At the top of the list: At least 1,429 dead, 426 of them children.
Kerry said the U.S. and the world cannot afford not to respond to this attack and what he said had been previous lesser instances of the use of chemical arms by the regime of Bashir al-Assad in the 29-month-old civil war that has left more than 100,000 dead:
There must be a response, he said, to this "crime against conscience, this crime against humanity":
We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area, making preparations.The secretary said the administration has taken "unprecedented steps to declassify" material relating to the attack so that Americans can know much of what the intelligence community knows. The declassified material can be found here. But some of what is known will only be released to selected members of Congress. Repeatedly assuring that the United States knows what happened and who did it, Kerry said:
And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.
We know that these were specific instructions.
We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed, and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.
And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness, and death. And we know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors.
And just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn’t report—not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot sound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.
So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know. The question is, what are we—we collectively—what are we in the world gonna do about it.The United States, the world, he said cannot be indifferent, cannot turn a blind eye, cannot avoid the risks to taking action because of the risks of doing nothing. Unless there is a response, he said, it will grant impunity in the minds of others—Hezbollah and North Korea were noted—convincing them they can act similarly without reprisal. Not doing anything will also damage U.S. credibility for not doing what it says it will do, he said.
Kerry said he is aware that, after a decade of fighting, the American people, himself included, are tired of war. But he assured, any military action against Syria will not be like the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. He did not, however, specify what action will be taken or how long it might last. Previous hints from the administration indicate a few days of cruise missile strikes and possibly some use of fighter-bombers.
President Obama is scheduled to address the nation regarding Syria at 2 PM ET.