- Created on 12 September 2013
UNITED STATES : Dr Mae C Jemison was born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. She received a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering (and completed the requirements for a Bachelor in African and Afro-American studies) at Stanford University in 1977, and also received a Doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University. After medical school she did post-graduate medical training and worked as an area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia, managing the health care delivery system for US
On September 12th, 1992, Mae Carol Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel into space. Jemison along with six other astronauts were on board the Endeavour on mission STS47.
Some facts about her:
She trained for five years, after entering the astronaut training program on June 4th, 1987.
She was born in Decatur, Alabama, but considers Chicago, Illinois her home after moving there at the age of three.
At one point in her life, she thought about possibly pursuing dance as a career (she even took a poster ofthe Alvin Ailey dance company with her on her flight). Ultimately, she obtained her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College.
On the first day of Kindergarten, at the age of 5, she told her teacher she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up.
She joined the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
She spent eight days (190 hours) in space.
- Created on 11 September 2013
President Barack Obama's Syria Speech [FULL TRANSCRIPT]
PRESIDENT OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here.Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America's worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement, but I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad's government gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.
On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.
This was not always the case. In World War I, American G.I.s were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.
On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.
Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.
We know senior figures in Assad's military machine reviewed the results of the attack and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We've also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.
When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory, but these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it's also a danger to our security. Let me explain why.
If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians.
If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.
This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.
That's my judgment as commander-in-chief, but I'm also the president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together. This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people's representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.
Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action — no matter how limited — is not going to be popular. After all, I've spent four-and-a-half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington — especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home, putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class. It's no wonder then that you're asking hard questions.
So let me answer some of the most important questions that I've heard from members of Congress and that I've read in letters that you've sent to me. First, many of you have asked, won't this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are still recovering from our involvement in Iraq. A veteran put it more bluntly: This nation is sick and tired of war.
My answer is simple. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective, deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities.
Others have asked whether it's worth acting if we don't take out Assad. Now, some members of Congress have said there's no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria.
Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.
I don't think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can makes Assad — or any other dictator — think twice before using chemical weapons.
Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don't dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other — any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise, and our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America.
Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that's so complicated and where, as one person wrote to me, those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?
It's true that some of Assad's opponents are extremists. But Al Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.
The majority of the Syrian people, and the Syrian opposition we work with, just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.
Finally, many of you have asked, why not leave this to other countries or seek solutions short of force? As several people wrote to me, we should not be the world's policemen.
I agree. And I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations, but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.
However, over the last few days, we've seen some encouraging signs, in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitting that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.
It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies.
I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.
I've spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies — France and the United Kingdom — and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.
We'll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st, and we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East, who agree on the need for action.
Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight I give thanks, again, to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.
My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them.
And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America's military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.
To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.
Indeed, I'd ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home tonight to view those videos of the attack, and then ask, what kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?
Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideas and principles that we have cherished are challenged."
Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.
America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.
That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
To see a video of Obama's speech on Syria, click here.
- Created on 05 September 2013
(CNN) -- British military scientists found traces of sarin gas in clothing and soil samples taken from a patient treated for apparent chemical weapons exposure last month near Damascus, Syria, the British prime minister's office said Thursday.
Scientists at the Porton Down military laboratory concluded the samples were unlikely to have been faked, and the country is sharing its findings with the United Nations, the prime minister's office said.
The revelation is the most specific statement by British officials regarding the chemical behind the August 21 attack on a rebel stronghold near Damascus. U.S. officials say more than 1,400 people died, many of them children.
The news comes as world leaders gather in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a global economic summit that promises to be overshadowed by controversial efforts by the United States and France to gain support for a military strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of its alleged use of chemical weapons.
The meeting in Russia will pit two leaders with polar opposite views on Syria -- U.S. President Barack Obama, who wants to launch limited military strikes against the Syrian regime, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country stands by its longtime ally in the Middle East.
The views of the 18 other countries at the G-20 run the gamut -- but could be influenced by whatever happens in St. Petersburg.
Global chess pieces
Calls for intervention in Syria intensified after last month's attack. Obama has been at the forefront of calls for a military response, along with French President Francois Hollande.
But some world leaders took the summit spotlight to stump against military action.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said that while the international community "cannot remain idle" in the face of Syria's apparent chemical weapons use, "there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict."
"Only a political solution can end the terrible bloodshed, grave violations of human rights and the far-reaching destruction of Syria" he said. "Too many lives have already been lost and too many people have suffered for too long and lost too much."
