September 1st, 2013
09:03 AM ET
10 years ago

Kerry: 'Signatures of sarin' found in Syria

Updated 3:20 p.m. ET, 9/1

(CNN) - Blood and hair samples from eastern Damascus, Syria, have "tested positive for signatures of sarin" gas, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday, arguing that with "each day that goes by, this case is even stronger."

Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. obtained the samples independently from "first responders" and through an "appropriate chain of custody"," not the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors.

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"We know that the regime ordered this attack, we know they prepared for it," Kerry said. "We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards. We've seen the horrific scenes all over the social media, and we have evidence of it in other ways, and we know that the regime tried to cover up afterwards, so the case is really an overwhelming case."

Fast facts about Sarin gas

On Saturday, President Barack Obama said "well over 1,000 people were murdered" in the August 21 attack. The president proposed what he said would be a limited military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; however, he plans to seek authorization from Congress before taking any further steps.

Obama's recoil on striking Syria draws criticism from both sides

Sarin–a clear, tasteless and odorless nerve agent–is one of the most toxic chemical weapons. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, said a fraction of an ounce of sarin on a person's skin could be fatal.

"It can be absorbed across the skin, it can be absorbed into the lungs, across the eyes. It's pretty gruesome stuff," he said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live." "It is so indiscriminate...So you don't even know that you've been exposed, necessarily, until you suddenly start to get sick. And then, it starts pretty quickly and can degrade pretty quickly as well."

Top U.S. officials have said there's no doubt that the Syrian government was behind the attack, while Syrian officials have denied responsibility and blamed jihadists fighting with the rebels.

While British and U.S. intelligence reports say the attack involved chemical weapons, U.N. officials have stressed the importance of waiting for an official report from the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors.

The inspectors left Syria on Saturday, carrying evidence that will determine whether chemical weapons were used in the attack last month. Those results could take up to three weeks.

Could Syria strike back if United States, allies, attack?

In a series of television interviews on Sunday, Kerry defended the president’s decision to seek authorization from Congress before taking military action, saying the move will make the United States “stronger in the end” should the country decide to move forward with a strike.

“It's amazing to me to see people suddenly standing up and taking such affront at the notion that Congress ought to weigh in," he said on CNN. "I mean, I can hear the complaints that would have taken place if the president proceeded unilaterally and people say, ‘Well why didn't you take the time to consult?'”

Addressing concerns that a congressional vote may not take place until next week, Kerry said military action against Syria is not something that needs to happen as soon as possible, like previous situations.

“Since it is not an emergency overnight, as we saw in a place like Libya, where people were about to be slaughtered. Since we have the right to strike at any time if Assad is foolish enough to engage in yet another attack, we believe that it is important before this takes place to have the full investment of the American people and of the Congress,” he told CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

It's unclear how both chambers of Congress will vote on military action in Syria, as the debate is expected to intensify in the coming days. Congress returns from recess on September 9, but some are calling for lawmakers to come back earlier for a special session so a decision can be made sooner.

Critics have accused the president of being weak and not taking the initiative to launch a strike on his own. Kerry reiterated that Obama has the right to make that call "at any point in time" but added he's "confident" Congress will "do what is right."

"I personally believe at a time when the institutions of governance are being doubted by many people, I think this is a very courageous decision. I think it is a big presidential decision, and no one should misinterpret it, particularly Assad or the opposition," he said.

With the British Parliament voting last week against joining a military invention, Kerry argued the United States still has a "coalition of more than a few" and predicted broader support "as the evidence comes out."

"I think voices will grow over the next days as people see the evidence, and that evidence is becoming more powerful every day," he said.

Asked about the risk of Congress potential voting down authorization, Kerry insisted on "Fox News Sunday" that he doesn't believe that will happen on Capitol Hill.

"I can't contemplate that the Congress would turn its back on all of that responsibility and the fact that we would have in fact granted impunity to a ruthless dictator to continue to gas his people. Those are the stakes," he said. "And I don't believe the Congress will do that."

