WASHINGTON — In an interview on “PBS Newshour,” President Obama confirmed that the Syrian government carried out an attack on its own people using chemical weapons and said that the United States must take action against any hostile strikes that could have “negative environmental repercussions.”
“At a time when combating climate change is of the utmost importance, we cannot stand by and watch as government leaders are massacring their citizens with warheads containing potentially hazardous chemicals,” Obama declared.
Last week’s attack in Zamalka, a suburb of Damascus, accounts for only a fraction of the lives lost in a civil war that has gripped Syria for more than two years. Roughly a month before the attack, the U.N. announced that the war’s death toll had reached 100,000.
Up to this point, the U.S. and other nations have avoided military intervention in the region, arguing that previous massacres were carried out “within the parameters of international environmental law.” Now, with the deployment of chemical weapons to carry out attacks, President Obama believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “crossed a red—no, make that green line.”
Syrian President al-Assad has denied responsibility for the chemical strike, instead blaming the region’s rebels. The Syrian leader believes the claims against him are “absurd’ given that he has shown himself time and again to be “an eco-friendly type of guy.”
“I recycle. I drive a hybrid. I do all of that,” said al-Assad. “The idea that I would kill my own people with weapons that could contaminate the ground water is just ridiculous.”
“Believe me,” al-Assad reiterated, “when I slaughter innocent civilians in my own country, I make sure to use low-emission explosives and then discard the bodies in a compost heap.”
The administration has yet to announce any specific plan of attack, but President Obama has said he does not intend on getting the United States involved in another open-ended war.
“This is not about ousting a dictator,” Obama insisted. “This is about sending a message to government leaders everywhere: Before you decide to drop bombs on the women and children of today, think about the effect it will have on the women and children of tomorrow.”