Thursday, September 12, 2013

He reads






Alsumaria reports that Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes Russia's initiative to ease the tensions (with regards to the US march to war on Syria) by supervising any chemical weapons and putting them under international supervision.

At 9:00 pm EST yesterday, US President Barack Obama gave a nationally broadcast speech begrudgingly acknowledging the Russian effort.  From last night's speech (link is transcript with video option on the far right):

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory.  But these things happened.  The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it.  Because what happened to those people -- to those children -- is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.

Let me explain why.  If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.  As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.  Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield.  And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.

 First off, allegations are not "facts."  As Revolution newspaper notes, "Whether the deaths were the result of chemical weapons and, if so, whether the attack was launched by the Syrian government or by rebel forces, has not been independently verified. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry initially demanded that the Syrian government allow UN investigators into the area, but then when the Syrian regime responded that it would give inspectors unlimited access, Reuters reported that: '[A] U.S. official said such an offer was "too late to be credible" and Washington was all but certain that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had gassed its own people'."  Alex Lantier and Joe Kishore (WSWS) also note Barack's 'facts' were assertions,  "Without providing a scintilla of probative evidence, Obama repeated claims that the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on August 21. Obama tried to bolster this assertion with various unsubstantiated assertions, combined with lurid images of the victims of the attack."

Lurid images from YouTube videos.  As a US Senator was explaining to me of Senator Dianne Feinstein's idiotic support of war on Syria, Dianne's seeing YouTube videos, these are sparkly, new things to her.  This is the woman who, after all, was born three years before Charlie Chaplin made his silent film masterpiece Modern Times, she was born the year silent film star (and producer, director and writer) Mary Pickford announced her film retirement. Talkies, color pictures, black and white TVs, color TV productions, satellite TV, now streaming, it's all been such a long and crazy trip for Dianne who, at 80-years-old, is the oldest member of the US Senate.  Could whomever cuts her food for her show her the door to gracefully leave the Senate or are we next to see her with drool on her face during Senate hearings?  Or, worse, someone has to explain to her that "40 Days of Dating" is staged.  ("But I saw it on the computer thing!" Dianne insists.)

Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) points out the larger problems with Barack and Secretary of State John Kerry's 'intell':

Evidence of sketchy claims and lack of support for them came very early on in the propaganda process. The president and secretary of state made their initial appeal by claiming there would be no “boots on the ground.” The horrendously Orwellian phrase was meant to give them cover from criticism and get hesitant congress members on board. But when asked at a Senate hearing, Kerry hedged. “ I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.” The so-called gaffes were constant. When a reporter asked if the United States would be amenable to forsaking an attack if Assad gave up weapons, Kerry initially said it would be acceptable.
“Sure, if 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 a full and total accounting for that, but he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously.”
The White House and State Department back pedaled furiously from Kerry’s comment. His own spokesperson said that the secretary “was not making a proposal." The evil doers had exposed themselves as the aggressors that they are. They admitted to the world community that the stated reason for going to war is a sham and that there is nothing Assad can do to call off the dogs. Even if a diplomatic process begins, the United States and the other NATO nations will try something else to bring about the regime change that they claim not to want in Syria.

On the subject of the information and intelligence:

The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O'Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O'Bagy's employment, effective immediately.

Who is she?  Leslie Larson (New York Daily News) explains who and how she figures into the Syrian debate, "A Syria expert at a U.S. think tank, whose research was cited by both Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during Senate testimony, has been fired for lying about having a Ph.D."   Greg Myer (NPR) explains her conflicts were more than lying about a degree, "In an interview on Fox News and in other appearances, she came under criticism for serving as a both an independent analyst at her institute and for working on a contractual basis with an advocacy group that supports the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. That group subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition."

Poor John Kerry, he really has become the joke of the administration. 

Along with offering 'facts' that were not facts, Barack also made an illogical assertion.  How do you claim that you have a right to break international law in order to enforce international custom?

IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis has repeatedly explained how the law works.  We'll include her speaking to Peter Hart on FAIR's Counterspin two Fridays ago:

Phyllis Bennis:  Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal.  No other agency, institution, organization has that right.  So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press.  It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options.  Yeah, there are other options.  The problem is they're all illegal.  The Kosovo model was illegal.  What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto.  So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.'  Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.'  It's like the hammer and the nail.  If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention.  The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace.  And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force.  The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations.  Period.  Full stop.

It's hypocritical to argue that international custom must be upheld . . . by breaking international law.

