Beltway Confidential

John Kerry: US will 'live in infamy' if military doesn't strike Syria

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Secretary of Defense,John Kerry,Syria,Middle East

Secretary of State John Kerry borrowed Franklin Delano Roosevelt's denunciation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to urge Congress to authorize a military strike on Syria following the latest chemical weapons attack.

"That will be one of those moments in history that will live in infamy," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee while discussing the possibility that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad escape an international response to the most recent chemical weapons attack by his regime during the Syrian civil war.

The "live in infamy" phrase comes from FDR's Pearl Harbor speech. "Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan," Roosevelt said. "The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific."

Kerry said that refusing to strike Syria would stand along "some of those moments" when the United States has done something worthy of infamy. He compared it to the FDR administration's decision not to allow Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to come to the United States.

"In a highly publicized event in May–June 1939, the United States refused to admit over 900 Jewish refugees who had sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on the St. Louis. The St. Louis appeared off the coast of Florida shortly after Cuban authorities cancelled the refugees' transit visas and denied entry to most of the passengers, who were still waiting to receive visas to enter the United States," the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains in its history of the event.

"Denied permission to land in the United States, the ship was forced to return to Europe. The governments of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium each agreed to accept some of the passengers as refugees. Of the 908 St. Louis passengers who returned to Europe, 254 (nearly 28 percent) are known to have died in the Holocaust. 288 passengers found refuge in Britain. Of the 620 who returned to the continent, 366 (just over 59 percent) are known to have survived the war."

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