Tag Archive | "Syria"

What was the hurry to attack Syria?

Free Syria Army

Free Syria Army

Is it really “isolationist” not to risk a new Mid-East war today? 

During this lull in the Syria tsouris, we’re hearing way too many beltway blowhards bloviate about something they’re calling “our new isolationism” or “the post-American world” or some other extreme label designed to push a personal agenda. Everyone needs to chill out and get a little perspective.  What we’re now doing about Syria is better than what we were about to do, and a whole lot better than what we’ve done to too many other countries over the years

It should be immediately obvious that the United States, with 700 foreign military bases (compared to Russia’s 11), is not exactly isolationist, and won’t be any time soon.  What follows is an attempt at a longer reassurance that no apocalypse is at hand just because we’re not bombing Syria or otherwise being exceptionally American.

In the beginning there was Common Sense, and the Declaration 

Originally, during the late 18th century, American exceptionalism included a determined sense of isolationism (and non-interventionism). At the same time, many of these isolationists also articulated the fight for American freedom as a fight for the freedom of everyone in the world. That exceptional American contradiction remains vividly alive in public discourse more than 200 years later.

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (1775), best known for making the case for American freedom from British rule, argued that one benefit of independence would be that America would no longer be forced (as a colony) to support European wars irrelevant to American interests – a benefit to be protected by a policy of isolationism.  Even before the United States existed, American revolutionaries were wary of an alliance even with a supportive France.  The Second Continental Congress eventually allied the nascent nation with France largely because that seemed to be necessary to win the Revolutionary War.

George Washington, in his carefully re-written Farewell Address (1796), famously articulated his country’s isolationist policy (without actually using the phrase “entangling alliances”):

“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

In his inaugural address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson crystallized this American policy in more familiar words, promising:  ”peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

Protecting a revolution in a counter-revolutionary world, and promoting it

Besides being emotionally appealing, the ideas of independence and isolation defined an extremely practical, protective policy for a country that was relatively small, poor, and weak.  Avoiding entanglements with others was really more about hoping to keep other more powerful states from getting entangled with us, and the tactic was mostly successful. The less powerful were another matter entirely.

But even as American revolutionaries chose a protective isolationism for their state, they promoted their revolution as a universal benefit.  The Declaration of Independence (1776) is rooted in the universal right of all people to establish “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”  From the beginning, the exceptional American “right of one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” was established as a global entitlement  – but not one without internal contradictions.

This evangelism of freedom remains one of the strongest themes in the idea of American exceptionalism, serving as both inspiration and/or excuse for the international entanglements we at first set out to avoid.  Early on we saw ourselves as leading by example, as Jefferson articulated in his farewell address (1809), calling the United States an “empire of liberty,” a governmental model for others to imitate:

“Trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence.”

This almost religious sentiment was already at odds with the American reality of westward expansion, not least in the extra-constitutional purchase of Louisiana from France (1803). Acquiring Louisiana roughly doubled the size of the United States, headed off war with France, and put a territorial wedge between the Spanish holdings in America. The purchase turned the U.S. into one of the largest countries in the world, but it wasn’t exactly a boon to the freedom and self-determination the people who lived there, despite their theoretical entitlement by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. Instead, Louisiana became susceptible to the benign influence of freedom and self-government by being subjected to and by the United States.

Expansionism became more powerful than isolationism 

The inherent contradictions in America’s expansionist isolationism eventually gave way to a dominant policy of expansionism with such highlights as the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 (this is “our” hemisphere, everyone else keep out), the Mexican War of 1846-48 (well, it’s our manifest destiny to take what we want, especially California), and the Spanish-American War of 1898 (guaranteeing a free Cuba and establishing our first off-shore empire in Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines – what some call the beginning of the “American Century”).

Insofar as the United States embraced isolationism before and after World War I, it was the odd isolationism of a global empire picking its fights. And when we went into that European war in 1917, Woodrow Wilson drew on the American evangelical freedom tradition, telling the nation, without apparent irony:

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.”

