Dem Congressman Alan Grayson On Syria: Obama "Giving Only One Side Of The Story"


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So one lawmaker who outright opposes intervention at all is Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman Grayson, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D-FL): Thank you.

BERMAN: You were not invited to join this conference call in a few hours, but is there anything the administration could say at this point to convince you to support an airstrike?

GRAYSON: The administration would have to explain why this affects some vital American interest.

I haven't heard any discussion of that at all. I think the only people who really want in to happen are the military industrial complex. I just don't understand how this involves us, Americans. The British had estimated the strike will cost Americans billions of dollars, with a B. And at a time when the budgets are so tight, and we're cutting veterans' benefits and we're cutting education and we're cutting health care, why are we spending billions of dollars?

I don't know where we got this odd notion that every time we see something bad happen in the world, we should bomb it.

BERMAN: You bring up the issue of national interests here, vital national interests. The president on PBS was talking about the U.S. interests here. I think we have some sound of exactly what the president said. Let's listen.


OBAMA: You are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected. And that needs to stop.


BERMAN: So, in your opinion, Congressman, is the president wrong, that a chemical attack on the people in Syria does not threaten U.S. national interests?

GRAYSON: If that's what he's saying -- and it's not clear to me that that is what that meant -- but if that's what he's saying, yes, he's wrong.

I don't see how this tragedy, it's a tragedy, affects U.S. national interests. And, by the way, the greatest norm, the highest norm in international law is that you don't attack another country unilaterally without the authorization of the United Nations. That's the United Nations charter. It's a fundamental principle.

We can't simply go in and bomb people whenever we feel like it, particularly when one man is arrogating to himself that decision.

BERMAN: A hundred thousand people dead in the Syrian conflict, by some reports at least 350 killed in what the administration says was a chemical weapons attack. Is standing by and doing nothing really an option?

GRAYSON: Frankly, you have overstated and the secretary certainly overstated the evidence that this was a deliberate decision made by the high command in Syria.

There is all sorts of ambiguity regarding that particular point. The secretary said it was undeniable. It's been denied. And in fact the Syrian government has said, A., they didn't do it, B., they would never do it, C., they never will do it and, D., they have invited U.N. inspectors to prove that. To say that it's undeniable is flatly false.

In any case, even if we had undeniable evidence, the fact is it's simply not our responsibility. Sometimes, everyone needs to learn the principle mind your own business.

BERMAN: No, to be clear, it's the administration that is saying the evidence is undeniable of a chemical attack.

Based on what you have seen I guess in the media right now and anything else you may have seen in your congressional office, you are not convinced that the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack in Syria?

GRAYSON: First of all, it's not even clear it was a chemical attack.

If it was a chemical attack, then the residue that was left on the clothing of victims would have poisoned other people. That hasn't happened. Secondly, it could easily have been the rebels who did it or some disaffected parts of the Syrian military.

Third, even if it was a chemical attack and even if it was the military doing it, there's no evidence that it was a deliberate decision on the part of the leadership in Syria. And I don't like sitting here and sounding like I'm some kind of apologist for a dictator, but the fact is that if you're going to go ahead and say it's undeniable that there's clear evidence, that's the way it ought to be. The British actually have put out a report saying that it's not undeniable and the evidence is quite unclear.

BERMAN: But you are unsatisfied then, it is safe to say, with what you been given or what it is being laid by President Obama's administration, a Democrat, by the way?

GRAYSON: I think the administration is giving only one side of the story.

BERMAN: And if the U.N. -- it's a hypothetical. But if the U.N. inspectors do come back, and we should learn by Saturday what information they found, if they come back and say that it was a chemical attack in this town and they think it is tied to the Assad administration, would that satisfy you?

GRAYSON: By ourselves? No.

We are not the world's policemen. That is not our responsibility. If the United Nations decides to authorize members including the United States to do something about that, then that is a bridge we can cross at that point. But just because the United Nations inspectors would come and say chemical weapons were used, without even identifying whether it was a high command decision on that subject or even who did it, no, that doesn't satisfy me at all.

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