All In   |  September 11, 2013

The road from 9/11 to Syria offers surprises

This anniversary of the beginning of our long twelve years of war comes at a moment when the country engages, once again, in a boisterous debate over America's role in the world and the use of our military might.  Chris Hayes is joined by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from California and Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota.

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

>>> good evening, from new york, i'm chris hayes , tonight on "all in," 12 years later on day we remember september 11th , the country appears on a turning point, warweary and ready to embrace diplomacy. and tonight, what happens when a family who adopts children decide they don't want them anymore.

>>> plus, two people voted out of office after recall elections in colorado, i'll tell you why they should be celebrated for their courage, that is ahead, but we begin tonight with the september 11th story, the attacks on 9/11. and that, with an entire generation that has been born since that day. president obama , along with the rest of the generation marked the first moment the tower was tru struck with a moment of silence . and later, the president paid tribute at the pentagon.

>> they left this earth, slipped from our grasp, but it is written, what the heart has it shall never lose? the president spent time at food friends, for people with life-threatening illnesses.

>> we have to remember the incredible outpouring of neighbors helping neighbors. all americans looking out for each other.

>> and what is another annual right, the names of the 3,000 killed at the 9/11 attack. but grace was not in sight today as some corporate brands tried to mark the day with attempts, from the mini market offering coffee and muffins, in remembering those who were lost, and an at&t tribute as a brand replacement opportunity for which they later apologized. but of course, this anniversary, the beginning of our long 12 years of war comes at a moment when the country engages once again in a feverish debate on america 's role in the use of military might. it comes at a moment when americans are saying we are tired of war. and in a poll taken prior to the president's address last night, 58% of americans said their member of congress should oppose the u.s. going to war. and in a speech given by president obama , gave him a temporary boost on the subject, with 61% saying they favored his approach. the president's approach had morphed, when he announced a delay waiting for congress to vote authorizing him to go to syria . a vote that looked like he likely would lose. the once seemingly imminent intervention has scrambled our politics, with nancy pelosi supporting the event, and others against it. it is a complicated nation that doesn't lend itself to the black and white , good/good, bad/guy way of thinking that we've become used to since 9/11.

>> every nation, every country, has a decision to make. either you are with us or you with the terrorists.

>> today, we contemplate intervening in a war in which al-qaeda would be on the same sides as the bombers, not our side. america finds it increasingly difficult to determine. maybe because those were ways we were not used to thinking about in the beginning. some make arguments for intervention while others just put their finger to the wind. senate minority leader mitch mcconnell has not made a vote until it is absolutely safe to take a position. then he immediately tried to raise money off of it, sending out a fundraising letter soon after president obama , speech. congressman and former vice presidential candidate paul ryan announced after the vote was postponed that he would vote no. the same paul ryan that said he and mitt romney agreed absolutely with the white house 's red line on syria using chemical weapons . an entire republican party which built their political messaging and their policy, in foreign policy about finding and fighting the bad guys now seems thoroughly confused. because when your foreign policy determination is based on child childish interpretations like good guy/ bad guy , will tend to be utterly confusing. a criminal that is ruthlessly fighting a broad series of rebels, including, as assad would be the first to tell you, the terrorists like jihad, many of whom are exported from iraq . a side of a list of bad guy that is included a whole big list of bad guys for us to fight. joining us, barbara lee , from california, just nominated by president obama to lead the u.s. general assembly . congresswoman, as someone who has voted to the opposition of military force , who served in the days after 9/11 until now, do you think this latest chapter of public debate and congressional involvement in our contemplation of intervention in syria is a turning point?

>> i certainly do, chris, and thank you for giving me the chance to join you tonight. i do think it is a turning point, because right now the entire country is engaged in the debate in the proper terms of the use of military force in our country. what the constitutional prerogatives of the president are. and also, what we do, in fact, to achieve what we want to achieve, and that is global peace and security. with regard to security, i do not believe that military strikes and actions will lead to what secretary kerry and the president have called for. and that is a political settlement. and so i'm very proud and pleased that the president, one, came to congress to debate this and to ask for a vote. but secondly, has really you know, we gun to walk through a diplomatic process that hopefully will work. and that we will not have to at least in the near future decide whether or not we should put our votes up or down in terms of using military force .

>> diplomacy, as it strikes me as we watch members of congress and the president in kind of an amazing moment in the trajectory of american politics since 9/11, americans across the aisle, the president himself, have all expressed, embraced open neness to diplomacy, to a diplomatic solution, the u.n. security council -- that moment is a tough one. do you think it is possible to continue american political investment in diplomacy even when it gets hard?

