September 03, 2013

Syria ... the more Obamiacs sounds like Bushies ...

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

The scarier any "limited intervention" gets.

First, it's a civil war. Even the best of today's cruise missiles and smart bombs aren't that accurate, especially in distinguishing between sides in urban fighting. Drones may be, but they're for surgical strikes on individuals; Obama already knows that by how many people he's killed with them.

If he doesn't know, this map makes that hugely clear. Details behind it here.

Second, contra Team Obama's blathering, we don't actually know who the hell did this. (More on that below.)

So, is Dear Leader going to be semi-indiscriminate with cruise missiles, or semi-ineffectual with drones? And, what does he plan after that.

Meanwhile, after the egg-on-face embarassment of British Prime Minister David Cameron (and various lies coming from various mouths about whether or not this was a three-line whip vote), Debbie Wasserman Schultz, an Obamiac if there ever was one, pops up about how many allies the US has. This follows on Team Obama's reference, from Secretary of State John Kerry on down, to "our oldest ally" France.

But, Kerry probably should shut up, then put down the shovel before he digs his holes any deeper.

Kind of like Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, we have Kerry having dinner with Bashir Assad, the man he now calls Hitler. So, calling this a "Munich moment" is laughable, the farce of history made to repeat itself.

Finally, who actually did what with the sarin gas in the Damascus suburbs?

This excellent analysis by an "old Syria hand" formerly of the State Department says:

1. We don't know whether Assad or some part of the opposition planted the sarin;
2. The US deliberately tried to stall the UN investigation;
3. There's a lot of conflicting information involved;
4. Israel's doing a lot of "spinning";
5. Assad had relatively little to gain by the attack. Indeed, Polk notes that the government has been gaining ground against the rebels in recent weeks and months.

Let's also not forget, which Polk didn't mention, that, as Aum Shinrikyo showed in Tokyo, sarin is  relatively easy to produce and weaponize/distribute. This ignores other possibilities, such as rebel theft of government supplies, help from Iran or Hezbollah, etc. And, yes, such possibilities are many, if rebels did this, depending on which group of rebels. Kurd nationalists could have gotten help from their brethren in Turkey. Shi'ites, from Iran directly, or via Hezbollah. Al-Qaeda wannabes? The network in Iraq seems strong enough.

Beyond that, contra the first commenter below, even the death count is disputed.
Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”
Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published Sunday.
He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and "tens" of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.

“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”
As usual, McClatchy, far more than other mainstream media, cuts through the bullshit of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. That said, the link provided by said first commenter below is from the Center for a New American Security, a leading bipartisan foreign policy establishment think tank.

Add all of this up, and even if Dear Leader isn't talking about land troops, you and I can talk about red lines. We have even more "red lines" for not doing anything vis-a-vis Syria right now than we did with Iraq 13 years ago.

Also add this up, and we have a Team Obama wanting to destabilize Assad further before he can restabilize himself more. And, a Dear Leader who, assuming Polk is right, is willing to act outside the bounds of facts.

That gets me back to Polk's Point 5.

What if the rebels did do it? Even if all we are doing is launching a few cruise missiles, then Obama's drone strike murders have reached a whole new level if we're using fabricated information to deliberately target the wrong people.

And, even philosophers and humanists who are talking about whether there's a just case for intervention (that's people like you, Massimo Pigliucci and Michael DeDora) need to address THAT issue first. Or go back and address it, if you've already written something that didn't. If not, you're addressing the wrong problem, possibly.

If that's not enough, there's the fact that we created the clusterfuck that led to the rise of the Assad dynasty last time we intervened in Syria. Not to mention our Reagan-era intervention failure in Syrian-controlled Lebanon.

Meanwhile, a Team Obama that now says it needs a Congressional vote after seeking none in Libya, where Dear Leader had imposed no red lines, leads to head-scratching at the least. That said, said Congressional vote now seems anticlimatic. Agent Orange, Speaker John Boehner, says he's down with it. But it's still head-scratching. Maybe even for an American public thrilled with techno-war on the cheap, especially against Mooslims, or other pejoratives, Syria is a bridge too far.

I'm sorry, it's not Dear Leader's red line after all. According to him, it's the world's red line. I guess that, like Poppy Bush, we're supposed to read his hips instead of reading his lips. And, speaking of Bushes, Dear Leader may be surpassing Shrub in his chutzpah.

I mean, this is Bushian lying in its blatancy level:
“I didn’t set a red line,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference here in Stockholm. “The world set a red line.”

He added, “My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility’s on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility’s on the line.”

Polk concludes that "mission creep" is likely, whether accidental or planned, and that solving the perceived problem is not. Syria's Alawites have plenty to lose if we boot Assad; they're not going quietly into the night. The civil war in general has been going on longer, and in more depth, than the anti-Gaddhafi effort in Libya before our action. And, the opposition is even less unified — but with a stronger Islamist component — than there. 

That said, per the Boehner link, the first group of CIA-trained "freedom fighters" (Dear Leader didn't use that phrase, but I am, to put the Bushie yoke tighter around his neck) is set to sneak into Syria. Wunderbar! What could possibly go wrong here?

