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William R. Polk
William R. Polk
William R. Polk is a long-time political consultant on foreign policy dating back to the days of John F. Kennedy when he served on State Department's Policy Planning Council focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. He was, most recently, a campaign consultant for the presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich.

Polk became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs in 1967. That body hosted the 20th Pugwash Conference on nuclear weapons problems, and from that perch Polk helped organize the meeting that laid the foundation for the European Union. He also helped plan the United Nations Environmental Program.

His many books include Violent Politics: Insurgency and Terrorism, Understanding Iraq, Understanding Iran, Distant Thunder: Reflections on the Dangers of Our Times and the forthcoming Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change.

The following essay was written for The Atlantic before President Obama decided to seek congressional approval of military intervention in Syria. But it still remains highly relevant to an understanding of the situation. It is long and it is reprinted here by permission of the author. (Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees has a discussion about one section of Polk's piece here.)

By William R. Polk

Probably like you, I have spent many hours this last week trying to put together the scraps of information reported in the media on the horrible attack with chemical weapons on a suburb of Damascus on Wednesday, August 21. Despite the jump to conclusions by reporters, commentators and government officials, I find as of this writing that  the events are still unclear. Worse, the bits and pieces we have been told are often out of context and usually have not been subjected either to verification or logical analysis. So I ask you to join me in thinking them through to try to get a complete picture on what has happened, is now happening and about to happen.  I apologize for both the length of this analysis and its detail, but the issue is so important to all of us that it must be approached with care.

Because, as you will see, this is germane in examining the evidence, I should tell you that during my years as a member of the Policy Planning Council, I was “cleared” for all the information the US Government had on weapons of mass destruction, including poison gas, and for what was then called “Special Intelligence,”  that is, telecommunications interception and code breaking.

I will try to put in context 1) what actually happened;  2) what has been reported; 3) who has told us what we think we know; 4) who are the possible culprits and what would be their motivations; 5)  who are the insurgents?  6)  what is the context in which the attack took place;  7) what are chemical weapons and who has used them; 8)  what the law on the use of chemical weapons holds; 9) pro and con on attack;  10)  the role of the UN; 11) what is likely to happen now;  12) what would be the probable consequences of an attack and (13) what could we possibly gain from an attack.

1: What Actually Happened

On Wednesday, August 21 canisters of gas opened in several suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus and within a short time approximately a thousand people were dead.  That is the only indisputable fact we know.

2: What Has Been Reported

Drawing primarily on Western government and Israeli sources, the media has reported that canisters of what is believed to be the lethal nerve gas Sarin were delivered by surface-to-surface rockets to a number of locations in territory disputed by the Syrian government and insurgents. The locations were first reported to be to the southwest, about 10 miles from the center of Damascus, and later reported also to be to the east of the city in other suburbs. The following Voice of America map shows the sites where bodies were found.

Suspected chemical weapons strikes
You can read the remainder below the fold.

3: Who Told Us What We Think We Know

A UN inspection team that visited the site of the massacre on Monday, August 26, almost 5 days after the event.

Why was the inspection so late? As a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed out (Gareth Porter in IPS, August 27), the request to the Syrian government to authorize an inspection was not made until August 24 and was granted the next day. In any event, according to the spokesman, the delay was not of fundamental importance because “Sarin can be detected for up to months after its use.”

What was the American government position on inspection? Secretary of State John Kerry initially demanded that the Syrian government make access to the suspected site or sites possible. Then it charged that the Syrian government purposefully delayed permission so that such evidence as existed might be “corrupted”  or destroyed.  On the basis of this charge, he reversed his position and urged UN Secretary General Ban to stop the inquiry.  According to The Wall Street Journal of August 26, Secretary Kerry told Mr. Ban that  “the inspection mission was pointless and no longer safe…”  To emphasize the American position, according to the same Wall Street Journal report,“Administration officials made clear Mr. Obama would make his decision based on the U.S. assessment and not the findings brought back by the U.N. inspectors.”

IPS’s Gareth Porter concluded after talks with chemical weapons experts and government officials that “The administration’s effort to discredit the investigation recalls the George W. Bush administration’s rejection of the position of U.N. inspectors in 2002 after they found no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the administration’s refusal to give inspectors more time to fully rule out the existence of an active Iraqi WMD programme.  In both cases, the administration had made up its mind to go to war and wanted no information that could contradict that policy to arise.”  Is this a fair assessment?

Why was the first UN inspection so limited?  The only publicly known reason is that it came under sniper fire while on the way to the first identified site. Who fired on it or for what reason are, as of this writing, unknown. The area was contested by one or more rebel groups and under only limited or sporadic control by the Syrian government. Indeed, as photographs published by The New York Times on August 29, show the UN inspectors in one area (Zamaka) guarded by armed men identified as “rebel fighters.”  So the sniper could have been almost anyone.

How limited was the first phase of inspection? According to a report in The Guardian (Monday, August 26, 2013), the small team of UN Inspectors investigating the poison gas attack in Syria spent only an hour and a half at the site.  So far, we have not been given any report by the UN team, but the doctor in charge of the local hospital was apparently surprised by how brief and limited was their investigation.  According to The Guardian reporter, he said,

"The committee did not visit any house in the district. We asked the committee to exhume the bodies for checking them. But they refused. They say that there was no need to do that.

'We had prepared samples for the committee from some bodies and video documentation. There were urine and blood samples as well as clothes. But they refused to take them.

'After an hour and a half, they got an order from the regime to leave ASAP. The security force told the committee if they did not leave now, they could not guarantee their security. They could not visit the main six sites where the chemical rockets had fallen and lots of people were killed.' "

Why did the investigators not do a more thorough job? The doctor at the site told The Guardian reporter that the Assad regime warned the investigators that they should leave because it could not guarantee their safety but the newspaper’s headline says that the Syrian government authorities  ordered them out. Which is true? Is there another explanation?  And why did the inspection team not have the means to retrieve parts of the delivery equipment, presumably rockets? Were they told by the UN or other authorities not to retrieve them or were they refused permission by the Syrian government? We simply do not know.

To say the least, the inspection was incomplete. The best that the State Department spokesman could say about such evidence as was gathered is that there is “’little doubt’ [Vice President Biden later raised the certainty from the same limited evidence to “no doubt”] that forces loyal to Mr. Assad were responsible for using the chemical weapons.” (“’Little Doubt’ Syria Gassed Opposition,” The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2013).

Much was made of the belief that the gas had been delivered by rocket.  However, as The New York Times correspondent Ben Hubbard reported (April 27, 2013) “Near the attack sites, activists found spent rockets that appeared to have been homemade and suspected that they delivered the gas.” Would the regular army’s chemical warfare command have used “homemade” rockets? That report seemed to point to some faction within the opposition rather than to the government.

Several days into the crisis, we have been given a different source of information. This is from Israel. For many years, Israel is known to have directed a major communications effort against Syria.  Its program, known as Unit 8200 is Mossad’s equivalent of NSA. It chose to share what it claimed was a key intercept with outsiders. First, a former officer told the German news magazine Focus (according to The Guardian, August 28, 2013) that Israel had intercepted a conversation between Syrian officers discussing the attack. The same Information was given to Israeli press (see “American Operation, Israeli Intelligence” in the August 27 Yediot Ahronoth,)   It also shared this information with the American government. Three Israeli senior officers were reported to have been sent to Washington to brief NSC Director Susan Rice.  What was said was picked up by some observers. Foreign Policy magazine reported (August 28, “Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say”) that “in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Minister of Defense exchanged what Israeli intelligence described as “panicked phone calls” with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answer for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.”

But, as more information emerged, doubts began to be expressed. As Matt Apuzzo reported (AP, August 29, “AP sources: Intelligence on weapons no ‘slam dunk.’”), according to a senior US intelligence official, the intercept “discussing the strike was among low level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack to an Assad insider or even a senior commander.” Reminding his readers of the famous saying by the then head of the CIA, George Tenet, in 2002 that the intelligence against Saddam Husain was “slam dunk,” when in fact it was completely erroneous, the AP correspondent  warned that the Syrian attack of last week “could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later.”

