“Today we bow our heads in solemn remembrance of a devastating time in our nation’s history. But we also raise our voices in celebration of America’s spirit of perseverance… Today we bow our heads in solemn remembrance of a devastating time in our nation’s history. But we also raise our voices in celebration of America’s spirit of perseverance.”
“We should give President Obama the time and space he needs to pursue these international negotiations to remove the threat of Syria’s chemical stockpiles. Still, America should remain vigilant and ready to use force if necessary. And Congress should not take the threat of military action off the table.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the anniversary of September 11, 2001 and the ongoing developments regarding Syria. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
I’ll never forget how Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawned clear and bright, with blue skies as far as the eye could see. But soon the world turned dark. I watched alongside the rest of the country and the world as the North Tower of the World Trade Center stood smoking against the New York City skyline. I watched in disbelief as smoke rose from the South Tower and the Pentagon. And I shared the nation’s horror to learn that a fourth plan had crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
Today marks the 12th anniversary of those attacks. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since, on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning, our country was plunged into uncertainty and fear. But rather than allowing terror to break us, this nation rose again, stronger and more determined than ever.
Although the memory of that terrible day will never fade, and the many innocent lives lost will never be forgotten, I am proud of the work our nation has done over the last 12 years to heal and rebuild. The Freedom Tower, which rises where only twisted metal and ashes once stood, is evidence of that effort. Today we bow our heads in solemn remembrance of a devastating time in our nation’s history. But we also raise our voices in celebration of America’s spirit of perseverance. May we never forget.
On this day, we also honor other Americans lost to senseless acts of terror, both before and since September 11, 2001, including Ambassador Chris Stevens and his 3 brave colleagues killed in Libya. The United States remains committed to seeking justice for them and for every American victim of terrorism.
Even as we pay tribute to America’s tradition of freedom for every citizen, across the globe an evil dictator denies his citizens not only their right to liberty but also their right to live.
Yesterday, before the President spoke to the Democratic Caucus, I showed my Senators a video of little girls and boys with eyes crusted shut, frothing from the mouth and convulsing from the poison gas Bashar al-Assad used to murder them. That was a difficult video to watch, but it was one that confirmed my conviction that the United States must not let the Syrian regime’s use of outlawed chemical agents go unchecked or unpunished.
Yesterday President Obama made a compelling case for military action against the Assad regime both during the Senate’s caucus lunches and in a speech to the American people. As the President said, the United States must send an explicit message that use of chemical weapons by anyone, anytime, anywhere – including on the battlefield – will not be tolerated. Preventing the use of these weapons is in our own national interest, which is why I support limited American military intervention in Syria.
However, diplomacy is always the first choice solution. President Obama has asked us to temporarily suspend consideration of a Syria resolution to allow the Administration time to explore every diplomatic avenue. We should give President Obama the time and space he needs to pursue these international negotiations to remove the threat of Syria’s chemical stockpiles.
Still, America should remain vigilant and ready to use force if necessary. And Congress should not take the threat of military action off the table. Leaders in Damascus and Moscow should understand that Congress will be watching negotiations closely. If there is any indication that negotiations are not serious or will not effectively prevent further atrocities, the Senate will act quickly to give the President the authority to hold the Assad regime accountable.
It is the President’s credible threat of military action that opened up the possibility of a diplomatic solution rather than a military solution in the first place. It is our determination not to let Assad’s atrocities go unanswered that brought Syria to the negotiating table at all. In fact, until recently, Bashar al-Assad denied even having chemical weapons.
It is in Syria’s power to avoid U.S. military strikes, but that will require swift and decisive action on the part of the Assad regime to relinquish chemical weapons stockpiles to international control. For a diplomatic solution to succeed, Assad must quickly prove the offer to turn over Syria’s chemical weapons is real and not just an attempt to delay military action.
All eyes with be on President Putin and his government, since Russia’s cooperation will be key to moving the United Nations process forward, as well as assuring useful talks continue with the Syrian regime. I hope they prove to be a productive partner in these negotiations. As I have said, any agreement must also assure it is possible to secure Syria’s chemical weapons in spite of the ongoing civil war, and keep those stockpiles out of the hands of dangerous terrorist groups.
I am pleased that the Obama Administration is making every effort to work with international partners to exhaust every diplomatic option to this very serious global problem.