Friday, August 30, 2013

He who plays with himself goes solo





Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) report, "A sharply divided British Parliament on Thursday rejected the immediate use of force as a response to suspected chemical attacks in Syria, putting Washington on notice that it would be deprived of the assistance of its most trusted ally if it launches a strike on Damascus in the next few days."  Robert Winnett (Telegraph of London) calls it "an embarrassing defeat" for UK Prime Minister David Cameron with the 285 votes against an attack on Syria and 272 for it. Winnett points out, "The Prime Minister had played a leading role in persuading President Obama of the need for action against Syria -- with Britain tabling a draft United Nations resolution – and the Parliamentary vote may also undermine Mr Cameron’s international reputation."  Annabelle Dickinson ( offers, "In what is thought to be an unprecedented parliamentary reverse over British military action, Tory rebels joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister."

Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Osborn (Reuters) report UK Prime Minister David Cameron is being forced to take the matter to Parliament, "After imploring the world not to stand idly by over Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, Cameron was forced into an awkward climbdown on Wednesday when the opposition Labour party and lawmakers in his own party said they wanted more evidence before voting for military action."

The Labour and Conservative revolt was actually started by MP Diane Abbott who made clear her opposition earlier this week.   Rowena Mason (Guardian) reported:

 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.
[. . .]
"I voted against the Iraq War. At the moment, I can't see anything that would make me vote for intervention in Syria," she said.
"Essentially it's a civil war. What Libya and Egypt have taught us is that these situations in the Middle East are complex. It's not good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats."

But this apparently isn't Tony Blair's Labour anymore.  Abbott was not ostracized, strong-armed or stigmatized.  Instead, as George Eaton (New Statesman) noted yesterday, Ed Miliband stood up and showed real leadership:

 He announced on Twitter that the party would table an amendment to the government's (then non-existent) motion requiring Cameron to return to the Commons to consult MPs after the UN team had reported on the Ghouta massacre. He added: "Parliament must tomorrow agree criteria for action, not write a blank cheque." Labour sources subsequently briefed that were the amendment not accepted, the party would vote against the motion.

As Ed knows,  the move also further draws a line between Labour and Tony Blair -- something desperately needed if Labour is going to return to power in the near future.  It draws a line because Iraq and Syria are tied together by comparisons and it draws a line because Tony Blair has mistakenly thought he had a voice the world need to hear and has spent the last days demanding an attack on Syria.

Melanie Hall (Telegraph of London) notes 'prophet' Tony sees a "nightmare scenario" coming.  Andy Wells (Daily Star) noted:

After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil, to watch but not to intervene, to ratchet up language but not to engage in the hard, even harsh business of changing reality on the ground.
But we have collectively to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work.

At his website, Blair has even posted a column he wrote this week for the Times of London calling for action on Syria:

  People wince at the thought of intervention. But contemplate the future consequence of inaction and shudder: Syria mired in carnage between the brutality of Assad and various affiliates of al-Qaeda, a breeding ground of extremism infinitely more dangerous than Afghanistan in the 1990s; Egypt in chaos, with the West, however unfairly, looking as if it is giving succour to those who would turn it into a Sunni version of Iran. Iran still — despite its new president — a theocratic dictatorship, with a nuclear bomb. Our allies dismayed. Our enemies emboldened. Ourselves in confusion. This is a nightmare scenario but it is not far-fetched.

People wince, actually, at the thought of Tony Blair giving advice.  Even those who would not call for him to be tried for War Crimes re: Iraq remember his lie that Iraq had WMD and they could be launched on England within 45 minutes.  As Glenn Greenwald revealed in 2009 while at Salon:

The British are conducting an actual public investigation into the litany of false claims made by their government to justify the attack on Iraq.  Even for those who have long known it, the disclosures are underscoring just how truly criminal this deceit was:
An Iraqi taxi driver may have been the source of the discredited claim that Saddam Hussein could unleash weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, a Tory MP claimed today.
Adam Holloway, a defence specialist, said MI6 obtained information indirectly from a taxi driver who had overheard two Iraqi military commanders talking about Saddam’s weapons.
The 45-minute claim was a key feature of the dossier about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that was released by Tony Blair in September 2002. Blair published the information to bolster public support for war.
Other disclosures reveal that Blair was making claims that his own intelligence services were vehemently rejecting.

