WASHINGTON — In an impassioned appeal for support both at home and abroad, President Barack Obama said today the credibility of the international community and Congress is on the line in the debate over how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
As Obama made his case overseas during a visit to Sweden, his proposal for military intervention was under consideration by skeptical House members at home.
Asked about his past comments drawing a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, Obama said it was a line that had first been clearly drawn by countries around the world and by Congress, in ratifying a treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.
“That wasn’t something I made up,” he said. “I didn’t pluck it out of thin air. There’s a reason for it.”
“I didn’t set a red line, the world set a red line,” he said. “The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of world population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent.”
Obama said that if the world fails to act, “we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”
And that, he said, would embolden despots and repressive regimes around the world to flout all sorts of international standards.
“The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing,” he declared at a news conference in Stockholm with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
In a setback to Obama’s push for backing on Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain said he doesn’t support the Senate resolution in its present form.
McCain has been an outspoken advocate of intervention and wants more than cruise missile strikes and other limited action, although he has said he doesn’t favor U.S. combat troops on the ground there.