August 26th, 2013
03:43 PM ET
1 year ago

Full text: Kerry's pointed remarks on Syria

(CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria "inexcusable" and "undeniable" on Monday, adding that there was "a clear reason that the world has banned entirely chemical weapons."

He said that evidence "strongly indicates" chemical weapons were used in Syria and that "we know the Syrian regime maintains custody" of such weapons and has the rockets to use them.

Read a transcript of his remarks below.

Well, for the last several days, President Obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in Syria. And today, I want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons.

What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and - despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured - it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.

There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences.

And there is a reason why, no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us.

As a father, I can't get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing, while chaos swirled around him, the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can never ignore or forget.

Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.

So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscience, and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission, these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses.

We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead. Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up.

At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night. And as Ban Ki-moon said last week, the U.N. investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used, a judgment that is already clear to the world.

I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate, immediate transparency, immediate access, not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. Failure to permit that, I told him, would tell its own story.

Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systemically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons.

In fact, the regime's belated decision to allow access is too late, and it's too late to be credible. Today's reports of an attack on the U.N. investigators - together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods - only further weakens the regime's credibility.

At President Obama's direction, I've spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons.

But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.

Thank you.


Filed under: John Kerry • Syria
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Before we commit to another war, let's make sure we have the support of the rest of the free world!

    August 26, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    The Russians have not condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, at least not that I'm aware of. They've been quiet.

    August 26, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Vince3765

    a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. SHUT THIS TERRORIST DOWN!!

    August 26, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Rytis Abrutis

    I want to see war criminal Kerry and his co criminals put to justice. thank you.

    August 26, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. Ricky

    We need to go to war. I was against the Iraq war but this one is real.

    August 26, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. Randy White

    Looks like the popcorn I have ready will pop itself after this battle is done. Thanks Skull and Bones members!

    August 26, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. BILL, WI

    Very similar statement that then Sen. Kerry gave on 23 Jan. 2003 asking Pres Bush to take action against Saddam Hussein.

    August 26, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. Santa

    Kerry gettin' his war monger on. What a surprise.

    August 26, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. dave

    All of that is just empty rhetoric, if you don't have a way to pay for all of that. Adding it to the debt that we have from all the other wars is insufficient. The typical scenario is, this week they are clamoring for more war, next week they will be complaining about the debt, and clamoring for more tax breaks for the rich. From all the previous promises or jobs from tax breaks to the rich, the rich must owe the US economy about 100 million jobs, not to mention the trillions they charged up for wars. The typical scenario includes adding trillions to the debt for wars, then complaining about the debt, and then blaming social security, food stamps, and other social programs for all the debt. We have spent most of our lives at war, and not paying for any of it. The 1st step in any more wars is tax increases on the rich to pay for the pending war, and all the other wars. Without that, they have nothing, empty rhetoric.

    August 26, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Suemac in WA

    While I agree with little that John Kerry says on a day to day basis, I believe these words are heartfelt and spoke to the truth of the matter. The use of chemical and biological weapons are a crime against humanity and any nation or people that engage in their use must be stopped with all the force necessary to get this accomplished. Additionally, those that are responsible for using them should be charged with a capital crime and, if found guilty, face the wrath of the crime.

    August 26, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Data Driven

    Empire is burdensome. Now there's nothing left but to send the troops in. We've threatened, sanctioned, and our Secretary of State has delivered a long speech with a voice trembling with.rage. what follows is an American-led (led, that is, if we're lucky) ouster of the Assad regime, and an occupational period where we help the Syrians put into leadership roles people we like while simultaneously tweaking Putin's nose. Putin, not a madman, will squack but won't launch the Scuds, instead gleefully watching while more of our blood and treasure swirl down the drain.

    It's all so exhausting.

    August 26, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. abbot

    idots!

    August 26, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. PEPPY

    We are just not respected anymore due to the incapability leaders we have. We need leaders not celebs in charge.