Pope Francis also spoke out, sending a letter Thursday to Putin in his role as host of the G-20 summit, urging a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and calling military intervention a "futile pursuit."
"Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community," Francis wrote. "Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country's borders."
The French parliament is expected to debate military action against Syria this week. But there's not a lot of nationwide support for such an intervention -- only one in three people in France endorses punishing Syria.
President Francois Hollande will wait to hear the decision by the U.S. Congress on whether Washington will take military action on Syria before he addresses the French public directly, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told CNN affiliate France 2 Thursday.
But France and the rest of the world will have to wait; the U.S. Senate isn't expected to vote on a resolution for targeted military strikes until next week.
Britain, normally a dependable U.S. ally in military affairs, has voted against taking any military action.
Can the U.S. and Russia get on the same page?
Obama arrived in St. Petersburg at 2:06 p.m. (6:06 a.m. ET). He has no formal meetings scheduled with Putin, but Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president will likely have opportunities to talk with the Russian leader during the meetings.
Obama will talk with allies about his position on Syria, but U.S. officials don't expect every country will fall in line with the president's proposal, Rhodes said.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, also left for the G-20 summit Thursday to try to make a dent in the global diplomatic impasse.
Brahimi, whose plan for a Syrian cease-fire fell apart, is hoping to meet with Obama and Putin to push for new peace talks for Syria, spokeswoman Khawla Mattar said.
But both Russia and the United States have stood firm on stances toward Damascus.
Russia, a longtime arms supplier to Syria, has vetoed every attempt at the U.N. Security Council to act against its ally.
But on Wednesday, Putin said he "doesn't exclude" backing a U.N. resolution for military action -- as long as there is undeniable proof Syria's government was behind the August 21 attack.
The United Nations is waiting for test results from samples taken from Syria that could indicate whether a chemical weapon attack took place. But the U.N. investigation won't conclude who was responsible.
The Obama administration has said independent tests revealed "signatures of sarin" gas in blood and hair samples from Syria, and charge that there is no doubt President Bashar al-Assad's regime was behind the attack.
Obama is expected to make a push for why the world needs to take action after the alleged chemical weapons attack.
"My credibility isn't on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line," Obama told reporters before flying to Russia.
"The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing."
But if he doesn't muster more international support, the United States might strike on its own. Unlike the case of Libya in 2011, there is no U.N. Security Council agreement, nor is there a NATO-backed mission against Syria.
Warning from Syria
Syrian presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaba warned that anyone who might strike without U.N. backing would pay a steep price.
"The Syrian people will never leave, they will always be here," Shaaban said Wednesday on Britain's Channel 4. "But those who lead the aggression will leave, and they will (live with) the results of this aggression."
Iran also said it will defend Syria at any cost.
"We will support Syria to the end," Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani said.
The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011, when peaceful demonstrations against the regime were met by a fierce government crackdown. The ensuing chaos spiraled into a civil war, with scores of deaths reported every day.
More than 2 million Syrians have fled their country, the U.N. refugee agency says, and more than 4 million are internally displaced.
- Created on 06 September 2013
We are in the midst of witnessing one of the most disastrous humanitarian issues of our time and most of us don't even know it. While the world was searching for memes of Miley Cyrus' dancing bones on the MTV VMAs, Syria has been in the middle of a civil war and refugee crisis that culminated in a chemical weapons attack in August. Over the last two years, Syrians have been suffering through a violent civil war, causing the citizens to fight against government forces, which in turn has killed more 100,000 and created 2 million refugees. Out of all these refugees, at least half of them are children.
This war is the result of protestors fighting back against the government's violent tactics for submission. Villages are being bombed, groups of people are being shot up, children are being killed to set fear in the hearts of the Syrian people. A chemical weaspong attack authorized by President Bashar al-Assad has prompted President Obama to declare his intent to take military action by sending targeted strikes to Styria (if congress passes the measure). With debates in Congress heating up, many are likening this to 2003 Iraq, and now, of course, the media is having a field day trying to influence public opinion. In case you've been feeling completely out of the loop, here some quick facts to get you caught up in the conversation about Syria.
1. People In Syria Are Murdering One Another
In 2011, peaceful protests turned into violent uproars. People were challenging the dictatorship and the government responding with violence, first killing activists (almost without people realizing), then blatantly kidnapping, raping and torturing activists, often leaving their mutilated bodies strewn in the streets. Civilian protestors became moving targets until they starting retaliating against the government...with guns. One thing is certain–the killing will not end because this is how the powers that be in Syria attempt to balance the power struggle in the country.
