President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Monday made an emotional pitch for intervention in Syria that focused on the death of several hundred children in the Aug. 21 nerve-gas strike in Damascus.
“In recent days we’ve been shocked by videos from Guta and other neighborhoods near Damascus. As a parent, I cannot look at those pictures, those little children laying on the ground, their eyes glassy, their bodies twitching, and not think of my own two kids,” Susan Rice said at the outset of a televised speech at the New America Foundation.
People are killed by many types of weapons, but “this most recently tragedy is particularly gut-wrenching,” she said at the end of her midday speech.
“Children lined up in shrouds, their voices forever silenced, devastated mothers and fathers kissing their children goodbye … as if tucking them in for the last time,” said Rice.
The warring armies in the Syrian civil war have reportedly killed 100,000 adults and children before the Aug. 21 chemical strike, which killed roughly 1,000 adults and 400 children.
The war was caused by deep-rooted sectarian, ethnic and ideological splits throughout Syria, and is being fueled by various outside rival powers, such as Iran, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is already providing military aid to some rebel factions, which fight alongside al-Qaida affiliates in a temporary alliance.
Any decision by the president could greatly worsen or lesson the slaughter, regardless of an future use of chemical weapons. For example, a U.S. air attack on the Syrian government attack could help radical Muslim groups — including forces affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida forces — to seize control of Syria, allowing them to murder or expel millions of Christians or Shia-style Muslims.
The brotherhood and al-Qaida rebels are orthodox Sunni Muslim, and many regard Shia-style Muslims are heretics. The groups also regard Christians as inferior, and usually impose apartheid-like official discrimination when they seize power.
But the U.S. public, and many legislators, are leery of following Obama into the Syrian war.
Rice’s emotional pitch sandwiched a discussion of U.S. national security strategy, where she argued that a refusal to punish Syria would greatly weaken enforcement of international treaties and curbs on violence.
But White House officials, including Rice, have amped up the emotional argument for intervention and have distributed locally-made videos of the gassed civilians.
“I readily think it is something everyone should, every adult … [do] view those images,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
Rice laid it on thick at her midday speech.
“I can only imagine the agony of those parents in Damascus. Sarin is odorless and colorless, so victims may not even know they been exposed until it is too late. Sarin targets the body’s central nervous system, making every breath a struggle and causing … uncontrollable convulsions,” she said.
“The death of any innocent in Syria and around the world is a tragedy … but chemical weapons are different. … The torturous death they bring is unconscionable,” she said.