>> i absolutely think so chris. diplomacy is hard. it is slow, and it is very tough to bring the entire world together. but i'm confident that our president can bring this world together. because that is what he absolutely has to do. bring the international community together. one, to make sure that chemical weapons are either put under international control and/or destroyed. two, that we really come to grips with the fact that weapons of mass destruction , chemical weapons , have no place in the civilized world . so we have got to do this. assad needs to be accountable. i think all of us, even those that do not support a military strike , want the regime to be held to be held accountable to the death and destruction.

>> and that is the issue to me here, when we say be held accountable, we're so conditioned to think of them in terms of force and to think of them in terms of american action , that when we're talking about the u.n. security council resolution, a lot of americans say that is a meaningless body. how do you make the case to them that it is not?

>> it is not a meaningless body. the united nations was founded in 1946 , and believe you me, it has prevented many wars. it is a body, that of course, is very diverse. we have many countries that belong to the united nations . and in fact, different political systems . so if we can't work within the united nations framework, how in the world do we lead the world in the name of democracy and human rights ? we can't be cynical about this. the world is very small. we're part of a global family. and if we don't work within the global body, then we become a country which really only cares about our domestic politics and policies. and we're part of a larger global family that america should be proud to lead and proud to lead in the united nations . and i think this is a critical, defining moment for our country. and i think our president certainly knows what he is doing in bringing to the international body, a process that could lead to a possible political settlement. but it is not going to be difficult, but i am very pleased with the fact that it is moving forward.

>> congresswoman barbara lee , thank you.

>> and co-chair of the congressional caucus who was against the wars in afghanistan and iraq but is supporting president obama 's call for military action in syria . he is one of several democrats who came out and declared their support for military action in syria , including his support for nancy pelosi . congressman, i'm curious about your decision, why you decided to support the president on this.

>> because i believe there is a responsibility in the world community to protect civilian populations from mass atrocities. genocide, ethnic cleansing. and i think when countries are perpetrating that on their civilian populations, the world has a duty to step in with military action , i don't think that the military action is the first step. i think it is absolutely the last step, but you know, if diplomacy has not been successful, public combination has not worked, then i think it is a live threat that the world steps back and says there is nothing we can do. we have kosovo, we have rwanda, thousands killed there, and even the threat of force may have brought that to an end. but the world thought -- we were war weary, we didn't feel like being involved. so kosovo, a 00,0100,000 people died before the world got involved in that.

>> how do you make the argument to your constituents, just based upon the makeup of your district?

>> well, quite frankly, it has not been easy, but i believe that my constituents agree with me that when a group of civilians are being attacked with a deadly neurotoxin like sei sarin is being used, of course, it is not our country, but it has a broad effect here. and by the way, i don't prefer military strikes in syria , i hate this. i wish we were not here. i wish you know -- we were never in this situation where this had to be contemplated. but i doubt that we would be talking about a serious negotiated settlement in syria with regard to sarin, but for the president saying you know, i'm not going to tolerate you doing that. and so look, you know, i mean -- this is nothing joyful for me. this is not a happy moment. this is a very sad moment. but you know, 1400 people were -- or hundreds of people were gassed with a deadly neurotoxin that has been banned since 1925 . they tried it before. and it has got to stop. and i'm glad the president stepped up and said no.

>> congressman, how do you think through this? what is interesting to me, we're having this debate, people are having it around their kitchen tables, people are thinking about this. members of congress are, when you are confronted about this, what is the way you try to think through -- the president, by dint of his being elected commander-in-chief. and his policy, his doctrines. many people in congress get pulled into this. what is the way you think your way through this?

>> well, first of all, i have been neck deep in hearing all about this stuff for at least two and a half years, ever since the arab spring began. constituents of mine, many of syrian heritage have let me know that they -- friends and relatives and loved ones have been terrorized. they have friends, i have close friends of mine who have gone as medical professionals to the tur turkish border and helped, one man had his eyeball plucked out with a spoon. others told me the bodies of the explain people given back to their families after being tortured, including children. and i have heard all of these horrific things, and never until this gas situation did i say that the united states intervene, i said we should intervene on humanitarian grounds, food, water, but when the gas situation came up, it was a red line for me. not just obama. and you ask me how i think through these things. it is by trying to get the firsthand information. i'm not re lying on the nsa or even u.s. intelligence . i'm relying on people who have intelligence and directly report to them from the region. and as a better principle, i'm like almost always against the war. i was against iraq . i am against -- iraq , thank you. afghanistan, but i think there is a duty and a responsibility to protect. but i'm so glad that we have a diplomatic opportunity right here. maybe we can get a cease fire .

>> congressman keith ellisson, thank you for wrestling that out with me.

>> thank you, sir.

>>> coming up next, the underground story about children whose parents adopted them and now want to get rid of them. you will not believe what this special report uncovered.