2. Refugees Are Steadily Increasing
There are nearly 2 million refugees. Just last year, there were 100,000 and in April the number rose to 800,000. By the end of 2013, there will be an estimated 3.5 million refugees. According to Mercy Corps, this is will be the biggest mass departure since Rwanda's genocide some 20 years ago.
3. There's Nowhere To Run
Many refugees are escaping to a refugee camp in Jordan called Zaatari, which is surprisingly the first of its kinds in Jordan and it was only opened in 2012. Zaatari now houses 120,000 Syrian refugees. This place was one a desert ghost town, now it hosts hundreds of thousands of misplaced Syrians in tents and makeshift shanty towns. And while many refugees are seeking solace in Jordan and Lebanon, there's no space left, making them create their own space outside of these awful camps. Mercy Corps in reporting, "Our teams have seen families living in rooms with no heat or running water, in abandoned chicken coops and storage sheds." People are going to continue to flee Syria in an attempt to stay alive, which will cause continued overcrowding of existing camps.
4. The U.S. Has Made Their Target List For Syria Retaliation Longer
The U.S. is planning to step in to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad's suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians. The Pentagon has expanded their list of military targets, therefore possibly planning a larger attack than anticipated. The Syrians have been moving things around that they think the U.S. has been targeting. U.S. wants to damage Syria's ability to use chemical weapons again and discourage the Syrian military from thinking their efforts to thwart the U.S., is worth the damage they will suffer from the U.S.'s retaliatory strikes. As of now, the military assets targeted by the U.S. are the ships in the Eastern Mediterranean. We're only a week away from this strike, so who knows what could happen in these seven days leading up to it.
5. The U.S. Has To Go Around The UN In Order To Help
Earlier this summer, the UN issued the biggest appeal ever, claiming $5 billion dollars is needed to give the Syrian people the support they need. At this point, $1.1 billion has been raised towards those efforts.
As Syria's biggest ally, Russia blocks United Nations Security Council from passing anything that might hurt the the Syrian president's regime. Russia helps Syria by sending over weapons, which makes it very easy for Assad to kill the way he has been. The Washington Post is reporting, Russia hates the idea of "international intervention" (which is what we're trying to do in the U.S.) against countries like Syria because Russia sees it as a threat to them.
When you really think about it–shipping arms to the rebels who are fighting against the Assad regime could be a solution, but how would that work? It would literally take the war to new heights, resulting in an even bigger fight than any of us has anticipated. One thing no one wants is to increase the killing.
President Obama wants to strike a peace deal, but at this point that seems like a fantasy. There's no way the rebels will stop and violence is the only way the Assad regime knows how to rule.
This civil war in Syria is nothing less than a complicated mess. While there's not much we can actually do to help, there's something you can do.
This is how you can help Syria:
Donate! Anything can help these poor people at this point. Your assistance doesn't have to be monetary. You can provide water, shelter and support to the families who have had their entire lives rocked in this crisis.
Share stories of Syria to your social network. You never know the power that sharing information has if you're not opening up the dialogue within your own circle. We all need to do more in making sure that people are concerned with these deadly world issues more than they are MIley's latest dance obsession.
Stay informed on what's going on with Syria and again, share your knowledge within your circle.
- Created on 04 September 2013
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the red line he spoke of last year regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons came from international treaties and past congressional action, and he challenged the international community to join him in enforcing bans on such armaments.
In direct and confrontational remarks to reporters in Sweden, Obama laid out his rationale for wanting to attack Syria on the same day a Senate committee in Washington will vote on a proposed resolution authorizing limited U.S. military strikes.
He also insisted he had the authority to order attacks on Syria -- expected to be cruise missile strikes on Syrian military command targets -- even if Congress rejects his request for authorization.
America "recognizes that if the international community fails to maintain certain norms, standards, laws, governing how countries interact and how people are treated, that over time this world becomes less safe," Obama said. "It becomes more dangerous not only for those people who are subjected to these horrible crimes, but to all of humanity."
He cited World War II as an example, saying "the people of Europe are certainly familiar with what happens when the international community finds excuses not to act." At the same time, "as commander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security," Obama said.
Conservative critics have said Obama painted himself into a corner with his statement last year that Syria's use of chemical weapons was a red line that would change his approach to the civil war in the Middle Eastern country.
"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized," Obama said in August 2012. "That would change my calculus."
Now, critics on the right say, he must respond to what U.S. officials call a major chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime that killed hundreds in suburban Damascus or lose credibility.
