Nightly News   |  August 30, 2013

Kerry offers stern words on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry condemns Syria for mass killing. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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

>> good evening, i'm lester holt in for brian. the signals couldn't be clearer. it is virtually certain the united states will not let syria 's use of chemical weapons go unpunished. the president says he has not decided on a course of action. the u.s. military attack was spelled out in no uncertain terms by secretary of state john kerry , like a prosecutor, making an empacksed closing argument to a jury, kerry made a point-by-point assessment of the evidence against syria and warning of the consequence should the world turn a blind eye . kerry offered new details on the chemical attacks of the assad government involvement based on evidence he said was clear and compelling. he said, any u.s. response would be limited within its scope without american boots on the ground and he revealed more than 1,400 people have been killed in the chemical attack , including more than 400. here's how the secretary laid it out for us today.

>> our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack and i will tell you, it has done so more than mindful of the iraq experience. we will not repeat that moment. we know that if assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire middle east . we know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year. we know that the syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons . we know that these were specific instructions. we know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition controlled or contested neighborhoods. the united states government now knows that at least 1,429 syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426. this is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons . this is what assad did to his own people. it matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murder like bashar al- assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity even after the united states and our allies says no, then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will. now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the american people are tired of war. believe me, i am, too. but fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility and history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. these things we do know.

>> secretary of state kerry and some of his bold case for military action in syria . our reporting team is in place tonight, first to nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell in our washington newsroom. andrea, after that speech, is there any turning back?

>> no, there is not. before kerry 's speech, he was white house with the other security advisers talking about this. this is what is different, the scale of the attack, the casualties you saw. second the size of the target area. this intelligence map shows 12 separate locations that were hit with a highly coordinated attack. they had spy satellites tracking the rockets from government launchers to where they landed. finally, they say assad 's command and control was established from the intercepting communications you heard, they prepared to use chemicals. they told them to put on gas masks and a senior official was overheard telling troops to hide the evidence afterwards from the u.n. with all of that, they say, if this president does not act, it would just be inviting assad and others to again use chemicals.