It makes no sense.  Neither did today's US State Dept press briefings moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Based on what the President said last night and what the Secretary said yesterday afternoon, is it correct that the Administration wants to first work with the Russians to get a deal on securing the chemical weapons and taking care of them, and then take that agreement and somehow enshrine it in a UN Security Council resolution – a binding resolution, not a presidential statement – and use that as the basis for going forward? Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re getting a little ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: No, I know, but I’m asking about what your long – what your hope and intention is, based on what the President and the Secretary said yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me start with Geneva as the first step, since that, of course, is where the Secretary is heading. So as you all know, over the last 48 hours I guess it is, the credible threat of U.S. military action has created a diplomatic opportunity to remove the threat of chemical weapons in Syria without the use of force. The Secretary will be heading to Geneva, as I mentioned, later this evening to meet with not only Foreign Minister Lavrov, but we will also be bringing a team of experts to meet with their team of experts and discuss that.
So our goal here is to hear from the Russians about the modalities of their ideas that they have put forward, and to assess whether they will meet our requirement for the final disposition of Assad’s chemical weapons. In this stage of the process, our goal here is to test the seriousness of this proposal, to talk about the specifics of how this would get done, what are the mechanics of identifying, verifying, securing, and ultimately destroying the chemical weapons. And this requires, of course, a willingness from both sides. That’s what we’re focused on here.
At the same time, I would look at this as parallel tracks, or there are three tracks happening at once. One is that. The second is the UN and their efforts that are going to be ongoing in New York. We will not be – the Secretary will not be negotiating or discussing a UN Security Council resolution as part of the next couple of days. That is not our goal here. Those efforts and that work will be done in New York. And then, of course, there is the efforts that we’ve had underway with Congress. And there’s no question, and it doesn’t come as a surprise – in fact, we welcome it, as the President said last night – that they would take into account the events of the last couple of days.

QUESTION: I understand. But are you – are – is it your desire, is it the Administration’s desire, to see any potential, acceptable agreement with Russia on the weapons – is it your desire to have that as part of or at least referenced in a Security – a binding Security Council resolution?

MS. PSAKI: We do – we are working towards, of course, a binding UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: That would include – that would be the enforcement mechanism for the agreement with the – because an agreement just between Russia and Syria on this is not going to be good enough for you, is it? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: There’s no question that there has to be an international community engagement here and role. What that is and the form it takes, we’re not quite there yet. But when I say credibility and verifiability, that’s all related to what the outcome would be.

QUESTION: So it is – is it – so is it correct or not that you want to see this – if some kind of acceptable agreement can be reached with the Russians, that you would like to see that as part of a UN resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to litigate what could or couldn’t be in a UN resolution.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re pursuing that.

QUESTION: Then let’s leave --

MS. PSAKI: We’re focused on day-by-day here.

QUESTION: Then let’s leave that out of it for a second --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and just talk about the UN resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What do you want this resolution to have in it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to tell you about what we would like to see --

QUESTION: But do you – all right. But you do want a resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. That’s what we’re pushing for, absolutely.

QUESTION: Yes. Why do you want – why is it – I guess I’m asking – this is a major and significant change from last week and from even on Monday, because the Russians have still said that they don’t want a resolution. And on Friday, your Ambassador to the UN said it would be – what did she say – “It is naive to think that Russia is on the verge of changing its position and allowing the UN Security Council to assume its rightful role as the enforcer of international peace and security. In short, the Security Council the world needs to deal with this urgent crisis is not the Security Council we have.” Now that was Samantha Power on Friday, not John Bolton in 2003, and frankly it makes her – she kind of sounded more – makes him sound kind of moderate, those lines. Why is it that you now think that the Russians, even after Lavrov and Putin said they don’t want a resolution, will go for one?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: And this is when Lavrov and Putin said this yesterday, after the whole – their whole thing about getting a deal with the Syrians.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I can’t obviously predict what the Russians will or will not – I understand – I saw their comments yesterday. Let me take the first part first, the reference to the speech. There’s no question that in the last 36 hours events have changed. And leadership is having the flexibility to seize opportunities when there’s potential for them. We’re not naive about the challenges. We don’t think this will be easy. But that’s why we’re going to Geneva, and these events of the last 36 hours happened post the speeches that you’re quoting.

QUESTION: I understand. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the problem here – and maybe you don’t – maybe I’m misunderstanding what the Russian position is – the Russians have said that they’re willing to push the Syrians for a deal on the chemical – on their chemical weapons --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- an agreement on that. They have not said that they’re willing to have this go to the UN or they’re willing even to have a UN Security Council resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your Ambassador to the UN and the National Security Advisor, the former UN ambassador, have both said, essentially, it’s a waste of time at the – the President said that, essentially. So I don’t get why it is now even – I don’t get why it is now that you think that such an endeavor would be productive.