The administration and top congressional leaders pushed back against that criticism Tuesday during debate on Capitol Hill. Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the chamber's No. 2 Republican, said any president would have drawn that red line based on international norms.
Obama made that same argument Wednesday, saying: "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line."
"The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war," he said at a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on the first day of a four-day trip that includes the G-20 summit in Russia.
"Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty," Obama continued. "Congress set a red line when it indicated that in a piece of legislation entitled the "Syria Accountability Act" that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for."
Asked about whether he was seeking to save face, Obama insisted that "my credibility is not on the line -- the international community's credibility is on the line."
He framed the question for the United Nations and the global community at large as: "Are we going to try to find a reason not to act? And if that's the case, then I think the (world) community should admit it."
Opposition by Russia, a Syrian ally, has scuttled U.S. and British efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
U.N. inspectors returned from Syria last week from their mission to confirm if chemical weapons were used, but Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday it would take three weeks for samples collected to analyzed and results announced.
"I respect the U.N. process," Obama said while standing next to Reinfeldt, who opposes military intervention without U.N. approval.
"We agree that the international community cannot be silent," Obama added, saying also that the U.N. investigators had done "heroic work."
Noting the U.N. team's mandate was only to determine the use of chemical weapons, and not identify who used them, Obama repeated past statements that U.S. intelligence has confirmed chemical weapons use beyond any reasonable doubt and has further confirmed that al-Assad's regime "was the source."
"I do think that we have to act, because if we don't, we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn it and issue resolutions and so forth and so on, somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity," Obama said.
International norms then "begin to erode," he added, and "other despots and authoritarian regimes can start looking and say, 'that's something we can get away with.'"
He described the intended U.S. response as "limited in time and in scope, targeted at the specific task of degrading (al-Assad's) capabilities, and deterring the use of those weapons, again."
Later Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to consider a revised resolution to set a 60-day deadline for use of force in Syria, with an option for an additional 30 days.
The United Nations has said more than 100,000 people -- including many civilians -- have been killed since the popular uprising spiraled into a civil war in 2011.
On Tuesday, top U.S. officials faced tough questions from senators about plans for attacking Syria as House leaders lined up behind Obama's push for a military response.
Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, later said he and the committee's ranking Republican, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, successfully negotiated a revised resolution authorizing military strikes.
According to a copy of that text, provided to CNN by a legislative source, the measure puts a time limit on the authorization and makes clear there would be no U.S. boots on the ground.
Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate panel to press for approval of authorization.
Obama isn't asking the United States to go to war, but to "degrade and deter" the capacity of al-Assad's regime to launch another chemical attack, Kerry said.
However, senators on the panel wondered if giving the administration the green light to attack Syria would draw the United States into that country's civil war.
"Americans are understandably weary after the fiasco in Iraq and over a decade of war," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico. "How can this administration make a guarantee that our military actions will be limited? How can we guarantee that one surgical strike will have any impact other than to tighten the vise grip that Assad has on his power, or allow rebels allied with al Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in Syria?"
Kerry said the administration has no intention of sending American ground troops to Syria "with respect to the civil war." But he opposed any effort to put a ban on deploying ground forces into a congressional resolution authorizing military action, leaving open the possibility that U.S. troops may have to seize chemical weapons "in the event Syria imploded" or if extremist groups were poised to obtain them.
The session was interrupted early on by a member of the anti-war group Code Pink, who shouted "The American people do not want this" as she was dragged out of the room by police.
Kerry first became famous decades ago as a former Navy officer testifying against the war in Vietnam in front of the same committee. He responded to the Code Pink protest by saying that "Congress will represent the American people, and I think we all can respect those who have a different point of view."
Earlier Tuesday, the leaders of both parties in the House of Representatives emerged from a White House meeting to support Obama's call for American strikes.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters the use of poison gas was "a barbarous act" to which only the United States is capable of responding. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, added that Washington must respond to actions "outside the circle of civilized human behavior."
In a written statement later, Boehner said it is up to Obama "to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives" -- including securing support from individual members.
"All votes authorizing the use of military force are conscience votes for members, and passage will require direct, continuous engagement from the White House," the speaker said.
Most of the focus of administration lobbying has been on the House, which returns from its summer recess on Monday.
In the Senate, a Democratic source familiar with Majority Leader Harry Reid's thinking told CNN that Reid is confident any authorization measure will pass his chamber. The source said it is likely 60 votes will be needed to overcome a filibuster, and Reid thinks the votes are there.