Obama beats war drum against Syria
US President Barack Obama urges Americans to support the use of military force against Syria's chemical weapons, reports US correspondent Nick O'Malley.PT0M0S 620 349
US President Barack Obama has again made his moral case for military action against the Syrian regime, even as he said his administration was pursuing the possibility of a peaceful resolution.
In an address to the American people, the President sought to reassure Americans that he would not allow the nation to be dragged into yet another war, while explaining why he believed that not responding to the use of chemical weapons could endanger American troops and civilians in the long term, as conventions against chemical weapons were eroded.
US President Barack Obama has addressed the American people on Syria, calling for them to support military action if last-minute diplomacy fails. Photo: AFP
While declaring that "we shouldn't be the world's policeman", he encouraged Congress to get behind a just cause.
‘‘If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons."
He spoke graphically about the deaths of more than 1000 Syrians exposed to sarin gas, and even called on American citizens and members of Congress to go online and watch the videos taken in the wake 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?"
He also directly appealed to critics on both sides of US politics.
"To my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America's military might with the 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."
And he again argued that concessions made by Dr Bashar al-Assad in recent days and even hours have been made only because of the American threat, which he said must now be maintained and even strengthened.
"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," he said.
The President even sought to answer many of the specific questions and objections that have been raised since he called on Congress to give him authority to use military force against Dr Assad. He said he would not allow America to be drawn into another war, would not allow American troops to be used, and nor was he pursuing a prolonged air campaign.
"This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective, deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Dr Assad's capabilities."
And he answered the criticism that there was no point in a "pin prick" strike that was not designed to remove Dr Assad from power.
"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," he said.
He said Syria did not have the capacity to retaliate militarily against the US, and apparently referring to the threat of a terrorist response he said, "any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day".
Despite this, he said he had asked Congress to delay its vote on his call for the use of force until America and its allies had explored the Russian proposal that Syria turns over its chemical weapons, and allows the UN to complete its investigations.
In the hours before the speech Dr Assad admitted how extensive his chemical stockpile was for the first time and said he would sign conventions against their use. But the President said he believed these moves had been prompted only by the credible threat of force.
While talks continue between the US and Russia, the two still remain divided over this threat, with Russia demanding the US officially renounce force as part of any compromise.