Two things should be borne in mind on these reports: the first is that Israel has had a long-standing goal of the break-up or weakening of Syria which is the last remaining firmly anti-Israeli Arab state. (the rationale behind this policy was laid out by Edward Luttwak in the OpEd section of the August 24, 2013 The New York Times).  It also explains why Israel  actively had sought “regime change” in Iraq. The second consideration is that Israeli intelligence has also been known to fabricate intercepts as, for example, it did during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

So, unless or until more conclusive evidence is available, the request by Mr. Ban (“U.N. seeks more time for its inspectors,”International Herald Tribune, August 29, 2013) for more time appears to be prudent.   Despite what Messrs Biden and Kerry have said, I believe a court would conclude that the case  against the Syrian government was “not proven.”

4: Who Are the Possible Culprits and What Would be Their Motivations?

Since such information as we have is sketchy and questionable, we should seek to understand motives.  As a historian, dealing as one always does, with incomplete information, I have made it a rule when trying to get at the “truth” in any contentious issue to ask a series of questions among which are who benefits from a given action and what would I have done in a given situation? Look briefly at what we think we now know in light of these questions:

First, who gains by the action. I do not see what Assad could have gained from this gas attack. It is evident that while the area in which it took place is generally held to be "disputed" territory, the government was able to arrange for the UN inspection team to visit it but not, apparently, to guarantee their safety there. If Assad were to initiate an attack, it would be more logical for him to pick a target under the control of the rebels.

Second, to have taken the enormous risk of retaliation or at least loss of support by some of his allies (notably the Russians) by using this horrible weapon, he must have thought of it either as a last ditch stand or as a knockout blow to the insurgents.  Neither appears to have been the case. Reports in recent weeks suggest that the Syrian government was making significant gains against the rebels.  No observer has suggested that its forces were losing. All indications are that the government’s command and control system not only remains intact but that it still includes among its senior commanders and private soldiers a high proportion of Sunni Muslims. Were the regime in decline, it would presumably have purged those whose loyalties were becoming suspect (i.e. the Sunni Muslims) or they would have bolted for cover. Neither happened.

Moreover, if it decided to make such an attack, I should have thought that it would have aimed at storage facilities, communications links, arms depots or places where commanders congregated. The suburbs of Damascus offered none of these opportunities for a significant, much less a knockout, blow.

Third, as students of guerrilla warfare have learned guerrillas are dispersed but civilians are concentrated. So weapons of mass destruction are more likely to create hostility to the user than harm to the opponent. The chronology of the Syrian civil war shows that the government must be aware of this lesson as it has generally held back its regular troops (which were trained and armed to fight foreign invasion) and fought its opponents with relatively small paramilitary groups backed up by air bombardment. Thus, a review of the fighting over the last two years suggests that its military commanders would not have seen a massive gas attack either as a “game changer” or an option valuable enough to outweigh the likely costs.

So, what about the enemies of the Assad regime? How might such an attack have been to their advantage?

First, a terrorizing attack might have been thought advantageous because of the effect on people who are either supporting the regime or are passive. There are indications, for example, that large numbers of the pathetic Palestinian refugees are pouring out their camps in yet another "displacement." The number of Syrian refugees is also increasing.  Terror is a powerful weapon and historically and everywhere was often used. Whoever initiated the attack might have thought, like those who initiated the attack on Guernica, the bombing of Rotterdam and the Blitz of London, that the population would be so terrorized that they might give up or at least cower. Then as food shortages and disease spread, the economy would falter. Thus the regime might collapse.

That is speculative, but the second benefit to the rebels of an attack is precisely what has happened: given the propensity to believe everything evil about the Assad regime,  daily emphasized by the foreign media, a consensus, at least in America, has been achieved  is that it must have been complicit. This consensus should make it possible for outside powers to  take action against the regime and join in giving the insurgents the money, arms and training.

We know that the conservative Arab states, the United States, other Western powers and perhaps Israel have given assistance to the rebels for the last two years, but the outside aid has not been on a scale sufficient to enable them to defeat the government. They would need much more and probably would also need foreign military intervention as happened in Libya in April 2011 to overthrow Muamar Qaddafi. The rebels must have pondered that situation. We know that foreign military planners have. (See “Military Intervention in Syria” Wikileaks reprinted on August 25, 2013, memorandum of a meeting in the Pentagon in 2011.) Chillingly, the just cited Wikileaks memorandum notes that the assembled military and intelligence officers “don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi [sic] move against Benghazi.” (See Time, March 17, 2011.)  As in Libya,  evidence of an ugly suppression of inhabitants might justify and lead to foreign military intervention.

Clearly, Assad had much to lose and his enemies had much to gain.  That conclusion does not prove who did it, but it should give us pause to find conclusive evidence which we do not now have.

5: Who are the insurgents?

We know little about them, but what we do know is that they are divided into hundreds— some say as many as 1,200—of small, largely independent,  groups. And we know that the groups range across the spectrum from those who think of themselves as members of the dispersed, not-centrally-governed but ideologically-driven association we call al-Qaida, through a variety of more conservative Muslims, to gatherings of angry, frightened or dissatisfied young men who are out of work and hungry,  to black marketeers who are trading in the tools of war, to what we have learned to call in Afghanistan and elsewhere "warlords."

Each group marches to its own drumbeat and many are as much opposed to other insurgents as to the government; some are secular while others are jihadists; some are devout while others are opportunists; many are Syrians but several thousand are foreigners from all over the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia. Recognition of the range of motivations, loyalties and aims is what, allegedly, has caused President Obama to hold back overt lethal-weapons assistance although it did not stop him from having the CIA and contractors covertly arm and train insurgents in Jordan and other places.  

The main rebel armed force is known as the Free Syrian Army. It was formed in the summer of 2011 by deserters from the regular army. Similar to other rebel armies (for example the “external” army of the Provisional Algerian Government in its campaign against the French and various “armies” that fought the Russians in Afghanistan) its commanders and logistical cadres are outside of Syria. Its influence over the actual combatants inside of Syria derives from its ability to allocate money and arms and shared objectives; it does not command them. So far as is known, the combatants are autonomous. Some of these groups have become successful guerrillas and have not only killed several thousand government soldiers and paramilitaries but have seized large parts of the country and disrupted activities or destroyed property in others.

In competition with the Free Syrian Army is an Islamicist group known as Jabhat an-Nusra (roughly “sources of aid”) which is considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States. It is much more active and violent than groups associated with the Free Syrian Army. It is determined to convert Syria totally into an Islamic state under Sharia law. Public statements attributed to some of its leaders threaten a blood bath of Alawis and Christians after it achieves the fall of the Assad regime. Unlike the Free Syrian Army it is a highly centralized force and its 5-10 thousand guerrillas have been able to engage in large-scale and coordinated operations.

Of uncertain and apparently shifting relations with Jabhat an-Nusra, are groups that seem to be increasing in size who think of themselves as members of al-Qaida. They seem to be playing an increasing role in the underground and vie for influence and power with the Muslim Brotherhood and the dozens of other opposition groups.

Illustrating the complexity of the line-up of rebel forces, Kurdish separatists are seeking to use the war to promote their desire either to unite with other Kurdish groups in Turkey and/or Iraq or to achieve a larger degree of autonomy. (See Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa, “The Civil War Within Syria’s Civil War,” Foreign Policy, August 28, 2013).  They are struggling against both the other opposition groups and against the government, and they too would presumably welcome a collapse of the government that would lead to the division of the country into ethnic-religious mini-states.

It seems reasonable to imagine that at least some and perhaps all of these diverse groups must be looking for action (such as a dramatic strike against the regime) that would tip the scale of military capacity. Listening to the world media and to the intelligence agents who circulate among them, they must hope that an ugly and large-scale event caused by or identified with the government might accomplish what they have so far been unable to do.

6: What Is the Context in Which the Attack Took Place?

Syria is and has always been a complex society, composed of clusters of ancient colonies.  Generally speaking, throughout history they have lived adjacent to one another rather than mixing in shared locations as the following map suggests.

Syrian ethncities
Syrian ethnic and/or religious communities. The large white area is little-inhabited desert.
The population before the outbreak of the war was roughly (in rounded numbers)   6 in 10 were Sunni Muslim, 1 in 7 Christian, 1 in 8 Alawi (an ethnic off-shoot of Shia Islam), 1 in 10 Kurdish Muslim, smaller groups of Druze and Ismailis (both off-shoots of Shia Islam) and a scattering of others.

Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011.  Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well. But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it.

