Secretary Kerry: No Place for Benghazi in Syria Debate

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-09_f9504777a5.jpgTom Williams/CQ Roll Call (NEW YORK) -- During a fiery exchange with Representative Jeff Duncan, Secretary of State John Kerry scolded the Republican South Carolina congressman about bringing up Benghazi during the hearing about military strikes in Syria. Duncan began his questioning by challenging whether the Obama administration can be trusted after Benghazi.

He held up a picture of Tyrone Woods, one of the Americans killed in the attack, and said that Americans are demanding options. Duncan also challenged Kerry’s own professional history, saying Kerry has never “advocated for anything other than caution when involving U.S. forces in past conflicts,” and accused the power of the executive branch as being “so intoxicating” that Kerry has abandoned “past caution in favor for pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly.”

Kerry immediately disputed the question, telling Duncan that he “volunteered to fight” for his country, “and that wasn’t a cautious thing to do when I did it.” When Duncan tried to interrupt the secretary, citing time constraints, Kerry cut him off.

“I’m going to finish, Congressman. I am going to finish,” said Kerry. “When I was in the United States Senate, I supported military action in any number of occasions, including Grenada, Panama — I can run a list of them. And I am not going to sit here and be told by you that I don’t have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this,” he said angrily.

Kerry then scolded the congressman about his references to Benghazi.

“We’re talking about people being killed by gas and you want to go talk about Benghazi and Fast and Furious, ” he said. Duncan did not back down, saying that he “absolutely wants to talk about Benghazi” because four Americans lost their lives. He said that though he had sympathy for the Syrians killed, the U.S. needs to act cautiously.

Kerry said the president is acting cautiously, and that’s why this debate is currently happening. He also reiterated that this authorization is not about getting involved in Syria’s civil war.
 
“This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldn’t be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity. And if we don’t vote to do this, Assad will interpret from you that he’s free to go and do this any day he wants to,” he said.

“So let’s draw the proper distinction here, Congressman. We don’t deserve to drag this into yet another Benghazi discussion when the real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for international norms with respect to dictators that have only been broken twice until Assad: Hitler and Saddam Hussein. And if we give license to somebody to continue that, shame on us.”

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