Will the Syrian Torture Photos Compel U.S. Congress to Act?


The Syrian Army defector known by the protective alias of Caesar, disguised in a hooded blue jacket, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. Reuters
The Syrian Army defector known by the protective alias of Caesar, disguised in a hooded blue jacket, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. Reuters
By: Jordain Carney*
U.S. Lawmakers reacted with outrage and horror at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday that featured photos of people who had been starved, tortured, and killed in Syria. But they also seemed at a loss for finding an immediate solution to the crisis.

Committee Chairman Ed Royce said the photos portrayed “horrendous violence carried out on an industrial scale” by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s ongoing civil war.

The photos shown Thursday were just a small portion of the roughly 50,000 that “Caesar,” who uses the pseudonym in order to protect his safety, handed over to the Syrian opposition. Caesar, wearing a disguise at the hearing so he could not be identified, presented and discussed the photos on Thursday.

“I have seen horrendous pictures and bodies of people who had huge, tremendous amounts of torture like deep burns, and wounds and strangulation,” he told lawmakers, building a narrative of a Syrian regime that killed its own people without hesitation. “And bodies that had their eyes gouged out as well as bodies that were severely beaten.”

Caesar, a former photographer for the military police who defected and escaped from Syria with the help of the Syrian opposition, didn’t take all of the photos—which show approximately 11,000 people—but he said he was responsible with a colleague for uploading every photo taken for the military police to state computers.

The photos shown at the hearing ranged from an individual man with a bloodied face to more than a dozen dead bodies laid out in the garage of a military hospital.

The Syrian government says the photos Caesar turned over to the opposition are fake, but they’ve been independently verified by an international team, a member of which appeared before the committee Thursday.

“Your appearance here today Caesar is like a blow to our mid-section,” said Democratic Rep. Theodore Deutch.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle used the hearing to voice their frustration about the Obama administration’s handling of Syria, but they also seemed to be at a loss for what could immediately be done.

“I believe that we missed a tremendous opportunity to help the Free Syrian Army,” said Rep. Eliot Engel. ” … I believe that if we had helped them they would be the preeminent opposition.”

The administration is requesting approximately $500 million, as part of a larger counterterrorism fund, to help aid Syria’s moderate opposition fighters. The United States has also pledged $2.4 billion in humanitarian assistance.

The committee passed a resolution earlier this year, calling for an investigation, and possible prosecution, of war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. They also asked for the United Nations to establish a war-crimes tribunal.

Frederic Hof, a former U.S. ambassador and adviser to Syria, said the United States has two policy options: Either try to get along with Assad or help arm and train moderate Syrian opposition.

“The position that I don’t think we want to be in is two years from now, in 2016, looking back … and saying if only we had done something in 2014,” Hof said. But he also acknowledged that building up and training Syrian opposition fighters outside of Syria would be an “extraordinarily complex and expensive plan. Building an army basically.”

But at least one lawmaker appeared skeptical, with Rep. Alan Grayson asking, “When has that ever worked?”

The Florida Democrat compared the idea that the United States should train an opposition army to years the United States spent in Iraq training the country’s security forces—only to have many of them refuse to fight ISIL forces that have now taken control of large swaths of the country.

“Why do you think that your hypothetical force would be any different?” he asked.

* Jordain Carney is a defense reporter at National Journal

Defense One



33 responses to “Will the Syrian Torture Photos Compel U.S. Congress to Act?”

  1. The real lebanese Avatar
    The real lebanese

    Congress doesnt have the decision on Syria. Obama does but he’s maybe somewhere on vacation.

    1. arzatna1 Avatar

      Agreed, Obama has already checkout out from the presidency and is waiting for the day when he will head back west to Hawaii for more golfing . Until then he will be busy defending himself in the lawsuits the Republicans have voted for
      Too bad …we all expected more …it seems he lost complete interest in the presidency

      1. Anti ISIS Avatar
        Anti ISIS

        Sorry, however tell me why this is the US’s problem. AGAIN.

        1. The real lebanese Avatar
          The real lebanese

          Its not the US’s problem, but thats the problem. Modern day oppressors like Assad or Putin are taking advantage of a weak US foreign policy to torture in Syrian prisons (something they’ve been doing since before the uprising) and invade Ukraine (also arming Russian militias with the same anti aircraft missiles used to shoot down the plane over Ukraine that Obama is reluctant to give with the SNC). Assad uses Obama’s fear to kill in the thousands with air supremacy (the Syrian Air Force is actually pretty weak).

          1. Michaelinlondon1234 Avatar

            Rubbish on so many levels What are you a US Mill propaganda merchant?

          2. The real lebanese Avatar
            The real lebanese

            Must be. Go Russian fascism!

          3. Michaelinlondon1234 Avatar


          4. Michaelinlondon1234 Avatar

            Thank you for the link
            Personally I prefer Swiss railways.

