Wednesday, August 28, 2013

He's overcompensating






The drums of war grow ever louder as US officials (and some of the press) lust for war on Syria.  As Peter Hart (FAIR) observes, "There is still no firm public evidence that would tie these specific attacks to the Assad government. But all around the U.S. media the signs are clear that war is on the way."   IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis appeared this morning on KPFA's Up Front with Guest Host Philip Maldari to address various issues including the allegations that a chemical attack took place last week in Syria.

Phyllis Bennis:  The poisoning of these people who died would be a horrific crime.  We don't know for sure it was a chemical weapon, we certainly don't know who did it.  But it is a terrible crime and should be investigated.  It shouldn't be answered with military strikes which are not going to make it better for anybody.  It's not going to bring the war to a quicker close.  It's not going to protect any civilians in Syria.  It's not going to make anything better, it's going to make everything worse -- further instability, further engagement of the US in an illegal war. That's the other aspect here.  We're already hearing, it's quite ironic that while we're hearing this incredibly aggressive talk from Secretary [of State John] Kerry and from other administration officials who are basically saying, you know, "We're about to go in" without quite saying those words, the front page of the New York Times admits that -- in fact the Washington Post as well -- admits that the administration still is missing major pieces of information.  The key one being: Who did it and was it a chemical weapon at all?  So that needs to be figured out before  The idea that they're preparing for a military response and actually calling for the UN weapons inspectors to be withdrawn, saying that they're there too late, it's too little, they won't be able to tell -- when the inspectors themselves, who I would think know far better than Secretary Kerry, for instance, are saying, 'Yes, of course we can still find out,'  They want to continue doing their work, they don't want to be withdrawn.  And until we know that, there's no way to talk seriously about a response of any kind.  Then when you get to the legal part, the third of these three things that the administration is claiming it needs -- One, the assessment of what was the actual role of the Syrian government, if anything?  Two, what's the position of US allies and members of Congress?   And three, where does international law fit in?  Number three becomes very important because international law in this is actually pretty clear -- unlike a lot of international law which is about as clear as mud.  The question of when is the use force legal is pretty clear because it's really limited.  There's only two ways a country can use force and have it be legal.  The first, and nobody's making this claim, is immediate self-defense.  The United States is not threatened by Syria.  We are hearing that they may ask Turkey and Jordan to claim self-defense and then the US would go to their aid as indirect supporting self-defense, which is a really cockamamie idea.  But the bottom line is there's no self-defense argument here for the United States.  The other way is if the [UN] Security Council agrees and we all know the Security Council is not going to agree.  So they're talking about using the model they used in 1999 in Kosovo when they just said, 'Well, we'll never get a UN Security Council agreement so we'll just ask the NATO high command for permission instead.'  And, what a surprise, NATO said yes.  It's like the hammer and the nail. If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Philip Maldari:  Well they're talking about a coalition of the willing -- and the willing are Britain, France, possibly, uh-uh, Turkey, of course, and-and Jordan. But then the Arab League --

Those countries together, no matter how many countries together, and the Arab League, or the African Union, or NATO don't have the legal right to decide on the use of military force.  Only the UN Security Council has that right.  So if they do it with any of these other forces -- a coalition of the willing -- it is, I mean, even the New York Times in its editorial today said that going around the UN Security Council, the Kosovo model that they cite would, in their words, "provide legitimacy, if not strict legal justification."  In other words, it's illegal.  You know, they can try to justify it all they want, but it's illegal.

Today, Nathan Gardels (Christian Science Monitor) interviews former chief United Nations arms inspector Hans Blix.  Excerpt regarding weapons inspectors.

Gardels: An echo of Iraq under President Bush?

Blix: In a way, yes. Then, too, the Americans and their allies asked for inspections for mass destruction weapons. Then, too, they said, “forget it, we have enough evidence on our own to act. We are the world police. Our publics are demanding immediate action!”
I do not go along with the statement by the US that “it is too late” for Syria now to cooperate. That is a poor excuse for taking military action.
Only last March, the West was satisfied with inspections concerning the use of chemical weapons. Why can’t they wait again now? In one month when you have accurate tissue samples we will know for sure exactly which kind of chemical weapons have been used and who possesses such weapons.

