tv News Nation MSNBC August 26, 2013 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
you never miss the fun. beard growing contest and go! ♪ i win! what's in your wallet? hi, everyone. i'm tamron hall. the news nation is following breaking news from the state department where moments from now secretary of state john kerry will give a statement on the u.s. response to the syrian crisis. now, this comes as the white house moves closer towards military action against the syrian government, reportedly, in wake of last week's apparent chemical attack that took the lives of an estimated 355 people and injured thousands more. the question remains what might the intervention look like.
u.n. officials came under sniper fire today in damascus as they set out to inspect the site of the alleged attack. now, the investigators carried out their mission despite the incoming fire collecting samples and interviewing several witnesses to the attacks as well as doctors who treated some of the victims. the white house, meanwhile, has been weighing its options and responding to the attack, including possible missile strikes. we go now to nbc's ayman mohyeldin reporting from cairo. as mentioned, those u.n. inspectors came under sniper fire, but they say they were able to collect evidence. when might we hear more on what they heard and what they were able to bring out of the area not far from damascus? >> reporter: well, we have learned from u.n. officials that they were able to collect samples including blood samples, soil samples. they were also able to speak to eyewitnesses. according to amateur footage posted online, they were able also to visit one of the field hospitals that allegedly had some of those victims that were
treated by ngos like doctors without borders. we aren't yet sure if they plan on returning tomorrow. that has not yet been made clear from the united nations. they have now completed their first day there. now, we also aren't clear yet if those samples need to be taken out of the country. the u.n. has not made public yet whether or not it needs to determine those inside the country or whether it plans to move some of those samples to a nearby facility to determine them. certainly one thing we do know, any movement from the u.n. officials would require very close coordination with the syrian government. that's actually why some of the accusations that we're hearing today about the sniper fire were being blamed on the syrian government, because of the fact they were the only people who knew when and where the u.n. team was moving and in what direction. tamron? >> and of course we're watching the impact of all of this on the region. turkey is where our richard engel has been monitoring the situation. i know you've been keeping an eye on it as well. what is the climate like in the
region, especially when it's in regard to people who are trying to flee the area? >> reporter: well, it's certainly a humanitarian crisis that people here are concerned about. the united nations itself has somewhat prepared for what they have described as a worst-case scenario. that would essentially mean that if there was any type of military intervention that could create a spike in refugees, they would have to be prepared to deal with that. we've already seen in the last week since about august 18th or a little bit before that, nearly 42,000 refugees crossing into iraq alone in one week. so it gives you a sense of the humanitarian scope there. the concern is if there is, in fact, any type of military intervention, that may lead to a sudden spike across the region into turkey, jordan, iraq, and elsewhere. more importantly, not just among syrian refugees, if there is a syrian military response among its allies, that could exacerbate the region. >> all right.
