Kerry: History would judge indifference toward Syria ‘extraordinarily harshly’

The Obama administration has “high confidence” that Syria used chemical weapons to kill civilians based on a dossier of evidence, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday. (The Washington Post)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday delivered a strong call for action in Syria, pushing the need for a response to the use of chemical weapons and stressing that the mistakes of Iraq will not be repeated.

He also said a lack of action would be judged "extraordinarily harshly."

"History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency," Kerry said. "These things we do know.".

Kerry recognized the war fatigue that exists in America but said the situation demands action -- even as Americans long for peace. He said the Obama administration will not repeat the mistakes of Iraq.

Kerry said the intelligence community is "more than mindful of the Iraq experience."

"We will not repeat that moment," Kerry said.

Kerry's remarks were supplemented by the release of the government's report on the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on its people -- something Kerry said he had "high confidence" occurred multiples times.

"It’s findings are as clear as they are compelling," Kerry said of the report, which is below.

He added later: "As previous storms in history have gathered, when unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them, we have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against inaction, indifference and especially against silence when it mattered most."

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is ready to act, despite the British Parliament's rejection of its use of force on Thursday.

The White House said as recently as Thursday that President Obama hadn't made up his mind about how to handle the situation. Kerry made no indication of exactly what kind of force might be used.

U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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