After the Great War, the indispensible nation proclaimed itself dispensible from the world community, resisting further entanglement in European wars until an Asian war came to Hawaii.  Since World War II the idea of “American isolationism” has remained an oxymoron – except perhaps to those who wanted the U.S. to attack the Soviet Union then, or Iran or China now. For most of the time since 1945,  governments of both parties have limited American interventionism to relatively limited, stupid, pointless wars like Viet-Nam or to covert attacks on “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” the people of Iran, Guatemala, Peru, Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, and so on.

And how does – or how should – Syria fit into the “New American Century”?  

All that Cold War militarism, with its special justification, came before the “New American Century” crowd took power with the 2000 election in the Supreme Court.  Once they got their fervently desired “new Pearl Harbor” on 9/11 the following year, the United States entered a period of chronic, useless, bankrupting war unlike anything in our prior history. The indispensable nation’s present willingness to put its useless attack on Syria on hold is hardly enough to signal that the world’s only superpower has come to its senses.

And it remains unlikely that the people of the world, and especially the people of Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya see us as indispensible to anything but their continued suffering.

The real isolationism with regard to Syria is the American willingness to go it alone, whatever “it” might turn out to be. Virtually isolated in its willingness to commit acts of war, the U.S. has apparently stumbled into a reprieve offered opportunistically by Russia. In his New York Times op ed column September 12, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said, without apparent irony, “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” That’s a charade Russians and Americans might enjoy equally, even as it serves the public good.

Some are opposed, of course.  Invoking their own version of American exceptionalism, the nattering nabobs of national narcissism continue to babble incoherently about toughness and credibility and sending messages ­– all of which require the nation to kill more people or be seen as isolationist, or even dispensable!

What would be truly exceptional would be for the United States to contemplate a complex crisis thoughtfully and patiently, without reflexively assuming that the best and only response should be military.

Posted in Anti-war

A day of U.S. “credibility” at work in Syria

Pinocchio

Fake intelligence summaries, rhetorical peace offers enliven U.S. war plan in Syria. What would it look like if a government really knew what it was doing?

Lacking a comprehensive, coherent account of rational beings acting in rational ways to work towards peaceful and reliable solutions to difficult questions, we offer here a fragmentary highlight reel of one day in the life of an American government  spinning in all directions toward no known goal in Syria.

But first a note about the context of the current public debate about Syria: we’re getting conned by the White House on intelligence assessments. Again. As reported by Gareth Porter for IPS on September 9:

“Contrary to the general impression in Congress and the news media, the Syria chemical warfare intelligence summary released by the Barack Obama administration Aug. 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment….

“The evidence indicates that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper culled intelligence analyses from various agencies and by the White House itself, but that the White House itself had the final say in the contents of the document.”

In other words, the political document one might expect from the Director of National Intelligence was replaced by an even more politicized document created in the White House to justify acts of war.  This suggests that the phrase “American credibility” is an oxymoron and the political vaudeville that played out publicly early this week is a pretty accurate reflection of an administration doing handstands and backflips to distract the audience from the glaring contradictions of its Syria policy.

Kerry: when I say something it’s likely I mean something else

Monday madness began early for Americans on September 9, when Secretary of State John Kerry gave a news conference in London while most of his fellow citizens were still asleep, literally.  At that news conference, Kerry set off a tizzy by saying this about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:

“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 the full and total accounting, but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

Reporters promptly spun this as the U.S. giving Syria a one-week deadline.  Reports mostly ignored the possibility that Kerry’s assertion (“it can’t be done”) could mean that it’s logistically impossible, or that the U.S. will attack anyway, or anything else.

Also Monday morning, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called a news conference in Moscow to announce that Russia was urging Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control in order to head off an act of war by the United States.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, in Moscow for talks, said that: “The Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership’s concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression.”

The Russian and Syrian foreign ministers also call for UN inspections now.

Late Monday morning at 11:47 a.m., Agence France-Presse (AFP) tweeted:  BREAKING Syrian foreign minister welcomes Russia’s Syria chemical handover initiative”  (Reuters had tweeted similarly six minutes earlier).

The other side is welcoming our offer, that’s good news, right?  Wrong.  

Before there could be any official acceptance of the proposal by Syria, the State Department was contradicting the Secretary’s proposed solution.  An official Foggy Bottom email-of-clarification argued that Kerry was denying his “proposal” was actually a serious proposal at all:

“Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.