thank you very much, ayman. let me bring in new york congressman elliott engel. he's called on the obama administration to move quickly against the assad regime. congressman, let me start with you. a spokesperson for speaker boehner says they've not heard -- members of congress have not heard from the president, and they would need to if military action were to be taken. your response to that? >> well, i'm sure the president, once a decision's made, would certainly inform congress and consult with congress. i certainly have been letting the administration know what i feel, and i'm sure speaker boehner, if he chose, could do the same. of course there will be consultations with congress. >> right now, as you've heard in the reports, the u.n. interviewing witnesses, also taking samples. for many people here at home trying to process this, we know ts are supposed to be crossed, is dotted, but when you see this video here, you have those who ask the question, how is it
possible we are still calling this an alleged chemical attack when you see hundreds of people, and when we know the assad regime has done this before? this is not as if we're starting from a blank slate, sir. >> well, you're absolutely right, tamron. first of all, if it was not the syrian government, if it was not assad's people, they would have let the international community go in to inspect immediately. the fact it took them five days to agree to let the international community come in shows, as far as i'm concerned, culpability right there. there's no doubt in my mind this was perpetrated, these atrocities with these children foaming at the mouth and dying came as a result of the brutality of assad and his regime. no doubt about it. >> president obama has met with his national security team. he called the british prime minister david cameron, contacted the president of france as well. what do you foresee as the next likely move, given that you've
said the administration needs to act quickly? what is the responsible next move in your sight? >> certainly i think whatever we do will be with our allies, nato, and others. i think there has to be a coalition. we cannot go through the united nations because the russians veto everything and block everything. so i think that there have been consultations over the past several day, and i think that that there's been a decision and i think we'll hear about it soon. you know, there are many difficult decisions, all bad choices in syria. as i've said before, the worst bad of all the choices is for us to do nothing. we have to do something to show that in the 21st century we're not going to tolerate these kinds of attacks against civilian populations and hopefully in doing it, let us know that the civil war is not just something he's going to win with the help of his terrorist organization and iran, a nation promoting terrorism. i think for both things,
humanitarian and u.s. that steejic interests, i think it's important to act. >> let me bring in bobby. we are also watching another event in washington, d.c., where the president will award u.s. army staff sergeant ty carter the medal of honor for his actions while fighting in afghanistan. it will be the fifth living individual who fought in this war. people are saying this is an interesting time situation and that the president is giving out this award in reflection of the war in afghanistan and the continued violence that's spiked right now in iraq and deciding what to do with syria here. >> well, i'm sure this was an event planned well in advance, but it does bring -- >> but timing gives reflection. >> exactly. it does bring into sharp focus the fact that there is no appetite among americans to go back on a third adventure in the middle east. the president, when the time comes for him to communicate, not so much with congress but with the american people, about why he needs to do this action in syria, whatever that action is, he's going to need to
message that very carefully to make it clear to americans what the stakes are and for a person who's taken a very long time to act, what was it, what was the triggering effect that makes him feel like this is the moment. >> you bring up the message the president will have to convey, whatever decision is made. the message from assad was very specific over the weekend. he is saying that failure awaits the united states, as it has in all previous wars, it has unleashed starting with vietnam up until the present day. we know what he's alluding to, regarding the present day. that was the same argument many made regarding iraq and afghanistan, that this would be another vietnam. how that hits the american people who are watching as this plays out. >> well, i think the crucial thing is that there is no talk in light of afghanistan or iraq of sending in american soldiers or even any western soldiers. it seems that the administration is very carefully managing expectations, internationally as well as in the u.s.
this will most likely be an air strike with missiles rather than planes. >> then how does assad respond to that? >> the idea would be to weaken assad. it's basically a repeat of what we saw in libya. the same coalition. the french, the british, nato allies, perhaps qatar and the uae and the same m.o., which is you take assad's air force out of the equation, you bomb the sites where you think he has strengths and where you have concern, and then you expect that the uprising will be strengthened by this, the regime will be weakened, and that will change the balance of power. >> but as the congressman mentioned, there seems to be no winning side here in that the rebels still offer uncertainty to the u.s., which was part of the argument as well with libya, if we're using that as a comparison. >> yes, it was. it's a shame two years after this uprising began we still don't seem to know who the good
