U.S. forces launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base on Thursday night, following a deadly chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. From his estate in Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump addressed reporters a short while later, noting that the sarin gas attack in in the country's northwestern Idlib Province just days earlier, as well as Assad's continued belligerence, had prompted him to take military action. A transcript of Trump's response to the Syrian missile strike can be found below, though many have noted since the president's official comments that his words fall in direct contradiction with former statements he has made in recent years.
"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said on Thursday. The president defended his actions, saying that it was in the United State's best interests to "prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
However, earlier statements Trump made from his own Twitter account portrayed a very different tone, with one older tweet in particular gaining traction, following the military's launch of 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles from what NPR described as a "single Syrian air base from the USS Porter and Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean." (Interestingly, Russian forces were also present at the base, though CNN noted that they had been reportedly forewarned of the strike.)
"AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!" Trump wrote emphatically, addressing then-President Barack Obama in a tweet dated Sept. 5, 2013. (At the time, Obama was considering possible action against Assad as well, following an earlier chemical attack in the town of Ghouta, outside Damascus, which left anywhere from 281 to 1729 people dead, including children.)
An earlier tweet, dated Sept. 3, 2013, conveyed a more measured tone, with the same advice. "What I am saying is stay out of Syria," Trump wrote.
On Thursday evening, that Trump was nowhere to be found. In its place was a more hawkish version of the former real estate mogul, touting textbook platitudes heard elsewhere before.
Read the president's full remarks below:
On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.
No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.
As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.
Goodnight, and God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.