Filed under: John Kerry • State of the Union • Syria
soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. betty

    We are either willing to take the war to them or wait for them to bring the war to us. People have no idea of what it is like to live in a country at war. It isn't somewhere you want to live. You only want to fight a war on another land but if you are not willing to do that, then one day, you will be fighting it on your land.

    September 1, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. CaEd

    Really John???

    You were there; do you really, really think that they are capable of doing anything, let alone what you describe as 'the right thing'.

    You're wrong on this one.

    September 1, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. txan

    "Congress will do the right thing," which is to vote NO. Now is the time to call your Representative and Senators if there ever was a time. Just do it.

    September 1, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. Cassarit

    They're going to do the right thing and vote no!
    Nobody over the age of twelve believes Assad or the Syrian military carried out those gas attacks.
    The only people who want this are Al-Qaeda and their friend Israel.

    September 1, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Where did the sarin" gas come from , where was it made ?

    Those that suppled the chemical agent and delivery system need to be held accountable .

    September 1, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Larry

    Congress is controlled by the party of "no" but this time the rich might be able to make money off of this so they will vote "yes" for WAR. Then they will hope it spreads.

    September 1, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Patsy Nomore

    The T-Party controlled House will never do the right thing,the patriotic thing.. Their goal is to shut down our government,then Impeach Pres. Obama because he is there...He is the cause of the insane OBAMAPHOBIA afflicting the T-Party terrorists..
    The T-Party has cost taxpayer an additional $60 billion ,when they threatened to shut us down before...

    September 1, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. zaggs

    And in May the UN said it was the REBELS who were using Sarin.

    September 1, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Larry L

    I certainly hope our Congress isn't allowed to vote on this issue without attaching their names to the decision. We should not let them simply test the political wind and select an option that best favors their re-election. It's time for those political weasels to man-up to their responsibility and quit turning every scenario into a political opportunity. Even as a career Soldier I'm unable to voice an educated opinion – without a look at the big picture. But Congress should be able to see the entirity of the threat and make an honorable committment.

    September 1, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Daniel

    Wow, i can see all these paid people posting notes already saying the proof is a lie. Where is the proof that there is manufacturing evidence?

    Of course, there is no proof. All the malicious comments are paid people posting all this trash trying to change the debate from a world strategic situation into a stupid political game.

    This is not game people. Letting a tyrant go untouched after an attack with chemical weapons is idiotic. You are calling for the rest of the world to start using chemical weapons.

    Can you stop thinking about themselves for a moment and start thinking about the future? My goodness

    September 1, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. Tom W

    The funny (not) thing is so many post with their private agenda, their BHO is drunk with drone's and power. President Obama is exhibiting being calm, cool, and collected, the Syrian government as a whole collectively endorsed this attach by its passive reaction post attach. Each day the reaction from the USA does not come the Syrian government is shaking and waiting, they know its comming... where, when, and how is as much tougher as when it happens. Remeber one of our greatest President Teddy Roosevelts so well put words when dealing with issues beyond our borders "speak softly and carry a big stick", President Obama putting those words to such good use... he is a man of history and smart enough to select history's greatest lessons. Who cares in what form his Great White Fleet comes, he has it, he is using it, and as a country this is the time to stand arm and arm, shoulder to shoulder and deffend those 1400 as we have had 1200 taken from us so unfairly. To not react with a terrible swift sord would be wrong, to not stand behing the President (no matter his politics) would be wrong. To leave the innocent suffer when we can affect their fate would be wrong and we as a whole would be as wrong as the in power Syrian government who sit as their leadership did this.... we as a whole would be wrong if we did not empower our leadership to react.

    Bow our heads and remember those who died in this attach, stand strong with head held high as a country behind our President as he reacts as he must!

    USA Pride! Power, and People

    September 1, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. pat

    Congress better do the right thing....keep us the heck outta that mess. No one knows who pulled the trigger over there, and frankly, we shouldn't care. Let them sort there own mess out.

