Obama seeking congressional OK for Syria action

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013 2:16 PM
Last updated 3:55 PM
  • Follow Latest News

WASHINGTON  — 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 send 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, 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."

There was one dissenting view, from Rep. Peter King., R-N.Y.

"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.

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.

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.

Comments (27) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
faithson
5157
Points
faithson 08/31/13 - 02:38 pm
3
3
Well said at news conference

Like him or not.. It is time to stand behind OUR President on this one. 1400 dead, 400 children killed by a barbaric dictator, calls for a response from civilized people and their governments.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 08/31/13 - 03:10 pm
3
3
He is slick when congress
Unpublished

He is slick when congress turns him down he will come out smelling like rose.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 03:17 pm
7
0
Thank you Mr. President

For doing this the right way!!

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 03:20 pm
6
2
BUT, I'm not supportive of bombing Syria!!

For this reason: Because by attacking Syria, we are strengthening Al Qaeda, who IS the resistance against Assad!! We are following a PATTERN, which is very concerning. Egypt, Libya and now Syria; the leaders of the Countries WERE disgusting men, indeed. But they also were men who were content with dictating THEIR Country and didn't want all out Jihad with Israel. These governments under Mubarak, Kadafi and now Assad; have not attacked Israel. Yes, attacks have been launched FROM Syria, but it wasn't the Syrian government, but factions of radical islamists.

This is the EXACT reason, Al Qaeda want's them removed!! These leaders were and ARE NOT doing enough against Israel!! The Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda want to set up a caliphate around Israel, and WE are going to help them by bombing Assad!! Al Qaeda WILL take over that Country if Assad falls!!

All of these "Freedom Revolutions" are just disguises to hide MB and Al Qaeda's true intentions. Why do you think the revolutionaries in Egypt are burning Christian Churches and murdering Christians?

Mohamed Morsi was a Muslim Brotherhood leader and they had high expectations for him. He PREACHED jihad against Israel, over and over again!! But did NOTHING. They tired of his preaching, with no action!! Morsi was a radical, yes; but he then became the leader of Egypt and that power is addicting!! He didn't want to risk losing that power and prestige, by attacking Israel!! He became more about HIMSELF than the jihad movement!! Meanwhile, the people who supported him; didn't have such good lives. They were waiting on him to wage Jihad and they didn't get what they desired. The Muslim Brotherhood WAS behind his ousting!! The want complete control over Egypt and they want a radical who WILL DO SOMETHING!!

All these leaders that we are supporting the ousting of, have one thing in common; they may not LIKE Israel but they wouldn't openly attack them. Mubarak, Morsi, Kadafi, and Assad might be extremists, but they were also egocentric, more so than concerned about the movement!! THIS, was a problem with their base!!

As long as this remains a Civil War and doesn't spill out to other Countries, we need to stay OUT!! Both sides are radical extremists!!

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 03:26 pm
6
2
It is funny however!!

That those on the left wanted Bush actually prosecuted for ousting Saddam Hussein. Claiming he PERSONALLY lied about WMD's, to take us into war!!

But Saddam Hussein had murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, using the SAME methods!! He used torture and CHEMICAL weapons against his own people NUMEROUS TIMES!! Killing MANY more than Assad has so far!!

Saddam Hussein was even MORE barbaric than Assad!! He actually and INTENTIONALLY used chemical weapons against children!!

Where was the left on this issue? Why are they saying now that "We MUST take action!!"

Hypocrisy anyone? Ooooh, but I believe it's much deeper than that!! This rabbit hole is VERY deep!! Do you want to take the red pill or the blue pill? Your choice!!

LillyfromtheMills
13231
Points
LillyfromtheMills 08/31/13 - 04:48 pm
2
1
Thank you

Mr President - first time you've called it right - its actually funny to us - if we'd drawn a line in the sand - no one would cross it

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 08/31/13 - 05:00 pm
2
4
There are no clean hands when it come to this ..
Unpublished

MF15 you stated .. 'Saddam Hussein was even MORE barbaric than Assad!! He actually and INTENTIONALLY used chemical weapons against children!! Where was the left on this issue? Why are they saying now that "We MUST take action!!" Hypocrisy anyone?'

Saddam Hussein did this in the 80's in the war against Iran. Where was the left? Hey, where was the right? As a nation we chose sides during this conflict - we went with Iraq (and looked the other way). I don't know if attacking Syria for the suspected use of chemical weapons is a good thing or a bad thing. I wish things like this could be cut and dry. Damn.

allhans
23626
Points
allhans 08/31/13 - 05:21 pm
4
1
fedex...Clinton was waging

fedex...Clinton was waging war of a kind on Saddam for his crimes at the time Bush came on the scene. try 1998, 1999...it's all there, look it up.