In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands  of Syria’s farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria’s 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to “extreme poverty.”

The domestic Syrian refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water and jobs, but also with the already existing foreign refugee population. Syria already was a refuge for quarter of a million Palestinians and about a hundred thousand people who had fled the war and occupation of Iraq. Formerly prosperous farmers were lucky to get jobs as hawkers or street sweepers. And in the desperation of the times, hostilities erupted among groups that were competing just to survive.

Survival was the key issue. The senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Syria turned to the USAID program for help. Terming the situation “a perfect storm,” in November 2008, he warned  that Syria faced “social destruction.” He noted that the Syrian Minister of Agriculture had “stated publicly that [the]  economic and social fallout from the drought was ‘beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.’”  But, his appeal fell on deaf ears: The USAID director commented that “we question whether limited USG resources should be directed toward this appeal at this time.”  (reported on November 26, 2008 in cable 08DAMASCUS847_a to Washington and “leaked” to Wikileaks )

Whether or not this was a wise decision, we now know that the Syrian government made the situation much worse by its next action. Lured by the high price of wheat on the world market, it sold its reserves. In 2006, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it sold 1,500,000 metric tons or twice as much as in the previous year.  The next year it had little left to export; in 2008 and for the rest of the drought years it had to import enough wheat to keep its citizens alive.

So tens of thousands of frightened, angry, hungry and impoverished former farmers flooded constituted a “tinder” that was ready to catch fire. The spark was struck on March 15, 2011  when a relatively small group gathered in the town of Daraa to protest against government failure to help them. Instead of meeting with the protestors and at least hearing their complaints, the government cracked down on them as subversives.  The Assads, who had ruled the country since 1971, were not known for political openness or popular sensitivity. And their action backfired. Riots broke out all over the country,  As they did, the Assads attempted to quell them with military force. They failed to do so and, as outside help—money from the Gulf states and Muslim “freedom fighters” from  the rest of the world—poured into the country, the government lost control over 30% of the country’s rural areas and perhaps half of its population. By the spring of 2013, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), upwards of 100,000 people had been killed in the fighting, perhaps 2 million have lost their homes and upwards of 2 million have fled abroad. Additionally, vast amounts of infrastructure, virtually whole cities like Aleppo, have been destroyed.

Despite these tragic losses, the war is now thought to be stalemated: the government cannot be destroyed and the rebels cannot be defeated. The reasons are not only military: they are partly economic—there is little to which the rebels could return;  partly political—the government has managed to retain the loyalty of a large part of the majority Muslim community which comprises the bulk of its army and civil service whereas the rebels, as I have mentioned, are fractured into many mutually hostile groups;  and partly administrative—by and large the government’s structure has held together and functions satisfactorily whereas the rebels have no single government.

7: What are Chemical Weapons and Who Has Used Them?

When I was a member of the Policy Planning Council and  was “cleared” for all information on weapons of mass destruction, I was given a detailed briefing at Fort Meade on the American poison gas program. I was so revolted by what I learned that I wrote President Kennedy a memorandum arguing that we must absolutely end the program and agree never to use it. Subsequently, the United States is said to have destroyed 90% of its chemical weapons.

My feelings aside, use of chemical weapons has been common. As the former head of the US Congress’s committee on foreign affairs and later president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Lee Hamilton, told me, his experience was that when a weapon was available, the temptation to use it was almost irresistible. History bears him out. While most people were horror-stricken by the use of gas, governments continued to use it. In times of severe stress, it became acceptable. As Winston Churchill wrote, use “was simply a question of fashion changing as it does between long and short skirts for women.” Well, perhaps not quite, but having begun to use gas in the First World War, when about 100,000 people were killed by it, use continued.

After the war, the British, strongly urged by Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, used combinations of mustard gas, chlorine and other gases against tribesmen in Iraq in the 1920s. As he said, “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” In the same spirit, the Spaniards used gas against the Moroccan Rif Berbers in the late 1920s;  the Italians used it against Ethiopians in the 1930s; and  the Japanese used it against the Chinese in the 1940s.  Churchill again: during the Second World War, he wrote that if the Blitz threatened to work against England, he “may certainly have to ask you [his senior military staff] to support me in using poison gas.  We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many  other cities in Germany…”  More recently in 1962, I was told by the then chief of the CIA's Middle Eastern covert action office, James Critichfield that the Egyptians had used lethal concentrations of tear gas in their campaign against royalist guerrillas in Yemen.

America used various chemical agents including white phosphorus in Vietnam (where it was known as “Willie Pete”) and in Fallujah (Iraq) in 2005. We encouraged or at least did not object to the use of chemical agents, although we later blamed him for so doing, by Saddam Husain. Just revealed documents show that the Reagan administration knew of the Iraqi use in the Iraq-Iran war of the same poison gas (Sarin) as was used a few days ago in Syria and Tabun (also a nerve gas).  According to the US military attaché working with the Iraqi army at the time, the US government either turned a blind eye or  approved its use (see the summary of the documents in Shane Harris and Matthew Aid, "Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran," Foreign Policy, August 26, 2013)   We were horrified when Saddam Husain used poison gas against the Kurdish villagers of Halabja in 1988 (killing perhaps 4-5 thousand people) but by that time we had dropped our support for the Iraqi government. Finally, Israel is believed to have used poison gas in Lebanon and certainly used white phosphorus in Gaza in 2008.

I cite this history not to justify the use of gas—I agree with Secretary Kerry that use of gas is a “moral obscenity”—but to show that its use is by no means uncommon.  It is stockpiled by most states in huge quantities and is constantly being produced in special factories almost everywhere despite having been legally banned since the Geneva Protocol of June 17, 1925.  

8: What Is Current Law on the Use of Chemical Weapons?

Use, production and storage of such weapons was again banned in the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (to which Syria it not a party). But nearly all the signatories to that convention reserved the right legally to use such weapons if the weapons had been used against them (i.e. no first strike). The Convention, unfortunately, contains no provision banning the use of weapons, as Saddam certainly did and as Assad is accused of doing, in civil war. My understanding of the current law, as set out in the 1993 Convention, is that the United States and the other NATO members are legally entitled to take military action only when we—not their citizens—are actually threatened by overt military attack with chemical weapons.  

9: Pro and Con on Attack

Putting the legal issue aside, there is precedent. A part of the rationale for the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq was the charge that it had or was developing weapons of mass destruction including poison gas which it planned to use against us.  This was the essence of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.

Powell then realized that there was no evidence to back up his charge (and it was later shown to be false), but that did not stop or even delay the attack. The determination to attack had already been made, regardless of evidence. An attack was undoubtedly then generally approved by the American public and its elected representatives. They, and our NATO allies, concluded on the basis of what the second Bush administration told them that there was a threat and, therefore, that action was not only necessary for defense but also legal. It is the memory of this grave misleading of the public that haunts at least some government officials and elected representatives today.

Memory of the Iraqi deception and the subsequent disaster is apparently responsible for the Parliamentary rejection of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s announced plan to take military action against the Syrian government. “The vote was also a set back for Mr. Obama, who, having given up hope of getting United Nations Security Council authorization for the strike, is struggling to assemble a coalition of allies against Syria…

But administration officials made clear that eroding support would not deter Mr. Obama  in deciding to go ahead with a strike.” (“Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No,”  The New York Times, August 29, 2013)

The New York Times editorial board essentially joined with the British Parliament in arguing that “Despite the pumped-up threats and quickening military preparations, President Obama has yet to make a convincing legal or strategic case for military action against Syria.” (Editorial of August 28, 2013)

"As he often so eloquently does, President Obama said on August 23, '…what I think the American people also expect me to do as president is to think through what we do from the perspective of, what is in our long-term national interests?…Sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region.' "
However, as I point out below, his actions, as unfortunately also is typical of him, do not seem to mesh with his words.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Secretary General Ban urged the European heads of state and President Obama to “Give peace a chance…give diplomacy a chance.”

There has been a steady outpouring of informed non-governmental opposition to an attack.  Sir Andrew Green, the former British ambassador called it “poor foolishness…It beggars belief that we appear to be considering an armed attack on Syria with no clear purpose and no achievable objective.” (Blundering into war in Syria would be pure foolishness.” The English Conservative Party daily, Conservative Home, August 26, 2013). This was from a member of the Prime Minister’s Conservative party; the Labour opposition was even more opposed to the adventure.

