Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
September 3, 2013  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Statement at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Syria  

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made the following statement at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today on the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. Video of her statement is available HERE.:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for showing us those images of children, because even though it’s really hard to look at, we have to look at it. Children gasping for air, young bodies lined up in a row should shock the world.

And the failure to act I think gives license to the Syrian President to use these weapons again and it sends a terrible signal to other brutal regimes like North Korea. Can I thank you, Secretary Hagel, for bringing up the issue of North Korea in your opening statement, and Secretary Kerry, for your bringing it up? I mean how many of us have been there to the line where we see thousands of our troops standing there, just a stone’s throw away from North Korea. We need to think about it. Maybe because I’m from California I tend to look at Asia, but this is very serious. We’ve seen that danger up close when we go to that line.

Now, since I came to the Senate I voted against the Iraq War, but I did vote for the use of force against Osama bin Laden. I voted to support air strikes against Serbia, but I vocally opposed the military surge in Afghanistan.

So I approach this Syria issue in the same way that I approached those – with a very heavy heart and a very independent mind.

I have heard some of my colleagues compare President Obama’s position on Syria to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. And I thank Secretary Kerry for discussing this, because I believe it is a totally false comparison, and I know it’s been mentioned before – you drew that line again.

In Iraq, the Bush Administration prepared invade and occupy a country with well over 100,000 U.S. troops. In this case, the President has been clear: No ground invasion. No occupation. We’ll have that in our resolution.

So why should we take any targeted action against Syria? Not only is it important to keep North Korea in mind, but also allowing the continued use of chemical weapons to go unanswered makes it much more likely that we’ll see it used again in Syria, and we’ll see it used maybe elsewhere, and terrorists could obtain those and use them on America or our allies or our troops, use them, for example, against Israel, and other friends. It makes it more likely – and this is key – that Iran will view us as a paper tiger when it comes to their nuclear program, and that is dangerous not only for us and our friends, but for the world.

Now in 1997, the Senate supported a ban on chemical weapons by a vote of 74 to 26. Shouldn’t an overwhelming vote like that mean something? Shouldn’t the Senate stand behind its words and actions?

And then in 2003, we passed the Syria Accountability Act by a vote of 89 to 4. I wrote that bill with Senator Santorum. We had a huge vote in favor of it. This is what it says: “acquisition of weapons of mass destruction…threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States.”

Shouldn’t an overwhelming vote like that mean something? Shouldn’t the Senate stand behind its words and its actions? So I believe, as Secretary Kerry said, and so I’ll reiterate it, not only has our President drawn a line, a red line, on the use of chemical weapons, and not only has the world done so, but we in the Senate, we did so.

Now I know there is tremendous reluctance to get involved in another military effort and sometimes the easiest thing to do is to walk away. Well, I believe we cannot close our eyes to this clear violation of long-standing international norms. I believe America’s morality, America’s reputation and America’s credibility are on the line.

I applaud this Administration and our President for coming to Congress. I applaud those who asked him to Congress. It’s the right thing to do. And I will support a targeted effort but not a blank check to respond to Syria’s unspeakable deeds to gas its own people to death.