guys are and who the bad guys are. we know there's a mix there in the rebel ranks, but we should have far better intelligence. we don't have it, then we should turn to the people who do. i'm guessing the turks do, the israelis do, the saudis do. there are people there on the ground who can tell good from bad elements in the rebellion. the challenge for us is to make sure that we have the right information. >> congressman engel, let me bring you back in. there's a new poll taken just last week when people were asked about the intervention in syria. 25% of americans would support u.s. intervention in syria. 46% say they would oppose it. obviously these decisions cannot be made exclusively on a poll, certainly not one poll here. but it does, i think, speak to the challenge ahead where you have staff sergeant carter about to receive the medal of honor. 33-year-old young man like so many others who went to afghanistan to fight for this country, who went to iraq and
have left with unresolved feelings about why we were there and what ultimately was accomplished. >> well, obviously the country is war weary after two wars in afghanistan and iraq. nobody is talking about boots on the ground in syria. i think a lot of that poll was probably before people became aware of the horrific events of the gassing of men, women, and children. that has to factor into the equation as well. the united states is a great power. we stand for great things. i think that sometimes we have to do what we say. i think the world cannot stand idly by and allow these atrocities to go unanswered. i do think we know who the good guys are on the ground. i think the general and the free syrian army, in my estimation, we should be helping them. we should be getting weapons to them. we should be doing everything that's possible. so i think it's a one-two punch. we will not get directly involved in this civil war, but we certainly can try to tip the balance by sending aid to the rebels and by making assad's air
force impotent. we can do that with cruise missiles. we can destroy runways, munitions depots, his fuel. there are lots and lots of things we can do, and we can do it in conjunction with our nato allies, as was done in libya. >> it and bobby, before i let you go, we're getting word that secretary kerry will start around 2:30 eastern time. but our allies, how does russia now factor into this, being an absolute key component? >> if you don't go through the united nations, they're not a factor. they're a factor to the degree they'll try and arm assad. but nobody can see the russians actually sending the russian air force to try and support assad and his air force. if you don't go to the u.n., the russians are not a significant factor. they'll complain. they will, you know -- there will be strong statements from vladimir putin, as we've come to
expect, but i can't imagine they'd intervene in favor of assad. >> all right. thank you very much. it's always a pleasure to have your insight. again, i want to just quickly show the live picture from the east room of the white house, where we are awaiting the ceremony. staff sergeant ty carter will be awarded the medal of honor, this nation's highest honor for a military service person for his heroic actions in afghanistan. we'll bring you that ceremony as soon as it happens. we're also following a few other stories. this is being called a danger zone for kids in chicago. extra security right now on the streets of that major city as students return to class. why this extra security, the need for it anyway, is being blamed on controversial school closures that parents fought so hard against over the summer. plus, donald trump firing back at the new york attorney general after a $40 million lawsuit was filed claiming that trump university is basically a
scam. >> we're dealing with an attorney general who everyone in new york knows is a total lightweight. >> join our conversation on twitter. you can find us @tamronhall. my team is @newsnation. ♪ reinforced with scratch- resistant glass and a unibody made kevlar strong. okay google now. call my droid. the new droid ultra by motorola. when strength matters, droid does. ♪ even superheroes need superheroes, and some superheroes need complete and balanced meals with 23 vitamins and minerals. purina dog chow. help keep him strong. dog chow strong.
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developing now, we are just moments away from seeing u.s. army staff sergeant ty carter receive the nation's highest military honor, the medal of honor. he's being awarded for his actions in afghanistan during one of the deadliest battles of the war. nbc news chief pentagon correspondent sat down with staff sergeant carter where he
recounted the details of that early morning in october 2009. >> there was something very different. the sound of the gunfire was nonstop. usually you'd hear the putter of a burst, but there were so many bursts going on all the time, it was a constant -- almost like a rock concert where that constant buzz or hum is always there with the addition of explosions and everything else. then i headed for the door, and that's when i saw the impacts of the bullets on the concrete wall in front of me and also on the ground in front of me. once i saw that, i said, okay, they're getting close. then i took a step back and hit the door at a running start and sprinted all the way up to the guard position. >> joining me now to discuss this medal of honor recipient, colonel jack jacobs. i've had the pleasure to sit
here with you. this young man, 33 years old, absolutely incredible. as you mentioned, he sprinted across the open fields to get ammo to save the lives of others. sadly, eight u.s. soldiers were killed. many others injured whether they were outnumbered. i think it was like eight to one. but he kept fighting there. they ended up with permanent hearing loss. he's also dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder. here he is on this day. >> yeah, and he's getting a lot of help, too. both outside the medal of honor society, which includes all the medal of honor recipients, and inside from some of us. it's very interesting. we think about what we would do in situations like this, have conversations with young troops all the time, and the answer is you're going -- you'll do what you need to do. everybody has doubts about whether or not he can do it. you can do it. the reason is you focus on taking care -- >> there he is walking in with the president. this is an amazing jung mae ini.
