The following press statement from the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, crossed the wire this afternoon, with the subject line "Tenth Anniversary of the Ghouta, Syria, Chemical Weapons Attack":
Ten years ago the Assad regime launched rockets carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin into the Ghouta district of Damascus, killing more than 1,400 people.
The United States remembers and honors the victims and survivors of the Ghouta attack and of the other chemical attacks launched by the Assad regime. Ten years on, we continue to seek justice and accountability for those responsible for these horrific acts.
Despite its international obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN Security Council Resolution 2118, Syria has yet to fully declare and verifiably eliminate its chemical weapons program. Syria refuses to take any responsibility for its vile campaign of chemical weapons use, as is evident from Syria's nine subsequent chemical weapons attacks confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team and the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism.
We will continue to support the calls by the Syrian people and civil society for justice and accountability for atrocities committed in Syria, and to stand with Syrians in working for a future in which their human rights are respected.
It's a remarkable document.
One is struck by the clarity and forthrightness of what it says—that more than 1,400 people were killed in a chemical weapons attack by the regime of the Syrian dictator, and that there were "nine subsequent chemical weapons attacks."
And one is also struck by what is omitted—that the president of the United States during this attack, in 2013, was Barack Obama, that the vice president was Joe Biden, that the national security adviser to Biden was Jake Sullivan (who is now the national security adviser), and that all of them were discouraged from using military force at the time by cautious members of Congress, both dovish Democrats (Jim McGovern of Massachusetts) and Republicans (Rand Paul of Kentucky). Without military muscle, all the talk about "continue to seek justice and accountability" and "continue to support calls" amounts to mere rhetoric. It's more than any of the Republican presidential candidates appear to have done to mark the anniversary. But it's not quite enough.
In a September 10, 2013, speech, Obama said:
To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.
Indeed, I'd ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?
We've found out the answer over the past decade, as the refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, and those who were not lucky enough to escape, can attest.