Published on 10 Sep 2013
SCOTT PELLEY: Mr. President, the administration has described evidence to the American people and the world but it hasn’t shown evidence. And I wonder at this point, what are you willing to show? What are we going to see in terms of the evidence that you say we have?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we’ve done is we have provided unclassified evidence. But members of Congress are getting a whole slew of classified briefings. And they’re seeing very directly exactly what we have. Keep in mind, Scott, that the– this is not a problem I’m looking for. I’m not looking for an excuse to engage in military action.
And I understand deeply how the American people, after a decade of war, are not interested in any kind of military action that they don’t believe involves our direct national security interests. I– I get that. And members of Congress I think understand that. But in this situation where there’s clear evidence that nobody credible around the world disputes that chemical weapons were used, that over a thousand people were killed, that the way that these weapons were delivered makes it almost certain that Assad’s forces used them, when even Iran has acknowledged that chemical weapons were used inside of Syria.
In that situation, I think the issue is not the evidence — most people around the world are not questioning that chemical weapons were used. I think the question now is what– how does the– how does the international community respond. And I think it is important for us to run to ground every diplomatic channel that we can. There’s a reason why I went to Congress in part to allow further deliberation, not just here domestically but also internationally.
But I think it’s very important for us to make sure that we understand this is important. And if the American people– are not prepared to stand up for what is a really important international norm, then I think a lot of people around the world will take that signal — that this norm is not important.
SCOTT PELLEY: The people aren’t with you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, well, not yet. And I, as I said, I understand that. So I’ll have a chance to talk to the American people directly tomorrow. I don’t expect that it’s gonna suddenly swing the polls wildly in the direction of another military engagement. If you ask the average person — including my household — “Do we need another military engagement?” I think the answer generally is gonna be no.
But what I’m gonna try to propose is, is that we have a very specific objective, a very narrow military option, and one that will not lead into some large-scale invasion of Syria or involvement or boots on the ground, nothing like that. This isn’t like Iraq, it’s not like Afghanistan, it’s not even like Libya. Then hopefully people will recognize why I think this is so important.
And that we should all be haunted by those images of those children that were killed. But more importantly, we should understand that when when we start saying it’s okay to — or at least that there’s no response to the gassing of children, that’s the kind of slippery slope that leads eventually to these chemical weapons being used more broadly around the world. That’s not the kind of world that we want to leave to our children.