he says he was pretty lousy at civilian jobs and rejoined the military. >> he's not alone. it's rare for people to bounce around in different services, but he's not alone. he's not alone among the medal of honor recipients. there have been a number of them who have been in more than one service or where one got out and came back. >> we're going to listen in right now. >> -- a virtue, honor, and patriotism. say, oh, god, our hearts are touched by the privilege of bestowing the distinguishing honor of a soldier in battle. as we honor staff sergeant ty carter for his actions during the battle, remind us that the simple, yet elegant award, animated by the courage born of loyalty to all who is noble and worthy, reveals the depth of
patriot's love and devotion. today our nation pauses to honor an american soldier, give thanks to the memory of the men who fought with him that day, even as we grieve their loss. we give thanks for the strength of his family. be present among us, oh, god. increase our faith, renew our hope that our lives can be marked by virtue, honor, and patriotism. this, we ask, and pray in your holy name, amen. >> good afternoon, everybody. please be seated. welcome to the white house. actually, i should say welcome back. many of you joined us earlier this year when we presented the medal of honor to clint romesha for his actions in the very same battle that we remember today. clint could not be here. he's engaged this week in a
cause that is very close to all of our hearts. that's ending homelessness among our veterans. but we are honored to welcome back some of the men who fought that day at combat outpost keating, members of black knight troop and the gold-star families of those who gave their lives that day. as these soldiers and families will tell you, they're a family forged in battle and loss and love. so today is something of a reunion. we come together again with gratitude and pride to bestow the medal of honor on a second member of this family, staff sergeant ty carter. as always, we're joined by many distinguished guests, and we welcome you all. today i want to focus on our most distinguished guests. more than 40 members of ty's family. your parents, mark, paula, and
stepmom barbara. your wife shannon, who you call the ceo of your family. you're a wise man. i've got the same arrangement. your beautiful children, 14-year-old jayden, 8-year-old madison in her new dress, and she was telling me about her new room as we walked over here. and 9-month-old sierra, for whom we will try to make this brief because we don't know how long the cheerios will last. before they came, ty said he was hoping to take his children around washington to show them the sights and the history, but jayden, madison, if you want to know what makes our country truly great, if you want to know what a true american hero looks like, then you don't have to look too far. you just have to look at your dad because today he's the sight we've come to see. your dad inspires us just like
all those big monuments and memorials do. for this is a historic day. the first time in nearly half a century since the vietnam war that we've been able to present the medal of honor to two survivors of the same battle. indeed when we paid tribute to clint romesha earlier this year, we were provided the information on how he and his team provided cover for wounded americans to make their escape. the medal we present to today, the soldier we honor, ty carter, is the story of what happened in that humvee. it's the story of what our troops do for each other. as some of you may recall, camp keating was not just one of the most remote outposts in afghanistan, it was also one of the most vulnerable, on low ground deep in a valley, surrounded by towering mountains. when soldiers like ty arrived,
they couldn't believe it. they said it was like being in a fish bowl, easy targets for enemies in the hills above. as dawn broke that october morning with ty and most of our troops still in their bunks, their worst fears it became a reality. 53 american soldiers were suddenly surrounded by more than 300 taliban fighters. the outpost was being slammed from every direction. machine gunfire, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, sniper fire. it was chaos. the blizzard of bullets and steel into which ty ran, not once or twice or even a few times, but perhaps ten times. in doing so, he displayed the essence of true heroism. not the urge to surpass others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. ty jumped out of bed, put on his boots and helmet and his kevlar
vest, grabbed some ammo and ran into bullets coming down like rain for 100 meters to resupply his comrades out in that humvee. when they needed more, he ran back, blasted the locks off supply rooms and sprinted yet again, dodging explosions, darting between craters, back to the humvee. the ferocious fire forced them inside, and so it was that five american soldiers, including ty and specialist mace, found themselves trapped in that humvee, the tires flat, rpgs pouring in, peppering them with shrapn shrapnel, threatening to breakthrough their vehicle. worst of all, playboy figtaliba were penetrating the camp. the choice was simple. stay and die or make a run for it. once more ty stepped out into the barrage. he laid down fire, providing cover for the other three, including stefan, as they dashed