Finally, to be blunt, given who's driving this — why should we be doing Israel's bidding? Especially when there's no definition yet of what would constitute "success" and nothing close to a guarantee of how to get there, meaning the Likud/Zionist bloc would leave us holding the bag on any failure. An "American orphan" it would be. And, as far as orphaned failures, it's also been, besides our intervention in Lebanon, 30 years since Arik Sharon's clusterfuck in Lebanon, culminating in the Sabra and Shatila camps massacre.

There's no "broad brush painting" with this. Rather, a thick accretion of historical fact.

And, back to fact No. 1: Since there's no firm proof Assad's behind the chemical weapons, and circumstantial evidence to indicate he has no need to be behind it, Team Obama's claims, while not as bad as Condoleezza Rice's "smoking mushroom cloud," may eventually wind up being in the same category.

That said, unlike the magazine Counterpunch, there's no need to engage in reflexive anti-Americanism as part of opposing us taking any military action in Syria. 


Meanwhile, let's look at this all from Team Obama's point of view.

For most of the past two years, an ungainly coalition of rebels, linked by little but their dislike of the Assad regime, had been slowly and semi-surely rolling it back. Because no one rebel group had risen head-and-shoulders above the rest, Team Obama didn't have to worry about picking winners and losers. It could merrily train bands of "freedom fighters" to do that dirty work for it.

And, now, the rebels are faltering. Even losing ground in spots.

My theory is the chemical weapons story, especially if it's being falsely attributed to the Assad regime, makes an easy "handle" for war, a war that's desired because Assad is starting to get the upper hand on the rebels again. 

As for why he's seeking the Congressional vote, when he didn't on Libya? Several reasons.

First, Dear Leader is, in his own way, quite the politician. And, yes, he's trying to fracture the GOP on this particular foreign policy issue, at least.

Second, the more Syria gets publicized, the more that NSA snooping gets UN-publicized. Damage control, wag the dog, whatever you want to call it.

Third is another political angle. That's keeping neocons in the Democratic Party happy. And donors who often support them. To spell out what some people are guessing at, at risk of getting tarred with the anti-Semitic brush, this means keeping a certain stream of Jewish politicians and Jewish donors with similar political philosophy happy. Please note what I highlighted.


As for the idealism claims? Take them all with a grain of salt.

If we wanted to be that idealistic, we've got spare Tomahawks to fire around the world, and with as good of reason, if we're talking morality, and against countries more defenseless.

Burmese military junta, take this! Robert Mugabe, for starving your own people, take that!

Bahrain, for ... 

Oops. They're one of our allies, no matter the amount of Shi'ite repression.

Syria? You just have the unlucky constellation of factors of never really having been our ally, having been a Soviet ally in the past, being hated by Israel (often with good reason, though), being hated by a number of Arab neighbor states, and being in the middle of the oil world without having enough oil to play a bigger game of geopolitics. 


That all said, Obama's better than Massachusetts' newest addition to the Senate. Ed Markey, on the Foreign Relations Committee, wins the chickenshit award by voting "present" on attacking Syria.  

Unfortunately, the usually reliable Charles Pierce seems to cut Markey too much slack on this.

Based on I Tweeted to him, edited for full English reading, and expanded, here's my counterthought.

I don't buy it on Markey. First, he was in the House before the Senate. Second, Obama's "red line" was 1 year ago. If Markey was unsure of intelligence info, he should have voted "no," since, as McClatchy and Wm. Polk at Atlantic have shown, the intelligence is being manipulated. Only a "no" vote challenges the run-up to war.

Update, Sept. 13: Here's more on Obamiacs sounding like Bushies. Per this Truth-Out piece, not just John Kerry, but Vice President Joe Biden, when also in the Senate, were among Democrats who made false claims about Iraqi weapons in the run-up to the Gulf War. So did Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, now Minority Leader.


joshuaism said...

Sarin is probably much harder to produce and weaponize than you state. Aum Shinrikyo made multiple attacks with sarin gas and only met with marginal success. Their initial attempts to create high purity sarin is estimated to have cost 30 million dollars and while they succeeded in producing high purity sarin, all attacks with that product failed.

Even after producing sarin gas, there is the issue of dispersing it. Aum's attempts to use "sarin trucks" all failed. Aum's only success came from using gas filled balloons in an enclosed area and they only succeeded in killing 13 and seriously injuring about 100. Crude explosives will fail to create an aerosol necessary for maximum dispersal.

I seriously doubt the rebels have the means, the know how, and the organization to produce and disperse weaponized sarin gas. Such capability would appear to be limited to governments. Unless Assad shows proof the rebels have captured sarin weapon facilities, I do not see how the rebels could have carried out an attack that killed over a thousand people.

Gadfly said...

Well, even the death toll is disputed, as you'll see from my updating of the post.

As for "killing power," it was inside a subway system.

As for "proof," doesn't that cut both ways? And here, we get back to the US obstructing the UN investigation.