Wednesday, September 04, 2013

How Could Obama Let Himself Be Pushed Into This Catastrophe?


The American people, just like the British people and the French people, oppose going to war in Syria... overwhelmingly. The other day, Orlando-area congressional candidate Nick Ruiz said that "As Democrats we know better than to fight unjust wars... When our leaders change for the worse, and seek to lead us toward the lowest common denominator, then we should thank them for whatever good they've done in the past-- but must tell them 'No, we will not follow you there, and further, you will not lead us any longer.' It is a crucial time when one must have the good sense to choose new leaders. But it's now true: that time is upon us." All the Democratic House leaders have abandoned the grassroots of the party and are pushing for war. They should all be replaced. They may represent the Military Industrial Complex and their big donors but they no longer represent grassroots Democrats. Steny Hoyer, Joe Crowley, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel never did. But now Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn and Xavier Becerra have gone over to the Dark Side with them.

Alan Grayson's petition explains why this adventure needs to be opposed:
"The Administration is considering intervening in the Syrian civil war. We oppose this. There's no vital national security involved. We are not the world’s policeman, nor its judge and jury. Our own needs in America are great, and they come first. The death of civilians is always regrettable, and civil war is regrettable, but no Americans have been attacked, and no American allies have been attacked. The British Parliament understandably has voted not to join in any attack. Notably, defense contractor Raytheon's stock is up 20% in the last 60 days. It seems that nobody wants US intervention in Syria except the military-industrial complex. I oppose US military intervention in Syria. Join me."
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich makes another, very much related, point, which is one I've been thinking about as well-- that Obama is squandering what precious little political capital he has left, not on making the country better but on this revolting rush to pointless war.
President Obama’s domestic agenda is already precarious: implementing the Affordable Care Act, ensuring the Dodd-Frank Act adequately constrains Wall Street, raising the minimum wage, saving Social Security and Medicare from the Republican right as well as deficit hawks in the Democratic Party, ending the sequester and reviving programs critical to America’s poor, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and, above all, crafting a strong recovery.

Time and again we have seen domestic agendas succumb to military adventures abroad-- both because the military-industrial-congressional complex drains money that might otherwise be used for domestic goals, and because the public’s attention is diverted from urgent problems at home to exigencies elsewhere around the globe.

It would be one thing if a strike on Syria was critical to America’s future, or even the future of the Middle East. But it is not. In fact, a strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism. Strikes are never surgical; civilians are inevitably killed. Moreover, the anti-Assad forces have shown themselves to be every bit as ruthless as Assad, with closer ties to terrorist networks.
And then there's the question that no one wants to talk about: we don't really know who used the chemical weapons. We know they were used and we know the results have been horrible. That's the kind of savage brutality that happens in civil wars. But those chemical weapons could have been deployed as easily by al Qaeda terrorists fighting Assad as by Assad's own forces-- or by agents provocateurs from another country that would like to see the U.S. get into a war with Iran. (No I'm not suggesting Lindsey Graham used them... but someone with the same mindset.) Joe Giambrone explored the question for WhoWhatWhy much more intensely than anyone else has. Remember there is NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that confirms the propaganda reports that Assad used the chemical weapons. None whatsoever.
A recent report says rebel fighters told a journalist inside Syria that in fact it was they who released sarin gas-- and notes that some claimed the nerve agent was supplied by Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan. Saudi Arabia, a longtime enemy of the Assad regime and a leading partner in US Middle East activities regarding not just Syria, but also Libya and Iran, has been active as a supporter of and sometimes surrogate for the West.

...Another, more credible instance in which rebels, not the Syrian government, allegedly used chemical weapons came on April 25. That attack was investigated by United Nations inspectors.  In an interview with Swiss-Italian television, the Italian Carla del Ponte, a well-known former chief war crimes prosecutor for tribunals on genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said:
During our investigation for Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes, we collect some witness testimony that made to appear that some chemical weapons were used.  In particular nerving gas, and what appear to our investigation that that was used by the opponents, by the rebels.  And we have no, no indication at all that the government, Syria, authority of the Syria government had used chemical weapons.

Further claims that FSA rebel factions—not the Assad military—are responsible for nerve gas attacks comes from an unverifiable May 30 Russia Today report from Turkey:
“Turkish police have reportedly detained several members of the Al Nusra Front, a Jihadist group that’s fighting among the Syrian rebels against the Assad government.  The men were apparently on their way to the Syrian border transporting a cylinder of Sarin nerve gas.”
...News reports frequently state that only the Syrian regime could have access to such weapons. But in fact the countries backing the rebels certainly have it. And in fact weapons shipments have been arriving steadily from Libya, a nation whose chemical weapon stockpiles went missing after the 2011 NATO-assisted overthrow of the government.

...Recent statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry seek to separate the use of nerve gas from the issue of who the guilty parties are.

On August 26, Kerry said:
“And as Ban Ki-moon said last week, the UN investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used-- a judgment that is already clear to the world.”
The statement, remarkable in itself, does not seem to have drawn media scrutiny. Kerry appeared eager to simply establish that nerve gas was used, while skipping over the importance (before intervening militarily) of establishing with certainty who was committing the atrocities. Heavily one-sided coverage of his statement by the media has already convinced large portions of the population that it is Assad who is using the chemicals. From there, it is a quick leap to accepting the administration’s declarations that it is urgent that it be permitted to begin bombing against Assad’s forces.

Another revealing piece from the Associated Press featured US intelligence officials themselves casting doubt on the perpetrators. This report, too, has somehow not gained full-throated media attention:
“So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that it was “undeniable,” a chemical weapons attack had occurred, and that it was carried out by the Syrian military, U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders. Some have even talked about the possibility that rebels could have carried out the attack in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war. That suspicion was not included in the official intelligence report, according to the official who described the report.“
The accusation against Bashar al Assad recalls similar charges against Saddam Hussein one decade ago.  The difference is that this time there is no doubt that Weapons of Mass Destruction (sarin nerve gas) have been used. The question remains, by whom?

Recently, Assad invited inspectors in, saying this would establish that it was not his troops using chemical weapons. But as soon as the inspectors arrived, they came under gunfire and withdrew. As with the chemicals themselves, it is not clear who wanted the inspectors to leave.
None of this, needless to say, has made its way into any of the briefings the White House is giving Congress.

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At 6:18 AM, Blogger Jay Schiavone said...

I find it difficult to see Obama as a passive party, pushed into military action. It seems entirely consistent with his handling of Afghanistan. He ran for re-election on the death of OBL. One might argue that he tends to "lead by following," but at this point in his administration, we might begin to accept that his decisions are his own in pursuit of his own goals.

At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must agree with commenter Jay Schiavone, above.

Obama has to be the most opaque president in memory. Is everything he said, implied and campaigned on a tower of lies? Has he been operating on a hidden agenda all along or is he merely the most inept naïf to occupy the Oval Office ever?

Frankly, I no longer care why he's worse in my mind than Bush. I despise him for squandering the potential for real change his election represented, for trashing this country's last shreds of democracy, for betraying the people who supported him with their hearts, their time and their money.

In turn, Obama has supported and protected the war criminals, the finance industry criminals, the health industry vampires, the extractive industry planet killers and the military-industrial war profiteers every time.

I must add that Nancy Pelosi has always had one foot on the Dark Side. She spent her entire time as Speaker making big speeches about various non-negotiable liberal must-haves, like a public option in the ACA.

But every time push came to shove, she backed Obama's play. Not once did she cross him when he was, yet again, screwing the grassroots of his party. Pelosi is just another DC hack, just not quite as drippingly loathsome as the others.


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