But for many Labour voters Blair's greatest crime was the way he degraded and destroyed Labour.  That's his 'New Labour' neoliberal policies, his war crimes and so much more.  Gordon Brown's biggest problem as prime minister was attempting to fix a few of Blair's errors without calling them errors.

Simon Hoggart (Guardian) points out:

A spectre hung over the prime minister's speech. Like most phantoms, the spectre wasn't corporeally present – it has been holidaying on a millionaire's yacht – but Tony Blair was there in spirit all right. Cameron said carefully over and over again that this was different from Iraq. "I am deeply mindful of previous interventions," he said. Thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan, the well of public confidence had been poisoned.

Had Brown broke with Blair publicly, Labour might have been able to start the rebuilding process that Ed Miliband has been stuck with.  Some wrongly assume Blair can be 'rehabbed' or note that his polling is not as awful as it could be.  Blair's inability to apologize for his actions(he still maintains he was right -- even with his lies revealed) make image rehab impossible.  And when you look at his polling, you find out just what a liability he is to the future of Labour -- the younger you go, the more he's hated.  40 and under have less tolerance for him.

Blair's support for an attack on Syria probably helped motivate protests like the one Sarah Ensor reported on in "'Don't Bomb Syria' protesters block Whitehall" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Up to 1,000 people blocked Whitehall and stopped traffic in central London yesterday evening, Wednesday, against David Cameron’s threat to bomb Syria.
The Stop the War Coalition (STW) called the protest at short notice once the British and US governments looked set for an immediate attack Syria. The current crisis began with a chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week.

The British parliament has been recalled for today, Thursday, to discuss an attack. The degree of hostility to intervention is so high that Cameron has had to retreat from voting on an immediate attack.

Obi, a student from London, was on her first demonstration. She told Socialist Worker, “This is a very flammable situation and the West could escalate it. Intervention won’t help the situation—we’ll just add fuel to the fire.”

Front bench Labour MP Diane Abbott addressed the crowd, saying she wanted to put it “beyond doubt” that she would vote against an attack.

Stop the War chair Jeremy Corbyn MP also spoke. Other speakers included Steve Hedley from RMT the transport union—who called for civil disobedience—and Mark Campbell, chair of Kurdish Federation in Britain.

This does not mean US President Barack Obama will not still launch an attack on Syria.  It does mean he has lost the fig leaf he needed.  The United Nations Security Council is very unlikely to approve an attack.  This would make a US attack illegal.  By having England (again) stand side-by-side (as they did with the attack on Iraq) would give the appearance to many that the attack was legitimate (as with Iraq, this crowd would dismiss international law).   Without England at his side (at least currently), Barack is left stranded.  France (as noted this morning when I discussed what 2 White House friends were saying) is not thought to have the same impression for Americans that England would carry -- in part because 2002 and 2003 saw US officials and the US press attacking France publicly and repeatedly.

He is also facing a Congressional critique has been led by Senator Rand Paul.  Alex Pappas (Daily Caller) notes that Paul has argued an attack on Syria is without any US "national security" rationale. And as in England, it's taking only one person to stand (and survive a flurry of attacks) for others to start questioning.  Michael O'Brien and Tom Curry (NBC News) report:

A growing minority of lawmakers in both parties are demanding that President Barack Obama seek approval from Congress before launching an attack against Syria.
Most senior leaders in Congress appear content with the administration’s efforts to keep lawmakers abreast of what appears to be a fast-approaching military response to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against opponents in that country’s protracted civil war.
But ahead of any possible military action, a chorus of voices is calling for at least a Congressional debate, if not an explicit vote authorizing the use of force. 

