Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria-- Saving Obama From His Own Worst Instincts


On Sunday, all Democratic Members of Congress got a 9 x 12 envelope from "President Barack Obama" with the question on the front, "DO YOU STILL HAVE MY BACK?" Pelosi is much beloved by most Democrats in the House. But her "dear colleague" letters on behalf of Obama's resolution to bomb Syria are falling flat. In fact, every time she sends one out-- and Friday was the fifth-- another undecided Democrat switches to NO. First thing Monday morning it was Iraq War vet Tulsi Gabbard. Friday it was northern California ConservaDem Ami Bera-- who switched from a YES vote to a NO vote after being barraged with furious feedback from his constituents and realizing he would have no chance to win reelection if he stuck with his warlike instincts. Late Monday Tim Walz (D-MN), another Iraq War vet, came out against the bombing. Today even leadership ladder climbing Jared Polis switched to a NO.

Monday, the Congressional Black Caucus traipsed over to the White House to meet with National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Syria while Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who had been on more Sunday talk shows this week than McCain and Graham combined, met with Democrats that the White House is targeting on Syria. The White House had more than just the regular propaganda for them-- more than the crap intelligence Kerry has been peddling. They're telling whomever will listen that a NO vote will cripple President Obama both internationally and domestically.

So now we have a new sick political dynamic: Republicans opposing bombing Syria to weaken the president and his agenda and Democrats voting for the war in Syria out of a desire to keep Obama strong politically-- internationally and domestically. Both concepts are equally repellent.

Democrats picked the lesser known and untested Obama-- which many now believe was a huge mistake-- over Hillary Clinton as their nominee in 2008 for several reasons but one of the most important was because she backed Bush's war in Iraq and he claimed to have opposed it, although her advocacy was part of her indelible voting record and his opposition was... something he claimed. And it wasn't just the Nobel Peace Prize committee who was taken in by him. Americans elected and reelected him, at least in part, because he didn't seem like someone who would rush off into a war of choice the way Bush (and McCain) did (and would). If Obama is really concerned about being politically crippled by a NO vote, he should stick to working on the issues that made him politically viable in the first place and inspired so many millions of Americans to vote for him.

One more sickening, cowardly thing: when congressmen say they realize they've been wrong to support the bombing but that they can't change their minds now because administration media allies will make them appear wishy-washy. That's repulsive-- and we know who you are and we won't forget. Democrats in Congress need to save Obama from himself and his crappy advisors. How much better off would Bush have been-- not to mention America-- if Congress had put its collect foot down over authorizing war in Iraq? Grayson spoke for most Democrats yesterday when he said, "The proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has a great deal of merit, and unlike the planned strikes, actually would prevent chemical warfare attacks in the future. Placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control would be constructive. U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war would be destructive."

After McDonough's meeting with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, sent President Obama a few follow-up questions from their Members and asked him to respond by Wednesday "so that Members have sufficient time to give your answers the consideration they deserve." These are the questions (and theer are less than 70 of them):
U.S. Security Interests, Evidence and the United Nations

1. What is the threat to US national security fitm Assad using chemical weapons in Syria?

2. What is the threat to US national security if the US does not use force in Syria?

3. What is biggest possible downside if the US DOES NOT attack?

4. If the US does not attack, how will it affect our credibility and what impact will that have on US national security?

5. What concerns do you have for Israel if the US does not attack?

6. What concerns do you have for Israel if the US does attack?

7. Would the administration support an option allowing limited military action that would only be authorized once certain prerequisites have been met?

8. What is the role of the Security Council in authorizing use of force?

9. What other countries have made a commitment to join in the attack by launching missiles or dropping bombs? What, exactly, have France and Turkey and Kuwait and the UAE promised to do, if anything?

10. The United Nations Charter forbids unilateral military action by any nation against another. Does the U.S. proposed attack violate the U.N. Charter?

11. There are 189 signers of the Chemical Weapons Convention. How many of them have pledged to participate in a military intervention in Syria?

12. If we do not attack Syria, will any other nation?

13. What new approaches is the Administration taking towards Russia, Iran, China and other key actors to advance a political solution-- or in the case of Russia, in particular, ensure that their military support for the Syrian regime is reduced or ended, especially in light of Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people?

14. Why is NATO unwilling to participate in this attack? Why is the Arab League unwilling to participate in this attack?

15. What the Administration claims Assad has done is a punishable offense under international law, and could be prosecuted. Has the Administration taken any action within the International Criminal Court, or any other international body, to bring Bashar al-Assad to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity?

