Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Still Oppose War With Syria

After the listening to the President's Syria speech, I remain unconvinced by his arguments. All life is sacred. All of us are sickened by the images of dead children lined up in rolls on the ground. No one condones such atrocities. If the U.S. bombs Syria, even more innocent children, women and men will die. One cannot save people by bombing them.

Every day, civilians are killed around the world. Civilians are dying in Darfur, Congo and other countries. Many civilians die in U.S. drone attacks. I do not see the President expressing the same moral indignation when those civilians die. Do not be deceived by government propaganda. War with Syria is not about saving lives.

If it was, the President would have intervened in Syria, Darfur, Congo and elsewhere a long time ago. As noted in the Nation, this war is really about Israel and Iran, not about civilian deaths. Additionally, as fully explained in the Guardian, it is also about the "control of the region's vast oil and gas resources."   By intervening in Syria and Libya, Obama is essentially continuing the same policies of the Bush Administration.  Listen to General Wesley Clark describe the Bush Administration's foreign policy.

The President Obama claims that:
But I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation profoundly changed, though, on Aug. 21st, when Assad's government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.

Over 100,000 people have died in Syria's civil war. During that time, the Obama Administration saw no compelling reason to intervene. Now that 1,000 people allegedly died during chemical weapons attacks on August 21, 2013, all of a sudden the U.S. must intervene? Whether civilians die from bombs, bullets or chemicals, murder is murder. Death is death. The notion that chemical weapons attacks warrant more attention is illogical especially in light of the United States' history.

The United States helped Iraq use chemical weapons against Iran. As reported in the Washington Post:

But there is an even more striking instance of the United States ignoring use of the chemical weapons that killed tens of thousands of people — during the grinding Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. As documented in 2002 by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, the Reagan administration knew full well it was selling materials to Iraq that was being used for the manufacture of chemical weapons, and that Iraq was using such weapons, but U.S. officials were more concerned about whether Iran would win rather than how Iraq might eke out a victory. Dobbs noted that Iraq’s chemical weapons’ use was “hardly a secret, with the Iraqi military issuing this warning in February 1984: ”The invaders should know that for every harmful insect, there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it . . . and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide.”

As Dobbs wrote:

A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the “human wave” attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague….

To prevent an Iraqi collapse, the Reagan administration supplied battlefield intelligence on Iranian troop buildups to the Iraqis, sometimes through third parties such as Saudi Arabia. The U.S. tilt toward Iraq was enshrined in National Security Decision Directive 114 of Nov. 26, 1983, one of the few important Reagan era foreign policy decisions that still remains classified. According to former U.S. officials, the directive stated that the United States would do “whatever was necessary and legal” to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran.
In sum, the US is not in a moral position to condemn the use of chemical weapons.

In his speech, President Obama asserted that:
Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to Aug. 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.
Given American government's history of presenting false or inaccurate intelligence to persuade the public to support war, i.e. WMDs in Iraq and Gulf of Tonkin resolution, I demand proof. Simply stating "we know this and we know that" is insufficient. If the U.S. has compelling evidence, the Obama Administration should make that information available to the public and they should present it to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

Unlike that most corporate media, there are some news sources that question the Administration's assertion that the Assad regime ordered the chemical attacks. As reported in the Daily Caller,
According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother.

However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.

The general staff officer asked the major if he was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. From the tone of the conversation, it was clear that “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions,” the former officers say.
Check out how Chuck Hagel's evasive response when Rep. Grayson asked him about that Daily Caller article. The relevant section starts at 3:47 minutes into the video.

Next, Obama speculates that:
And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.
The U.S. attacked Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.  Such attacks have not deterred Iran or North Korea. In fact, as Candy Crowley pointed out on CNN's State of the Union, the U.S. invasion of Iraq did not deter Iran. So, why should we believe than an "incredibly small attack" will deter Iran?

President further undermined his national security argument when he said "the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military." If Syria does not pose a threat, why wage war against Syria?  Syria has not threatened to attack the U.S.  Syria has not attacked the U.S.  

Moreover, the President claims that:
And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.
That assertion does not negate the fact that many of the so-called rebels are affiliated with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. War on Syria will only empower Al Qaeda. As Dennis Kucinich stated, the U.S. should not be Al Qaeda's airforce.

Although I remain unconvinced, the President's speech did have two positive aspects. Obama urged Congress to postpone voting on Syria.  Since the President did not have the sufficient votes to prevail in Congress, he had no alternative. More importantly, Syria expressed a willingness to surrender its chemical weapons. Obviously, that is a major breakthrough.  Now, there is a real possibility that war can be averted. I hope that Obama's diplomatic efforts are successful. We do not need another war.

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