for safety. in those hellish moments, one man went down, then another. stefan disappeared into the dust and smoke. back in that humvee, ty and brad held out for hours, rolling down the window just a crack, taking a shot over and over, holding the line, preventing that outpost from being completely overrun. ty would later say, we weren't going to surrender, we were going to fight until the last round. then they saw him, their buddy, stefan on the ground, wounded about 30 yards away. when the moment was right, ty stepped out again and ran to stef stefan, applying a turnicut to one of his legs, grabbing a tree branch to splint his ankle. if you're left with one image
from that day, let it be this, ty carter bending over, picking up stefan, cradling him in his arms and carrying him through all those bullets and getting him back to that humvee. then ty stepped out again, recovering a radio, finally making contact with the rest of the troop, and they came up with a plan. as clint romesha and his team provided cover, these three soldiers made their escape. ty, brad carrying stefan on a stretcher through the chaos, delivering stefan to the medics. the battle was still not over. so ty returned to the fight with much of the outpost on fire, the flames bearing down on the aid station with so many wounded inside. ty stepped out one last time, exposing himself to enemy fire, grabbed a chainsaw, cut down a burning tree, saved the aid station and helped to rally his troop as they fought yard by yard. they pushed the enemy back, our soldiers retook their camp.
now, ty says this award is not mine alone. he will say it was one team in one fight, and everyone did what we could do to keep each other alive. some of these men are with us again, and i have to repeat this because they're among the most highly decorated units of this entire war. 37 army commendation medals, 27 purple hearts, 18 bronze stars for their valor, 9 silver stars for their gallantry. so soldiers, please stand. [ applause ]
>> today we also remember once more the eight extraordinary soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion, some of whom spent their final moments trying to rescue ty and the others in that humvee. we stand with their families, who remind us how far the heartbreak ripples. five wives, widows, who honor their husbands, seven boys and girls who honor their dad, at least 17 parents, mothers and fathers, stepmoms and stepdads, who honor their son, some 18 siblings who honor their brother. long after this war is over, these families will still need our love and support for all the years to come. i would ask the families to stand and be recognized, please.
the flashbacks, the nightmares, the anxiety, the heartache that makes it sometimes almost impossible to get through a day. and he's urged us to remember another soldier who suffered, too, who eventually lost his own life back home and who we remember today for his service in afghanistan that day t private ed faulkner jr. at first, like a lot of troops, ty resisted seeking help, but with the support of the army, the encouragement of his commanders, and most importantly the love of shannon and the kids, ty got help. the pain of that day, i think ty understands, and we can only imagine, may never fully go away. but ty stands before us as a loving husband, a devoted father, an exemplary soldier who even redeployed to afghanistan. so now he wants to help other troops in their own recovery,
and it is absolutely critical for us to work with brave young men like ty to put an end to any stigma that keeps more folks from seeking help. so let me say it as clearly as i can to any of our troops or veterans who are watching and struggling. look at this man. look at this soldier. look at this warrior. he's as tough as they come, and if he can find the courage and the strength to not only seek help but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and to stay strong, then so can you. so can you. and as you summon that strength, our nation needs to keep summoning the commitment and resources to make sure we're there when you reach out. because nobody should ever suffer alone, and no one should ever die waiting for the mental health care they need. that's unacceptable. all of us have to do better than we're doing. as ty knows, part of the healing
is facing the sources of pain. as we prepare for the reading of the citation, i'll ask you, ty, to never forget the difference that you've made on that day. because you helped turn back that attack, soldiers are alive today, like your battle buddy in that humvee, brad larson, who told us, i owe ty my life. because you had the urge to serve others at whatever cost, so many army families could welcome home their own sons. and because of you, stefan's mother, vanessa, who joins us again today, is able to say, ty brought stefan to safety, which in the end gave him many more hours on this earth. stefan felt at peace, and she added in the words that speak for all of us, i'm grateful to ty more than words can describe. that's something. god bless you. ty carter and the soldiers of the black knight troop, god bless all our men and women in
