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Bring Jobs Home Act--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Madam President, I say to my friend from Arizona, of course, I agree with him. The reality is that the premature judgment about the victory of the Syrian freedom fighters is exactly that--premature. The assassination, elimination of these critical leaders of this dictatorial government yesterday by the Syrian opposition was a very significant development.

Apparently, the fighting continues in Damascus in a way that may bring exactly what my friend from Arizona says--more chaos in Damascus. But this fight is not over. This regime has a devastating inventory of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, and as the Senator from Arizona said, Bashar Assad's father used those weapons--in that case, chemical weapons--against his own people decades ago, killing thousands of them on a single day.

No, this fight is not over. The danger is that, as he said, it gets worse the more it goes on without the involvement of the civilized nations of the world that have to be led by the United States of America.

I want to put in juxtaposition two significant events of the last 24 hours, which my friend has described. One is the suicide bombing, apparently, or the death of these leaders of the Assad government. Second is the vote in New York at the U.N. today. After months in which too much of the civilized world has been pleading with Russia and depending on Russia to change its mind and come in and get Bashar Assad out of there, this veto today shows they are not going to do it.

I will yield in a moment because I see the presence of the majority leader. First, I will finish this thought.

The reality is now that the figleaf has been taken off of the plan since it went into effect and allegedly brought a cease-fire in Syria, thousands more Syrians have been killed. The reality is that Russia will not join in trying to stop the slaughter in Syria, and the slaughter will only be stopped by facts on the ground, and those facts are military. It will not get better until the United States leads a coalition of the willing to support the opposition and bring about the early end of this horrific regime that now rules Syria.

With that, I yield the floor to the majority leader.

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Well, the Senator makes a very important point. Let me relate it back to one of the excuses that has been given for the United States not to have become more involved on the side of the opposition to Assad, which is the side of freedom, which is where our national values call us to be. One of the excuses for not getting involved is this argument: We don't know who is going to follow Assad. It could be Islamist extremists.

Well, my reaction to that is that the longer we sit back, the more likely it will be people who are not friendly toward the United States because in their hour of need--unlike the situation in Libya that the Senator just described--we were not with them. The Senator and I have been to Turkey together, and I made a trip to Lebanon. In each case, we talked to the leaders. In one case, in Turkey, we spoke to the leaders of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council, and we met with the heads of the Free Syrian Army and met with individual refugees.

My own judgment is that these people are not extremists or radicals; they are patriots, nationalists, people who want a better life than they were living under Assad. Now, increasingly, they are people whose relatives or friends have been killed by Assad's military, and so they have a fury in them, an anger that they didn't have before because now they have been victims.

Now, can I say that there are no Islamist extremists who are now fighting in Syria against Assad? I cannot say that. I think the longer we stand back and don't partner openly and strongly with the Syrian freedom fighters, the greater the danger is that, one, extremists will be what follows Assad and, two, even if we are lucky enough and it is not extremists, it will be a leadership group that will not feel any particular sense of gratitude toward the United States because we were not with them when they needed us.

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Madam President, I thank Senator McCain for his leadership. This is one of those cases where we have the opportunity--and it is painful that we have not taken it over these many months of the uprising in Syria--not only to do what is right but to do what is best for our country diplomatically. In other words, what is right is to be on the side of freedom, to be with the people fighting against a brutal dictator. That is the right thing to do. What is right is to enter this fight to stop the slaughter of innocent men, women and, literally, children. But there also happens to be a strategic opportunity.

I ask my friend from Arizona about this. Does he agree Syria's Assad is not only the best friend but the only friend and ally Iran has in the Middle East? Iran is our No. 1 strategic threat in the world today; the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism, in a headlong effort to build nuclear weapons that will totally change the peace of the world if they get them. So here we have an opportunity not only to do what is morally right but to help overthrow the best friend of our worst enemy--Iran.

As the Senator remembers--we were there together--when GEN James Mattis, a great American military leader and head of Central Command overseeing the Middle East, said that if Assad is overthrown, it will be the worst setback Iran has suffered in more than a quarter of a century. That will, in turn, I think, open tremendous new possibilities in Lebanon, which has been under the Syrian-Iranian influence. Even in Iraq, where the new Iraqi Government has felt, I think, pressured on both sides from Iran and Iran's ally Syria on the other side, if Syria is not controlled by an Iranian puppet, I think we may see some more independence from Iraq that we would like to see.

I ask the Senator from Arizona if he agrees there is not just a moral imperative but an extraordinary strategic opportunity here to get in and shape history.

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Absolutely. So we have to learn from those lessons of history. There is a coalition of the willing waiting to be formed here, if only we in the United States will show leadership. Nobody is asking us and we are not asking for unilateral American action.

There is no question we have allies in the Arab world who are already involved in supporting the opposition in Syria--namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which would join us. I believe there may be one or more European countries that would join us. There are other Arab countries that would join us.

What are we asking? Let us increase the flow of weapons and training to the opposition. I think it is time for us to use American air power to at least impose a no-fly zone over Syria because the Syrians are now using gunships, and I fear they will begin to use fighters to attack their civilian population and create and spread the kind of fear they now depend upon.

It is a coalition in support of the opposition, it is weapons and training, it is sanctuaries where they can be trained and equipped, and it is the use of air power against this regime which I think will not only deal a devastating blow to their regime but will make the remaining supporters it has in the military and in the business community despair and see the end is near and abandon Assad.

Have I stated correctly what the Senator from Arizona feels we want this government of ours to be doing now in regard to Syria?

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