In selling a strike against Syria to a skeptical American public, top administration officials repeatedly have evoked the chilling videos and images from the aftermath of the deadly Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
During his prime-time address to the nation Tuesday night, President Obama became the latest to use that strategy, actively encouraging Americans to view the gruesome footage of dead children, killed by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
“The images from this massacre are sickening. Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath. A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk,” the president during his 15-minute speech.
To those who oppose a retaliatory strike against Assad’s regime — which, according to recent polling data, is a majority of the American people — the president suggested they look at the carnage with their own eyes.
“I’d ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home 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?” Mr. Obama said.
Whether the U.S. chooses to strike remains very much in doubt. Mr. Obama said Tuesday night he’ll continue to pursue diplomatic options, as long as they result in Assad giving up his chemical weapons stockpile and submitting to international inspections.
But if American forces do strike, the White House has sought to build support by tugging at the heart strings of the nation’s parents.
“This atrocity is particularly gut-wrenching. And unlike those tragedies of earlier decades, we have the technology on our computers and our smartphones to see the full force unfold in real time,” White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said during a speech in Washington on Monday. “Children lined up in shrouds, their voices forever silenced; devastated mothers and fathers kissing their children goodbye, some pulling the white sheet up tight around their beautiful faces as if tucking them in for the last time.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made a similar case during remarks last Friday at the Center for American Progress.
“We share the deep conviction that chemical weapons are barbaric, that we should never again see children killed in their beds, lost to a world that they never had the chance to try to change,” she said.