His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago.”

At more or less the same time in Geneva, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, was telling the UN human rights council:

“The use of chemical weapons has long been identified as one of the gravest crimes that can be committed, yet their use in Syria seems now to be in little doubt, even if all the circumstances and responsibilities remain to be clarified… This appalling situation cries out for international action, yet a military response or the continued supply of arms risk igniting a regional conflagration, possibly resulting in many more deaths and even more widespread misery.”  [emphasis added]

Syria has a research nuclear reactor in Damascus and the government has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess the likely consequences if the Americans bomb the reactor.  The Russians are pressing the IAEA to make the assessment.  According to Reuters, an anonymous U.S. official saying that “requests for comprehensive risk analyses of hypothetical scenarios are beyond the IAEA’s statutory authority”.

Arizona Senator John McCain takes offense at Kerry’s news conference promise that any strike on Syria would be “unbelievably small.”  McCain tweets: “Kerry says #Syria strike would be “unbelievably small” – that is unbelievably unhelpful”

White House National Security Advisor tries to head off possible settlement 

Early Monday afternoon in Washington, the president’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice gave a scheduled speech at the New America Foundation, founded in 1999 as a non-profit, public policy institute whose stated mission is to “invest in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.”

Without matching previous National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s fear-mongering on Iraq (“we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”), Susan Rice came close, taking a hard line in favor of attacking Syria and saying that:

• Syrians attacking Syrians with chemical weapons is a “serious threat to our national security” and that such attacks could “threaten our soldiers in the region and even potentially our citizens at home.”

• “We cannot allow terrorists bent on destruction, or a nuclear North Korea, or an aspiring nuclear Iran, to believe for one minute that we are shying away from our determination to back up our longstanding warnings. … Failing to respond to this brazen attack could indicate the United States is not prepared to use the full range of tools necessary to keep our nation secure.”

• “Leaders in Tehran must know the United States means what we say. If we do not respond when Iran’s close ally, Syria, uses weapons of mass destruction, what message does that send to Iran?”

•  ”Opening a door to their use anywhere threatens the United States and our personnel everywhere.”

Rice apparently did not talk about the United States helping Iraq to gas Iranian soldiers and civilians during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.  She did scoff at any further attempts at a diplomatic solution.

State Dept. says we made no proposal, but we’ll see if they accept it

At an afternoon news conference at the State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf responded skeptically to questions about putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control, calling it a hypothetical idea that she can’t comment on. She reiterated the government’s position that Kerry was not making a proposal, that his morning comments were only “rhetorical and hypothetical.”

Harf also said: “We’re going to look at what’s on the table… We don’t want this to be another stalling exercise, and we have serious skepticism about the Assad regime [willingness] to get rid of their chemical weapons…. All we’ve heard today are statements from Russians and Syrians who’ve lied for the last two years.”

Despite suspicion about the international control proposal, Harf did say: “We’ll take a hard look at it… but what we’re focused on … is working with Congress to get this [attack on Syria] authorized.”

At a White House briefing, deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinked said, without referring to the Iran-Iraq War: “If we don’t act, the international norm against the use of chemical weapons will be weakened.” But he also said: “we want to look hard at what the Russians have proposed.”

At a mid-afternoon forum on illegal wildlife trafficking, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had just talked to President Obama about the Russian proposal on Syrian arms.  She said the international community should make a “strong response” to events in Syria: “This is about protecting the Syrian people… and our friends in the regions… If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control… that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction.”

Toward the end of the day, Dan Roberts, bureau chief of the Guardian, tweets: “febrile mood down in White House press room as Obama tapes six interviews for tonight while US position shifting by the minute toward a deal”

In one of those interviews, the president said he would “absolutely” not attack Syria if the chemical weapons were secured. He told ABC News: “My objective here has always been to deal with a very specific problem. If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference.”

By the end of the day the signs indicated that there was no growing support in Congress for an attack on Syria, and that public opinion remained overwhelmingly opposed to risking another war. But a determined government faction still wants to bomb somebody.