    September 1, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. victorygin

    Let the Un prove its relevance or let it be done with. Its not our problem unless they attack us then we should respond with full capacity and no rebuilding. Russia and China will not say a word about us defending ourselves. Too bad Europe bought into getting their NG from Russia like we did oil from the ME. Time to cut the cord.

    September 1, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. TheTraveler

    "Congress will do the right thing.". I'll call BS on this one. Our Congress can't even do the right thing here in America, for AMERICANS, let alone the Syrian problems. Allowing our Congress, as dysfunctional as it is, make the call in regards to ANY military involvement is like giving a 6 yr old a loaded gun with the safety off ...

    September 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Jez

    why can't we just let the Syrians implode on themselves?? America – stay OUT of Syria. This is their problem. We are not the World Police.

    September 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. victorygin

    How many nations backed Bush?

    September 1, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. JIm

    Even if they did use them they have been used over there before by Iraq before we invaded them on the kurds and against Iran.( liberals yelled at Bush when he attacked even though he thought there were nukes but these were there) It is a regional problem we have to let it stay that way we cannot afford to fight tihs insanity anymore. Keep it isolated over there where they have been fighting for centuries and will never get along. If you keep trying to stop a dog fight you WILL GET BIT.

    September 1, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  18. Larry L

    If we decide to police the world (still) we need Congress to vote on initiating the military draft option. After nearly twelve years of war it's time for every American to have a dog in the fight. Let's change the draft requirements to include both men and women, married or single, and give no exemptions for college – none! Let's create a special bi-partisan panel charged with tracking the draft process to ensure the children of the rich and powerful are not given special compensation – like skipping over those in line for the safe assignments.

    September 1, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  19. Scott

    Yes, I hope congress does do the right thing by voting no!

    September 1, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  20. Dave Christenson

    If it was used in the U.S. that is one thing and yes we go to war. Used on our U.S. allies in Europe or Israel, yes go to war. Used in Syria in an INTERNAL civil war? It is tragic but none of our business and does not involve the U.S. Let the Syrians fight it out. Let the Arab League and large Muslim nations such as Turkey or Indonesia get involved.. let the Oil RICH nations like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq get involved.. but lets leave U.S. might and troops and money HOME.

    September 1, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. shoppingcartsensei

    The majority of people in our country are against this military action but you wouldn't know that by watching the MSM or listening to most political leaders. btw where is that Rand Paul when you need him ?

    September 1, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Rs1201

    Let's hope that Congress gives this this administration a resounding NO to attacking Syria!

    It's not our business. We have enough problems of our own!

    September 1, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Marcus

    As usual, moved by their now (in)famous inability of seeing the mid to long term consequences of their actions (remember how they celebrated the sequester and downgrade of the US bonds?), the T-partiers in the house will manage to vote 'NO' and, as usual, will provide to their opponents in the next year's election a lot of footage to be used in TV ads and spots to show to their electors how big should be their buyers remorse.
    Alas, in some cases their electors won't gonna feel anything.

    September 1, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Josh

    Betty – I'm so tired of that take the war to them or they take the war to us mentality. It is just not true. The VAST majority of world conflicts are regional and stay that way. Syria isn't going to attack the US ever, for any reason except if we attack them first. Your reasoning is foolish. When we take the fight to their country, we put ourselves within range of their weapons. How many soldiers do you think would have been killed by Iraqis at this point had we not gone to war there? (Hint: the answer is 0)

    September 1, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. jmleko

    Doing what is right and doing the right thing are two different things. The headline says Kerry said Congress will do the right thing. What he was quoted was they would "do what is right". Doing what is right is a moral challenge to Congress. The right thing for the US may be to stay out of it because the people here don't support it. But that necessarily isn't doing what is right, but protecting humanity. Think about it. Did we not learn anything from the Holocaust?

    September 1, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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