikes or threats against its citizens.

For now, it appeared that the administration's effort at persuasion was already well underway.

The administration plunged into a series of weekend briefings for lawmakers, both classified and unclassified, and Obama challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send to a dictator" if he is allowed to kill hundreds of children with chemical weapons without suffering any retaliation.

At the same time, a senior State Department official said Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmed Assi al-Jarba to underscore Obama's commitment to holding the Assad government accountable for the Aug. 21 attack.

While lawmakers are scheduled to return to work Sept. 9, officials said it was possible the Senate might come back to session before then.

Obama said Friday he was considering "limited and narrow" steps to punish Assad, adding that U.S. national security interests were at stake. He pledged no U.S. combat troops on the ground in Syria, where a civil war has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives.

In Syria, some rebels expressed unhappiness with the president, one rebel commander said he did not consider Obama's decision to be a retreat. "On the contrary, he will get the approval for congress and then the military action will have additional credibility," said Qassem Saadeddine.

"Just because the strike was delayed by few days doesn't mean it's not going to happen," he said.

With Obama struggling to gain international backing for a strike, Putin urged him to reconsider his plans. "We have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world, said Putin, a strong Assad ally. "Did this resolve even one problem?"

Even the administration's casualty estimate was grist for controversy.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors casualties in the country, said it has confirmed 502 deaths, nearly 1,000 fewer than the American intelligence assessment claimed.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the organization, said he was not contacted by U.S. officials about his efforts to collect information about the death toll in the Aug. 21 attacks.

"America works only with one part of the opposition that is deep in propaganda," he said, and urged the Obama administration to release the information its estimate is based on.

Obama was buffeted, as well, by some lawmakers challenging his authority to strike Syria without congressional approval, and also by others who urged him to intervene more forcefully than he has signaled he will.

In the hours before Obama's Rose garden announcement, he was joined at the White House by top advisers.

Vice President Joseph Biden, who had planned a holiday weekend at home in Delaware, was among them. So, too, were Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and other top administration officials.

In the famously flammable Middle East, Israel readied for the possible outbreak of hostilities. The Israeli military disclosed it has deployed an "Iron Dome" missile defense battery in the Tel Aviv area to protect civilians from any possible missile attack from next-door Syria or any of its allies.

Missile defenses were deployed in the northern part of the country several days ago, and large crowds have been gathering at gas mask-distribution centers to pick up protection kits.




Re: "still got their respective supplies delivered."

Not through the Union blockade of the Confederacy they didn't.

You and putz are making sh*t up.

Keep working on that GED and make your mamma proud.


Stop It

You really have to come up with a better source than wikipedia. There isn't a college or even high school anywhere, that would accept them as a reference.


Re: "You really have to come up with a better source,"

Then support your nonsense and prove me wrong. :)


I haven't been here in awhile....i see nothing has change...still believing in the right/left paradigm thing again.....republicans...democrats....it's like a two headed snake people...all this Obama crap is just the same Bush crap...just a different face! Nothing has changed...same policies, different spin...


Too true. This isn't about Democrat or Republican; it's about a horrible foreign policy that the U.S. has stuck with since the 1950's. A foreign policy that has already cost us 3000+ civilian lives, and will soon cost us even more.


Well, every time we try to discuss the issues, Big Dog and Contango turn it into a partisan pissing match.


You can't see that Contango is the idiot instigator?


Re: "Contango turn it into a partisan pissing match."


Don't be a putz.

I remain an Independent (libertarian).

Repubs and Dems? Dumb and Dumber parties.


Libertarianism is for idiots.


you must be so proud 4...I mean your name calling skills for an internet tough guy are so good.


You can't see what he says...........?
Love must be blind.


The preferred policy is bomb everyone all the time without facts. Dems encouraged bush in Iraq. Obama, clearly the most incompetent & unqualified President in modern times, What a failure of leadership. Eight years of incompetence is a lot to dig out from and undo.

Continuing to break our bank in the Middle East is neither prudent or productive. Obama could not lead a mule to water. When Obama leaves the whitehouse, the only thing he will have missed is any REAL accomplishments.


@JudgeMeNot "Eight years of incompetence is a lot to dig out from and undo." It sure is. That is what President Obama is trying to do. Dig out and undo eight years of incompentence.

The Big Dog's back

Exactly! I think the judge made a Freudian slip.

Darwin's choice

So, how about posting a list of all these great accomplishments by Obama?

I'll start... 1.
nevermind, it would be a waste of bandwidth!


This was written with you in mind , Darwin's hemorrhoid.


Darwin's choice

Always the azzhat! Don't waiver! You'll go down swinging, though. Hahahahahahaha!!!!


Did you look at my link?

dorothy gale

Hard to accomplish anything with hateful, obstructionist, ignorant, do-nothing, treasonous, disrespectful REPUBLICANS blocking everything he suggests. And our President's GREATEST accomplishment is ridding the world of the demon called bin Laden. Something the little drunk moron before him could not do.


Well said.

Darwin's choice

see post below.....


Re: "REPUBLICANS blocking everything he suggests,"

So you want the HOR to rubber stamp a cruise missile strike on Syria?

Darwin's choice

Here's something Obama will never achieve....respect of our country!



Are you really that of a big dumb azz or are you playing?

That was pre-Iraq.
Ask those same people again how they feel about Bush.


Darwin's choice

Well azzhat, how many nations were backing President Bush going into Iraq? And how many are backing Obama? Your stupidity and blindness are blocking rational thought.


You are hopelessly stupid.


Am I the only one who sees any war as a money-maker for the maufacturers of weapons? Follow the money-trail and it ALWAYS comes back to making money from killing people and someone makes sure that there is always a war going on somewhere!!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Booming Tear Gas Industry Continues To Lead Global Economic Recovery


It's from The Onion so it is satirical, but still an amusing point to ponder. The other stories on the "newsreel" are good, too.


Insurgents in Syria take responsibility for chemical weapons attack


"Let's get something straight; above ALL else, US soldiers must first protect and defend the United States Constitution (not the military's constitution). Their "job" isn't to blindly obey orders from the Executive branch, acting as Obama's personal slave army, regardless if it violates the Constitution. Wake up people! To the US military: Most of you know why you joined the armed services of this country, and I imagine it had little to do with fighting endless wars overseas. Deep down inside, you realize the LAST thing the Syrian people need right now is (more) bombs being dropped on crowded cities where women and children sleep at night. You must understand; suggesting violence as the solution to violence is beyond insanity. Citizens, stop ridiculing your fellow soldiers for refusing to fight preemptive wars overseas and instead realize that their voice of resistance is an act of courage and self-discipline you could only dream of representing."

"Look at a picture of George W. Bush, then look at a picture of Barack H. Obama. If both pictures leave you with the taste of vomit in your mouth, you're most likely awake."
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