David Lightman and William Douglas (McClatchy) add, "House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Wednesday wrote a lengthy letter to the president, asking about the administration’s objectives. It came after a day of mounting concern among lawmakers anxious for an explanation for the possible action against Syria."  And Rebecca Shabad (The Hill) reports, "More than 100 lawmakers, including 18 Democrats, have signed a letter that says President Obama would violate the Constitution by striking Syria without first getting authorization from Congress.  A total of 116 lawmakers had signed the letter as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, highlighting bipartisan interest and growing momentum in ensuring a role for Congress in any decision to use force in Syria."  AP reports that Iraq War veteran and US House Rep Tammy Duckworth has come out today against a US strike on Syria.  Speaking in Thailand at a Bangkok college, Duckworth voiced her concerns about US military being used to assist people who may be part of al Qaeda.


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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who can he blame this time?






We're going to kick off with Truth Dig's Robert Scheer and his thoughts on an attack on Syria.  We called out Scheer for his verbal attacks on Ralph Nader and Hillary Clinton and have avoided him since.  He's getting pulled back in now because he spoke out against the Iraq War and he's speaking out against an attack on Syria.  We'll ignore him with regards to election politics (although, who knows, he may now regret his blind cheer leading of Barack) but I will applaud him for speaking out.  Ava and I are planning a piece for Sunday on all the human crap that has chosen to remain silent -- but, wait, is silent promoting yourself?  No, they're not silent, they Tweet and blog about their albums, concerts and movies -- they can hawk their wares, they just can't call out the illegal spying or the attack on Syria.  But, oh, how they had a great deal to say when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  I strongly and loudly applaud Robert Scheer for having the ethics to speak out today as he did during the Bully Boy Bush reign.

Philip Maldari:  So in this piece, you sort of run down the history of the US close relationship with Saudi Arabia indicating that the Saudis are very interested in encouraging an attack on the Assad regime and, in this case, the possible -- I'm using the word "possible" -- nerve gas attack on the civilians there as a pretext to your way of thinking.  Do you want to elaborate?

Robert Scheer:  Look, the US record in the whole MidEast is so tawdry, so wrong headed for so long, I mean, gosh you could go back to the overthrow of [Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh in Iran, you know the last really significant, secular, democratically elected leader.  Now we're financing the military and they've overthrown a democratically elected government in Egypt. And for  John Kerry and others to oh-we're-shocked-and-we-have-to-act-and-we-have-to-respond?  No, the US does not have to do anything.  I mean this idea that we are somehow the moral force keeping the peace when we're still the people who believe in using nuclear weapons.  We're the only ones who have used nuclear weapons.  And we just went through the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a couple of weeks ago and we still, as a nation, have not absorbed the significance of killing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.  And yet we get on our high horse, here is Kerry -- you know, how did Kerry come to prominence?  He was an officer in Vietnam and, you know, War Crimes were committed, 3.5 million people were killed.  So I'm only going through this whole litany to challenge the whole idea here that somehow a US response or France -- the great colonial power -- or England, that they have to respond.  It's utter nonsense.  But the real subtext here, the important subtext is this is all being done for a theocracy, for oil.  This is all driven by Saudi Arabia for gosh sake.  This is, all markers [point to], as I pointed out in my column Bandar bin Sultan the guy who was the Saudi ambassador in Washington for two decades -- and they're the great winners in this thing -- whether you're talking about Egypt or Syria or anything else that's happening.  They have made Iran the great enemy here.  Somehow Iran is identified with terrorism and so Syria has a connection with Iran and Hezbollah and so forth.  And the real issue here is whether Saudi money and along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates should be allowed to buy, purchase what was the Arab Spring.  And that's what's happened.