The Russian government was outspoken in opposition. Many Western commentators regarded their opposition as a sort of echo of the Cold War, but the Russians were acutely aware of the danger that their own large (16% of their population) and growing Muslim population might be affected by the “forces of extremism in country after country in the Middle East by [the US] forcing or advocating a change in leadership—from Iraq to Libya, Egypt to Syria.” (Steven Lee Myers, “Putin stays quiet as his aides assail the West,” International Herald Tribune, August 29, 2013)  As I have mentioned, President Obama believed that the Russians would veto the resolution the British had submitted to the Security Council before the English Parliament voted down the Prime Minister’s plan to intervene.

10): What is the role of the United Nations?

Perhaps the most important role of the United Nations has not been in the highly publicized meetings and decisions of the Security Council, but in its specialized agencies, particularly the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the attempt to mobilized food aid and the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) in attempting to ameliorate the conditions of the millions of people displaced by the fighting. They have had little to work with.

But it is the UN in its more peace seeking role that is now in the forefront. Weapons experts from the UN are conducting the investigation of the sites where the victims were killed.  There has been, as I mentioned above, an effort to end their work after their initial visit, but the UN Secretary General insisted that they continue for at least two more days.  The British, French and American governments have attempted also to limit the role of the UN to give them more latitude for whatever action they wish to take.  Indeed, the US State Department spokesman was quoted as saying  that whatever the inspectors reported would make no difference to the decisions of the Western powers.  Of course, the Western powers are concerned that whatever might be laid before the UN Security Council might be vetoed by Russia and perhaps also by China.

11: What is Likely to Happen Now

[This section written just before the president's surprise announcement that he would go to Congress.]

While President Obama has spoken of caution and taking time to form a coalition, the gossip around the White House (The Wall Street Journal, August 26 and later accounts cited above) suggests that he is moving toward a cruise missile strike to “deter and degrade” the Syrian government even if this has to be a unilateral action.  (Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman, “White House forced to consider unilateral strikes against Assad after British PM unexpectedly loses key motion on intervention,” The Guardian, August 30, 2013). The US Navy has moved 5 cruise missile armed destroyers into the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast and “all indications suggest that a strike could occur soon after United Nations investigators charged with scrutinizing the Aug. 21 attack leave the country. They are scheduled to depart Damascus on Saturday [August 31, 2013].”  (Mark Lander et al, “Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No,” The New York Times, August 29, 2013)

12: What Would Be  the Probable Consequences of an Attack?

Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who was head of the Central Command when missiles were launched against Iraqi and Afghan targets warned (Ernesto Londoño and Ed O’Keefe, “imminent U.S. strike on Syria could draw nation into civil war,” The Washington Post, August 28, 2013) that “The one thing we should learn is that you can’t get a little bit pregnant.” Taking that first step would almost surely lead to other steps that in due course would put American troops on the ground in Syria as a similar process did in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Stopping at the first step would be almost impossible as it was in those campaigns. As the former American ambassador to Syria commented “A couple of cruise missiles are not going to change their way of thinking.” And, Zinni put it in more pointed terms, “You’ll knee-jerk into the first option, blowing something up, without thinking through what this could lead to.”

Why is this?  It is called "mission creep." When a powerful government takes a step in any direction, the step is almost certain to have long-term consequences. But, it seldom that leaders consider the eventual consequences. What happens? Inevitably, having taken step "A," it narrows its options. It is embarked upon one path and not another one.  At that point, step "B" often seems the logical thing to do whereas some other, quite different sort of action on a different path, seems inappropriate in the  context that step "A" has created. At the same time, in our highly visual age with the forces of television coming to bear, governments, particularly in societies where public opinion or representation exist, come under pressure to do something as President Obama said in the remarks I have just quoted. Where lobbies represent sectors of the economy and society with vested interests, the pressure to do something become immense.  We have often seen this in American history.  One political party stands ready to blame the other for failure to act.  And fear of that blame is often persuasive.  Thus, step "C" takes on a life of its own quite apart from what is suggested by a calm analysis of national interest, law or other considerations.  And with increasing speed further steps are apt to become almost inevitable and even automatic.  If you apply this model to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, you can see how modest first steps led to eventual massive involvement.  

During this time, it is likely that the victims of the attacks or their allies would attempt to strike back.  Many observers believe that the Syrian government would be prepared to “absorb” a modest level of attack that stopped after a short period.  However, if the attacks were massive and continued, it might be impossible for that government or its close allies, the Iranian and Iraqi governments and the Hizbulllah partisans in Lebanon, to keep quiet. Thus, both American installations, of which there are scores within missile or aircraft range, might be hit. Israel also might be targeted and if it were, it would surely respond. So the consequences of a spreading, destabilizing war throughout the Middle East and perhaps into South Asia (where Pakistan is furious over American drone attacks) would be a clear and present danger.

Even if this scenario were not played out, it would be almost certain that affected groups or their allies would seek to carry the war back to America in the form of terrorist attacks.

13: So what could we possibly gain from an attack on Syria?

Even if he wanted to, could Assad meet our demands?  He could, of course, abdicate, but this would probably not stop the war both because his likely successor would be someone in the inner circle of his regime and because the rebels form no cohesive group. The likely result would be something like what happened after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a vicious civil war among competing factions.

No one, of course, can know what would happen then. My hunch is that Syria, like Afghanistan, would be torn apart not only into large chunks such as the Kurds in the northeast but even neighborhood by neighborhood as in the Iraqi cities. Muslims would take revenge on Alawis and Christians who would be fighting for their lives. More millions would be driven out of their homes. Food would be desperately short, and disease probably rampant. If we are worried about a haven for terrorists or drug traffickers, Syria would be hard to beat. And if we are concerned about a sinkhole for American treasure, Syria would compete well with Iraq and Afghanistan. It would probably be difficult or even impossible to avoid “boots on the ground” there. So we are talking about casualties, wounded people, and perhaps wastage of another several trillion dollars which we don’t have to spend and which, if we had, we need to use in our own country for better heath, education, creation of jobs and rebuilding of our infrastructure.  

Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government,  it may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed. They may regard it as a sort of license to go ahead in this wasting war. Thus, the action will have accomplished little. Thus, as General Zinni points out, America will likely find itself saddled with another long-term, very expensive and perhaps unwinnable war. We need to remind ourselves what Afghanistan did—bankrupting the Soviet Union—and what Iraq cost us—about 4,500 American dead, over 100,000 wounded, many of whom will never recover, and perhaps $6 trillion.    

Can we afford to repeat those mistakes?

