All In   |  September 05, 2013

Kerry: Syria strikes 'important to the security of our country'

Chris Hayes asks Secretary of State John Kerry what's it's like to have the architects of the Iraq war criticize him. He also responds to the "present" vote from Sen. Ed Markey, the man who succeeded him in his spot in the U.S. Senate. Former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell Lawrence Wilkerson joins Chris Hayes to analyze Kerry's statements about the Iraq experience and why the U.S. might get involved in Syria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> that the american people are confused and the fact that the congress seems uncertain and the international community is not supportive is a reflection of a fact that the so-called commander in chief hasbeen ing a acting as a commander in chief, not provided leadership.

>> because the specter of the iraq invasion haunts everything involving the debate to launch air strikes in sere wra, i decided to ask secretary of state john kerr wriy what it's like to have the architects of the war based on lies criticize him and the president. i asked what it's like to be the person who's the leading spokesperson outfront for an attack on syria . you have made this case more strenuously, passionately, more out front than anyone in the administration, i think it's fair to say. given the experience you had in vietnam, and given the experience of the iraq war , how do you feel about being the public face of this intervention?

>> i feel confident that what i am doing is informed by my own lessons of war, and informed by my opposition to war, but informed also by my years of supporting certain military actions when they're important to the security of our nation. i believe this is important to the security of our country. i believe that if we don't do this, that we will have sent a horrendous message of permission to a man who has already shown his willingness to use weapons of mass destruction . i believe if we don't stand up, our friends in the region, jordan, will be more fragile, potentially at risk, israel will suffer the greater potentiality of these weapons falling into the hands of hezbollah, that iran will feel emboldened. iran , whom we are already in a major confrontation with over the potential that they may be developing a nuclear weapon . iran will read this, and they could read it in the wrong way which could create an even more dangerous confrontation down the road. so, chris, you know, i've thought a lot about this. i know the lessons of war. i don't believe this is taking america to war. i believe this is enforcing a very limited military action , not going to war, that will, in fact, stand up for the notion that you should not use chemical weapons . something we -- and by the way, we've protected our troops with this prohibition. in world war ii , in vietnam, in korea, in both iraq wars. people didn't dare use chemical weapons against our troops because they know there's a prohibition and that would unleash even greater rath of our nation. we need to stand up for that same principle now.

>> in terms of the lessons, and because the american public is so informed by these last 12 years, donald rumsfeld as said your leadership on this issue, the president's leadership has been feckless. you have seen architects of the iraq war from the bush administration coming out and criticizing the administration, criticizing the policy. how do you respond to seeing the architects of the iraq war criticize you personally, kri criticize the president?

>> i don't pay any -- it doesn't make a difference to me. they're so discredited by their own judgments it's hard to see they have a judgment today that is relevant to this. i'll listen to people whose judgment i clearly trust and respect, but with respect to this particular moment, from the moment that i had been sworn into office, i've been working with our allies, wogi inworking with the opposition to define the ways in which we can guarantee that weapons are not going to the worst actors out there. the ways in which we can guarantee that the future of syria will be a democratic future, but also to guarantee that we are not presenting to the american people the same shoddy intelligence that was presented to the american people back in iraq , that we do not make that mistake, that we will not put american boots on the ground . we will not take over a war that is a civil war in which the united states clearly has no business being directly involved.

>> can i ask about that?

>> we're not going to do that.

>> we -- can you unilaterally declare that you're not taking responsibility for civil war when the rebels on the ground are going to see this american intervention as possibly a door opening to further intervention and that is going to affect the way they conduct themselves.

>> we have made it crystal clear to them. we make it crystal clear now in every same that we have made. this action has nothing to do with engaging directly in syria 's civil war on one side or the other. it has to do with enforcing a norm of international behavior that has protected people against chemical weapons and it is one of the things, chemical, biological, nuclear warfare , we have decided as a world we are going to protect people against those weapons, and this measure that we're asking the congress to authorize will have a profound impact on the judgment of the north koreans and the iranians and others as to whether or not the united states will stand up for the policies that it adopts, and whether or not the united states when it says something means what it says.