Philip Maldari:  And in the meantime, we've got the video of hundreds of men, women and children were murdered.  We're talking about no visible trauma on their bodies.  It has not been proven by the UN inspectors yet that it's nerve gas.  This is playing on TVs around the world.

Robert Scheer:  Yes.

Philip Maldari:  And for you to suggest, 'Oh well, what's a person to do' is just -- 

Robert Scheer:  No, no, no.  Not 'what's a person to do,' you know, no.  What is the United States to do.  And the idea that the United States has a responsibility everywhere in the world to be the moral force and decider and 'Oh, the UN inspectors got in there too late' and so forth.  And by the way, you're talking about a people killed what about the people killed in Egypt?  We didn't do anything.  We still haven't even cut off aid even though legally our president's required to cut off.  So we are the ones who are intimately involved in a military coup to destroy democracy in Egypt, the most important Arab country in the MidEast by far.  You know, we are the people who supported intervention in Egypt forever.  And, no, we are not the great decider, old George W. Bush.  Why do you buy into that?

Philip Maldari:  [snapping] I'm not buying into anything! 

Robert Scheer:  You know what about these pictures, there are pictures all over the place of people killed in Egypt.  Did we then intervene to prevent this military coup?  No.  So this hysteria that is created and then somehow -- What I am challenging is, yes, the basic assumption that the US is the great moral force that should intervene everywhere in the world.  And what's happening in Syria, which we should understand here, we don't know, it's very murky, who is creating, producing poison gas or what have you.  But the fact of the matter is that the people who are opposed to the regime are people who we claim are terrorists.  They're supporters of al Qaeda, they're coming in from all over the world.  We forget that it was Saudi Arabia, the same Bandar who supported the Taliban in Afghanistan where the whole war on terror started. And Saudi Arabia's financing the opposition in Syria, they're supporting the military in Egypt and they were one of the three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan and we're now following their lead.

Philip Maldari:  So in the meantime, Bob, we've got Obama already having said, more than a year ago, there's some kind of red line if chemical weapons are used in Syria.  So he appears, if he does nothing, to be essentially a wimp internationally and that is actually his reputation with Republicans right now.  So that's okay with you?

Robert Scheer:  What is this language wimp?  This is how we discuss foreign policy? Because Obama's speech on this or his comments on this the other day were very clear that you should have evidence, and you should be international and the UN should -- and so on.  All the things that Bush did not do.  Everyone's forgetting this horrible war that Bush waged on Iraq -- which by the way extended Iran's influence enormously and put people who had been living in exile in Iran in power in Iraq.  And Saddam Hussein, by the way, is someone who did use chemical warfare.  We supported Saddam Hussein.  That's what Rumsfeld went and met with Saddam Hussein after he had used that against Iran in the Iraq - Iran War.  We didn't think that was such a horrendous thing.  And then we invented the charge of Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be a big lie.  You would think after waging this war and totally upending the whole life and politics of the MidEast on the basis of lies that you would have some humility.  Where is humility in foreign policy?  George Washington in his farewell address said, "never use force in international relations, use gentle means."  He was against this arrogance and foreign entanglements.  The whole notion of the American republic was not to be an empire, not to follow the lead of Rome, France and England and their empires -- Spain.  And so you're talking like -- what is this wimp language, it's stupid. Frankly, it's stupid.  What is this machismo?

We'll stop there.  Robert Scheer's exactly right and if Philip is more concerned about Barack's image than Syrians who would be harmed in killed in missile strikes?

Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (Reuters) report today, "People in Damascus stocked up on supplies on Wednesday and some left homes close to potential targets as U.S. officials described plans for multi-national strikes on Syria that could last for days."  And Philip's fretting over Barack's image?  Where are the priorities?  And Philip needs to stop talking about Republicans -- it was the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show last week (Diane was not part of the broadcast) when the guest host and 3 journalists advocated for war (if you're late to the party, see "Media: Pimping War") and basically called Barack a p**sy.