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (280+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    navajo, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, greenbird, blue aardvark, Azazello, NYFM, this just in, sceptical observer, annieli, TrueBlueMajority, ctsteve, Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, LaFeminista, moviemeister76, tardis10, smiley7, just another vet, maryabein, Mary Mike, lunachickie, aoeu, gypsytoo, willyr, Blue Wind, civil wingnut, Horace Boothroyd III, sc kitty, Shockwave, babaloo, i dunno, blueoasis, Flyswatterbanjo, Free Jazz at High Noon, CFAmick, la urracca, agent, surfbird007, stlsophos, Matt Z, shopkeeper, Mr Horrible, angry marmot, AoT, on the cusp, LilithGardener, FogCityJohn, Lady Libertine, dkmich, lunacat, whenwego, Mother Mags, Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle, dance you monster, jlynne, dzog, Catte Nappe, Eric Nelson, TBug, newpioneer, Magnifico, profh, JVolvo, pollbuster, implicate order, YucatanMan, chira2, jfromga, chuckvw, quagmiremonkey, anodnhajo, poco, commonmass, onionjim, CitizenOfEarth, Bob Johnson, greenbastard, driftwood, highacidity, Deward Hastings, jcrit, Arthurkc, whizdom, JesseCW, Sara R, Eyesbright, doingbusinessas, serendipityisabitch, Dave in Northridge, Kimbeaux, Just Bob, wu ming, k9disc, BlueJessamine, muddy boots, PhilJD, anana, buddabelly, blackjackal, Orcas George, Betty Pinson, InAntalya, 420 forever, CcVenussPromise, basquebob, Bluesee, bibble, KenBee, RockyLabor, CenPhx, Buckeye Nut Schell, Nailbanger, 3goldens, Darryl House, MrBigDaddy, myrmecia gulosa, AZ Sphinx Moth, emal, JML9999, pgm 01, fixxit, Ray Pensador, SottoVoce, Windowpane, leu2500, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, sow hat, nota bene, mickT, churchylafemme, elfling, Susan from 29, DawnN, jaebone, Russ Jarmusch, eve, maggiejean, Assaf, ricklewsive, WheninRome, egarratt, cotterperson, jck, dangoch, Leftcenterlibertarian, Skennet Boch, SpecialKinFlag, lotlizard, Brit, triv33, VeloDramatic, Burned, suejazz, ccmask, KateCrashes, Sarea, cpresley, devis1, LinSea, Jim P, Teiresias70, Demeter Rising, Sylv, Brecht, rmonroe, aliasalias, cany, scribe, nailbender, enhydra lutris, koNko, lostinamerica, chicagobleu, Carol in San Antonio, tmay, Sharon, native, Dolphin99, nzanne, No Exit, Tommye, poligirl, katiec, xaxnar, eeff, River Rover, RFK Lives, pickandshovel, frostbite, Smoh, pcl07, TracieLynn, rexxnyc, Ditch Mitch KY, Nada Lemming, acnetj, LI Mike, beverlywoods, TigerMom, catilinus, crose, wasatch, hubcap, HCKAD, Square Knot, 88kathy, Vico, djohnutk, peregrine kate, farmerhunt, Catesby, JekyllnHyde, psnyder, Pandora, bronte17, Robynhood too, Steveningen, VTCC73, dharmasyd, greycat, Dyana, CarolinW, daveygodigaditch, Debby, Tim DeLaney, Yasuragi, NoMoJoe, begone, Tunk, Kentucky Kid, pico, dotsright, caul, Alfred E Newman, Protesterester, jjellin, AaronInSanDiego, This old man, Nebraskablue, AuroraDawn, truong son traveler, jadt65, Dburn, kharma, Euroliberal, run around, DRo, Lepanto, wxorknot, Creosote, J M F, Onomastic, Farradin, mkor7, Susipsych, missLotus, BadKitties, OleHippieChick, Shippo1776, multilee, claude, Sandino, sillia, wa ma, emmasnacker, artmartin, white blitz, KayCeSF, dannyboy1, HairyTrueMan, opinionated, paradise50, VA Breeze, MsSpentyouth, DeadHead, Funkygal, Shotput8, pasadena beggar, RichterScale, TheDuckManCometh, SixSixSix

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:10:14 PM PDT

  •  i called my rep and 2 senators. (42+ / 0-)

    i want them all to listen.
    i want them to hear each of us.

    please do read the MSF statement on 'being used.'

    Response to the US administration and other governments referring to MSF Statement of August 24
    thank you, mr. blades.
    a commenter posted this very link at emptywheel, re Polk.

    @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution. * Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:18:21 PM PDT

    •  Me too (called that is). And thank you to MB! n/t (17+ / 0-)

      "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

      by YucatanMan on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:35:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Super primer on where we are in Syria (10+ / 0-)

        It would be nice if all those who call for war on Syria would stop believing the lies and propaganda and read something from a very good and experienced source.

        Like William Polk, I try to access who would gain and who would lose from all international events-- such as war on Syria. I agree and have already commented on DKos that I do not believe that Assad did the gas terrorism since he had nothing to gain from that. It is very likely that it was done by someone who supports regime change, or by someone who simply profits from all wars.

        I read the entire article, and found only one error. Polk says that there was wide approval in the US for the war on Iraq at the time of the Powell UN speech. Actually the last Gallup poll taken before the attack on Iraq, a large majority of respondent said that they did not approve of war without UN approval.

        War is costly. Peace is priceless!

        by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:58:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That (5+ / 0-)

          was the only mistake I found as well. Mr. Polk reflects my own reasonably informed position--that the gas attack did not originate with Assad's "side" of the conflict. My fear all along has been that chemical weapon stores are not secure, not just in Syria but all across the Middle East. The "Arab Spring" did nothing to ease that fear. In countries whose basic military unit is the family clan, it is not possible to know one's enemies intimately nor is it possible to keep informed of their positions or loyalties. Any time there is a perceived vacuum, there are many groups willing to fight for a place at the top, and if using chemical weapons will help in that endeavor, they will be used.

    •  Mine have already said NO! (6+ / 0-)

      "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

      by doingbusinessas on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:05:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sadly, my Dem Senators, Feinstein and Boxer (8+ / 0-)

      are supportive, and my right-wing nutball Congressman, John Campbell, who I have never agreed with on anything, is against.

      If that doesn't blow my mind, nothing will.

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:16:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Boxer's taking 1 for the team here (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cany, frostbite, caul, kharma

        which is why I have little doubt about the Senate vote.  In fact, regardless of one's views on the merits, sucking up to McVain and Graham here is politically foolish in the extreme.  If 4 former senators (Obama, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel) can't cobble together 51 votes in a chamber w/ a 54-46 Dem majority, then lame duck status arrived in year 5.

        I really don't know about House.  My guess is that we'll see another Amash-Conyers majority, but who the hell knows.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:41:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, Boxer's "team" should be her constituents (7+ / 0-)

          not the Pres.

          202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

          by cany on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:54:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Pelosi's taking 1 for the team, too (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            caul, kharma

            My guess is that there will be a strong correlation between those who voted for Amash-Conyers and those who will vote against the Syria resolution, and vice versa.  As w/ the IWR, the actual merits of this issue will be an incidental concern at best for those who will actually vote on it.   Little has changed in that regard in past 11 years despite our attempts.

            Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

            by RFK Lives on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:37:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is so true: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              caul, Susipsych
              Little has changed in that regard in past 11 years despite our attempts.
              I don't know American history well enough to understand how we got to be such war mongers, but sheesh the only time in my life of 60 years that people have balked is now. Too much money, a military overtaxed. Soldiers don't need to be shipped anywhere to do anything imho.

              It seems most of us are sick of this. Fool me once... err we we can't be fooled again (or whatever Bush II said).

              202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

              by cany on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 08:22:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  This will be a strange congressional debate (3+ / 0-)

          The super hawks and those who mostly follow the AIPAC lead, in both parties, will vote for war. In the Senate the pro-war vote will win. In the House where all members are up for election next year, most will pay attention to the polling results.

          There will be a massive push for war in our extremist pro-war MSM and they could tie Assad to another "incubator baby killing" fabrication to fool the people. Absent a similar successful propaganda event, I think we will have a no-war vote in the House. Maybe wishful thinking on my part.

          War is costly. Peace is priceless!

          by frostbite on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:11:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Feinstein (0+ / 0-)

        I still remember he saying how Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations had convinced her of the need to invade Iraq to deal with Saddam's WMD.

        This aggression will not stand, man.

        by kaleidescope on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:59:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for this..."mission creep", indeed (39+ / 0-)
    All indications are that the government’s command and control system not only remains intact but that it still includes among its senior commanders and private soldiers a high proportion of Sunni Muslims. Were the regime in decline, it would presumably have purged those whose loyalties were becoming suspect (i.e. the Sunni Muslims) or they would have bolted for cover. Neither happened...
    No one, of course, can know what would happen then. My hunch is that Syria, like Afghanistan, would be torn apart not only into large chunks such as the Kurds in the northeast but even neighborhood by neighborhood as in the Iraqi cities. Muslims would take revenge on Alawis and Christians who would be fighting for their lives. More millions would be driven out of their homes. Food would be desperately short, and disease probably rampant. If we are worried about a haven for terrorists or drug traffickers, Syria would be hard to beat. And if we are concerned about a sinkhole for American treasure, Syria would compete well with Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:30:12 PM PDT

  •  I will be sharing this. (52+ / 0-)

    I doubt many will read it... it's long, it's involved, it's complicated (not really, but you get my point). But if I don't offer if up, it definitely won't get read.

    I have one friend in particular who might actually gain some insight from this and change his mind. That would be worth it alone.

    Thanks for banging the drum, MB. We need more like you.

    •  I agree (7+ / 0-)

      we need more William Folks in the presidents ear.

    •  I'm sharing it on FB and with this lead (8+ / 0-)
      13: So what could we possibly gain from an attack on Syria?

      Even if he wanted to, could Assad meet our demands?  He could, of course, abdicate, but this would probably not stop the war both because his likely successor would be someone in the inner circle of his regime and because the rebels form no cohesive group. The likely result would be something like what happened after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a vicious civil war among competing factions.

