(Washington DC) – Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) delivered a floor speech on the Senate resolution he cosponsored condemning the Syrian government for ongoing crimes against humanity and calling for President Obama to take action.
A full transcript of the floor speech is below:
“I rise today on a different subject, to introduce a resolution condemning the government of Syria for crimes against humanity. I’m pleased to be joined by Senators Graham, Klobuchar, Kirk, Cardin, Coats, Collins and McCain in introducing this legislation. I’m very proud that we have strong bipartisan support and thank in particular Senator Graham for his leadership, along with Senator McCain, who repeatedly and consistently on this area of human rights and liberties have stood for basic American principles of democracy and freedom, and I had the great opportunity to visit a number of the Middle Eastern countries with them and my strong support for this kind of resolution really rises from the first-hand views that we were able to have of the results of freedom fighters in Tunisia and Libya and Egypt, having an impact on the future of their countries, being on the right side of history and the gratitude of those peoples when they welcomed us to their countries, and I am grateful to Senators McCain and Graham for giving me that opportunity along with Senators Sessions and Hoeven who accompanied us for their leadership. Crimes against humanity include acts such as murder, torture and unlawful punishment and imprisonment when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on peaceful populations. Since protests began earlier last year, the Syrian regime has brutalized and savaged its own people, leaving thousands dead as it commits horrific crimes against humanity, including the abduction and torture of children.
“This resolution tells the Syrian people ‘You are not alone.’ The American people are with you as you fight for freedom and basic democratic rights, the people of the world are watching. On November 23, 2011, the United Nations appointed independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, expressed grave concern that ‘crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape or other forms of sexual violence, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in forced disappearance of persons and other inhumane acts have occurred in different locations in Syria since March, 2011.’ The commission also found - and quoting again - ‘the Syrian Arab public bears responsibility for these crimes and violations.’ Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman testified before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States Senate that - quote - ‘large numbers of Syrians are living every day under siege, deprived of basic necessities including food, clean water and medical supplies and women and children are wounded and dying for lack of treatment.’ General Mattis, Commander of the United States Central Command for whom I have the strongest and deepest respect, explained before the Senate Armed Services Committee the Syrian military continues to ruthlessly use lethal force with impunity against the Syrian people. In this body, we have not remained silent in the face of this humanitarian disaster.
“Approving on February 17, 2012, Senate Resolution 379 condemning violence by the government of Syria against the Syrian people. We have also passed Senate Resolution 391, which I cosponsored, condemning violence by the government of Syria against journalists and expressing the sense of the Senate on freedom of the press in Syria. Now the world should be inspired by the continuing courage and determination of Syrian protesters standing up and speaking up, despite the Syrian military gunning down and bombing down their homes, their businesses, their neighborhoods. I know our nation is at war and rightly weary of intervention abroad, but military intervention is not our only option, not the only means to summon support or step forward in solidarity with freedom fighters in Syria. Nor is military intervention alone sufficient to call for the world’s conscience. Even without military action, we need not abdicate democratic rights and principles that underlie and underpin our own nation’s constitutional ethos. One powerful and profound step that this body can take is to bear witness to the atrocities occurring in Syria.
“More than nine thousand people have died in Syria since these protests began. As Elie Wiesel said, ‘For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.’ The Syrian thugs that detain and torture children must know that the United States bears witness to their crime. President Bashar al-Assad, we should say to him, the world is watching and witnessing as you use snipers to target civilians, and indiscriminately shell homes and businesses, torture protesters who dare to speak of change. This resolution calls on President Obama to bear witness by using his existing authority. America can and must bear witness by taking and preserving evidence of actions and incidents in Syria that substitute crimes against humanity. America must bear witness by asking the president’s newly created Atrocities Prevention Board to consider crimes against humanitarian occurring in Syria. These atrocities epitomize the crimes that this prevention board must address. I commend President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for their work at the United Nations and with our allies to assist the Syrian people, but we should make our own findings about what’s occurred in Syria concerning crimes against humanity. We cannot avoid this obligation simply because the results may present difficult choices. As Martin Luther King would often remind us, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ If we bear witness today, justice will come closer for the Syrian people, President Bashar al-Assad, and the government of Syria, its leaders and senior officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity will be brought to account and justice for their crimes. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution.”