Philip really needs to re-examine why Lew Hill started Pacifica Radio and ask himself why he's at Pacifica?  What a sad day for Pacifica, as an on air (with KPFA for too many years -- forced retirement needs to be raised at Pacifica) implores for war on the basis of 'not attacking will mean the man I want to suck off will be called a wimp.'  Actually, Philip should have been removed from the air in 2008 when he was saying, on air, that Barack was a Socialist.  At this point, Philip's KPFA's Bertha Mason -- who knows what horrors took place before he was confined to the attic and seen as insane?

Picking up on a point Robert Scheer made above, we'll note Robert Fisk (Independent via ZNet):


If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.

Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.

It's a point that pops up when Julian Pecquet (The Hill) interviews former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:

Airstrikes on Syria would turn the U.S. military into “al Qaeda's air force,” former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told The Hill.
The outspoken anti-war activist said any such action would plunge the United States into another war in the Middle East and embolden Islamist militants fighting Bashar Assad's regime.
“So what, we're about to become Al Qaeda's air force now?” Kucinich said. “This is a very, very serious matter that has broad implications internationally. And to try to minimize it by saying we're just going to have a 'targeted strike' — that's an act of war. It's not anything to be trifled with.”

Kucinch spoke out then and speaks out now.  Another person who spoke out against war on Iraq and speaks out against the push for war on Syria is Sara Flounders.  From this Workers World video:

Sara Flounders: A big thing on Syria, and a reason that the US is determined to destroy it, to shred it, to rip it apart is that it is a secular state and there is nationalized property.  And, as Barbara just described, there's a rich culture.  There's enormous -- whether it's in TV or it's archaeological or its the high education level, or it's the fantastic, really, I mean, the medical schools?  Top notch.  The pharmaceutical industry.   They want to destroy all of this.  And they also -- It's what they want to destroy.  It's what they're targeting in Iran.  The idea of a country using its oil wealth for its own development and the development of the culture and the educational level of its people and a huge improvement in life expectancy -- a big cut in child mortality.  That's big accomplishments.  But the very fact that Syria -- it's an example to the whole region --  could be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, secular state.  And it's secular, see.  And the US response has been how to bring in intolerant religious fanaticism.   And fund it.  And fund it and use it as a battering ram against any kind of progress.

Debra Sweet also spoke out against the Iraq War.  She and her group World Can't Wait are the only left group that has remain true and ethical with regards to opposing wars others folded shop (United for Peace and Justice) and others offered cover for Barack (and whine today -- but we'll save that for Sunday).  Debra is calling out proposed military action against Syria and she notes David Swanson so let's point out that he too called out the Iraq War and he's now calling out the proposed violence aimed at Syria:

But while the U.S. never contemplated an intervention to stop the killing in Egypt by an illegitimate government it supports, President Obama is already intervening in Syria, "supplying paramilitary material, intelligence, and training and working to define the politics of the armed opposition forces. Its close allies—especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey—are supplying weapons to these forces" according to Revolution.
The US Navy is putting ships into place for an action that could have huge consequences: the killing of many more civilians in urban areas in aerial attacks; the increase in violence on both sides (both of which have terrorized the people); the widening of war into Iraq, Iran, Lebanon? Nothing good or the people of Syria can come of this "humanitarian intervention."
David Swanson wrote Saturday Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying:

“Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions.  The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can't pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather.  Or he couldn't if newspapers reported news.
“(Yes, illegal.  Read the U.N. Charter: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’)”
Ask the population of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia — the most recent recipients of U.S. "humanitarian intervention" — how it has U.S. presence worked out?

I only thought we were saving it for Sunday.  We'll touch on it there but I just went to the website of CodeStink.

Medea Benjamin, stop lying.

 She whines to Buzzfeed that it's just so hard these days to mobilize and Syria and blah blah.  Well you know what,  it's a lot damn harder to mobilize when you don't even bother to mention Syria on your website's front page.