Jonathan Chait is infamous for two things -- a hairline that resembles Hitler's mustache and being a cheerleader for the Iraq War.  Today, he wants to insist Syria isn't Iraq and insist that he supports war on Syria.  Of course he supports attacking Syria -- if you'd been given that hairline, you'd hate the world too and forever want to lash out.

We haven't compared Syria and Iraq here.  Until now.  When Chait bellows, we blow him off.  Even more so on a day State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf declares, "We are not comparing this specific case to any other time we've concluded that a regime may or may not, or whatever the discussion was about chemical weapons."   For Iraq, the White House claimed WMDs must be destroyed, for Syria, they claim chemical weapons.  With Iraq, the White House would not allow the UN weapons inspectors to complete their work, with Syria, the White House insists the inspectors have arrived too late.  In both cases, the law didn't appear to matter nor did public opinion.

For example, Saturday, Lesley Wroughton (Reuters) reported, "Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll says. Abbout 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act."  But what the citizens think in a democracy didn't matter under Bully Boy Bush who dubbed himself "the decider."  And what citizens think doesn't matter under Barack as State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf made clear at today's press briefing when she was asked about the large majority of Americans opposing an attack on Syria and Harf responded, "I think the President’s been clear that he makes decisions about our national security based on what’s best for national security interests of this country, and I think it’s clear here that there are core national security interests at stake for the United States."

Might someone educate Marie and Barack?  Clearly they lack the basics of American history.  ". . . to secure these rights.  Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."  Marie and Barack should be informed that quote is from the Declaration of Independence.  While Barack and his illegal spying have shredded much of the Constitution, I wasn't aware that the Declaration of Independence had also been flushed down the toilet by the White House.

Ruth found other similarities between the war on Iraq and the desired war on Syria last night:

I do not like The New York Times.  Did you see this crap "Kerry Cites Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use"?
No, he did not.
"Kerry Claims Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use" would be a truthful headline.
The New York Times is yet again selling war.  Apparently, that is why it exists.
It is selling war just as it did with the Iraq War.
But do not worry because when Matt Damon makes a film about it, he will lie and blame The Wall Street Journal -- as he did in The Green Zone where The New York Times' Judith Miller was turned into a Wall Street Journal reporter.
Way to cover for the liars who caused the war, Mr. Damon.  And you wonder why no one wants to pay money to see your bad movies?
They say it is always easier for a White man and I guess the above demonstrates that.
Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, had to go before the United Nations (and lie) with props including a mistranslated audio exchange and a small vial of white powder to generate the "case closed" press which led us into the Iraq War.  By contrast, Secretary Kerry, a White man, just has to make a declaration.

Norman Pollack (CounterPunch) offers:

The rush to judgment is all too familiar, as in the case of WMD and Iraq. The US track record and its new rallying cry, humanitarian intervention, is rejected by most of the world. Obama and his national-security advisers have a craving for war, whether a distorted view of patriotism or simply courting popularity with a nation careening dangerously to the Right, is a moot point. Also, war is a good distraction from a shabby record on everything from banking regulation to job creation. The Democratic party is hopeless, a profound betrayal of FDR and the New Deal.

Rowena Mason (Guardian) reports, "Diane Abbott may be forced to quit Labour's frontbench if Ed Miliband supports military action in Syria, as one of several MPs who are weighing up whether to support their party leaders over the anticipated intervention."  More connections and similarities?  Angie Tibbs (Dissident Voice) raises questions about the 'evidence' (videos) John Kerry and others are citing:

If a check had been made, the real “breaking news” would be, not so much the videos but, the date on which they were uploaded, which was August 20, 2013. However, the “rebels” and their “activists” informed the media that the attack occurred on August 21, 2013! A full day AFTER the videos of the alleged massacre were published by various media. Whoops!