      No one, of course, can know what would happen then. My hunch is that Syria, like Afghanistan, would be torn apart not only into large chunks such as the Kurds in the northeast but even neighborhood by neighborhood as in the Iraqi cities. Muslims would take revenge on Alawis and Christians who would be fighting for their lives. More millions would be driven out of their homes. Food would be desperately short, and disease probably rampant. If we are worried about a haven for terrorists or drug traffickers, Syria would be hard to beat. And if we are concerned about a sinkhole for American treasure, Syria would compete well with Iraq and Afghanistan. It would probably be difficult or even impossible to avoid “boots on the ground” there. So we are talking about casualties, wounded people, and perhaps wastage of another several trillion dollars which we don’t have to spend and which, if we had, we need to use in our own country for better heath, education, creation of jobs and rebuilding of our infrastructure.  

      Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government,  it may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed. They may regard it as a sort of license to go ahead in this wasting war. Thus, the action will have accomplished little. Thus, as General Zinni points out, America will likely find itself saddled with another long-term, very expensive and perhaps unwinnable war. We need to remind ourselves what Afghanistan did—bankrupting the Soviet Union—and what Iraq cost us—about 4,500 American dead, over 100,000 wounded, many of whom will never recover, and perhaps $6 trillion.    

      Can we afford to repeat those mistakes?

      without the ants the rainforest dies

      by aliasalias on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:17:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some additional information (31+ / 0-)

    1) The social media lit up almost immediately as the gas spread showing those attacked. We do know where the attacks were made and at what time
    2) NPR has a different map of where the attacks occurred
    3) Every modern military puts a great deal of effort into what is called "counterbattery" - that is, finding the enemy artillery (howitzers and rockets) and taking them out. This is done by detecting muzzle flashes and / or rocket exhaust as the rockets exit the launch tubes. The United States is very good at counterbattery operations.

    Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
    It is, of course, possible that the USG is simply lying through their collective teeth - with the caveat that a lot of people would have to be "in on it". However, if they are not lying, then the prior statement about counterbattery holds, and Mr. Polk is simply wrong to assert that it could have been the opposition - unless you wish to construct a scenario where the opposition overran regime positions, launched a series of rockets back towards their own lines, and then retreated.

    I'm on a mission! http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1233352/51142428#c520 Testing the new site rules.

    by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:31:44 PM PDT

    •  Do you have a link for the social media (12+ / 0-)

      lighting up? I believe you, I'd just like to see the analysis.

      Also:

      It is, of course, possible that the USG is simply lying through their collective teeth - with the caveat that a lot of people would have to be "in on it".
      In regards to what would have to be faked it could be done by a relatively small group of people at an early time. Or some rebel group could have faked launches to set up the regime.I'm working under the assumption that it was the regime, but it's not outlandish to suggest that the government has lied about a reason for going to war. It's happened numerous times before. And given the privatized nature of our intelligence services I wouldn't put it past some of them. Rocket launches could be easily done, etc.

      Whether the regime launched the attacks or not, intervention is foolish and people need to speak up against it whether we agree on the specifics.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:19:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you Blue for the (4+ / 0-)

      more accurate reporting.
      I note you have reported  "Satellite detections corroborate", rather than Meteor's "rockets ... appeared to have been homemade".  IOW people should stop trying to believe that the attack came from anyone other than the Syrian regime.
      Kerry and Obama are not lying or trying to mislead.

    •  unless the rebels took advantage of normal (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, annieli, NYFM, caul

      shelling to release the gas so they could blame Assad....

      It honestly isn't like these are difficult chemicals, just deadly.

      Also read from a link off of Janes might even be twice removed that at least one recovered missile seemed to apparently be designed as a FAE (fuel air explosive) and evidently the fuel is extremely toxic and mimics some of the symptoms of sarin exposure...

      If an FAE rocket dispersed the fuel but the initiator/trigger failed then you have a whole lot of highly toxic heavier than air gas floating down killing many in its path without it technically being a "chemical weapon"   That would also explain how unprotected emergency workers and civilians were able to handle the victims without having any symptoms themselves even though they weren't in MOPP suits and sarin is semi persistent.

      three interesting sites I ran across yesterday

      http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/

      http://rogueadventurer.com/

      http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.com/

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:57:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hard to do (5+ / 0-)

        You have to have sarin gas in widely separated places ready to go when the shelling starts.

        There are also contemporaneous social media reports, per the government assessment (and I suspect you'd have to speak Arabic to find them), reporting exploding gas filled shells.

        So now you've got to have the rebels arranging for these eyewitness accounts - possible, I'm sure, but it would take some serious brass to gas people, stand there filming their deaths in front of their friends and families, and post the results to Youtube.

        Not just once, but dozens of times.

        I'm on a mission! http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1233352/51142428#c520 Testing the new site rules.

        by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:03:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  true if it turns out it actually was Sarin and not (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annieli, caul

          another nasty chemical.....We have lots of them, that's why
          I mentioned how toxic the Fuel part of an FAE is and I was very surprised to find it somewhat mimics sarin in the symptomology......

          And honestly if they have the brass to kill the number they do, what's a few more, esp if you get any "important" people out of the area first....

          Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
          I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
          Emiliano Zapata

          by buddabelly on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:30:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  the fact that there wasn't any secondary (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, hooper, blue aardvark

        contamination was also one of the factors that led me to initially be somewhat skeptical that there was any actual nerve gas attack. Along with the very low reported death rate, and that the films of "victims" I saw didn't seem all that consistent with GB symptoms.

        But recently, chemical warfare experts from around the world (who presumably have access to better info than I) have been unanimous in concluding that there was an actual nerve agent attack.  I defer to their judgement.

        But I await confirmation from the UN inspection teams.

    •  People seem to be under the impression that (5+ / 0-)

      Syrian government forces launched only one series of rockets and 90 minutes later reports of a chemical attack began to appear.

      This is not the case. Read the quoted paragraph. There were attacks which included rocket launches 90 minutes before reports began to appear.

      Syrian government forces began lauching rockets and firing artillery into these areas on Tuesday and continued to do so Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning and for four days after the chemical weapons attack.

      It is the tactic they have been using for about six months.  

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:10:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Detecting muzzle flashes is simply that... (6+ / 0-)

      It is not far fetched that a rebel force under attack by conventional weapons (or nightly attacks) could devise a plan to draw fire and set off the canisters.  That would show the muzzle flash you say is evidence and allow the rebels to frame Assad.

      I have absolutely no idea what happened but the scenerio is plausible.  The extraordinary proof burden is on the administration who is threatening to take this country into another (supposedly limited) war.

      William Polk's assessment of motive is spot on.  It makes the most sense.  He did not say that the rebels did it but merely that they had the most to gain, we really don't know what happened and that is not enough evidence to go to war.  

      It is, of course, possible that the USG is simply lying through their collective teeth - with the caveat that a lot of people would have to be "in on it".
      Anyone know what happens to whistleblowers when they reveal American government lies?

      Riddle me this Aardvarkman, what was Assad's motive?  Where is one concrete proof of any kind? Missle fragments, video of incoming ordnance, the supposed phone conversation?  What do we hope to gain by striking the Syrian government's forces?  Do we want the rebels to win this?

      Are you actually shocked that the American government (regardless of who is in office) would tell a lie in order to carry out its strategic military goals?  Anyone remember the reasons we went to war with a country called Iraq or Vietnam or any number of other countries throughout American history?

      "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

      by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:40:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, I'd be shocked if Obama or Kerry tried to lie (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NYFM, melfunction, Debby, Albanius

        us into war.  Could they do something stupid?  Sure.  Minimize something that should be maximized, or v.v.?  Sure.  But I don't see them as deliberately setting out to fake this.

        •  You have more faith than I do... (7+ / 0-)

          I hope you are right but I doubt it.

          Again, the burden of proof lies with the people wanting to take us to war... again.  

          Let's give the administration the benefit of the doubt and say we do not believe they are lying.  If you were on a jury and with the facts contained in this diary used as a counter argument, do you feel that this administration has met the burden of proof for going to war?  

