To fully understand President Obama’s Syria speech, it’s required to absorb this scene from Cold Comfort Farm – one of the more underrated movies in film history…
The bulk of the movie, which is hilariously entertaining (plus…Kate Beckinsale), revolves around the grandmother who rules the roost at Cold Comfort Farm and is allowed to terrorize the family into a spate of incomprehensibly stupid decisions because “I saw something nasty in the woodshed.”
We never find out what that something was – and at the end, the obnoxious American movie executive points out in his own special way that it really doesn’t matter – but what we do know is that it changes everything for the Starkadders who reside at the farm.
And Obama saw something nasty in Syria’s woodshed, so we have to go to war. Or not war. Or to the U.N. Or to Congress. Or not to Congress. And he has to do it now. Or later. With the support of the country. Or not.
There is no Kate Beckinsale in this movie. All we get is Michelle Obama making your kids eat food they hate at the school cafeteria.
With that, let’s dive into what passes for American leadership circa 2013, shall we?
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria — why it matters, and where we go from here.
Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America has worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement. But I have resisted calls for military action, because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Right. Obama is the peacemaking President, unlike that warmonger Bush. Obama doesn’t do military action – he does humanitarian drone strikes in Yemen, friendly bombings in Libya and peaceful attacks in Pakistan. And in Syria, he’s helped the moderate opposition to craft a political settlement – which involves as little cannibalism and wholesale murder of Christians by said moderate opposition as is possible.
The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas. Others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath. A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk. On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits — a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war.
“I saw something nasty in the woodshed.”
This was not always the case. In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.
Interesting that he doesn’t mention the 5,000 or so Kurds Saddam Hussein gassed to death in 1988. It might well have strengthened his case, seeing as though Hussein’s use of chemical weapons factored into cobbling together the massive coalitions of international military forces which assembled for Operation Desert Storm and the Iraq War. Those coalitions were, as it turns out, considerably larger than the one Obama is building (any day now we’ll have Andorra and the Turks & Caicos Islands on board) for whatever it is he’s proposing in Syria.
But Obama can’t even mention Saddam Hussein when it actually benefits his case for Syria, because antipathy for his predecessor and the Iraq War is 99.413 percent of the reason he isn’t a back-bench assclown Democrat senator busily dodging federal prosecutors wishing to talk to him about his connections to Tony Rezko or Eric Whitaker or some of the other slimeball Chicago Machine apparatchiks who put him into that seat.
On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.
Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gasmasks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack, and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.
No, we don’t know the Assad regime was responsible. We THINK the Assad regime was responsible. We have very little proof of this, and we can’t explain exactly why it benefited Assad to use sarin gas. There has also been evidence that the Syrian rebels used chemical weapons, which doesn’t excuse Assad’s use of them but merely points out what a colossal mess Syria is and why on earth do we want to get involved in trying to sort it out.
No matter for Obama. Somebody gassed somebody, and so he’s gonna fix it. He doesn’t know what he’s fixing, but don’t worry about that. He did fine with Obamacare and the housing crisis and Detroit, right? This is nothing.
When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.
Oh, the CHILDREN.
This is a guy who voted in favor of infanticide as a state senator in Illinois, and who does everything he can to insure that your tax dollars are spent funding Planned Parenthood. He’s the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had. And all of a sudden he gives a damn about KIDS?
Sure he does. They’re Syrian kids.
Let me explain why. If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.
Our troops train in chemical weapons gear on a constant basis. They bring that gear with them when they go to war. It was standard issue in Iraq, a fact of which he’d like the country to be completely oblivious. The idea that somehow our troops don’t face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield is an out-and-out lie intended to bamboozle and flummox soccer moms and high school dropout tattoo artists who don’t have a clue about how the world works.
In other words, his voters.
Since there is evidence the rebels used chemical weapons as well, are we talking about shooting Obama’s peace missiles at the Al-Qaeda gang too?
If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran — which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path.
The Israelis can more than take care of themselves. Jordan’s major threat comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Obama has made common cause. And Turkey is already engaged in this fight on the side of the rebels; the idea that Assad is somehow going to start using chemical weapons against the Turks and bring their sizable army down on him like a hard rain is laughable.
By the way, Obama’s “unbelievably small” attack on Syria which we’re assured is not going to be an actual act of war…this is supposed to deter Iran from building nukes? How stupid does he think the American people are?
Don’t answer that. This is already too depressing.
This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.
The Pentagon said last year that it would take 75,000 ground troops to secure and dispose of Assad’s chemical weapons – and Obama thinks he’s going to solve this problem with his peace-missile strike?
That’s my judgment as Commander-in-Chief. But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.
And also, it sucks to be out there by yourself shooting missiles at people when Congress hasn’t given you permission to start a war (which is in that constitution our constitutional democracy is based on) and when the American public thinks it’s a lousy idea. That’s called not having political cover, which ain’t much fun. Oh, and since the War Powers Act says he has to get congressional authority to prosecute acts of war in the absence of an imminent threat…there’s that. Of course, he ignored it in Libya and nobody did anything to him like, say, impeach him, what difference does it make?
This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.
Is Obama really blaming Bush again? Seems like it, right?
Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington — especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.
Yeah, because he’s doing a bang-up job with all the domestic policy stuff.
It’s no wonder, then, that you’re asking hard questions. So let me answer some of the most important questions that I’ve heard from members of Congress, and that I’ve read in letters that you’ve sent to me.
First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.” A veteran put it more bluntly: “This nation is sick and tired of war.”
My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities.
And Assad and his friends in Moscow and Tehran will do absolutely nothing in response to these peace missiles Obama wants to shoot at him.
Nothing at all. We launch those peace missiles and it all goes quiet.
The thousands of Hezbollah operatives living here in America, and the thousands more all over the world, won’t do a damn thing. Why would they? They’re only sworn allies of Iran and Syria, they only perfected things like truck bombs and they’re only looking for a reason to hit us. No threat there at all.
Forget about Assad going on TV with Charlie Rose and threatening retaliation we can’t even imagine if we launch those peace missiles. He’s certainly bluffing, because he knows that peace missiles =/= a war, right? When the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor we recognized that since they didn’t have boots on the ground it didn’t really mean a war was on.
This is so incredibly stupid it ought to give you a nosebleed. Bombing somebody is an act of war. You cannot guarantee when you prosecute an act of war against someone that they won’t take it as such. If you prosecute an act of war against someone, you are obligated to treat that act as starting a war with them. And this simpering incompetent is abjectly refusing to acknowledge this obvious truth.
Others have asked whether it’s worth acting if we don’t take out Assad. As some members of Congress have said, there’s no point in simply doing a “pinprick” strike in Syria.
Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force — we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons.
And he knows this, how?
If I’m Assad, I might decide that Obama is correct – I won’t use sarin on the rebels. Instead, I’ll use them on Qualcomm Stadium next Sunday. And my Hezbollah friends can figure out a good way to deliver them for me.
Why shouldn’t I? If I was dumb enough to use them in the first place and attract Obama’s attention, I might as well show him I’m just as vicious and ruthless as he is, and since I believe like every other Arab bad guy that the Americans are a bunch of cowards who tuck tail and run at the first drop of their blood I can spill I can feel confident that he won’t respond to my retaliatory strike by starting World War III.
Oh, but that would never happen, you say. Yeah? Who thought that some minor Austrian princeling getting assassinated in Sarajevo would result in wiping out an entire generation of European youth? People are stupid, and tyrannical hereditary dictators hanging onto power by their bloody claws are even more stupid. Counting on them not to respond to your provocations is dumber still.
Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don’t dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakeable support of the United States of America.
We’ve addressed all of this above. Arrogance and delusion are the hallmarks of the President of the United States’ foreign policy thinking. That isn’t funny, it isn’t ridiculous – it’s frightening.
Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that’s so complicated, and where — as one person wrote to me — “those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?”
It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people — and the Syrian opposition we work with — just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.
This air biscuit has been floated by Obama’s toadies already. Somehow if we don’t bomb Assad, somehow that will mean Al Qaeda only gains strength. It’s never explained exactly how this is supposed to work, or how we aren’t helping the Al Qaeda crowd by bombing Assad. To refute this, it would require the ability to explain it in the first place, and I’m at a loss where to begin.
Finally, many of you have asked: Why not leave this to other countries, or seek solutions short of force? As several people wrote to me, “We should not be the world’s policeman.”
I agree, and I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations — but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.
Too bad he didn’t try actually backing the people in Syria who could have been our allies when those people had a chance of emerging as victors in this fight. That chance is gone, and not because of the sarin.
However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.
Now we’re in the Hall of Mirrors. Obama says the Russian offer, which everyone – even Obama – knows is a farce, is “constructive.”
Nah, bro. It’s a coup de grace. The Russians pounced on your Easter Island Moai Secretary of State’s moronic gaffe about making Assad give up his chemical weapons to seize the diplomatic initiative and make you look like the warmonger on the scene, and now you’re in full diplomatic retreat and looking for a way out of launching a War Of Choice without the support of either house of Congress or the American people or any of your allies. And you’re trying to pass this off as “constructive,” which makes you look entirely too gullible and stupid to run a Circle K, much less the free world.
It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.
That’s wrong, too. It’s not too early to know that you’re getting rolled, because the Russians have already made their offer contingent on your guarantee that you will never attack Assad and that short of that you won’t be getting anything binding out of Putin or Assad.
I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom, and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st. And we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas — from Asia to the Middle East — who agree on the need for action.
Why is he giving this speech, again? He’s just been telling us how important it is that he bomb the Syrians, and now he’s telling us it’s important not to do anything. Obama just admitted he’s wasting our time, and he isn’t even apologizing for it.
Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight, I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.
My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements — it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them.
And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.
I especially like this part, where I’m to be lectured by Barack Obama on consistency.
Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?
“I saw something in the woodshed.”
Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.” Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.
Notice how the 100,000 Syrians killed by bombs and bullets are inconsequential. It’s the gun control mentality applied to foreign policy, with predictable results.
America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.
Again with the children. He closes with The Children. It’s For The Children. How pathetically weak an argument is this? How cynical is its maker in attempting to sucker the saps and the weak-minded to his side?
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.