    August 26, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. brian

    "...investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used..."

    So they only want to do the easy part?

    August 26, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. O'drama ya Mama

    The difference between Syria and Iraq is that we actually have tangible evidence of chemical weapons used in Syria. Now any decision the administration or congress makes will be a legitimate one.

    August 26, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. California Gary

    For anyone that thinks our POTUS is just talking the talk and won't actually walk the walk.......just check with Bin Laden about that.......or maybe you could check with the Somali pirates. When the man says he's gonna "git you", he gits you!

    August 26, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. Jack

    Sad. Only 14 comments on CNN after 30 minutes of this story appearing. Kerry really only said that there is "strong" evidence that a chemical attack occurred. He did not state that there is clear evidence that Assad committed the attack. But he wants us to include that anyway. Obama and Kerry are chomping at the bit to get into this fight. And the CNN readers who attacked Bush time and time again for Iraq are sitting on their hands.

    August 26, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. Larry in Houston

    Peppy, I agree w/ you...in addition to the fact that this country is so weak right now, we're vulnerable to anything, or anybody. Why do you think Putin is testing our commander in chief ? Answer: he knows he's weak, period. We're weak because Dubya wanted to finish what his Dad started, and it didn't work out too well. Should have left saddam in there, as a dictator, that's where it all started. It's okay trying to defend a country who is trying to "annex" some land, or want to conquer another country, (ie: driving saddams troops back) so they wouldn't take Kuwait) But trying to go further, and trying to take a dictator out, of another country, should have been a red flag, in other words, it's a no – no. Bottom Line ? this country is proving to the other world leaders, that we're so weak, that we can't whip our way out of a wet paper bag. Sad I tell ya, Sad.

    August 26, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  19. tg3685

    Same song sung against Iraq. People, don't fall for supporting this war. WMD, they have no shred of proof of where that weapon came from. Why use a gun when you already beat your enemy too death with your bare hands. Doesn't make sense.

    August 26, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling."

    Oh, indeed, it is absolutely horrific. And so very unnecessary. If only ....

    August 26, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. Bad Dog

    Don't make idle threats. That's the lesson from all of this. Assad saw what happened as a result of low-level attacks, i.e. nothing. Now he is really pushing the envelope. If the US/NATO does nothing, then he can go all out. On the other hand, if the US/NATO does attack the regime, it locks in full Russian and Iranian support. They essentially become guarantors of the Assad regime. Incidentally, it makes Russia and Iran allies. The real loser in all of this – apart from the poor Syrians – is Turkey. It badly mismanaged the whole conflict from Day 1. Turkey should have intervened militarily very early to hold back the Iranian encroachment in Syria. Now they have jihadis on their Southern border and a resurgent Syrian government that is no friend to Turkey.

    August 26, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. Len

    It is horrific and terrible! But before we commit, let us make sure our troops are safe.......And if you believe in a war, please make sure you, or your sons, daughters, grandchildren enlist in the military.

    August 26, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Chris

    dave

    All of that is just empty rhetoric, if you don't have a way to pay for all of that. Adding it to the debt that we have from all the other wars is insufficient. The typical scenario is, this week they are clamoring for more war, next week they will be complaining about the debt, and clamoring for more tax breaks for the rich. From all the previous promises or jobs from tax breaks to the rich, the rich must owe the US economy about 100 million jobs, not to mention the trillions they charged up for wars. The typical scenario includes adding trillions to the debt for wars, then complaining about the debt, and then blaming social security, food stamps, and other social programs for all the debt. We have spent most of our lives at war, and not paying for any of it. The 1st step in any more wars is tax increases on the rich to pay for the pending war, and all the other wars. Without that, they have nothing, empty rhetoric.
    ______________
    Why do the rich have to pay more??? Typical liberal, make the rich pay, jealous of the rich are ya???

    August 26, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    Sounds like rhetoric to justify whatever they do.......and we can be sure whatever they do, will be something they shouldn't have done.

    August 26, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |