Representative Juan Vargas (D-CA) asked a heartbreaking question Wednesday during the House Syria hearings. He asked on behalf of a veteran if the Syria evidence was real.
Video (exchange begins at 3:14:09):
Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA): First of all, I’d like to say before I ask an embarrassing question. I have the greatest respect for all of you… On Saturday however, I had the opportunity to speak to a small group of veterans in my district in San Diego before I flew here for the classified briefing on Sunday, and they asked a question I think, and I told them I would ask. I first told them I wouldn’t, but they convinced me that it was a good question. That is that one of them has a son in the military today, and he believes that last time we went running off to war that the facts that were given were lies, were misleading. And what he wanted was one thing, and I told him all I read, and certainly now all that I have read does lead me to believe that chemical weapons were used and that children were gassed, and because of that we do have to act. But he wanted you to promise that the facts you have given us are true to the best of your ability. That you’re not lying. That you’re not holding anything back. That what we’ve seen. That what I’ve read, and I’ve read everything given to us twice now to make sure I’ve read everything. I want to make sure that you promise us, you’re telling the truth.
Sec. of State John Kerry: Congressman, I’m proud and perfectly willing to tell you that everything I’ve said is the truth. And based on the information that’s been presented to me, and as I have based on my own experience in war which I resolved to do if I ever was in a position to make any choices in the future fully vetted, and I’m comfortable with it. And I wouldn’t possibly make this recommendation if I weren’t comfortable with it. I believe we’ve vetted this. We’ve double checked it. Asked the intel people to rescrub. We’ve even had a separate team created that had independent from the original to totally vet, check all the analysis find out if it could have been an opposition or anything else, and in every case I would say for myself and everybody that we have sat around the table with there is a comfort level that is rare in this kind of situation. I wouldn’t have said we can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt if I didn’t believe it.
These hearings are part of the dialogue that should take place before any military strike. The questions that need to be asked and answered before decisions are made are: What is the evidence? What agencies/countries validate the evidence? What is the exit plan? Will this save civilian lives? Who is with us and who is not, and why? How would we define victory? What are the risks in terms of retaliation? How do our values inform the risks of retaliation against the perceived moral need to act?
The hard thing for citizens and our troops is that we are not privy to classified information, which has been referenced consistently throughout the hearing. This leaves us, in the end, having to take a leap of faith or fall into cynicism, neither of which is logical.
The saddest thing of all is that lies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have left the scar tissue of mistrust on our collective psyche. It is so bad that even veterans who served their country now have doubts. It is heartbreaking to think that we can’t stand together because the lies of George W. Bush destroyed our trust and tore us apart.