September 8th, 2013
09:04 AM ET
11 months ago

WH chief of staff: ‘This is not Iraq or Afghanistan’

(CNN) – White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough argued Sunday that a military strike in Syria would not be a repeat of previous U.S. involvements in the Middle East or North Africa.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” McDonough said it’s “common sense” that the Syrian regime carried out the deadly chemical weapons attack last month that the U.S. government says left more than 1,400 dead in a Damascus suburb. He added the Obama administration feels “very good about the support” it has from other countries, though he wouldn’t say whether any of that support goes beyond moral backing.

Following two congressional hearings last week and multiple classified briefings, many members of Congress expressed fears of escalated involvement in the region should the U.S. intervene militarily.

McDonough acknowledged the risks are “manyfold,” saying one fear is that “somehow we get dragged into the middle of an ongoing civil war.” But he argued the U.S. plans to be “be very careful and very targeted and very limited in our engagement.”

“This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. This is not Libya,” he told CNN’s chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. “This is not an extended air campaign. This is something that's targeted, limited and effective, so as to underscore that (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) should not think that he could get away with this again.”

His comments echoed sentiments from President Barack Obama’s weekly address on Saturday, in which the president pledged U.S. action would not amount to “an open-ended intervention.”

McDonough, speaking about the August chemical attack, said the fact that the materials were delivered by the kind of rockets that the regime has, and on-the-ground videos of people dying without physical wounds, are key points of proof.

But he stopped short of providing a direct link between al-Assad and the alleged chemical weapons attack.

“Now do we have irrefutable, beyond reasonable doubt evidence? This is not a court of law, and intelligence does not work that way,” McDonough said, adding common sense says "he is responsible for this. He should be held accountable.”

First on CNN: Videos show glimpse into evidence for Syria intervention

On Friday, leaders from 10 countries - Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom — released a statement in line with the U.S.
condemnation of Syria’s use of chemical weapons, calling for “a strong international response” but not mentioning military action. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Saturday a European Union statement that also offered moral support but not military support.

Pressed on whether there are any countries willing to provide military equipment or assistance, McDonough continued to point to statements of moral support.

“We have plenty of support. I’m not going to get into who's going to do what in any particular operation. We feel very good about the support we have,” he said.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: Denis McDonough • Syria • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (623 Responses)
  1. Keyser

    "On CNN’s “State of the Union,” McDonough said it’s “common sense” that the Syrian regime carried out the deadly chemical weapons attack "

    That is the most ridiculous thing I have every read. Let's see the WH prove their "common sense" case before a War Crimes tribunal at the Hague.

    September 8, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. Will Rogers

    The only 'common sense' here Mr. McDonough is you lack thereof. The citizens of this country have been lied to again and again. Please show us that 'smoking gun' proof of evidence you have.

    September 8, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. mer

    unfortunately it looks more like Libya – without regime change and without allies. and we all know how that is turning out. Egypt, Libya, Syria – the WH policy is a disaster so far.

    September 8, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  4. footballislife1962

    I disagree. Common sense tells me the Rebels managed the attack with the help of somebody that wants Assad blamed for it. Common sense tells me not to believe anymore that comes out of Washington, DC.

    September 8, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. bob

    There better not be ANY "operations". Impeach this lawless fool.

    September 8, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  6. Jekyllisland

    Zero Hedge video of Syrian Rebels admitting they carried out the chemical attack.

    Let no truth get out, the man child king must look special

    September 8, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. footballislife1962

    I disagree. Common sense tells me the Rebels managed the chemical attack with the help of those that wanted Assad blamed for it. Common sense tells me not to believe much that comes out of Washington DC anymore. Common sense tells me not to get involved with some civil war where BOTH sides hate us.

    September 8, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. buffmuffin

    LOL...

    "common" sense pretty uncommon around the WH, it would seem....

    September 8, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  9. pixxa

    Common sense dictates that this administration is not to be trusted for telling the truth. I wouldn't believe what they claim even if there wasn't common sense proof indicating the opposite, which there is.

    September 8, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. Jeff Allen

    Wait....someone in the WH wants to base a decision on common sense? That would be a complete 180 of their prior decision-making process.