Pops
8345
Points
Pops 08/31/13 - 05:30 pm
3
5
He's a big puss

oh yes he is.....

dichotomy
32855
Points
dichotomy 08/31/13 - 05:48 pm
5
1
Hmmm, I wonder how many

Hmmm, I wonder how many Shiites and Christian men, women and children the Muslim Brotherhood, who WE WILL BE HELPING take over Syria, have killed?

Believe me, there ain't no good guys or bad guys in this Arab Spring thingy. Well....there ARE a few but they usually end up NOT in power and mostly dead.

But, I'm glad Obama decided to wait for Congress and hopefully a U.N report......and MAYBE a reconsideration from the Brits.

KSL
129204
Points
KSL 08/31/13 - 05:59 pm
3
2
Ok faithson,

Were you standing behind the 100 thousad Kurds that Sadam killed, or do you need it spelelled out 1000,000?

Why did you ignore us when we told you WMD was in Iraq and the reason it was not found was that it that lt had been shipped across the border before the invasion? Plenty of advanced notice, but nothing like this president has given.

KSL
129204
Points
KSL 08/31/13 - 06:05 pm
3
2
faithson

Where were you on the Kurds? I know, you were against Bush for political reasons. You have not given up your politics, have you?

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 08/31/13 - 06:35 pm
6
2
allhans ...
Unpublished

this is not a right thing or a left thing. It's not a Reagan, Bush, Obama thing. Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran during their war in the 1980's and we did nothing (right or wrong). Our action against Syria now results in what? What's the endgame? No winner here.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/31/13 - 08:35 pm
7
1
It's Time

It is time for John Boehner to grow a pair and call the president's bluff. Boehner should declare he will not support a resolution calling for military strikes against the government of Syria and will urge Republicans to join him. Syria did not attack the United States. Syria is of no strategic consequence to the United States. Syria poses no threat to the United States.

It is none of our business, Mr. President!

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/31/13 - 08:48 pm
3
4
Let's see how Republicans

Let's see how Republicans vote on Syria. A vote against President Obama will put a picture of you next to Assad in the next election. Oops.
President Obama did the right thing to bring the vote on Syrian intervention to Congress. Let's see how the Republicans play partisan.
It's a difficult vote for Republicans on Syria. Vote for Halliburton and your War Machine Donors or vote against Obama? Such a conundrum.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 08/31/13 - 08:58 pm
6
1
Vote

GAD posted:

Vote for Halliburton and your War Machine Donors or vote against Obama? Such a conundrum.

Good point, GAD. There are a lot fewer neo-cons in the current Congress than there were in 2001. I think there are enough to vote against Obama. Thanks to the Tea Party, there are plenty of Republicans to vote against the bombing. The Democrats are the neo-neo-cons in 2013.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 09:45 pm
2
1
Boehner and the rest of the

Boehner and the rest of the republicans, should give this a long thought and vote to do the RIGHT THING. The right thing for THIS COUNTRY and the right thing in Syria!! The second, is not an easy decision!! Bomb Assad and support Al Qaeda, or don't bomb and let Assad run rampant!! VERY TOUGH decision!!

I certainly hope republicans will NOT vote no, JUST because Obama has said he intends to take action. I DO NOT want partisan politics in this!! Think about it long and hard republicans, and do the RIGHT THING!!

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 09:58 pm
2
1
Fedex

You're accurate about the MASS chemical weapons attacks being in the 80's!! But you're neglecting to mention Saddam's thousands of smaller atrocities, committed after Desert Storm AND all the way until he was removed!!

You're specifically talking about the Halabja poison gas massacre; which occurred during the Al-Anfal Campaign. He also starved to death, thousands of Marsh Arabs.

Up until the point he was captured in 2003; Saddam was known to have rape rooms, where he raped the women family members of opposing political ideology. He also assassinated entire families, including children of opposing political figures. Torture was typical, when killing these people!!

So, we don't need to argue about WHEN it happened!! The question is, why wouldn't LP's support removing this monster; but are VERY quick to support Obama bombing a nation whose atrocities aren't NEAR what Saddam committed, yet?

Now, I realize YOU said you're not sure about supporting this; so I'm not talking about you personally. But most liberal's I see on TV are saying we MUST support Obama's decision to attack and "Something must be done." Yet, this was FAR from the reaction to removing Saddam.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 10:10 pm
2
1
GAD

"Let's see how Republicans vote on Syria. A vote against President Obama will put a picture of you next to Assad in the next election. Oops."