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of things. One is a lot of those comments from our Ambassador to the UN and Susan Rice and the President came before the last two days. I understand you’re also referring to the comments of the Russians.


MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict what they’ll be willing to support. But what has changed is that on Monday, when Foreign Minister Lavrov came out and made his statement, that was a more serious statement that showed a greater willingness to engage on this than we had seen in the past.

QUESTION: But his statement said nothing about the UN.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Or any kind of an enforcement mechanism, right?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. And those negotiations and discussions will happen at the UN with appropriate UN counterparts. But there’s no question that was a positive step and an indication of more of an openness than what we had even 72 hours ago.

QUESTION: All right. Well, assuming that the UN Ambassador and the former – the current National Security Advisor, former UN Ambassador speak for the Administration, is it still the Administration’s view that it was – it is naive to think that the Russians are on the verge of changing their minds in the Security Council, and that then it’s not realistic – the first was Power, this is Rice – it’s not realistic that it’s going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well I --

QUESTION: Is that still the position of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I read and watched both of their speeches.

QUESTION: Right. But is that still the position of the Administration --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, the --

QUESTION: -- given the fact that the Russians have not said anything or made any sign that they’re willing to allow the Security Council --

MS. PSAKI: You are correct, and I’m not implying that they have. But things have changed in the last 36 hours. We’re working towards a goal here of working with them. I can’t predict what will or won’t come out of the UN Security Council. I know they have a meeting later this afternoon. And beyond that, everyone in the Administration who gave those speeches are all working towards the same effort.

QUESTION: Okay. But I can – I’m a big fan of the Emerson line that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but I – aren’t you, by going back to the UN, guilty of the naivete that Ambassador Power discussed on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I don’t see how what the Russians have said changes anything at the UN, and I don’t see how it can be acceptable for you for there just to some kind of a buddy-buddy agreement between Putin and Assad on the chemical weapons if there’s no enforcement, as --

MS. PSAKI: I just said we’re fully supportive of and pushing for a resolution. What I’m --

QUESTION: I know. But why isn’t that – why doesn’t that make --

MS. PSAKI: Let me just finish.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: What I’m also conveying is that we don’t conduct diplomacy and foreign policy with inflexibility, just to say the things we said last week, when events on the ground change and when a greater opportunity presents itself.

QUESTION: So would you say that the Administration – despite what Ambassador Power said on Friday about being naive, you would say that it is not naive to think that Russia is now on the verge of changing it? I mean, --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we have --

QUESTION: -- either you are guilty of being naive, as she said on Friday, or you’re not.

MS. PSAKI: I simply don’t think it’s that simple.

QUESTION: All right.

Tom Hayden (Los Angeles Times) observes:

The dominant mantra we heard from the president’s allies Tuesday was that it was the credible threat of American military force that caused Russia, Syria and Iran to agree to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons. If that argument keeps us out of another war, it deserves some credit, even if it's only partly true.
But it could also be said that it was the “credible threat” of democracy -- a defeat of his war plan in Congress and in public opinion polls -- that caused the Obama administration to back away from the military brink and seek an honorable way out.

Let's note some reactions to the speech.   Frank Rich (New York Magazine) offers this on the speech, "He started with a call for military action, then veered into a prayer for diplomacy before trailing off into an inchoate 'stay tuned' denouement. I guess this proves that if you mate a hawk with a dove, you end up with the rhetorical equivalent of turducken. I'd like to believe there was some other aim, but what could it have been? A humanitarian preemption of ABC’s The Bachelor? This address should have been put on hold by the White House the moment the attack was put on hold because the urgency of the appeal for force had evaporated. Now, if the Hail Putin Pass proves a Russian-Syrian bluff or some other form of mirage, the president can't give the same speech again, minus the diplomacy part. One prime-time strike to sell the country on air strikes, and you're out."  Truth-Out posts a Real News Network (link is text and transcript) of a discussion on the speech moderated by Jaisal Noor and featuring Rania Masri and Chris Hedges.  Excerpt.

NOOR: So, Rania, let's start with you. As an activist that's been speaking out against this possible intervention, against U.S. involvement in Syria, what's your response to this speech? Obama asked Congress to delay a possible vote authorizing intervention in Syria.

MASRI: It really was what we had expected. I mean, those of us who've been spending time at the Hill and following the news, President Obama's speech was what we had expected. The postponement was expected. And [incompr.] that he postponed it not only because the Russians provided him with a really strong political way out, a political possibility for chemical weapons deterrence in Syria, but also because he simply didn't have the votes in Congress. Were this to go to the House, it would have failed. It might even have failed in the Senate.