The weekend had highlights, too, including a CBS News interview with Assad 

All this activity on Monday followed the weekend news that Senator McCain, the would-be Republican president from Arizona, had suggested that Obama should be impeached – if he went too far and put “boots on the ground” in Syria. (The U.S. already has boots on the ground in, at a minimum, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel.)

Someone might ask McCain whether his proposed impeachment-for-a-boots-job should take effect in the event of any deployment of American troops as part of an international force to guard Syrian chemical weapons.

Also over the weekend, in a CBS News interview broadcast on Monday, Bashar al-Assad warned of retaliation for any U.S. attack, but did not make any specific threats, saying only: “It is difficult for anyone to tell you what is going to happen. It’s an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything.”

On Sunday, the Syrian state news agency reported that al-Queda-affiliated rebels had captured Maaloula, a Christian village 25 miles northeast of Damascus where the 3,000 residents mostly still speak ancient Aramaic. Some 1,500 Syrian rebels forced the Syrian Army to withdraw to the outskirts of the town.

Meanwhile in Yemen over the weekend, American drone strikes killed eleven people, all of whom may not have been innocent civilians.

And in Syria on Monday, another 49 people were killed, 25 of them in Damascus.

 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in Anti-war

Obama will have his war with Syria, Russia be damned

Yee-haw, says Slim Pickens, let's nuke it.

After a day or so of the Obama Administration being widely mocked and laughed at for its remarkably incompetent, ever changing foreign policy on Syria, Obama now says he’ll probably lob a few missiles at Syria anyway and pretends to assume it was his bumbling that got Syria to agree to give up chemical weapons. Well no, it wasn’t. Russia simultaneously saved your bacon, Mr President, and made you and your Secretary of State look like doofuses.

President Barack Obama will tell the nation Tuesday night that he is pursuing a last-minute Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria, and will argue that military force may be necessary.

Posted in News

US intelligence officers say Syria didn’t launch chemical weapons

That intercepted message of Syria officers talking about the attack was AFTER the attack and showed them in panic that an unauthorized attack had been made. A major where the attack supposedly came from insisted to superiors that all his chemical weapons were accounted for and invited general staff to come and look.

The Obama administration has selectively used intelligence to justify military strikes on Syria, former military officers with access to the original intelligence reports say, in a manner that goes far beyond what critics charged the Bush administration of doing in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.

According to these officers, who served in top positions in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, and Jordan, a Syrian military communication intercepted by Israel’s famed Unit 8200 electronic intelligence outfit has been doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.

Top chemical weapons expert highly skeptical of U.S. case against Syrian government.

Posted in News

A Syrian Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

syria-attack-stopwatch

Congress ready to be flattered into killing more Syrians. When it comes to war, isn’t our account overdrawn? 

When the president asks Congress for a blank check for war, why does the Congress fret about setting a limit on war powers instead of just saying: “NO” to any check? What happened to checks and balances (as if we all didn’t know)?

Already quislings of both parties in the Senate – Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas – are staking out the “compromise” position of a limited war in response to President Obama’s proposal for an open-ended war authorization.  According to Leahy, Democratic senate staffers are working on an alternative authorization for killing Syrians.

Several Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina just want the Obama administration to start killing people, the sooner the better, their only caveat being that the president should have a plan.

McCain wants the US to do more – he hasn’t said how much more, or if he would accept any military limitations.  “It can’t just be, in my view, pinprick cruise missiles,” McCain said, describing a weapon that doesn’t exist outside of military fantasy.

Rand Paul offers tepid resistance, flatters president for obeying law

One of the few clear voices opposed to the US engaging even “surgically” in the Syrian civil war is Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who calls the president’s proposal an effort to “save face and add bad policy to bad policy.”  Paul also said:

“I would ask, ‘How do you ask a man to be the first to die for a mistake?’ I’m not sending my son, your son or anybody else’s son to fight for a stalemate.”

With as mealy a mouth as anyone, Paul stands with the apparently overwhelming majority of our elected leaders, bravely telling reporters he was “proud” of the president for coming to Congress for war-making support. Translation: “Oh thank you Mr. President for not acting like a dictator and embarrassing us with our complete lack of spine to oppose your imperial enterprise (which is, after all, our imperial enterprise, too, but we really don’t like having to say so and some of us even blush).”