uniform. god bless the united states of america. with that, i'd like to have the citation read. >> the president of the united states of america authorized by act of congress march 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of congress the medal of honor to specialist ty m. carter, united states army, for conspicuous gallantry and insprepdty at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty. specialist ty m. carter distinguished himself by acts of gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a scout with the 61st cavalry
regiment, fourth infantry division during combat operations against an armed enemy in afghanistan on october 3rd, 2009. on that morning, specialist carter and his comrades awakened to an attack of an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of combat outpost keating, employing concentrated fire from recoilist rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. specialist carter re-enforced a forward battle position, ran twice through a 100-meter gauntlet of enemy fire to resupply ammunition and voluntarily remain there to defend the isolated position. armed with only an m-4 rifle, specialist carter placed accurate, deadly fire on the enemy, beating back the assault force and preventing the position from being overrun over the course of several hours. with complete disregard for his
own safety and in spite of his own wounds, he ran through a hail of enemy rocket propelled grenade and machine gunfire to rescue a critically wounded comrade who had been pinned down in an exposed position. specialist carter rendered life-extending first aid and carried the soldier to cover. on his own initiative, specialist carter again maneuvered through enemy fire to check on a fallen soldier and recovered the squad's radio, which allowed them to coordinate their evacuation with fellow soldiers. with teammates providing covering fire, specialist carter assisted in moving the wounded soldier 100 meters through withering enemy fire to the aid station and before returning to the fight. specialist carter's heroic actions and tactical skill were critical to the defense of combat outpost keating, preventing the enemy from capturing the position and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. specialist ty m. carter's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping
[ applause ] >> let us pray. oh, god, who rules the world from everlasting to everlasting, speak to our hearts when our courage fails, when our sight grows dim, when our bodies may grow weary. inspired by the valor we have honored today, keep us resolute and steadfast through things that cannot be shaken, abounding in hope and knowing that our labor is not in vain. deep in our faith and through eternal purpose, renew in us that love which never fails, help us to live up our eyes to
behold beyond the things which are unseen in eternal and we may be steadfast and loyal always. all this we pray in your blessed and holy name, amen. >> well, thank you very much, everybody. i hope you all enjoyed the reception. i want to not only thank ty, but once again thank his extraordinary family, thank his unit, and thank all of you for us being able to acknowledge the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make every single day. and ty's representative of exactly the kind of people and the quality of people who are serving us. we are grateful to them. god bless you all. god bless america. thank you. [ applause ] >> again, we've been watching another incredible ceremony where a young staff sergeant,
now 33 years old, received the medal of honor. colonel jack jacobs, medal of honor recipient as well, here with me. you know, colonel, this young man said that part of this, of course, is still surreal because there were lives lost. this is -- i know the cliche is bittersweet, but it goes to the most bitter points of our lives to this moment as well where we see him with an ovation and the praise that he deserves, but he wants people to know there's still a war going on and that it's not call of duty, referring to the video games or computer games. this is real. that's what he said in a recent interview. it's part of the reason or part of the message he wants to get out today. >> one of the things the president just said at the end is worth remembering because all the medal of honor recipients feel the same way. ty carter is representative of the men and women who are in uniform defending the country today. if you ask any recipient of the medal of honor, indeed anybody who's received any kind of
battlefield accolade, he'll tell you the same thing. he represents all those people who fought and were not recognized, and all those people who fought and died. we don't want people to forget them. but we represent them, and we wear the award not for ourselves but for all those who can't. >> who were about ten years younger than ty when you received your honor. you said if he feels like you felt at the time standing there, you couldn't believe that you were alive. >> yeah, well, the ceremony and the citation brings back all those things that have happened before. my first reaction, and i think it's true of all the recipients, is i really can't believe that i'm alive to see this day. and then you immediately think about all those lives of all your buddies that were lost, despite everybody's efforts.