If indeed the story of prerecording is correct, then it begs the question: How could videos of an alleged attack be uploaded BEFORE it happened?
Only if it were carried out by the “rebels” themselves.
This is not the first time an attempt was made to portray victims of a Syrian government massacre to the world.  Back on May 29, 2012 a photograph appeared in corporate-state media outlets (initially by BBC, followed by countless others, including Canada’s CBC) purporting to show the bodies of children who were supposedly awaiting burial following a massacre by the Syrian government in Houla. The photograph had been provided to the BBC by an “activist” (who else?).
At the time, the image, as it was meant to, created outrage amongst leaders in “the West”, many of whom expelled all Syrian diplomats. However, was it a photo of dead bodies from the Houla massacre? Media outlets accepted its legitimacy without question.
Another huge mistake damning corporate-state media credibility!
Because when photographer Marco di Lauro,  who had taken the picture, saw it, he, in his own words, “nearly fell off his chair” in shock. It was, in fact, a photo he had taken in March, 2003 in Iraq, and it showed body bags containing skeletons that had been found in a desert south of Baghdad.

Yesterday, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued "Phone conversation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with US Secretary of State John Kerry:"

On the 25 August a phone conversation between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry was held at the initiative of the Russian party. The situation around Syria was discussed.
The Minister pointed out that the official statements we had been hearing lately from Washington, about the readiness of the United States armed forces to “interfere” with the Syrian conflict, were received by Moscow with anxiety. It seems that known circles, including those who appeal for a military intervention “bypassing the UN” more and more actively, are sincerely trying to strike through the joint efforts of Russia and the United States to convene the international conference on peaceful settlement of the crisis.
We are puzzled by the references of individual representatives of the Administration to the allegedly “proven” involvement of the Syrian government in last week’s incident in Eastern Ghouta with alleged use of chemical weapons. To that end, the Russian party appealed to refrain from a line of forceful pressure on Damascus, to remain unprovoked and to try to contribute to the creation of normal conditions for the UN mission of chemical experts, which is currently present in the country, to have the opportunity to conduct thorough, objective and unprejudiced investigations on sites. This becomes especially topical in light of the increasing evidence that the accident in Eastern Ghouta was a result of staging by the inexorable opposition for the purposes of accusing officials in Damascus.
John Kerry promised to attentively study the arguments of the Russian party.
Sergey Lavrov also drew the attention of his conversation partner to the very dangerous consequences of a possible new armed intervention for the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa, where the effect of destabilising processes, that countries like Iraq and Libya are still experiencing, is especially acute.
The Ministers agreed to continue their contacts on all aspects of the Syrian crisis in the near future.

The two spoke today as well and it did no go well.  No surprise since, between the two calls, John Kerry appeared to blow off concerns expressed making statements declaring he knew a chemical weapon attack took place (when he knew no such thing) and that the attack was carried out by the Syrian government (when he knew no such thing). As Alex Lantier (Global Research) points out, "Kerry could not present a single fact, beyond his own lurid allegations, to justify the claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out a chemical attack in Ghouta."   Among other things, Kerry declared:

What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

Alex Lantier (WSWS) points out, "Washington has poisoned entire Iraqi cities with depleted uranium and white phosphorus."   As Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani (Al Jazeera via BRussells Tribunal) notes:

Iraq is poisoned. Thirty-five million Iraqis wake up every morning to a living nightmare of childhood cancers, adult cancers and birth defects. Familial cancers, cluster cancers and multiple cancers in the same individual have become frequent in Iraq.  
Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects - some never described in any medical books - are all around, in increasing numbers. Trapped in this hellish nightmare, millions of Iraqis struggle to survive, and they call for help
At long last, public pressure and media attention to this public health catastrophe prompted a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health to determine the prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. This study began in May-June 2012 and was completed in early October 2012. 
The WHO website says that this large-scale study was conducted in Baghdad (Karkh and Rasafa), Diyala, Anbar, Sulaymaniyah, Babel, Basrah, Mosul and Thi-Qar, with 10,800 households from 18 districts and a sample size of 600 households per district.  
The Independent (UK) reported that this study was due to be released in November 2012. But the report has not yet come out.

How lucky for John Kerry that the WHO report has still not emerged.

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