From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today spoke on the Senate floor to announce her support for President Barack Obama’s plan for limited, targeted military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to the August 21, 2013 use of chemical weapons on the Syrian people.
Senator Mikulski’s remarks on the Senate floor, as delivered, follow:
“Within a few days, the Senate will be called on to vote on whether to give the President of the United States limited authority to use military action in response to Syrian President Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. It is an enormous and grave decision. It is the most serious vote I can take. When a United States Senator is called upon to authorize the use of American military action or military might, it calls for the most sober reflection, the most due diligent analysis of the facts and the compelling need.
“It is one of the few votes that you cannot take back. We could vote on our budget this year, but there is another vote next year. You could vote to nominate a member of the President’s Cabinet, but they serve at the pleasure of the President. But once you vote to use our military might, or military action, it is irrevocable. So I take it very seriously.
“I want to say to the men and women of our military, we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. And I think that debt should be not only with yellow ribbons, but that we should also owe them the due diligence to choose the wisest, most prudent course.
“This is what I’ve done as I’ve contemplated my vote on the Syria resolution. I’ve gone to numerous briefings before Assad used chemical weapons, and I’ve gone to all the briefings since then. I’ve participated as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a variety of meetings. I’ve gone to a classified House and Senate briefing. I’ve listened carefully to the President, to the Secretary of State and to the Secretary of Defense. I’ve even had the opportunity to sit with the Vice President of the United States in the White House Situation Room to go over this situation and the options available to the United States of America.
“I’m the Senator from Maryland. I’ve also listened to my Marylanders. Whether it’s been at events or meetings or going around the state. Whether it’s been grocery shopping or just being out in the Maryland community. I have also gotten thousands of emails and calls from Maryland constituents. And I want to thank them for their civic engagement.
“They overwhelmingly oppose military action in Syria. My constituents have spoken loud and clear. They don’t want war. They don’t want boots on the ground. They don’t want an ‘all-in’ war effort. They don’t want us to use or expend American lives and treasure on another military expedition. They don’t want war. And neither do I. Yet the use of chemical weapons, a weapon of mass destruction, grim and ghoulish, mandates a response.
“The use of chemical weapons flies in the face of international law and international norms. It is an act that should have consequences, or I believe it will surely happen again.
“Since the attack, I have been waiting and hoping for worldwide reaction. Because if it’s serious enough for the world to be aghast, then it’s serious enough for them to respond.
“I’ve been waiting to hear from the 189 countries that are signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention. I believe that if you sign a treaty or convention, you sign up for the responsibility that comes with that. Which means stopping the proliferation of the weapons that you signed against. Stopping the proliferation of chemical weapons. And also, if necessary, taking action if mandated.
“I have waited to hear from the Arab League. I wanted to hear from the Arab League saying something beyond wanting Assad to be accountable. I don’t know what ‘hold him accountable,’ means. Does it mean that if we use missiles, they will defend women and children? I haven’t quite heard that.
“I have waited to hear from allies. And there are a hearty, reliable few who have supported us. Are they going to help enforce the Chemical Weapons Treaty? Are they going to help support the moderates in the opposition? Have they called for a donor conference on refugees?
“I have waited on the U.N. Security Council. I applaud the work of the U.N. weapons inspectors and the U.N.’s work with millions of Syrian refugees. But where is the U.N. Security Council? People say, ‘oh we can’t act unless the Security Council acts.’ Three times these ‘Assad-enablers’ at the U.N., Russia and China, have vetoed every effort to move to a political solution. The U.N. seems paralyzed in its effort.
“In deciding my vote, I had to be sure chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime. Mr. President, I was one of 23 senators who voted against going to war in Iraq. I did vote after 9/11 to use lethal action against the Taliban. But when it came to the Iraq War, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I had reviewed these briefs, and I didn’t believe Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. So I voted no. And I was right.
“But now this time is different. Because I truly believe after extensive briefings and evidence that has been outlined to members of the Intelligence Committee, I am satisfied that indeed chemical weapons were used in Syria. And I am satisfied that the Assad regime gave the order to do so.
“There are those who say to me, ‘Well, Senator Barb, aren’t you concerned about the risk of retaliation if we take action?’ You bet I am. I worry about that. I worry about my own country. I worry about our own military. I worry about treasured allies like Jordan, Israel and Turkey.
“But I also worry about the risk of doing nothing. Because as I weighed this, I believed that the risk and retaliatory possibilities are the same even if we don’t act. Because there’s a very good chance that if we don’t respond, they’ll use them anyway. So there’s no guarantee that by doing nothing the bad guys that have chemical weapons will do nothing. In fact, I fear that Assad, Iran and North Korea will be further emboldened.
“Lastly, I had to review the President’s resolution that came out of the Foreign Relations Committee modified and the President’s plan. The President’s proposal is very straightforward – a targeted, limited attack. Its purpose is to deter and to degrade: to deter Assad from using those weapons again, and to degrade Assad’s capability and capacity to using them.
“I also listened to the President’s promise, and I take him at his word. Any action would not be boots on the ground. That it is not an extended air campaign. That it is not another Iraq or Afghanistan. That we are not in it to try to do regime change. That must come from the Syrian opposition themselves, and I hope others help do that. It is meant to deter the use of chemical weapons, and to degrade Assad’s capability.
“I believe the President’s plan is the best response to protecting U.S. Security interests in the region, and to showing commitment to our common security interests with allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
“Therefore after really great reflection and as much due diligence as I could do, I want to announce today to my colleagues and to the people of Maryland, that I will support the President’s request for a targeted, limited military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to the horrific grim and ghoulish use of chemical weapons.
“Let me be clear. I have no grand hopes or illusions about what this strike will do. I don’t believe a strike will stop Syria’s brutal civil war. I don’t believe a strike will stop Assad from being a ruthless, brutal dictator. I do not believe a strike will eliminate all of his chemical weapons. But I do believe that it will deter and degrade his capacity to strike again. And I do believe what when you sign up for a convention to ban the use of chemical weapons, that the United States of America acts with its responsibility.
“Syria is one of the toughest foreign policy issues that we have focused on. There aren’t many good options, yet I believe that the President’s plan is the best way, and, as of this moment, the only way forward. He has my support.
“And in today’s late breaking news, I understand Russia has now said, ‘Oh let’s put these weapons under international control.’ But where were the Russians in the U.N. Security Council during those three other occasions? Is this another tactic for delay? Is this just another tactic to enable Assad to have more time to focus? I remain skeptical. But I will leave it to the President to analyze the Russian’s intent and what their follow-through is on that intent.
“My vote does not mandate a strike, but my vote is to say, ‘Mr. President, you are the Commander in Chief. We can only have one at a time. You analyze the situation and if you think it is necessary to protect the security of the United States of America and to fulfill our responsibilities under the conventions that we have signed on chemical weapons, you have my support to act in what you think is the best way and the best interests.’
“I look forward to additional debate with my colleagues, and furthering this debate and coming to closure, hopefully this week.”