>> colonel, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> we'll continue to follow breaking news from the state department. these are live pictures. secretary of state john kerry is expected to make a statement on the ongoing crisis in syria. we will bring you that as soon as it happens. we're going to go to a quick break and perhaps this news conference will start by then. we'll be right back. ♪ now you can give yourself a kick in the rear! v8 v-fusion plus energy. natural energy from green tea plus fruits and veggies. need a little kick? ooh! could've had a v8. in the juice aisle. yeah. i heard about progressive's "name your price" tool? i guess you can tell them how much you want to pay and it gives you a range of options to choose from. huh? i'm looking at it right now. oh, yeah? yeah. what's the... guest room situation? the "name your price" tool, making the world a little more progressive.
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ask your doctor about xarelto®. once a day xarelto® means no regular blood monitoring -- no known dietary restrictions. for more information and savings options, call 1-888-xarelto or visit goxarelto.com. welcome back. more now on the breaking news this hour. we are standing by for secretary of state john kerry, who will give a statement on the u.s. response to the escalating crisis in syria. joining me now is nbc's ayman mohyeldin reporting from cairo, and nbc's senior political editor mark murray. we had an opportunity to speak to ayman a short time ago. we know u.n. inspectors have gone in, talked with witnesses. they have collected information now. but we are waiting to hear from secretary kerry. in first read today, it says military action is coming. at this point, though, it is what kind of military response will follow.
>> right, tamron. there is no longer a question about if the united states will have some type of military action. the question is how and when. over the weekend what's very interesting is how the administration released read-outs of meetings and phone conversations the president had with british prime minister david cameron, france's president, as well as secretary of state john kerry's calls to arab nations. so this seems to be all laying the ground work. i think it will be very interesting to see what secretary of state john kerry has to say, because how the united states responds now becomes the big question. >> absolutely, and the timeline. what timeline are we looking at here? we had congressman engel on earlier. he's been very outspoken to say that the administration needs to move quickly, mark. >> well, and that has been one of the criticisms, although the supporters of the administration said they are still in the deliberative, fact-gathering exercise. they believe -- they say there's
little doubt that the syrian regime used chemical weapons. but i think they wanted to have just an air-tight case of that as well as get as many other international countries involved and on board. that seems to be what they're trying to be able to do. >> ayman, let me bring you in as we await this news conference. part of the other point the first read team brings up is will some kind of u.s. response actually work? i know that, again, the congressman who was on earlier with us compared this in some ways to libya, but nothing is guaranteed here, including the rebels and what they would do if the u.s. and its allies were to help them defeat assad and his regime. >> reporter: well, that's absolutely a very valid point. you know, when you're looking at this, there are a few different angles to approach it from. one is the scope of the military option, what will the military objectives be? we know what the stated political objectives of the united states and other countries that support it are. they want to topple the regime
of president bashar al assad. that doesn't mean it will be the objective today. one thing i've gathered from speaking to diplomats is that the united states doesn't niecely need to go back to the united nations for any type of authorization for force, but it does need some kind of regional expression of force from these countries that border syria. any action from the united states will have to have some kind of popular government support in the region that has been so bruised by american military intervention in recent years. so we know that the united states has been making calls to it the arab league, to some of the key allies. they've been trying to get that support shored up in the form of a statement or perhaps other expressive forms in order to give the united states the green light to carry out any type of military intervention. whether or not that plays out a region, all that remains to be seen depending on the scope of the military action. if it's more of a pin-point
precision strike to try and contain the use of chemical weapons and those ordering them, that may be different. >> and ayman, more to assad's response to what appears to be inevitable military action of some kind here, his words very clear yesterday -- over the weekend, i should say, at least how he sees this, bringing up other wars, including vietnam. >> reporter: yeah, the president of syria has made no, you know, hidden secret about what he anticipates to happen in the event that the united states carries out military attacks inside syria. that would be a harsh response. he has promised that. he said the united states would be defeated. he has been maintaining a very strong position about any type of foreign interference inside syria. he's maintained this is an internal syrian struggle that will be solved only by syrians, but at the same time, we've also heard from some of syria's closest regional allies, including hezbollah, including
the iranian government, they, too, have stood by the syrian government in saying that any type of military conflict would have serious consequences for the united states across the region. they haven't gone any further to explain or to elaborate on what that means. given some of the recent positions of the government and hezbollah in recent months and now that they're so fully invested in this conflict with fighters in arms and sometimes more than that inside the country, they, too, will be directly affected by any type of military response, should that happen. that is, again, the major concern here among the region. that the united states will ultimately perhaps through its military intervention in syria, could be widening the scope of the theater of operations from hezbollah and iran should that happen. >> mark, let me bring you back in. what information can you provide to us regarding the president's cabinet as well as advisers? are they moving toward being a united front as we know that there has been and perhaps
