It may have been a strange moment of déjà vu for John Kerry Tuesday, interrupted by an anti-war protester while he testified before a Senate committee and made a case for military action.
In 1971, Kerry famously testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as an anti-war protester and as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Ironically, he testified Tuesday before the same committee as Secretary of State, but this time, to make a case for a military strike against a country with which the U.S. is not at war.
In 1971, Kerry insisted “there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America.”
Tuesday, he tried to make the case that attacking the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the middle of a Syrian civil war is in the U.S. vital national interest.
As the anti-war protester was removed from the hearing room after screaming “We don’t want another war,” Kerry took a moment to say “when I was 27 years old, I had feelings very similar to that protester.”
Kerry said this case was different, and “I would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we are all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country and that the Congress itself will act representing the American people.”
Kerry insisted the president is not asking America to go to war, and there will be “no boots on the ground.”
The secretary also insisted the president is not asking to become “whole-hog” involved in the Syrian civil war and that a military strike would be specifically targeted to degrade the country’s ability to use chemical weapons.
However, Kerry went on to make clear the administration is indeed seeking to remove Assad from power and is, in fact, helping the opposition, including providing arms to the rebels.
But, when Sen. Ron Johnson asked, “Our goal is to get rid of Assad?” Kerry somewhat confusingly replied, “Our goal is to help the opposition.”
Kerry added, “The president and, I think, all of us agree — I mean, can you imagine Assad running Syria? Can you imagine this man who has gassed his people…”
Johnson apparently had no response, as Assad has indeed been running Syria for 13 years.
Sen. Jeanne Shaeen, D-N.H. asked how the U.S. could send a message it is unacceptable to use chemical weapons “without inadvertently spreading the conflict beyond the borders of Syria?”
Kerry essentially replied there was “no military solution” to the conflict and added, “It’s complicated.”
He also said a strike would be more than just sending a message, it would be intended to degrade Assad’s forces.
Sen. Tom Udall asked, by degrading Assad’s forces, would we not make him weaker and jihadist rebels such al- Nusra and al-Qaida stronger?
Kerry, replied. “No, I don’t believe you do. As a matter of fact, I think you actually make the opposition stronger. And the opposition is getting stronger by the day now.”
It was not clear whether Kerry misspoke, misunderstood the question or was referring to a non-jihadist opposition some administration critics believe the U.S. should have backed in the first place.
Kerry also addressed the concerns expressed by those who worry about “unintended consequences” of military action.
He speculated, “if Assad is arrogant enough, and foolish enough, to retaliate, the U.S. and allies have ample ways to make him regret that, without going to war.”
However, he did not spell out what those ways might be.
Claims of evidence
In his opening statement, Kerry said the evidence shows the Syrian regime, and only the regime, is responsible for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21.
And yet, once again, he did not provide evidence, only claims of evidence.
Kerry said some people “amazingly” have questioned the evidence the attack was committed by Assad’s forces and may have been conducted by the rebels fighting the regime.
He also said he had a map, “physical evidence” he called it, showing when and where rockets carrying chemical weapons were fired.
But, Kerry did not provide any actual evidence, such as satellite photographs or transcripts of intercepted communications.
As WND reported, the same was true when Kerry held a news conference last week, making his case for intervention.
The Obama administration today began making its formal case for using military force in Syria, with testimony by Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The Senate and the House are collecting information before debating Obama’s request for congressional authorization to strike Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the regime on its own people.
Kerry said at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children.
According to a head count by the Washington Post, most members of Congress are undecided, even if most leaders of both parties seems to support a strike on Syria.
It is far from clear if members of Obama’s own party will line up behind him, as prominent Democrats expressed a variety of concerns.
The White House sent Congress a two-page resolution on Saturday, but senators are already rewriting it, partly to narrow its scope, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“This is currently a partial blank check,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a member of Democratic leadership. “It needs to be more narrowly drawn.”
However, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D–Calif., who opposed the Iraq War attempted to explain why this time was so different and why the United States needed to launch a military strike on Syria to make the statement that chemical warfare is wrong.
“Allowing the use of chemical warfare to go unanswered makes it more likely we will see it used in Syria or elsewhere again,” Boxer argued.
“Yes We Can!” Syria says
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari quoted back to President Obama his 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes We Can” in an appearance on CNN on Tuesday, insisting that Syria is a “peaceful” nation.
Ja’afari insisted allegations of Syria using chemical weapons are “false and unfounded,” in an appearance during which Ja’afari attempted to turn the tables, charging the media itself is a weapon of mass destruction.
“I guess I want to know in a final minute or so, how do you sleep at night, Mr. Ja’afari, defending a regime government that has caused so much bloodshed and has really crossed the line from any kind of civil war into weapons of mass destruction, into one of the highest crimes of international law,” CNN host Christine Amanpour asked.
“Those who perpetuate such a horrible crime, whether they are Israelis or others, should be held accountable to the internationally established mechanisms, not to the bully of the world, the bully of the world, the policemen of the world represented by the American intelligence reports or false allegations coming from France or Britain or Saudi Arabia or Israel,” he retorted.
The United Nations refugee agency reported on Tuesday that an estimated 5,000 desperate Syrians are fleeing their homes every day as escalating violence in the country has now created 2 million refugees.
The refugee crisis has placed an overwhelming burden on the host countries’ infrastructures, economies and societies, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, noted, with an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into these countries every day, the need for international support has reached a critical stage.
“The world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster,” said UNHCR Special Envoy and renowned actress, Angelina Jolie. “The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications. If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse.”
Jolie added that the world was “tragically disunited” on how to end the Syria conflict.
“But there should be no disagreement over the need to alleviate human suffering, and no doubt of the world’s responsibility to do more. We have to support the millions of innocent people ripped from their homes, and increase the ability of neighboring countries to cope with the influx.”
A further 4.2 million people are displaced inside Syria, the U.N. further reported, with the result that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than people from any other country.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press in Beruit has reported that Syria is moving troops and weapons, hiding them in population centers where a U.S. military strike would necessitate killing civilians as collateral damage.
“The Syrian regime knows there are 30-40 potential targets for U.S. airstrikes, and they have had ample time to prepare,” Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and director of the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut, told the AP.
“Half of them, if not more, have been evacuated, moved or camouflaged. This is the natural thing to do.”
WND Senior Writer Jerome Corsi contributed to this article.