Graphic video images released Saturday that show Syrians dying from chemical weapons — purportedly at the hands of President Bashar Assad — are "very, very disturbing," former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax.
"I wouldn't have expected anything less," the former Michigan congressman told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "We're seeing portions of the estimated 1,400 people who were killed a few weeks ago. I would expect those images to be horrific."
aired portions of a DVD that contained 13 short videos that had been shown to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a classified session on Thursday by the Obama administration in seeking support for limited military strikes against Assad.
The videos, which CNN reported had been uploaded to the Internet and had been verified as authentic by U.S. intelligence officials, were compiled at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's chairwoman.
The California Democrat told the cable network that she wanted the full Senate and House to see the images and that they had persuaded her to support Obama's resolution when it comes up for a vote next week.
Feinstein's vote, she said, flies in the face of the opinions of many of her constituents.
"What's coming in is overwhelmingly negative," Feinstein told CNN about the feedback from voters. "There's no question about that. But, you see, then they don't know what I know."
Hoekstra, who chaired the House panel from 2004 to 2007, agreed that the videos should be shown to the entire Congress.
"I believe that as much information as possible should be made available to members of Congress and to the American public," he told Newsmax.
Hoekstra served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He currently serves on the Advisory Board for Lignet.com.
The videos are from the Aug. 21 attacks on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, according to CNN. The assaults were reportedly carried out by Assad's military.
The White House has said that more than 1,400 people, including over 400 children, died in the attacks.
The videos contain graphic images and capture a moment of panic among Syrian attack victims.
Some show people trying to feed water to victims who appear incapacitated. Prayers are repeated.
In others, men are pictured sprawled on tile floors, shirtless and convulsing. So are children — and panic and screams can be heard in the background in many of the videos.
One video shows a room with enough bodies of children to fill a classroom, their pale bodies neatly arranged. The bodies of some adults are also placed in this space, too. The video captures at least six rows of adults with no fewer than four bodies each.
Some of the bodies were covered by sheets and blankets, according to CNN.
In another video, a man uses a manual resuscitator on a toddler, who appears motionless.
The man is joioned by another, who brings bottled water — and the pair try to rinse the child's face. The boy's chest appears to move, but his arms remain pinned to his side as if a soldier at attention.
"I'm not surprised by what I see in these videos," Hoekstra told Newsmax.
He said he was not sure whether the videos might sway legislators to back Obama's resolution but added: "I expect my representative and I expect every representative in Congress to make a rational decision, asking the questions: 'What is the plan? What is the strategy?'
"There are all kinds of horrific activities going on in the Middle East," he added, referring to the slaughtering of Coptic Christians in Egypt — and even the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last Sept. 11.
"What is the broader American strategy in the Middle East and to contain and defeat radical Islam?" Hoekstra asked. "The president hasn't made that compelling case or hasn't presented that strategy to the American people. The president's foreign policy has been in disarray.
"I would expect that, even though these videos are horrific, they will not change the fundamental fact that we don't have a coherent strategy to address the problems in Syria or the Middle East."
On Monday, President Obama plans to sit for interviews with six TV networks ahead of his planned Tuesday address to the American public from the White House.
"If it's just about Syria, the address is going to fall short," Hoekstra predicted. "There are still a tremendous number of unanswered questions about Benghazi. The president and his administration need to answer a lot of questions about Benghazi, about Syria, about Egypt, about how we're going to contain Iran.
"I hope and expect that the speech on Tuesday night will be broader than just talking about Syria and one attack on Aug. 21," he said.
Further, Hoekstra said that he hoped the Obama White House was not simply using the Syrian videos aired by CNN as a marketing tool for military strikes against Assad.
"This is a serious issue. We're going to put the lives of American men and women in uniform at risk — and that's what this is about. This has to be about substance. It cannot be about a marketing campaign.
"We saw a lot of information — and, I think, some information that maybe shouldn't have been made public — when [Osama] bin Laden was killed," Hoekstra added. "Now, we see this information — and, at the same time, they're giving us very, very little information as to what happened in Benghazi.
"The administration has to develop a more coherent policy to the American people about providing intelligence and information, not just providing information that will bolster their argument."
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