16. Do we possess any information about the chemical weapons attack that the British government did not have in its possession at the time of Parliament’s decision to not engage militarily in Syria?

17. What is the status of the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors report on Syria?

18. Can we wait for the final report of the UN inspectors before voting on military involvement in Syria?

19. Has the White House issued a rationale for not waiting until the United Nations inspectors issue their final report, as Russian officials have reportedly stated that they might support a UN resolution after its issuance?

20. The Assad regime has denied ordering the chemical weapons attack, and Russia is backingtheregimeinthatclaim. Inlightofthat,willyoudeclassifytheevidencethatthe Assad regime ordered the attack, in order to prove the Administration right and the Assad regime and Russia wrong?

21. There has been a report in the media that the Administration has mischaracterized post-attack Syrian military communications, and that these communications actually expressed surprise about the attack. This is a serious charge. Can you release the original transcripts so that the American people can make their own judgment?

22. Iran’s President, Hasan Rouhani, has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Have you asked Iran to cut off military aid to Syria if Syria does not comply?

23. Would the White House support an AUMF resolution that complies with all sections of the War Powers Act? Does the President support the War Powers Act?

24. How can the Convention on Chemical Weapons be enforced against Syria when Syria has not signed it? Are there other treaties and conventions that can now be enforced against the United States, even if the United States has not signed them?

25. To date, the Administration has claimed that the Syrian government has violated “international norms,” not “international laws.” Is the Administration in fact contending that the Syrian government has violated international laws? If so, which ones, and how? What is the enforcement mechanism outlined in such laws?

26. The statement from UN Diplomat Carla Del Ponte that there is strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof that rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used nerve agents. Has she been contacted regarding her concrete information?

27. What is our assessment of specific allegations from rebels (who aren’t fond of Assad) that the rebels used chemical weapons provided by Prince Bandar

28. What are some possible considerations if Congress takes up authorization for the use of military force against Syria?

29. What other information or intelligence do we have linking the rebels or other non- government forces to the Chemical weapons attack of Aug 21st?

30. What are the limits and extent of covert action authorities with respect to Syria?

Effectiveness of Strikes on Syria’s Chemical Weapons Capacities

31. What is the likelihood that a U.S. military strike will prevent the use of more chemical weapons?

32. How will our military action prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again?

33. What will the US do if Assad uses more chemical weapons after an attack?

34. Could the United States destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stocks through military action? What would be needed to secure chemical weapons sites during an intervention?

35. Does the contemplated attack include an attack on actual stocks of chemical weapons? Regardless of whether it does or not, do we know with certitude where every stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria is stored? If not, do we risk the spread of these chemicals and more deaths?

Impact on Syrians and Syrian Civil War

36. Who are the Syrian rebels?

37. What evidence do we have that the rebels are not al Qaeda?

38. Everyone keeps saying that there is only a political solution to the conflict in Syria. How does the Administration see these limited military strikes advancing a political solution?

39. If the U.S. engages in military strikes against the Assad regime, what strategies will it deployto mitigate harm to the civilian population? What strategies will it deploy to mitigate harm to the civilian population by the Assad regime after the U.S. has carried out its military strikes?

40. Several wayward military strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan had high civilian casualties which created significant blowback against the U.S. and severely eroded our reputation. Have you considered that events might occur during a U.S. missile strike such asamosqueblowingup,streetfair,orschool(instigatedbyAssad,Al-Qaeda,orAl Nour) that the U.S. could be blamed for?

41. Have any members of the Syrian opposition called for such an attack? If so, whom? If not, why not?

42. Will this U.S. military action in Syria end the civil war? Will it overthrow the Assad regime? Will it eliminate the Assad regime’s capability to engage in future chemical weapons attacks?

43. The Pentagon estimates that there are between 800 and 1,200 rebel groups currently activeinSyria. SomeofthemsupportajihadagainsttheUnitedStates. Howcanwe possibly control, or even influence, which one benefits most from our involvement in Syria?

44. Three months ago, the Administration said that it would arm the Syrian rebels. They havenotyetbeenarmed. Wouldn’titbemoreeffectiveandprudenttoarmtherebels than to launch a unilateral attack?

45. The International Crisis Group, one of few international organizations with a longstanding presence on the ground in Syria, is unequivocal that diplomatic efforts cannot be re-energized in the wake of a U.S. attack. Is that correct?US military action in Iraq devastated the health infrastructure of the country, what precautions have been put into place to ensure this will not happen in Syria? Are emergency care locations equipped to handle a rise in casualties? Do you anticipate an exodus of health care professionals, such as we saw in Iraq? Will you commit funding to provide necessary care to injured Syrian civilians?

