Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., invoked the killings in Nazi Germany in World War II on Monday as he opened debate on a measure to authorize military strikes against Syria.
"This brutality demands a response," Reid said, announcing the first key procedural vote will come on Wednesday.
Reid said the United States had to enforce international prohibitions against the use of such weaponry that have been in place for a century, since World War I, because of the gruesome nature of deadly chemicals. He said he had recently watched a 13-minute video of the chemical attacks in Syria, as victims writhed in pain. "I will never get that out of my mind," he said.
While Reid said he understood that others in the Senate disagreed with intervening militarily, he had harsh words for standing by. "Sitting on the sidelines won't make us a better nation tomorrow," he said. America, he said, had to remember the lessons of World War II and, specifically, Auschwitz, the Nazi-run concentration camp.
He read – twice – a quote he attributed to Dante: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality."
Typically, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., follows Reid's speeches on the floor. But McConnell has yet to take a position on Syria. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., spoke next and said the debate was only occurring because of President Obama's ill-advised "red line" remark about chemical warfare in Syria.
"If the president had not drawn his red line, we would not be having this discussion," Coats said.
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