Conventional wisdom on September 2 predicted that the Senate would endorse whatever the president wants to do, just not as long as he might want to do it.  The prediction for the House is generally iffy, but House Minority Leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California is cheerleading from the front of the war bandwagon.

Such actual Congressional opposition to the whole idea of putting the US any deeper into Syria for ay reason comes from a few representatives in the House:

• Republican Chris Gibson of New York, an Army veteran with multiple foreign deployments: “I hope my colleagues will fully think through the weightiness of this decision and reject military action. The situation on the ground in Syria is tragic and deeply saddening, but escalating the conflict and Americanizing the Syrian civil war will not resolve the matter.”

• Democrat Betty McCollum of Minnesota: “Unilateral U.S. military action against the Syrian regime at this time would do nothing to advance American interests, but would certainly fuel extremist groups on both sides of the conflict that are determined to expand the bloodshed beyond Syria’s borders.”

• Republican Devin Nunes of California: “The apparent chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime is an appalling, unconscionable act by a bloodthirsty tyrant. The ‘limited’ military response supported by President Obama, however, shows no clear goal, strategy, or any coherence whatsoever, and is supported neither by myself nor the American people.”

The blank check comes with no due date, late fees, or penalties 

The White House draft “authorization for use of United States armed forces” is problematical from the first “whereas,” which asserts as a fact a charge that remains in dispute:

“Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians….”

If this premise is wrong, as seems quite possible, than the following seven “whereas paragraphs are mostly accurate but irrelevant, with some demagoguery thrown in to persuade or intimidate Congress.

But even if the premise turns out to be correct, the “authorization should be unacceptable for the unlimited scope of action allowed to the president, who still uses the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) against terrorism to justify his authority to wage war by whatever means he chooses in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and elsewhere.  That law remains open-ended and unmodified by Congress, allowing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against pretty much anyone he “determines” deserves to be attacked.

The new authorization gives the president the freedom “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria,” which seems as if it’s at least limited to the geography of Syria, and only as long as there’s a conflict there.  Of course it implicitly leaves it up to the president to determine what a “conflict” is and even, arguably, what “Syria” is.

Such limitation is a chimera.  Unfettering the president from even that illusory constraint, the authorization goes on to allow him respond to any “proliferation” inside – or outside – of Syria “of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons….”

And just in case that’s not broad enough to let the president do most anything he chooses, the authorization goes on to allow him to do anything necessary to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons. 

When protecting against a “threat,” nothing is ruled out, no matter how crazy paranoid the threat may be.  In post-9/11 United States, threat perceptions don’t have much restraint on the paranoid crazy.

In a fundamentally cowardly Congress, members are unlikely to oppose this kind of threat to the national interest, especially now that they getting their egos stroked by the White House.
 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Posted in Anti-war

Jumping the shark in Syria

jump-shark

Bombing fanatics press Obama to exercise Custer-like leadership. Obama’s choice: bend under pressure, or act presidential in Syria

President Obama is apparently wobbling on the edge of committing an impeachable offense, specifically a military attack on Syria without the authorization of Congress, without the approval of the United Nations Security Council, and without any imminent threat to the United States.

The President finds himself pressured on one side by his own rookie mistake on August 20, 2012, when he said at a press conference, in answer to a question about the civil war in Syria, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

To judge from the wording of his answer, the President seems to have been trying not to box himself it.  He not only failed then, he has failed since to roll back political and media baiting over his supposed “red line,” giving it more symbolic authority each time. Now he’s caught in his own trap.

After several real or apparent earlier uses of some chemical weapons by somebody in Syria, the most recent alleged chemical weapons attack has some Washington officials reacting hysterically on the basis of limited uncertain information that, they argue, is sufficient basis for the United States to launch a limited but certain military attack on somebody.

Gas Over Syria Mostly Smoke Blown by Politicians With Hidden Agendas  

With his Secretary of State ranting in high-pitched tones about this “moral obscenity” and that “cowardly crime” committed by the Assad regime, the President seems weak and vacillating.  The lawyer who is president might remind the lawyer who is secretary of state, that evidence usually precedes judgment, not only in court but also in the process of mature statecraft.