46. Since civilian casualties have led you here before us today, will you commit to the people of the United States that no civilian deaths will occur in whatever military strike takes place in Syria? Do you have an estimate of such deaths? If so, what is it?

47. What have been some of the possible humanitarian policy considerations for Congress to date? V/hat effect might military action have on the humanitarian crisis?

48. If the goal is to relieve the suffering of Syrian civilians, wouldn’t humanitarian aid to refugees be more effective than launching a military attack? Would a missile strike in Syria help any of the more than two million Syrian refugees from this civil war?

49. With the administration’s commendable concern for the lives of the Syrian people and the fate that many have already suffered at the hands of their own government, is the administration prepared to allow more Syrian refugees into the US? How many people would get asylum? Has the administration considered proposals to allow those with family members in the US to join them, or to increase the number of student visas available for those whose studies have been disrupted by the war?

50. On September 3, the UNHCR reported that it had received less than half of the funds needed to address basic refugee needs. Since any U.S. military actions in Syria are likely to exacerbate the humanitarian needs across the region, will the administration be willing to help correct this shortfall? Have any allies committed to providing additional funding? What pressure could be placed on Russia, which so far has committed only $10 million USD?

Responses to a US Attack

51. What is the range of responses we can expect from Syria if we attack?

52. What are Syria’s options regarding a counterattack? What has been done to forestall such a counterattack?

53. Is it possible that a US attack on Syria will result in a Syrian attack on Israel, similar to what happened when the United States attacked Iraq? Could such an attack be a chemical attack? What would be the appropriate US response?

54. What will Iran do if we attack?

55. Do Syria and Hezbollah have the means to launch a counterattack against US vessels in the Mediterranean? How about the US Embassy in Beirut?

56. Is it possible that Russian military advisers in Syria will by killed by this U.S. attack? What is the appropriate U.S. response if Russia comes to the aid of Syria militarily?

57. While the civil war in Syria has been in the spotlight for the past two years, another civil war in Sudan has been going on for much longer. The administration is eager to punish the Assad Regime for using chemical weapons with military force, citing a moral standard. Why wasn’t the administration actively seeking authorization for military force in Sudan while the Sudanese government was trying to ethnically cleanse the non-Arab population in Darfur?

58. How does the administration intend to keep the United States out of a broader, ongoing military engagement in Syria if any of the following occur in response to the proposed American military strike? Would additional Congressional authorization be sought under any of these scenarios? Syria launches additional chemical attacks on areas controlled by rebels;
Syria or Hezbollah attack American interests such as our embassies in Lebanon, Israel, or Jordan;
Syria, Iran, or Hezbollah launch missile strikes into Israel, killing Israeli civilians;
or Russia increases military support.for the Syrian regime to ensure Assad ‘s survival and victory.

Cost of Military Action Against Syria

59. What funding sources are available for U.S. military intervention in Syria?

60. Will military action in Syria require a supplemental appropriation? If you think not, then will you commit now not to request one?

61. The Congressional Research Service estimated that the total cost of using force against Syria could reach between $500 million and $12 billion. Is the White House operating under the same cost estimates? How is the WhiteHouse’s estimate on cost derived?

62. What accounts will be used to cover the costs of any military action?

63. What is the estimated financial contribution of U.S. allies, by county, to any potential military action against Syria?

64. What is the cost per missile that would be used in the proposed military strike?

65. What is estimated total U.S. foreign assistance to Syria, including efforts to assist refligees fleeing the conflict? What is the estimate for FY14? Are there any pending funding requests submitted by the Administration that have not been approved?

66. What is the estimated total international assistance being provided to Syrian refugees, and who are the principal donors?

67. What are the range and factors that would affect the potential cost of U.S. military intervention in Syria?

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At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They're telling whomever will listen that a NO vote will cripple President Obama both internationally and domestically."

I guess this clever "message" was cooked up by those savvy politicos that lost the House in a census year?

Do they know, yet, that the GOP controls the House?

Do they know yet that the GOP's meaning in life for the last 4.5 years was to "cripple President Obama both internationally and domestically."

Syrian gas means nothing to America but these quacks are REALLY beginning to scare me.

John Puma

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If I ever get to a-tweetin' (don't sit on a hot stove waiting), at least I know NOT to follow Sam Stein.

John Puma


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