In an effort to convince the nation and U.S. allies of the necessity to take action against the Syrian regime for use of chemical weapons on their own citizens, the White House released new proof to media on Sunday, Sep. 8. ABC News reported on Sunday morning, Sep. 8, that overnight they obtained gruesome and graphic images on a series of 13 videos showing pictures of Syrian civilians, many of them children, which is “now at the heart of the administration’s case to Congress.” The videos so disturbing, they have caused horrified responses from senators who viewed them in a classified viewing last week. When asked why so many Americans oppose military action in Syria, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), chairman of Rules & Administration Committee, told ABC News, “They don't know what I know. They haven’t heard what I heard.”
Secretary of State John Kerry plead, “But this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter,” at the meeting of European Union ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius on Saturday, Aug. 7. On Sunday it was on to the United Nations Security Council, reported Reuters. According to a report by Jonathan Karl with ABC News the House vote on the military strike would likely be 229 “no” votes and only 44 “yes” votes. The White House chief of staff disagreed with Karl’s assessment on the situation in the House in regard to the military strike on Syria on "This Week", however.
At the G20 Summit in Russia on Friday, President Barack Obama, in his candid and honest manner, admitted “I put it before Congress because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons posed a[n] imminent, direct, threat to the United States.” In fact, the president has all along pointed out the need to aid the citizens of Syria, as well as U.S. allies in the region. Therefore, the nation’s immediate safety was never said to be threatened and has not been used as the focus for congressional votes nor to influence the American public’s decision to support the defense of innocents and U.S. allies in or near Syria.
During that same interview, President Obama told the gathered leaders, “I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism.” But, it appears that is not the same stance held by his political opponents in the House.
George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" asked Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, if a U.S. military attack would aid al-Qaeda. George reminded Sen. Cruz that his “fellow Republican, Sen. John McCain disagreed” with Cruz’s views on how to handle Assad’s crimes against humanity, saying that Cruz was “uninformed”. George referenced Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) Illinois, an Iraq war vet, who has also “taken exception to” Republican propaganda that the U.S. military would aid the al-Qaeda rebels in Syria. Rep. Kinzinger told the House, “They say that if we go in and we strike Assad that we are acting as, quote, ‘al-Qaeda’s Air Force.’ And, I believe that is a cheap line by some people to garner headlines.” Sen. Cruz responded, “I don't know Mr. Kinzinger. I certainly respect his service. He’s entitled to his opinions. What I can tell you is that actual line initially was said by Dennis Kucinich and what I saw after that was a current Naval sailor who tweeted and said, ‘I didn’t sign up to serve as al-Qaeda’s Air Force.’”
Stephanopoulos’ first guest on "This Week" was White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. McDonough responded to the host's first question, “George, I think it’s important for us — before we jump to any conclusions, I obviously really admire Jon Karl’s reporting, but — I've been talking to dozens of members of Congress over the last week. Not a single one of them, so far, has rebutted or refused the intelligence — which is to say everybody agreed that on August 21st Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. So, the question for Congress this week is a very simple one: ‘Should there be consequences for his having used gases, chemical weapons, to kill more than a thousand of his own people, including more than 400 children?’
“The answer to that question will be followed closely in Tehran. The answer to that question will be followed closely in Damascus. The answer to that question will be followed very closely by members of Lebanese-Hezbollah. So this is a big question and a big week for Congress to address that very fundamental national security issue. Now, as you heard the president say, we didn’t go to Congress because we thought this was an empty exercise. We are investing a lot of time and effort in this because we think Congress should be a full partner in our national security matters, and when they are we're stronger as a country ... Members of Congress also need to understand that if they want to see Assad held to account for activity, they should vote ‘yes’ on the resolution.”
To George’s question about Republicans threatening impeachment of the president if he should go through with a strike in the event that Congress votes down the resolution, the chief of staff answered, “What the president is focused on right now, George, is the national security implications of what is undeniably and unrebutted intelligence which suggest that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people killing 400 children ... We believe that we have the capability in place to do it. Congress should be our full partner in that effort ... That’s exactly what we're focused on. That’s the question before Congress this week ... My hunch is ... there'll be all kinds of distractions ... to try and knock us off our game. But, that’s the question before Congress this week.”
George asked McDonough about the consequences and damage that not getting approval from Congress to strike Syria might have on the president’s credibility and his presidency. He referred to articles by Ross Douthat of the New York Times which suggested that “this would finish off the president as a credible actor on the world stage.” The chief of staff said, “I really enjoy Ross’ reporting and his writing ... I have to say that right now, politics, all those questions are going to be debated and worked out by others.
“We're focused on the national security question before us ... it’s a very fundamental important question. Will there be consequences? Now, what we're trying to reinforce, here, and what our allies have supported us reinforcing just Friday at the G20 is a prohibition that goes back almost a hundred years — a prohibition against the use of chemical weapons ... In World War I, our troops were subjected to chemical weapons attack, regularly. Not since World War I have they seen the same kinds of attacks. That‘s important. That increases our security. That reduces the burden against our men and women who are in the Armed Forces who are taking a lot of burden, lately, by the way. So, we want to underscore this. We think Congress should join us in doing it.”
On the question of lack of support from MoveOn.org and people like Sen. Ted Cruz, Chief of Staff McDonough said, “I’m outraged for somebody to suggest that our people would be serving as allies for al-Qaeda, one. Two, on this question about what this is and what this isn’t. What this is, George, is very clear. Targeted, consequential, limited attacks against Assad forces and Assad capabilities so that he is deterred from carrying out these actions, again.
“Here’s what it is not. It is not boots on the ground. It is not an extended air campaign. It is not Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya. This is a very concerted, concentrated, limited effort that we can carry out and that can underscore and secure our interests.
“[Congressional] Members have been in their districts, and in their states. We've been talking to many of them, dozens of them. And, when they see this intelligence, they don't rebut it. So, the bottom line is they have to answer the question: ‘Should there be consequences?’”
Next week, President Obama has set himself a heavy schedule in efforts to inform Congress and the public on those issues. The president will do six national television interviews tomorrow, address the nation on Tuesday, and has enlisted former officials like Stephen Hadley from the Bush administration to make the case with Republican members of the House. Hadley was national security advisor for George W. Bush and has been talking directly with Republican members of Congress to convince them of the necessity of U.S. military action in Syria.