3 action alerts, 3 events and 8 news items on their main page and six changing items (all listed below the slide show) and not one of them -- not one damn one -- is about Syria.

Medea, stop whoring.

You're not trying to do a damn thing re: Syria so stop lying.  No one needs it.  And no one needs to take you or Jodi seriously.  CodeStink is a joke because it was used in 2007 and 2008 to clear the path for Barack.  You whored before he was president, you whore now.

And don't bother telling me, "We had an action alert."  Yes, I found your attempt to get media attention ploy.  You just didn't put it on the main page of CodeStink, did you?  I already took a screen snap so don't try to rewrite history again.    Wait and see where Ava and I go on Sunday.  People's lives are at stake and we've had it with the Brigade of Barack's Bitches.  Maybe we'll call the piece "The Burial of Barack's Bitches"?  Tick-tock, find a spine by Saturday or be prepared for the humiliation that's coming.  That includes CodeStink's friends (I'm not referring to grassroots members of CodeStink -- believe me, when I say "CodeStink's friends," a shiver just went up Jodie's spine).

From the right, Libertarian Justin Raimondo ( spoke out strongly against war on Iraq.  (And was one of the first to call out the frauds of CodeStink, noting Medea's embrace of the Afghanistan War after Barack became president.)  Today he notes talk of attacking Syria:

The UN inspection team in Syria has been "delayed" due to a dispute among the rebels, who could not or would not guarantee the team’s safety. While the Assad government has granted them access, the suburb of Damascus where the alleged chemical attacks occurred is in rebel-controlled territory. Western news media aren’t reporting the reason for the delay, mostly sticking with the official UN statement:
“Following yesterday’s attack on the U.N. convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team. Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.”
The "complexities of the site" include a rebel occupation force that has everything to fear from a real inspection. These are same people responsible for serial hoaxes, some of them pretty crude, and all designed to fool us into believing Assad’s forces had launched a poison gas attack – not against rebel forces but against civilian bystanders. The last UN inspection led to the conclusion that if anyone had used chemical weapons it was the rebels, and after this tremendous buildup that’s the last news the US and its Syrian sock-puppets want to hear.
Of course it’s just a coincidence that the US government told the UN inspection team to turn back even before they arrived on the scene, with Washington claiming they already have enough evidence to convict the Assad regime out of hand.

At the State Dept today, their very own Minnie Pearl handled another briefing.  Could someone tell spokesperson Marie Harf that if she's going to be a spokesperson, she needs to pay attention to her appearance?  That means dressing appropriately, combing your hair before the briefing and choosing a non-ridiculous pair of glasses.  Those tasks shouldn't be too difficult, Jay Carney manages to accomplish them before every one of his White House press briefings and doesn't appear to be winded or wiped out from doing so.  Marie Harf's annoying "let me finish, I'm talking" b.s. is also starting to tick off the press so her superior may need to talk to her about that.

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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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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Barack 'N Boots






Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and text), guest host Frank Sesno moderated a discussion on Syria with Susan Glasser (POLITICO), Joshua Landis (Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma) and David Schenker (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) which was much stronger than the crap offered the previous Friday.  As Ava and I noted in "Media: Pimping War," Friday's second hour of the program, guest hosted by the hideous Tom Gjelten, kicked off with 15 minutes of basically calling US President Barack Obama a p**sy for not  bombing Syria.  Warren Strobel and Barbara Slavin were outright itching for war and ridiculing him.  We have on problem with the ridicule of any government official, but as Ava and I pointed out:

NPR refuses to question the credibility of the administration with regards to spying on the American people, despite one revelation after another, despite one lie after another.  But the network explains that if Barack "doesn't react in some more forceful way" with Syria, he will lose credibility. Those are the priorities when media whores gather.

Friday, while NPR pimped war, Jason Ditz ( pointed out, "Officials continue hyping Wednesday’s allegations of a chemical weapons strike, saying that they believe such an attack probably happened even though they don’t have any actual proof to back that up." The doubts continue today.  No proof has yet emerged of anything.