And?? A vote FOR attacking Syria is a vote for Al Qaeda; who attacked THIS COUNTRY on 09/11/2001!! For those who vote FOR THIS ATTACK, maybe we should put their picture beside Osama Bin Laden, or since he is dead; post their picture beside Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Do you even realize how absurd this argument is? Leftist's absolutely BRUTALIZED BUSH for the Iraq war!! Claiming Iraq had NEVER attacked America and was NOT part of the war on terror!!Some democratic leaders actually called for him to be prosecuted for MURDER for an "illegal" war. Well, I have a question; has Assad or the Syrian government ever attacked us? Has he attacked ANYONE outside of HIS Country? Yes, they are in Civil War and war is Hell!! Of course he shouldn't use chemical weapons; but how is that OUR business all of a sudden? Please explain, but you'll have to type slow for us simpletons to understand.

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/31/13 - 10:16 pm
4
2
My posting merely brought up

My posting merely brought up the point that it's a tough call either way. You might want to consider switching to decaf.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 10:36 pm
3
1
"A vote against President

"A vote against President Obama will put a picture of you next to Assad in the next election. Oops."

"Let's see how the Republicans play partisan."

"Vote for Halliburton and your War Machine Donors or vote against Obama? Such a conundrum."

Only in YOUR world could anyone believe this was "merely brought up the point that it's a tough call either way."

Honestly man, do you really expect people to believe this?

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/31/13 - 10:47 pm
1
1
Yup

Yup

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 08/31/13 - 11:10 pm
2
1
Enough said!!

Enough said!!

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 08/31/13 - 11:19 pm
4
1
MF!5
Unpublished

An American vote for attacking the Syrian agime is in the best interest in the US? Are we sure? I guess the question you have to your answer is - would you be willing to let your children/grandchildren sign up for and fight for this cause?

GiantsAllDay
9580
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/31/13 - 11:48 pm
4
1
Brilliant move. He knew

Brilliant move. He knew Congressional Republicans would hammer him no matter what he did, without ever having to explain what they would do in his shoes. Get them all on record and shut them up. Of course they will still attack him over anything, everything, and nothing, but at least they will have their own vote on the issue to answer for. Obama made the right call because if he had initiated military action without the support of Congress and the public, then regardless of whatever was accomplished, the result afterwards would have been a failure. He's spot on saying there needs to be a national discussion. I don't believe in right and wrong so much as I believe in consequences. Whatever choice is made will carry with it severe consequences and there are no good choices here. Only the least bad choice.

myfather15
55706
Points
myfather15 09/01/13 - 05:30 am
2
1
Fedex

I completely agree with your last comment, believe it or not. I never said attacking Syria was in the best interest of the US. That situation is so convoluted, it's impossible to tell what we should do. As I said; attacking Syria is supporting Al Qaeda and I DO NOT want to support them!!

To answer your question; I would absolutely NOT, NOT, NOT want to send my child over there to fight for those people!! As I stated in another comment about this; it's time for THEM to fight their own fight!! I do NOT believe for a second this revolution is about freedom or democracy, but if it is then it's time for the people living in these Countries to fight their own fight!! I'm completely SICK of middle eastern Countries and their inability to GET ALONG peacefully!! Bunch of radical barbarians that they are, going into the streets and celebrating thousands of people being slaughtered!! Many Countries did so after 9/11 and we should NEVER forget that!!

It's time we pulled out of the Middle East completely!! We need to make it very known that we want nothing to do with the middle east anymore; but if they attack Israel or us again; we will launch and onslaught of missles and detroy the entire Country, whomever it is that attacks us.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 09/01/13 - 07:10 am
3
4
I think GAD at 848 sums it up
Unpublished

I think GAD at 848 sums it up pretty well.

justthefacts
21757
Points
justthefacts 09/01/13 - 07:52 am
8
1
Shoe, other foot

All of a sudden being the most powerful man in the world isn't so much fun for Obama. Let's see how he likes having to make decisions that mean so much. Maybe he will reflect on how easy it looked from the outside when he was criticizing President Bush.

lovingthesouth72
1368
Points
lovingthesouth72 09/01/13 - 08:29 am
2
2
the hipocrisy ...

he calls this an attack on human dignity, yet he is fine with partial birth abortion. we have a morally schizophrenic president - World leaders have warned him that an attack on Syria would not help the problem, as a matter of fact, it would create a worse situation. He is so proud that he cannot take advice from world leaders. Contact your congress reps and ask them to vote NO!!

seenitB4
86957
Points
seenitB4 09/01/13 - 08:36 am
3
1
I thought the same thing JTF

"Maybe he will reflect on how easy it looked from the outside when he was criticizing President Bush."

Ain't so easy sitting in that chair....but now he will have them on record..yea or nay...& that is what he wants.

The USA talks too much about our plans ...it is like we tell the enemy where we will be 24/7.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Former commissioner's case remains under review

While former Augusta commissioner Donnie Smith's statements to Georgia State Patrol investigators likely can't be used against him, the state Office of the Inspector General continues to conduct ...
Search Augusta jobs