Carrying on as if he thought he was the real president, Secretary of State John Kerry blathers with a fatuous pomposity worthy of a caricature head of state, as he jingoes up a war with demagoguery about the would-be enemy:

“Our sense of basic humanity is offended, not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical at tempt to cover it up. What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity. By any standards, it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

The irony is overwhelming: Kerry has accurately described the American use of depleted Uranium weapons that continue to kill men, women, and children every day in Iraq. Depleted Uranium is a chemical, a deadly toxic heavy metal with the added benefit of also being radioactive for billions of years.

The chemical weapon apparently used in Syria kills quickly, and using it is a widely-recognized war crime.  Not so widely recognized, but just as much a war crime, using DU WMDs not only kills some victims quickly, but goes on killing others slowly, for generations.

Why is Washington so hot for war before the facts are known?  

Kerry was once perceived as a moral man, protesting another immoral American war, in Viet-Nam.  But that was a long time ago.  Although he opposed the 1991 Gulf War, he raised no outcry against the criminal use of DU WMDs that mercilessly slaughtered Iraqis and infected the country with toxic air, water, and dust. By 2003, Kerry swallowed whole the lies that supported the Bush administration’s lust for war in Iraq.  Kerry’s rhetoric then was like his rhetoric now:

“Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator; leading an oppressive regime he presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real.”

He was fatally wrong then.

Just as wrong in 2003 was Senator John McCain, another enthusiastic booster of the Bush administration’s lying the country into war.  Now the Arizona Republican is not only eager for America to take unilateral military action, he’s busy blaming the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, for not being an equally avid warmonger.

The Senator takes offense at a general’s prudence 

McCain is mad at Gen. Dempsey for his answer to an inquiry from New York Cong. Eliot Engel, a Democrat, who wondered what might be the best course to pursue in Syria. The general’s rational and careful response on August 19 said, in part:

“We can destroy the Syrian Air Force. The loss of Assad’s Air Force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict. Stated another way, it would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict. In a variety of ways, the use of US military force can change the military balance, but it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious, and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.

“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not….

“I believe we can assist in the humanitarian crisis on a far more significant scale. We could, if asked to do so, significantly increase our effort to develop a moderate opposition. Doing so, in combination with expanded capacity-building efforts with regional partners and a significant investment in the development of a moderate Syrian opposition, represents the best framework for an effective U.S. strategy toward Syria going forward.”

Outraged by this almost non-military posture, McCain claimed that it was Gen. Dempsey’s fault that Syria used chemical weapons. According to McCain, “General Dempsey has to be embarrassed,” because his letter opened the door to chemical weapons:

“Dempsey made an incredible illogical statement and then a few days later we saw a massive use of chemical weapons. I’m sure that Bashar al-Assad paid attention to the top military man in America’s words that we were not going to get involved….

I would expect Assad to continue to use these weapons.  And other Assads around the world will now not hesitate to use these weapons and sooner or later they may be used against Americans.”

Senator McCain embraces the fallacy of post hoc ergo propeter hoc

So McCain is also blaming the general for future war crimes committed by others, using his own illogical argument. McCain argues that the letter that preceded the use of chemical weapons therefore caused the use of chemical weapons – an elementary logical fallacy.  But it’s also obviously nonsense, since chemical weapons were used in Syria before the letter as well.

And McCain has yet to object to his country’s 20 years of using depleted Uranium weapons on mostly defenseless targets.

Not to be left off the public hysteria bandwagon, Vice President Joe Biden, who offered no more evidentiary support for his claims than any of the other manly blitherers, told a Texas audience:

“There is no doubt who was responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria—the Syrian regime—for we know that the Syrian regime are the only ones who have the weapons, have used chemical weapons multiple times in the past, have the means of delivering those weapons, have been determined to wipe out exactly the places that were attacked by chemical weapons.”

Little of the Biden riff is demonstrably true, but then he added an outright lie about the Syrian government, accusing it of not cooperating with UN inspectors: “the government has repeatedly shelled the sites of the attack and blocked the investigation for five days.”