The Diane Rehm Show features a photo of an apparently able-bodied man, able to hold a sign aloft, one that declares, "Dear Free World Enjoy Watching Us Burn."  If you're so bothered, Mr. Coward, get your chicken ass out of Lebanon (where the photo was taken) and fight for your damn country.  In other word, Baby Chicken S**t, stop expecting someone else to fight battles your too damn scared to fight. (And probably not a good idea to echo Rhianna's tag in a song on your poster when the song she sings "just gonna stand there and watch me burn" is entitled "Love The Way You Lie."  Just saying.)

Yesterday, on The KPFA Evening News, Glenn Reeder spoke with Conn Hallinan (Foreign Policy In Focus) about the alleged gassing.

Conn Hallinan:  The problem is that you can't talk about the [President Bashar al-] Assad government and the insurgency.  There are, I don't know, five or six different variations of the insurgency.  Even the Gulf Cooperation Council -- which is the group of monarchies that support the insurgency -- they don't see eye to eye. Saudi Arabia has locked horns with Qatar because Saudi Arabia is extremely anti-Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.  So the two of them are locked in a competition over the insurgency not only in Syria but also in the recent coup in Egypt.  So we don't know who all the actors are here.  I mean when someone says, 'Would we do this to ourselves?,' there isn't any 'we' in Syria, there isn't any unified 'we' in Syria to this.

Glenn Reeder:  You're talking about the opposition.

Conn Hallinan:  Absolutely.  Anyone could have done this.  And again this is not to say that I entirely rule out that the Assad government didn't do this or that someone in the military didn't do this.  It's just that, when you line up all of the ducks, they're not in a row and I think at this point you have to fall back on sort of old school journalism: You know, if your mother tells you that she loves you, you need three unimpeachable sources to be sure about that.  And I think that this is one of those cases.  The Syrian government has agreed to the investigation so let's see where the investigation goes at this point.

Glenn Reeder:  Okay, if it turns out that hundreds of civilians were gassed, does it matter who did it? In terms of whether the US -- or the West -- but we're -- let's just stick to the US -- should become involved?  I mean, despite what are now rivers of innocent blood flowing, should outsiders stand aside and let the country fight it out the way the US did in the deadliest war in United States history, the Civil War?

Conn Hallinan:  Yeah, exactly.  I mean, here's the problem.  Let's say the United States and France and Britain get involved and probably involve Turkey to a certain extent too -- what does it mean? On the simplest level it could mean that the United States would attempt to eliminate the Syrian air force which they could do fairly easily.  And they wouldn't even have to use airplanes to do it, they could do it with Tomahawks, they could do it with stand off missiels  they could pretty much take out the Syrian air force.  Okay, so what?  You still have this stalemate going on.  So you say, 'Well okay, we're going to invade and we're going to overthrow the Assad government.'  Okay.  So you overthrow the Assad government and that would be more difficult to do but it's possible you could certainly do it.  And then what?  And then you get in a fight with the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant -- what do you do with the Kurds?  I mean, this makes Afghanistan look like a cakewalk.  This is one of the most important Arab countries in the Middle East and the United States or its allies are going to intervene in its civil war?  This is going to be -- it's going to be just a disaster.  And I can't -- I can't  -- When I start thinking about all the dominoes that are going to come down from this one, it's very sobering.   The United States doesn't particularly want to do this.  And if you recall there was this report last week from the Joint-Chiefs of Staff of where they said basically we don't -- as far as the war goes -- we couldn't make a difference but if we won it for the other side, those people wouldn't be our allies.  And they wouldn't.

The report Conn Hallinan is referring to is reports on a letter from the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, which is now online and you can read it [PDF format warning] at the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Democratic Party website:

To the specific point in your letter, there are certainly actions short of tipping the balance of the conflict that could impose a cost on them [Syrian government] for unacceptable behavior.  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.  In a variety of ways, the use of U.S. 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 thr side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor.  Today, they are not.  The crisis in Syria is tragic and complex.  It is a deeply rooted, long-term conflict among multiple factions, and violent struggles for power will continue after Assad's rule ends.  We should evaluate the effectiveness of limited military options in this context.  

