WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers Tuesday that in requesting authorization to strike Syria, President Barack Obama was not asking to go to war.
“President Obama is not asking America to go to war,” Kerry said, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noting that there would be no American “boots on the ground.”
Obama, he said, was “asking only for the power to make clear, to make certain, that the United States means what we say … He’s asking for authorization to degrade and deter Bashar al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons.”
He pointed to Sen. John McCain, a member of the committee, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, who were testifying as well, and said they “know the difference.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the committee, said he felt differently earlier on Tuesday.
“This is the most serious policy decision any senator will make,” Corker told reporters. “Authorizing the use of military force is, let’s face it, is a declaration of war against another country, no matter how limited it is, that’s what it is.”
Kerry said that the evidence showed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons to attack the opposition.
“Some people here and there, amazingly, have questioned the evidence of this assault,” he said.
“Only the most willful desire to avoid reality can ascertain this did not occur as described, or that the regime did not do it,” Kerry went on. “It did happen, and the Assad regime did it.