The truth is that the UN delivered its inspection request on Saturday, August 24.  The Syrian government approved the request on Sunday.  The inspection team went to work on Monday.

“Those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable,” Biden told his Houston audience, without mentioning American use of DU WMDs.

At the United Nations, calmer, more rational heads prevail  

At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon maintained a more diplomatic composure.  In a statement about the UN investigation headed by Under-Secretary-General Angela Kane, he said:

“The Secretary-General now calls for the mission, presently in Damascus, to be granted permission and access to swiftly investigate the incident which occurred on the morning of 21 August. A formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the Government of Syria in this regard. He expects to receive a positive response without delay.”

In a second statement, regarding the use of chemical weapons as a violation of international humanitarian law, the secretary-general concluded:

“The Secretary-General reiterates that any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would violate international humanitarian law.” 

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in News

In Syria, answering atrocity with atrocity will achieve more atrocity

Credit: WSJ

Credit: WSJ

Are you saying that doing nothing in Syria is the best option? 

The unpleasant reality in Syria is that there are no good choices, for the U.S. or much of anyone else.  But the crushing reality is that, comparatively, the U.S. and perhaps the world will be better off keeping Assad in power for the nonce, rather than coping with the likely chaos flowing uncontrollably from any other outcome.

There is no good reason to make a bad situation worse. It’s likely to get worse all on its own, and unimaginably worse if the government starts to fall.

But wouldn’t it be good if the “rebels” won?  

Not likely. No one knows who the “rebels” are with any certainty, except that we know they are anything but a united, coherent force. We don’t even know if any of them have goals worthy of support. There are many rebel groups with as many interests, most of them lethal – to each other, to their neighbors, to everyone.

But getting rid of Assad is good all by itself, isn’t it?  

Oh, of course, just like getting rid of Saddam Hussein was good all by itself. Have you no memory?

Unfortunately, we have been cursed with leadership that chooses to ignore the reality that nothing exists “all by itself.”  Everything is interconnected, which should be obvious to anyone.  But Obama/Kerry don’t seem to get it any better than Bush/Cheney did.  Their common assumption, that they can control reality and determine outcomes, is a hallmark of hubris (also madness, also bloodthirsty recklessness).

For all the mindless destruction the Iraq war has visited on everyone involved (except the insulated commanders), the indefensible result today is an Iraq that has suffered and continues to suffer far more than it would have had Saddam remained in power.  War crimes tend to turn out badly.

So we should leave Assad in power?  

The first problem with that question is the assumption that it’s up to “us,” whoever “us” is. Unquestionably “we” can intervene in any horrific way we choose, and no one can stop us.  But that’s where our control of events ends, and the benefits of any intervention are hard to identify – most likely because they are nil.

Of course an attack might briefly satisfy the mindless impulse to “do something,” even if all we accomplished was showing that we were tough, by teaching Syrians they better not kill Syrians unless they want us to come in and kill more Syrians.

But chemical weapons are evil, aren’t they?  

That’s really a religious question. But even if they ARE evil, so what?  Foreign policy doesn’t involve itself with questions of good and evil.

That’s not the cavalier response it may look like – the answer is “so what?” because pretty much everyone uses chemical weapons one way of another and almost all the time no one does anything about it.  The cry of “chemical weapons” is mindless emotionalism designed to eliminate thought, not illuminate it.

What does that mean?  

Depleted Uranium (DU) is a toxic heavy metal with lethal properties.  The U.S. and other countries have used and continues to use depleted Uranium weapons, DU WMDs.  Our depleted Uranium still poisons country from the Balkans to Iraq. Logically, we should have been sending Tomahawk missiles against ourselves for the past 20 years, to teach ourselves a lesson we’re clearly having a hard time learning.

So ignore the pseudo morality of a near-hysterical Secretary of State who thought the illegal war in Iraq was a good idea, or at least too popular to resist.  When Kerry calls chemical weapons in Syria a “moral obscenity” (as he did on August 26), remind yourself that he has never objected to DU WMDs.  Ever.

There is no principle at stake in the current Syrian situation, there is no articulable goal that justifies intervention except intervention for its own sake.  All that’s at stake in the unprincipled use of power for its own sake.