That's from a private letter to US House Rep Eliot Engel  which Engel then leaked to the Associated Press (Dempsey knows Engel leaked it) as part of Engel's decade long war against Syria.  It's not just that he teamed with Bully Boy Bush on this, it's also that Engel is seen as representing the interests of the Israeli government in the US Congress and not the interests of the people who voted him into Congress.  Those ties to the Israeli government do not help his cause on the international stage.

On Syria, I was asked by a friend with The Nation if I would weigh in on something. Bob Dreyfuss has a piece calling for calm in the face of cries for war on Syria:

 Now, however, with the usual suspects on the right calling for blood, expect the White House to come under heavy pressure from liberal imperialists and others -- including Secretary of State Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice -- to take aggressive action.

If I have the right article, I was told Valerie Jarrett's name was in the list, this is what I'm weighing in on.  Dreyfuss got called out for a piece a little while back which included Jarrett, Power, Hillary Clinton and maybe Rice.  I didn't weigh in because I hadn't read it and didn't hear of it until after there was a mini-tsunami.  If someone feels Dreyfuss or anyone is writing something sexist, they should absolutely call it out. I'm not a Dreyfuss fan, that's been noted here before.  I have no desire to rescue him from criticism.

But if Dreyfuss is covering the administration (and he is) and women in the administration are pushing for something (and they and John Kerry are), his noting women pushing for something or his calling them out for pushing for something is not sexism.  Women can be called out for their actions.  This can be done kindly or rudely.  As can happen when calling out men.  Tone doesn't matter and he can mock them and that's not sexism.  It only is sexist if he's mocking them using sexist stereotypes. Calling out women, in and of itself, for promoting war is not sexism.  Apparently when the piece was published (I think Friday or Saturday -- I'm going by the phone call details), a small round of "He's being sexist!" started up.  As the piece was explained to me, Jarrett's name was in it (Kerry's wasn't).  But Bob Dreyfuss calling out Jarret, Rice and Power is not sexism.  His mocking them is not sexism.  And let's refrain, please, from stupid notion that 'we haven't had three powerful women before so we shouldn't criticize!'  That's as stupid as refraining from criticizing Barack due to his skin tone.

In echoes of the rush to war on Iraq, US government officials insist Syria has gassed their own.  (There's no proof of that and with UN inspectors fired on today -- it would seem more likely that rebels either were behind a gassing or didn't want the alleged incident investigated.)   Saddam Hussein, we were told by Bully Boy Bush and others, gassed his own.  This was shocking!  This was chemical warfare!  The US government was outraged that chemical warfare would be used on a people!!!!  Clearly, such outrage meant, the US would never tolerate or aid in chemical weapons being used on a people!

But . . .  Press TV reports today:

Newly declassified CIA documents show that the United States had a hand in Iraq’s deadly chemical attacks on Iran during the 1980-1988 war against the Islamic Republic, a new report says.
During the war, the Iraqi military attacked Iran several times using mustard gas and sarin with the help of satellite imagery, maps and other intelligence provided by the US government, the Foreign Policy magazine said, citing CIA documents and interviews with former US intelligence officials.
US officials have long denied having knowledge of the US involvement but retired Air Force Colonel Rick Francona, a then military attaché in Baghdad, said the American officials knew of Iraq’s intention.
"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," Francona told Foreign Policy.

Fars News Agency picks up the story as well but brings in current claims regarding Syria:

The US government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus, while there is no clue to throw the responsibility for the attack on anyone's shoulder, except for the common sense which says rebels should be blamed. But a generation ago, America's military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, Foreign Policy said in a report.

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. US intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on US satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn't disclose.

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