          Muzzle flash?  Intercepted conversation between either high up officials or low level soldiers (I have heard both)?  Where is the motive?  Where is the rocket fragments?  Where is the video evidence of nerve agents? The ones I have seen do not match what experts say they should look like (no evidence of throwing up, higher survival rate than kill rate, people handling them without protective gear, etc...)  Where is the proof beyond a reasonable doubt?

          We are talking about killing people over this.  We are talking about badly damaging any possibility of diplomacy here.  We are talking about spending a lot of money that could be used on schools and infastructure to give people jobs.  For what?  To insert fundamentalist Sunnis in power that have advanced ethnic cleansing?  Where is the tremendous amount of evidence that it would take to warrant such a bone headed move exist?  Where is it?

          There is tremendous pressure on President Obama and John Kerry to do this.  what makes you think that they wouldn't lie?  Even with the NSA revalations, even after drone attacks and the kill list?  Even after the capitulation on healthcare, social security, Guantanamo, C-CPI, Afghanistan, environmental policy, charter schools, Wall Street, militarization of our police force, prosecution of whistleblowers and on and on and on.  You still believe that these guys would not lie about something like this?

          "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

          by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:51:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  First of all, we're not going "to war". Limted (0+ / 0-)

            attacks can be limited, as has been shown.  This is not Iraq.  There's no invasion.

            You clearly buy in to a whole narrative of betrayal - as stated in your comment - with which I'd disagree.  Let's not go point to point please, nooooo.  But there's no way it could not color your view.

            We're actually not talking about all the things you are (schools, infrastructure).  We're talking about flying a few dozen cruise missiles into the military centers of a brutal dictator, to stop him from gassing his own people.  And others like him who will be tempted if we back off.

            There will be some deaths.  But nothing like a world that accepts poison gas.

            You're against this?  In what world is gassing people ok?  

            •  "In what world is gassing people ok?" (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lepanto, Buckeye Nut Schell, mkor7

              In what world is support for a "limited" attack the only way to prove you are against gassing people? Incredible.

              •  I have not heard any viable alternative. Have you? (0+ / 0-)

                It's not about proving one's against it, its about stopping it.

                •  There is no better way to say I Love You... (0+ / 0-)

                  to the people of Syria than to send them four Tommahawks, three cruise missles, two drone strikes and one daisy cutter in a death tree.

                  If all you have is the worlds largest military arsenal at your disposal then everything looks like a big bright target for bombing.

                  Let the colateral damage begin!

                  Hurry up folks for your ticket to watch the greatest show on earth: the fireworks are real, the blood curdeling screams are real, hell, you may even be able to catch a body part of someone you know!  

                  I have not heard any viable alternative. Have you?
                  I once heard of this thing called diplomacy... it is this crazy idea that if you TALK to someone instead of bombing them, you may be able to keep wars from happening all together.  

                  I know that it is US policy NOT to talk to evil dictators and/or terrorists unless:

                  a.) We are asking them to torture someone for us
                  b.) We are working out the details of their pay schedule
                  c.) Somebody on an aircraft carrier scribbles a note on a bomb.

                  Maybe, if we tried this mythical DIPLOMACY scheme, we may not have to spend billions of dollars killing poor people in other countries making incredible numbers of enemies which create more strife which causes more need for military intervention which kills more poor people...  I think you get my point.

                  The golden rule says to do onto others as you would have others do onto you.  If you believe that AND you believe we should strike Syria over their war crimes then you must feel it would be okay for Russia or China to punish the United States for our "Whoopsy" of attacking a sovereign nation under false pretenses and/or  rendering innocent world citizens and torturing them in inhumane ways keeping them locked up for years after they have been cleared of any wrong doing.  

                  Yeah, I didn't think so.  Me neither.

                  "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

                  by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:09:54 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  In what world is sending cruise missles... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mkor7, claude

              into a sovereign country NOT an act of war?

              "Oh, it's only a FEW missles and only a FEW people will die.  That's not war, that's just teaching them a lesson".  Bullshit!

              I guess I didn't see the part of my comment where I advocated a world where gassing people was okay.  Please explain to me why we are the only country in the world who is planning to attack them?  If it is such a moral imperative to attack the Syrian government, where are all of the other NATO nations?  Where are our allies?  If it is so clear cut, why are we all alone?  Are we the only country in the world right now with morals?

              You clearly buy in to a whole narrative of betrayal - as stated in your comment - with which I'd disagree.
              You are correct... I do feel betrayed.  I thought we were electing someone who was NOT like the neocons who led us into the last twelve years of war.  I was wrong.

              "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

              by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 04:45:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Illegal, Aggressive War (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Buckeye Nut Schell

              That is an international war crime.  A country's use of poison gas on its own people -- bad as that is -- isn't.  

              It will be Obama and the United States, not Assad, who will be the international war criminals.  I don't understand why people here think nothing of breaking the taboo on illegal wars of aggression.

              This aggression will not stand, man.

              by kaleidescope on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:13:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The sad thing is you actually believe this. (0+ / 0-)

              I don't understand people so eager to jump on the war wagon.

              The United States has a long history with interfering in other countries. In the 19th century it was mostly in Latin America, hence the Monroe Doctrine where we declared it was our right. This lead to such things as Polk's War, and the toppling of regime after regime time and time again decade after decade in Latin America. We are still interfering there on one pretext or another like the current drug war. Why has the United States invaded Haiti so many times? Then there was the gun boat diplomacy that opened up Japan to the West, but of course that didn't have anything to do with WWII. The Indian wars, the Spanish American War. The U.S. has meddled in African countries and Asian countries. Don't think that the Chinese have forgotten how the U.S. constantly meddled in their affairs. The Boxer Rebellion comes to mind. With the exception of WWII. None of these were provoked but were actions designed to further U.S. interests, although argument and incidents have always been cooked up to make these actions legit. The U.S. has a centuries old M.O. It is not just because of Iraq that I don't believe what is going on now. I never believed the Iraq claims either. Pretty much the same monied people have been in charge of the government for a long time. Look up some of these military adventures and see how limited they were. Some of them were. Then look at the humanitarian aspect of these conflicts, if there is one.

              Can you name any country that has interfered with the United States the way it interferes in other countries. In our own Civil War, the British and the French did supply materials, but they didn't bomb us.

              Given the history of U.S. behavior, I can't really blame anyone  for thinking that the U.S. can do whatever it wants, and it pretty much can, but that doesn't mean that it should. There are long term consequences that will come back to haunt us. We are not responsible for the past use of CW in Syria nor any future use of CW there unless we get involved, and then if Assad uses the weapons, it will be the U.S's fault. We gain nothing and lose a lot by getting involved. Our involvement will NOT stop future bad bad dictators from using chemical weapons.

              If you are personally so fired up that you want to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria, why don't you go over there and join the Free Syrian Army. I hear they need a few good men.

        •  "I'd be shocked if Obama or Kerry tried to lie (4+ / 0-)

          us into war."

          This is snark, right?

          Fiat justitia ruat caelum "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."

          by bobdevo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:57:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Why? (0+ / 0-)

          Lying us into war is a tried and true tactic of militarists in the United States.  Remember the Maine?  Gulf of Tonkin. George Tenant's "slam dunk."  

          Even U.S. involvement in WWII (prior to Pearl Harbor) was partly the result of an intense and highly sophisticated propaganda  and disinformation campaign by the British Government in conjunction with ruling circles in the U.S.

          This aggression will not stand, man.

          by kaleidescope on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 08:09:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I really don't care about the debate or ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mkor7, claude

        over who did it. It doesn't matter. We shouldn't even think about taking the first step. The Russians have warships there. The Syrians are armed with sophisticated shore to ship missiles that can go for 100 miles or so with unerring accuracy. One Carrier down and 5000 Americans die.

        al-Qaida fighting Assad. Would we intervene in a war in 1940 if Japan started fighting Germany?

        I for one don't understand the Democrats obsession with intervention. It has never worked in the past. We have always paid some deep penalty. We have had nothing but war since 2001.

        We have no real allies on this.

        It shouldn't even be a point of discussion other than anyone who votes for it gets a primary.

        Besides if Obama had proof certain he never would have gone to congress. But that isn't even the argument. The argument is simple. Step into another sinkhole of war or stay the fuck out?  When is do we say enough is enough.

