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Secretary of State John Kerry, who has implicitly compared Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler, said on Monday that the United States aims to carry out an “unbelievably small” strike at Assad’s forces.
“We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war,” Kerry said at a press conference in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“That is exactly what we’re talking about doing — unbelievably small, limited kind of effort,” Kerry said.
And the top U.S. diplomat got his wires crossed on another American military operation, saying that then-President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 strike on Tripoli aimed to “send a message” to Moammar Gadhafi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. But that attack occurred in 1988.
In making the case for action against Assad, Kerry has repeatedly invoked the specter of pre-World War II appeasement of Hitler. In congressional hearings, Kerry has alluded to the Nuremberg trials of high-ranking Nazis as well as to the tragedy of the St. Louis.
President Barack Obama has launched an unprecedented media campaign to win over skeptical Americans to the cause of striking Syria. Obama was to sit down on Monday for interviews with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and PBS before delivering an address to the nation on Tuesday night.
And Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, expressed her support for Obama during an appearance at the White House on Monday afternoon, and was expected to do so again Tuesday in a speech in Pennsylvania. Clinton, widely thought to be considering a presidential run in 2016, lost the Democratic nomination to Obama in large part because of her support for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The secretary of state’s remarks came a day after White House chief of staff Denis McDonough took to the Sunday news shows to make the case for war with Syria.
Previewing Obama’s speech to the nation on Tuesday night, McDonough said "what he`ll tell the country is this is targeted, which is targeted, limited, consequential force.”
“He`ll also tell the country what this is not. This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This is not an extended air campaign like in Libya. This is a targeted effort,” McDonough said.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote Wednesday on authorizing a military strike, and could proceed to a final vote later in the week.
Kerry’s remarks drew criticism from one prominent Republican member of the House of Representatives. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Kerry’s remarks were part of the administration’s “confusing message” as it tries to convince deeply skeptical lawmakers to vote in favor of giving Obama authorization to use military force against Syria.