Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Levin floor statement on agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons

[Editor's Note: U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave this speech on the floor of the Senate today, Sept. 17, 2013]

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- Mr. President, I want to say a brief word about yesterday’s tragic and senseless violence at the Washington Navy Yard. The men and women who help protect our nation, those in uniform and the thousands of civilians who serve the Department of Defense, make enormous sacrifices for us. Facing a workplace gunman should not have to be one of them. Those who have died or been wounded and their families and loved ones are in our thoughts and our hearts today.

I come to the floor this morning to discuss another act of senseless violence, and our nation’s response. In the early morning hours of August 21, the Syrian military began firing artillery rockets into the suburbs east of Damascus, hitting neighborhoods held by the opposition forces that have been fighting to end the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al Assad. We know from the accounts of independent observers such as Human Rights Watch, and the work of our intelligence services and those of our allies, that many of these rockets were armed with warheads carrying sarin, a deadly nerve gas. We know that these rockets were launched from areas under the control of Assad’s regime, using munitions known to be part of Assad’s arsenal, and into areas held by opposition forces. We know from the report of UN weapons inspectors released yesterday that the weapons used -- both the rockets and the chemical itself -- were of professional manufacture, including weapons known to be in Syria’s government arsenal. There is no other source of this deadly gas except the Syrian government. Nothing else makes any sense whatsoever.

President Obama declared that the United States would act in response to this threat to global security. He determined it was necessary to use American military force to degrade Assad’s chemical capability and deter future use of such weapons by Assad or others. He did so because a failure to act would weaken the international prohibition on chemical weapons use. He did so because the failure to act could lead to greater proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction, including the potential that they could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against our people. He did so because if the use of chemical weapons becomes routine, our troops could pay a huge price in future conflicts. On September 4, a bipartisan majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the president’s request for an authorization of the limited use of military force.

Faced with this credible threat of the use of force and in response to a diplomatic probe by Secretary Kerry, Russia -- which had for more than two years blocked every diplomatic initiative to hold Assad accountable for the violent repression of his people -- announced that Assad’s chemical arsenal should be eliminated.

The agreement that followed requires Syria to give up its chemical arsenal on a historically rapid timetable. ...

Click here to read the rest of Sen. Levin's speech.

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