should be a debate and voices on both sides of what should happen next. >> tamron, we've seen no signs that there has been any kind of divergent voices in his administration or even his war cabinet. as we found out during the build up to action in libya, there were some, including susan rice, who were more hawkish than others, but there's no indication. everything seems to indicate they're on the same page. to add to what ayman was talking about, one thing the united states faces right now is a situation where there are no good options when it comes to syria. on the one hand, the united states doesn't wanted the assad regime to succeed and to win so easy and quickly. on the other hand, i don't think the administration is so eager to be see the rebel forces who do have some extremist ties also end up winning. so one thing that has been brought up by a lot of noted scholars and foreign policy experts is that a stalemate where the assad regime isn't winning nor the rebels is winning is one that would be preferred by the united states, at least in the short term. >> do the phone calls that the
president made, mark, over the weekend on saturday and the meeting with the national security team and the conversation with david cameron, does that tell us -- oh, actually, let me go to secretary kerry right now. let's listen in. >> president obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in syria. today i want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons. what we saw in syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. it defies any code of morality. let me be clear. the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. by any standard it is inexcusab inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that
some have manufactured, it is undeniable. the meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in syria itself. that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. this is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all. a conviction shared, even by countries that agree on little else. there is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. there is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. there is a reason why president obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. there is a reason why president obama has made clear to the
assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. and there's a reason why no matter what you believe about syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again. last night after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, i went back and i watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media. i watched them one more gut-wrenching time. it is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. as a father, i can't get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him. the images of entire families dead in their beds without a
drop of blood or even a visible wound. bodies contorting in spasms. human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compapascom. what is before us today is real, and it is compelling. so i also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscience, and guided by common sense. the reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the first-hand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground like doctors without borders and the syria human
rights commission, these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in syria. moreover, we know that the syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. we know that the syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. we know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. and with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses. we have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead. our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up.
at every turn the syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the u.n. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymy the important effort to bring to light what happened in damascus in the dead of night. and as was said last week, the u.n. investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used. a judgment that is already clear to the world. i spoke on thursday with syrian foreign minister, and i made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate, immediate transparency, immediate access, not shelling. their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. failure to permit that, i told him, would tell its own story.
instead, for five days, the syrian regime refused to allow the u.n. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systemically destroying evidence. that is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. that is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons. in fact, the regime's belated decision to allow access is too late and is too late to be credible. today's reports of an attack on the u.n. investigators together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods only further weakens the regime's credibility. at president obama's direction, i've spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. the administration is actively consulting with members of
congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. president obama has always been in close touch with leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons. make no mistake. president obamas believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people. nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny. thank you. >> secretary of state john kerry condemning the assad regime for its believed use of chemical weapons on his own people. kerry saying the attack should shock the conscience of the world. we want to get right to nbc's ayman mohyeldin in the region. what's your response to that? >> reporter: well, some very interesting points there from secretary of state joh