>> is the president calling members of congress , democratic members of congress to get them to vote yes on this?

>> the president will be directly communicating to the members of congress . the vice president. we are all engaged in trying to define with clarity what this is, but also, chris, what it is not. it is is not iraq . it is not afghanistan. it is not even libya . there will be no american boots on the ground . we are not sliding through a back door into a war. we're not going to war.

>> the president --

>> we're taking a limited military action to enforce a very important --

>> will the president address the american people to make that case, himself?

>> i am confident the president will address the american people .

>> finally, your colleague and friend, and the man who took over your seat, ed markey , yesterday voted present. he was so apparently unpersuaded by the testimony you gave in front of that committee. what is your reaction to ed marqumar marquee voting present.

>> he hadn't had a chance to read the intelligence report in its entirety. he didn't want to read the public version. he wanted to read the full version. my hope is when he feels fully informed he'll make the right decision.

>> thank you so much your time.

>> thank you.

>> john kerry making the administration's case for a military strike on syria , talking about a wide range of issues in our interview today exclusively in the state departme department. joining me, lawrence wilkerson , former chief of staff for secretary of state colin powell . a adjunct professor at the college of william and mary . it's obvious the way iraq weighs over this. parallels to colin powell going out and working for him when you were selling the war on intelligence. i don't want to say there are parallels in the falseness of the intelligence. what do you think when you watch him talk about the iraq experience? do you think we've learned our lesson?

>> in some ways, perhaps. in other ways, not. my first reaction, this is in no way meant to be cold. it's meant to be the exact opposite. what's the difference between a child dying of saran gas in night, or in the morning, or at night with phosphorous? personally as a soldier, i'd rather die of the saran gas than the other two. people are dying in syria from other causes than chemical weapons . i have a problem with this from that point of --

>> you question drawing a ring around the class of weapons and the way the civilized world, if we can use that phrase, has basely sabase ically said you can't do this.

>> the reason we have the ban, and the success we do with members of the convention is because they aren't very good weapons. that's the real reason. the united states continues to use depleted uranium, white not phosphorous, wouldn't join the land mine ban. that's not to be cold.

>> the secretary said something that is con tense,, i don't believe this is taking america to war. what's your response to that.

>> that's the most frightening thing i heard in the interview. the enemy has a vote. when we drop bombs, cruise missiles , high-performance aircraft with pgms or whatever, the enemy has a vote. let's say it unfolds exactly the way secretary kerry explained it. a very light strike. two or three days of cruise missiles and pgms. and we say, mr. assad, don't use chemical weapons again. what if he shrugs that off and continues to march and even maintains his present position and even possibly wins? what do we do then? i guarantee you the united states will want to have another vote in that. if we were to do what my party wants to do, john mccain , lindsey graham and others, and conduct robust strikes. 78 days like we did against melosocich in kosovo. what do we do then when syria , not libya , libya was a pariah of africa. syria is in the heart of an incredibly strategic region. what do we do then? to we put boots on the ground ?

>> what about thisically to have enforce a norm but maintain an od equilibrium to force both parties to think they can't win and go to the negotiating table in geneva.

>> the equilibrium that killed 100,000 people already. i see this as being a vicious civil war fueled by said rain wra a saudi arabia and others furnishing arms. i'm not opposed to what kerry said, himself. we need to tell the american people there's a high potential for us having to go all the way. a lot of time, a lot of money, resources and boots on the ground .

>> quickly, having been inside the armed forces , having been inside state, what is planning inside those buildings looking like now?

>> i suggest it is probably very hect hectic, but i don't think either at the pentagon or at state anybody is looking beyond this more or less punitive strike, and that's wrong. because we probably are going to go beyond it.

>> retired army colonel, lawrence wilkerson . thank you so much for