NOOR: And, Chris, I want to pose that question to you. It seems like within the past few weeks and days, this war has become or this possible intervention in Syria has become increasingly unpopular. At least that's how it's been reported in the press. What's your response to his speech and the fact also that he had to delay this vote in Congress?

HEDGES: Well, Rania is right. He didn't have the votes, so he had no choice.
But I think this is really symptomatic of an exhaustion on the part of the American public after 12 years of war, 12 years in Afghanistan, ten years in Iraq. They have seen this scenario before. The clips of atrocities, the appealing to American exceptionalism, the high-blown rhetoric of patriotism. Kerry even trotted out once again World War II, calling this the Munich moment and referring to the graves, Normandy. And none of it worked.
It didn't work because at this point people have been lied to so many times. The excuses and propaganda that is pushed forth and has been pushed forth year after year just fall flat. It doesn't work anymore. And I think people understand that when you drop Tomahawk missiles, each Tomahawk missile carries a 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bomb or 166 cluster bombs. And they're talking about dropping hundreds of them.
You know, this circular logic whereby we go in and kill civilians--and Dempsey, the chief of staff, said there would be, quote-unquote, collateral damage to stop the Assad stopping regime from killing civilians, it just--it doesn't work anymore after Iraq and Afghanistan. I think we're really seeing a kind of implosion of the myth of war, which has sustained these imperial adventures. And I think Obama just got cornered. You know, left, right, it didn't make any difference. The [incompr.] sick of it.
And let's not forget that internally, we are, like all dying empires, being hollowed out from the inside in terms of infrastructure. I live near Philly, I live in Princeton. The school system is shattered with closings and layoffs. Libraries are being shuttered. Head Start is being cut back. Unemployment benefits are not being extended. You know, we've reached a point of both physical and emotional exhaustion.

Libertarian Justin Raimondo ( points out:

We are told a Kerry gaffe, an impressive display of Putin’s diplomatic jiu-jitsu, and – most of all – the "credible threat" of war led to what the Obamaites and their media cheerleaders are hailing as a great victory for this administration. A look at the timeline of events, however, effectively debunks the official narrative.
The key development here wasn’t Kerry’s fumble and the Russian interception but the announcement by majority leader Harry Reid that the Senate vote on the war resolution would be delayed: the War Party simply didn’t have the votes. What the administration discovered, to their horror, was that the more they made their case to the American people the less support they had: every time Kerry opened his mouth, their poll numbers went down a few points, and a few more members of Congress came out against intervention.

The World Can't Wait Tweeted:

  1. No! 's speech did not convince us to support an illegitimate, unjust and immoral war with

Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) dissects five claims from the speech:

1. “I possess the authority to order military strikes.”
No you don’t, Mr. President. Only Congress has the authority to declare war, and ordering military strikes would be a clear act of war, thus violating the Constitution. It would also violate the War Powers Act, which says that the President can’t engage in hostilities without a declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization unless there is “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” And Syria has done no such thing.

A.N.S.W.E.R. decodes Barack's speech:

The U.S. war threat against Syria has not ended. But the particular path to war has required a shift because of resounding domestic and global opposition.
The U.S. Congress will now be asked to pass a different resolution than the one originally supported by the White House. The new resolution will be constructed to authorize Obama to carry out military strikes if the U.S. government decides that Syria is not in full compliance with a new UN resolution calling for its chemical weapons stockpiles to be totally destroyed.
This was precisely the scenario used by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney when they launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Even though the Iraqi government complied with UN weapons inspections demands and was actively disarming its own military forces, Bush simply declared that Saddam Hussein was not complying with UN resolutions and launched the U.S. war that toppled the government.
In Syria, like with Iraq, Libya and Iran for the past decades, the U.S. government goal of toppling independent, nationalist governments uses an assortment of tactics, including economic and financial sanctions, funding and arming internal domestic opposition, providing international legitimacy and recognition to the internal opposition, cyber attacks, and in some cases direct bombings and invasion.

Fred Goldstein (Workers World) also views the speech as a charade, "Many are hoping that this proposal will put the skids under the U.S. war drive against Syria. But that would be a fatal error and a complete misunderstanding of Washington, the Pentagon, the oil companies and the military-industrial complex, which are behind the drive to overthrow the independent, sovereign government of Syria."  BBC News provides this video reaction of various people in the Middle East to an attack on Syria.  Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report -- link is text and audio) has a strong commentary on the lies used to call for war on Syria.

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