MINNEAPOLIS -- President Obama Tuesday night made a direct case to the American people for a limited military strike against Syrian government assets.
"What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?" Obama asserted, in a televised speech from the White House.
The president said there's compelling evidence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad military launched the rockets into a Damascus suburb August 21, unleashing a cloud of chemicals that killed at least 1,400 civilians.
"They distributed gas masks to their troops, then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods," Obama said.
He described the widely circulated videos of adults and children struggling with symptoms of the sarin gas, and bodies lined up without any signs of injury.
"Men, women, children lying in rows killed by poison gas; others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath."
The embattled Syrian leader still hasn't admitted ordering the chemical strikes, which hit areas of the city where rebel fighters had made serious inroads.
Obama said that inaction on the part of the US would embolden other rogue states to use chemical weapons, and they would eventually be turned against our own military personnel and citizens.
"Our ideas and principals, as well as our national security are at stake in Syria," the president said.
Obama also announced he's asking members of Congress to hold off their planned votes on resolutions authorizing military action pending efforts afoot on the diplomatic front.
That option suddenly presented itself Monday when Secretary of State John Kerry made an off-the-cuff remark to reporter that air strikes against Syria could be averted if al-Assad were to turn over all of his chemical weapons.
Kerry completed his remarks by expressing doubts that al-Assad would ever do such a thing, or that it would be impractical given the current civil war there.
But within hours a Russian diplomat had already pressed his Syrian counterparts into agreeing to the idea of relinquishing those chemical weapons stockpiles, and allowing them to be destroyed under international supervision.
"This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies," Obama explained.
He argued that the very threat of military intervention by the US prompted al-Assad to act, and admit for the first time ever that his government actually owns chemical weapons.
Obama said that he's hopeful that the US, working with the Britain, France, China and Russia can coordinate the removal of those weapons under the auspices of the United Nations.
But, at the same time, he has ordered US military to remain on high alert in the Mediterranean and Turkey for possible strikes in the event that al-Assad doesn't follow through on the pact.
"America's not the world's policeman," Obama said.
"But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our children safer over the long run, I believe we should act."
Members of Minnesota's congressional delegation did not appear to have their minds changed by the words the president delivered Tuesday.
"The President's remarks to the nation once again fell short of providing a clear rationale for military intervention," 2nd District Republican John Kline said in a statement released to the media.
"Regarding the Russian proposal, while international control of Syria's chemical weapons is in the world's best interest, we must explore if it is a credible option."
Fourth District Democrat Betty McCollum expressed hope that the diplomatic solution would work, but she supports his efforts to enlist support from other nations.
"President Obama has my full support and trust as he continues to rally the international community, Congress, and the American people to hold the Syrian regime accountable for using sarin gas to kill innocent civilians, including children," McCollum said, in a press release issued by her office.
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