    September 8, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. Gary Anderson

    In Benghazi the WH had videos, were talking with staff by phone during the attack, and had 30 plus eye witnesses and they concluded that it was a youtube video. Now they want us to believe that they know what is going on in Syria. Please.

    September 8, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. Anonymous

    " McDonough said it’s 'common sense' that the Syrian regime carried out the deadly chemical weapons attack last month..." Common sense" is not evidence. Moreover "common sense" says people with the technical ability to design deadly IUDs using ordinary pressure cookers could be expected to devise means to produce a deadly gas and release it.

    September 8, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  13. TxSon

    Is this the same common sense the WH used to declare the Benghazi attack was due to an armature video? Yeah, we really trust WH "common sense". /endsarc

    September 8, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  14. Fastgirl

    Obama and his administration are experts in promoting propaganda.

    September 8, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  15. Don

    Obama, Kerry and their appointed military sycophants know very well that the Syrians, during the delay, moved chemicals to the targets. When our Tomahawk missiles explode and spread the sarin chemicals, many Syrians will die. America will not survive politically. (Is that the plan?)

    September 8, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  16. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I'm not suprised to see the GOP teaparty idiots stick up for asseds right to gas his own residents and children and Cruz on the Sunday shows doing the same thing along with demenstrators also protesting against the presidents right to act and therefor supporting asseds right to gas his own children, maybe you should take a look at yourselves and figure out why you would support the murder asseds right to gas his own children , did you support hitler too????? Idiots!!!!!

    September 8, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. don in albuquerque

    Does anybody remember a quaint little idea called Representative Gov't? Oh silly me, that and by the people, for the people went out of vogue several decades ago. Now its "By the people, to line my pocket."

    September 8, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. James Taggart

    "McDonough said it’s “common sense” that the Syrian regime carried out"

    But he stopped short of providing a direct link between al-Assad and the alleged chemical weapons attack.

    “Now do we have irrefutable, beyond reasonable doubt evidence? This is not a court of law, and intelligence does not work that way,"

    Let's see,... no evidence, but common sense seems to point towards Syria. Sure, Kick the tires and light the fires! See ya all in hell!

    September 8, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  19. rowleya

    Benghazi Hoax deja vu all over again.
    Me thinks Prez speaks with fork ed tongue. Ugh

    September 8, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  20. Attilathehun

    "Common sense" tells me that the rebels would not hesitate to gas innocent people if that would help their cause. It is in the Koran that lying and using any means to gain victory is okay. So the US weakens Assad. Then what. I think this president wants radical Islam to prevail.

    September 8, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Wandless Remme

    The stench off the head of the obongo Adm fish is so overpowering as to sicken true Americans to their core.

    September 8, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Matt

    Common Sense. You mean like trying to tell the American public that our ambassador was killed because of a you tube video? Common Sense said there was no advantage for Assad to even do it. Assad is winning, the target was not a rebel outpost or target and only civilians. It makes more sense for the rebels to have done it to instigate a larger conflict as they were losing the current one. That makes common sense.
    Who has a record of attacking civilian targets Assad or Al Queda? Who does things on the anniversary of other events? 9/11 was one year after failed Middle East peace accords. This attack was one year after Obama drew a red line. If Assad was intending to thumb his nose at Obama then he would have acted the next day not a year later. It's sorry and sad to say but I trust the Russian president more than I trust the current American president.

    September 8, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  23. NVRAT

    So, Common Sense is better that real proof is it? well, where was the common sense when Benghazi was being attacked and our people were being killed seems to me that would have been the time to use itnot now it

    September 8, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. Eagle0421

    This administration is now tinkering in the Twilight Zone. Common sense is foreign to their foreign policy. Common Sense = thinking 180 degrees from what Obama thinks. The man never even ran a hot dog stand.

    September 8, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  25. Eagle0421

    "He added the Obama administration feels “very good about the support” it has from other countries, though he wouldn’t say whether any of that support goes beyond moral backing." Just repeat it over and over again until becomes the truth. Delusional much?

    September 8, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
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