        2. Michaelinlondon1234 Avatar

          Completely agree

        3. arzatna1 Avatar

          This is the problem of all humans . If you believe in humanity it should be your problem too. Such torture of human beings is totally unacceptable and should outrage the whole world community . Unfortunately countries like Iran , Russia, Iraq and China don’t give a damn about what happens to the Syrian people this is why the defector did not go there to present the case of the torture by the Assad regime

          1. Anti ISIS Avatar
            Anti ISIS

            Well seeing though you are one of those humans, maybe you should participate in the Guantanomo bay cause. Oh, that’s right, that’s not classified as torture because Guantanomo only hold terrorist and terrorist deserve to be tortured. The US was born, and still is and will always be a double standard nation.

          2. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Now, now Farg2 … they got showers and fresh-orange suits every day.
            Have you seen the prison in Tripoli?
            Or .. for that matter … the ‘pink-underwear’ one in Texas??

          3. The real lebanese Avatar
            The real lebanese

            Big difference between the torture that went on in Guantanamo bay and the torture that goes on the the Middle East however.

          4. Anti ISIS Avatar
            Anti ISIS

            Bullshit Real, torture is torture no matter how you wish to serve it up. The only reason you condone what the US does is because of your brainwashing.

          5. The real lebanese Avatar
            The real lebanese

            Big difference between tying people up to electrocute them and pull out their nails and burn them and scar them for life with disabilities compared to water boarding (completely safe, just scares the brain) and putting some dogs to scare the living crap out of you (they’ve never actually bitten a prisoner). Very big difference.

          6. 5thDrawer Avatar

            People forget it seems …
            Assad System and Shabiha Specialists tortured children to death. For graffiti.
            Not just adults.
            It’s what began the whole ‘elevation’ thing. Parents Seek Justice.
            Where there is no justice available against ‘the state’, and seeking it results in being shot, sane people ‘rise up’.
            What followed, especially after the first 6 months, was ‘opportunism’.
            There is still no justice.

            More than 3 years later … having forgotten …
            There IS a destroyed country with no infrastructure left to speak of, many dead, many living elsewhere, and packs of humanistic idiots running around raping, beating, murdering, and instilling more fear into the whole atmosphere as well as into other countries … spreading stupidity like a disease … and yet THERE IS NO JUSTICE.

            People sit in here discussing the little tiddly bits of the niceties of policies in other countries, and the opportunists run rampant with their theories, and we all ‘chat’ about the various stupidities of the opportunists, or become the ‘hangers -on’, if you like, to the strife and angst created by other wars in other times …. and while seeing that Lebanon, for example, after many years of wars cannot yet pull an infrastructure together FOR it’s people, we cannot recognize yet the simplistic need of the original reason for these wars.
            A need for JUSTICE. A RESOLUTION of the HURT in the minds. Of Parents.

            Instead, the sane parents are gone too … and many before their children.
            There are now millions of children without the parents and very little direction.
            The sane have great angst about this.
            The opportunists have the field. The Theorists abound. And off-shoot wars of idiots grow to create other injustices in other places. Obviously, the simple concept has been buried well … and the original reason for it was forgotten.
            Where none was ever offered.

            (And Please don’t quote to me the ‘after-life’ justice bits … nice theories have not and don’t show up very well in the human interactions on this planet.)
            (Also, if you look at Lebanon, there should be no chat about ‘rebuilding’ Syria – it is gone. Even if Assad has not yet.)

          7. They try to scare people.Otherwise its make people too angry.Now they pay high prize for their atrocities.Assad thugs are too fool.

          8. 5thDrawer Avatar

            Relativity. 😉 There are a lot of scared AND scarred brains still running around ….

          9. arzatna1 Avatar

            Two wrongs don’t make a right …I am totally against torture or killing of any human by any one

        4. Igor Chingoski Avatar
          Igor Chingoski

          Because USA started this shit to help Israel to get the land from Palestine to the Euphrates, who do You think is the senate? and in both tarts? republican and democratic all Yus

      2. 5thDrawer Avatar

        About those lawsuits … Sue a President for bad computer programmes?? Hahahahaha
        And the guys doing the suing are the ‘opponents’ to it all?? Hahahahahahaha
        Pardon me, while I spill a fresh HOT coffee in my lap.
        (made by someone else of course – Jewish Lawyers are useful after all. 😉

  2. Leborigine Avatar

    Its not hard to deal with, just nuke damas!

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Some said that 2 years ago too. 😉

  3. nagy_michael2 Avatar

    If the US were to react then they should have done it long time ago before so many ISIS shit took over. now its too complicated..

  4. 5thDrawer Avatar

    “Your appearance here today Caesar is like a blow to our mid-section,” said Democratic Rep. Theodore Deutch. “We never read the news before this.”

  5. Fauzia45 Avatar

    There are always too ^many missed opportunities^!^If only we had helped ,if only we had done something,,,,if only we had known ,,,!!!!It s always if ,and blunders are committed and it is always too late!!!!

  6. No. They will not intervene.America are planning to destroy Iraq on behalf of Israel Jews. .Fortunately there are uprising in Arab countries.For Jews survival in the midst of Arabs,they will not intervene .Jews controlled America politic.Israel lobby in America too strong.

  7. sweetvirgo Avatar

    I don’t think the US should help the rebels at all. We’ve armed them enough. Besides they are no rebels….they are al qaeda the enemy that is spreading like a disease.

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