How One Question Can Change the Course of History

This is a guest post from Roger MacDonald, director of the television archive at the Internet Archive.

At a news conference in London September 9th, the following question was asked by Margaret Brennan, CBS News correspondent, of John Kerry, US Secretary of State:

Q.  “Is there anything at this point his (Assad’s) government could do, or offer, that would stop an attack?”

A.  “Sure.  He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.  Turn it over.  All of it.  Without delay.  And allow a full and total accounting before that.”

You can watch the video of that exchange here:

Kerry’s blithe answer initiated a cascade of unanticipated overtures that have restrained the imminent unleashing of war against Syria.

Within hours of the essentially off-hand statement, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, called Kerry and said Russia backs the plan and had learned from the Syrians that they were amenable. Not long after, the State Department suggested that it was not a proposal at all, but simply a “rhetorical” device.  Too late.

A number of members of Congress said they backed pursuing this diplomatic opening.  Congressional leaders moved quickly to postpone the planed vote today on authorizing the Administration’s open-ended attack plan.

UN General Secretary started talking about logistics to implement the weapons inventory and transfer.

By the end of the day, Obama’s previously scheduled six, count ’em – six, planned media interviews where he was going to prep the country for his go-to-war (calibrated strikes) address to the nation, were now mediated by questions about this runaway hope for peace.

Amazing how something as small as a question, at the right time and place, can change the world!  And we’ll preserve this instance, for generations to come, at the Internet Archive.

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