Kinzinger Makes Case for Action in Syria

'If we can stand up and say chemical weapons have no place in this world and do something about it, God help us if we don't'


Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) delivered a stirring opening statement calling for action in Syria in today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

ADAM KINZINGER: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen, I know you have had a couple of very long weeks. I’m about to support this, but I do want to say at the very beginning my disapproval of the president’s policies in the Middle East. I believe part of the reason we are having difficulty rallying an international coalition is they do not see the United States as having lead on this until recently. That said, as a veteran of the military, as a current serving military pilot in the National Guard, I also am war weary as many Americans are war weary. But I want to remind Americans what one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, said. If we want to avoid war, he said war begins when governments believe that the price of aggression is cheap.

I think that is the situation we find ourselves in Syria now. In fact, in listening to some of my colleagues it’s been amazing to me that we are seeming to paralyze ourselves into inaction, running through every potential scenario that could occur in this. It makes me wonder, God help us, if we become a country that can’t do the right thing because we paralyze ourselves to inaction. Here’s a picture I think everybody needs to see. This is a picture of Syrian children, many of which the secretary said earlier, about 400 some died in at least just this one chemical gas attack. If we don’t do anything about this, you can ensure that maybe even the kids in this picture or definitely other kids will die from the same attack.

I want to very quickly read to you the effects of sarin gas. And I want you to look at these children and understand that children have gone through this. The mild effects of sarin exposure is runny nose — watery/burning eyes, small pupils, eye pain, blurred vision, drooling and excessive sweating, cough, chest tightness, rapid breathing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, increased urination, confusion, drowsiness, headache, slow or fast heart rate, low or high blood pressure. Exposure to large doses like we saw in sarin, like we saw in Syria, loss of consciousness, convulsions, paralysis, respiratory failure, which is a polite way of saying you suffocate to death while you are aware that you are suffocating to death. What we are talking about is a discussion of what the international community and United States of America in the goodness of our heart has determined is the right thing we can affect.

Can we ban artillery shells? We cannot. We can’t. But if we can stand up and say chemical weapons have no place in this world and do something about it, God help us if we don’t. I would remind folks and I’ll ask you all to comment on this eventually. From 1991 to 2002 or 2003, we maintained two no-fly zones over Iraq under bipartisan administrations because of our disdain for chemical weapons. Most people would have agreed that what we did over northern and southern Iraq was the right thing to do because Saddam Hussein gassed his own residents. This is not the first time America has put down a red line on chemical weapons. I have heard people say that this is the president’s red line, it’s not a red light at United States of America. You just have to look at history to know that it is. I am also reminded of what President Clinton said when he was asked what his one regret was for his time in the presidency. He said his one regret was inaction in Rwanda. I wonder in 2010, 50 years, what are we going to say if we did nothing about the gassing of thousands of people in Syria.