Are you saying we should just stand by and watch people die?  

Get over yourself.  We do it all the time when it suits us.

That’s how the world has been for a long time, probably even before we intervened with Native American populations by giving them blankets laced with smallpox.  

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Posted in News

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for? Syria war looms

Country-Joe-Woodstock

Hey, let’s bomb another country because we think they did something heinous, even if we can’t prove it and it could trigger a regional conflict. Even more crucially, let’s have no discernable plan or exit strategy except for needing to blow something up to prove our Exceptionalism. What could possible go wrong with that?

Punitive action is the dumbest of all actions,” he said. “The Assad regime has shown an incredible capacity to endure pain and I don’t think we have the stomach to deploy enough punitive action that would serve as a deterrent.”

He also doubted the effectiveness of taking out Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities. “If we start picking off chemical weapons targets in Syria, the logical response is if any weapons are left in the warehouses, he’s going to start dispersing them among his forces if he hasn’t already,” he continued. “So you’re too late to the fight.”

Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag by Country Joe and The Fish was the anthem of the Vietnam anti-war protests. Despite being somewhat of a period piece tied to a specific era, it’s stood the test of time because it was bitingly on target and humorous. The countries we invade have changed but what the Fish sing about is still too sadly true. (And I was at Woodstock and heard Country Joe sing it!)

Posted in Anti-war

Mad rush to war based on flimsy evidence in Syria

Homs, Syria. Credit voa.gov

Homs, Syria. Credit voa.gov

Bombing may commence as early as Thursday. Maybe the US will even release their supposed evidence by then. Assad is a thug. So are many / most of the rebels. Sending guns and money to them seems singularly stupid and short-sighted. There’s a huge difference here between this and previous “interventions.” Russia is vocally supporting Assad. If we send cruise missiles, the Russians may well respond (through proxies)

Also, there’s still no evidence the Assad government fired the poison gas. If it even was gas. The fatality rate was 10% which is very low. Syria has huge stores of nasty fertilizer that have been banned here. A bomb hitting one of those storehouses could create something quite toxic. And why would Assad deliberately do something to bring the US into the conflict? He’s a butcher but he’s not stupid.

Why is this our fight? What do we wish to accomplish? And how will it be done?

The real reason US will attack Syria

The people who have something to benefit are the Syrian rebels, who are losing, and who need intervention. If they can frame the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack, they get what they need.

And that, almost certainly, is why the US and UK will attack, because their proxies, the FSA, are losing. If they don’t attack, Assad is going to win this civil war, not least because the rebels seem to have lost public support.

Neocons sucker Obama into a war?

Obama has been suckered into war with Syria because the conflict can quickly escalate into war with Iran. The neocons have made one thing clear over the past half-dozen years: They want to gin up a war with Iran, and they want all of the resultant mass death to happen on a Democrat’s watch.

US says Assad regime launched chemicals, hasn’t released evidence yet

Maybe this will be like the uranium tubes propaganda that led to the Iraq War…

Russia has proof the rebels did it

Pepe Escobar, reporter for the Asia Times, reports in Facebook that Russia has presented to the UN Security Council “conclusive evidence – based on documents and Russian satellite images – of two rockets carrying toxic chemicals, fired from Douma, controlled by the Syrian ‘rebels,’ and landing on East Ghouta.” This was reported two days ago in Arabic and confirmed today by Khalil Harb, of the Lebanese paper As-Safir. It is based on a Russian source, who says the evidence is conclusive. This information explains why there is no UN Security Council resolution against Syria, according to Escobar – See more at: http://agonist.org/russia-has-proof-that-the-rebels-did-it/

Iran says attack on Syria will lead to counterattack on Israel

Mr-Fish

Posted in Anti-war

US says Syria govt used chemical weapons, offers no evidence

Apparently no effort is being to determine if the rebels used nerve gas in their own version of a Reichstag Fire as that would interfere with the war pigs having themselves another jolly little war. This is exactly the same type of pretext the US used to invade Iraq. The truth is a casualty here. The US has already made the decision to “intervene”

Rich Man’s War – Steve Earle

“Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he’s still there
Chasin’ ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war”

Posted in Anti-war

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