        Anyone want to fund another 170B a year in war costs as we still struggle to exit Afghanistan by the 13 year mark? People have killed people over stupid shit since time began.  We have self appointed ourselves guardian of the world's morals only we don't bother adhering to them ourselves. We stand on no moral high ground. Stop trying to interpret shit that means absolutely nothing to anyone here except those who need another hot war to show off military hard ware.

        The Obama Hawks are watching all the Social media right now to see if they are getting traction. One glance at this shows they are. Kill it off now.

        “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

        by Dburn on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 03:23:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Our cruise missiles have (0+ / 0-)

          about 5x the range of their shore to ship missiles. Our fighter planes have more range than that. Our carrier group will never ever be in the slightest danger if Syria throws everything they have at it in a suicide mission.

          I'm on a mission! http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1233352/51142428#c520 Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 06:05:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It all depends where the targets are (0+ / 0-)

            Syria is 71,000 square miles. How close to Syria would the ships carrying the Tomahawks have to go to hit their targets? Also Syrian missile defenses are Mobile. So even if they have the range it could come down to where the hell are the missiles located and how close can they get to shipping?

            That means manned fighter aircraft + drones searching for missile launchers again. Do we really want to  underestimate a potential adversary so much that we use range comparisons to write off their defenses?  It only took Iraq a few hundred thousand dollars and some buried IEDs to stop us cold and kill thousands of American soldiers.  The slippery sliding slope into the sinkhole of a protracted engagement is staring us right in the face , especially when  Britain has said no. They usually say no to nothing.

            Remember the US spending Days looking for mobile Scud Missile launchers in the desert in 1991.

            Fighters are also gas hogs. They can refuel in the air, but then again how long will they be able to hang over the target area especially since they really have no idea what to hit and where as of right now.

            I would hope with a 700B budget the US has much better technology, but plans along with specifications rarely survive first contact. If a ship gets too close they will have a hard time defending against a missile in terminal dive at 2100 feet per second. They can get up to Mach 5-6.  

            The whole point is this exercise  is  that is not without risk. We are the possibilities that we go in to fire off a few hundred missiles and then skedaddle out of there?  People are hoping Syria will roll over and play dead like so many before her. Yet there are Russian ships in Syrian ports. In war, accidents do happen. What if a errant missile sinks a Russian warship?

            What if Syria fires on Israel? The relation ship between the US and Israel is strained unlike in 1991 when a international coalition went into to Iraq. If Israel strikes back hard, and they kill off a few Russian ships, what next?

            The point is, we shouldn't be there testing out the hypothesis in the first place. Do you really want to risk thousands of not only American lives but innocent Syrian + Russian lives  to "punish" Syria  for  a Gas attack that very well may have been set off by Al Qaeda?  Do we want to even chance the possibility of killing Russians?

            That was a longer dive in detail that was necessary compared to we shouldn't be there in the first place . Going there is not without risk.

            “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

            by Dburn on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:14:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We can hit any point in Syria with a Tomahawk (0+ / 0-)

              without bringing our ships within range of their missiles. They have a range of at least 800 miles and most variants have more range. No point in Syria is more than 500 miles from the ocean so that's 300 miles out to sea.

              Even if they had missiles with sufficient range, aiming those missiles would pose quite a challenge. You can't hit what you can't see, and the horizon is only about 30 miles out even if standing on a hill top.

              I'm on a mission! http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1233352/51142428#c520 Testing the new site rules.

              by blue aardvark on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 07:35:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Not going to debate CT (0+ / 0-)

        because you can always add another layer of deceit no matter what evidence is produced. What if MSF is lying? The UN inspectors? The poor people on the ground who have been interviewed?

        I'm on a mission! http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1233352/51142428#c520 Testing the new site rules.

        by blue aardvark on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 06:06:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Calling something a CT is such a cop out... (0+ / 0-)

          I simply stated that the administration didn't make the case for war.  That burden is on them.

          I said:

          I have absolutely no idea what happened but the scenerio is plausible.  The extraordinary proof burden is on the administration who is threatening to take this country into another (supposedly limited) war.
          So, your stance is that anything the government claims is true until proven false and anything that calls that into question is a conspiracy theory and should therefor be shunned?

          I guess, I am a cynic because I believe the government lies to us without hesitation and I have zero faith that they feel they have any obligation to tell us the truth.  If the burden falls on the people to provide extraordinary proof that the government is wrong then we should never object to anything.  

          The government said they knew for a fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction so it was a conspiracy theory to say they didn't.  It was a conspiracy theory to say the NSA was spying on us and President Obama said that they were not so anybody who says they are is a conspiracy theorists.  In fact, you can say that about anybody that disagrees with you about anything.  How convenient.

          I never asked you to debate a CT with me.  If you read my comment, I asked you where does the burden proof lie?  Should we, the people, prove that there is no cause to go to war or should the burden of proof lie with the government who is sending us to war?  Sending one missile into a sovereign nation is an act of war whether it is officially declared or whether they choose to call it something different.  It is war.

          It is not good enough for them to say that they have indisputable evidence but cannot show it to us for national security reasons.  Sending our children, our tax dollars and our reputation to war IS a matter of national security and the government betrayed our trust the last time.  They lied.  They do not deserve blind trust again.

          Dismiss me as a conspiracy theorists if you must because you know, deep down, that I am right whether you choose to admit it or not.

          "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

          by Buckeye Nut Schell on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 06:19:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I thought Mr. Polk (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melfunction, Albanius

      may have missed a couple of issues or at least served them up rather poorly.  

      1) All his sources appear to be government based.  Does he not have any NGO or other contacts?  That was disappointing.  

      2) Also, he seems to be under the impression that that the main areas of attack are merely "disputed" and not dominantly held by rebels.  The NPR map you link plus Juan Cole's Aug 27 piece seem to indicate that the gassed areas were definitely rebel dominant.  In that piece Cole proposes a plausible motive for Assad.

      In the end, Polk's piece on "who are the possible culprits" are like any others:  a crude guess.

      I'm trying to dig up some links I think may interest you.

      I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

      by Satya1 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:42:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you have a very strong stomach (0+ / 0-)

      Check out some of the links Shaun Appleby references here.  

      http://www.boomantribune.com/...

      I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

      by Satya1 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:45:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good points. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, melfunction, Albanius, blue aardvark

      It seems that Polk wrote most of this before the unclassified Intelligence Assessment was released/distributed on August 30. Because of that, I felt a lot of frustration in reading Polk's essay because he was writing his own suppositions in some areas instead of answering the intelligence assessment. The NPR map and article is (as I'm sure you know) based on the unclassified Intelligence Assessment.

      When someone who has reviewed the classified assessment questions the evidence that Assad's regime made the chemical attack, I could maybe be persuaded that the rebels were responsible. As it stands now, I find those claims without merit.

      Polk's back and forth about UN inspections makes no sense to me. When UN inspectors state that they don't need a particular test, the next step is to find out why the test is not needed, not to write innuendo or leave an air of suspicion.

      “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” ― Chief Seattle

      by SoCalSal on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:25:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for linking to my diary (38+ / 0-)

    Thanks for linking to my diary highlighting the climate aspect of this! Polk's full piece is a must-read, and I hope that our legislators give it a look and some deep reflection. I'm probably going to email it to the offices of Capuano, Markey, and Warren.

  •  Grayson's moveon petition. (25+ / 0-)

    @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution. * Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:43:51 PM PDT

  •  This could be something of a turning (31+ / 0-)

    point. Kerry -- in a rare moment of candor -- admitted the U.S. might have to put boots in the ground (in arguing against such a prohibition in the AUMF.)

    I'm highly doubtful Congress will say no but Kerry, who spent most of the time lying, may have helped the cause with this response.

    Thanks MB for this. Well read when I have time.

  •  from propublica, wapo's interactive vote chart. (15+ / 0-)

    @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution. * Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:45:38 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this very informative read (18+ / 0-)

    I've contacted both of my senators and representative to express my wish that they vote against.  

    Mr. Polk's piece reinforces the fact that it's basically the Pottery Barn motto of "you break it, you own it".  

    If cats could talk, they wouldn't.

    by gypsytoo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:50:45 PM PDT

    •  Just for the record, after Colin Powell made.... (17+ / 0-)

      ...mention of the Pottery Barn rule, the owners of Pottery Barn said they have no such rule. Breakage is just a cost of doing business for them, they said.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:25:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Better is the Powell Doctrine: (11+ / 0-)
      1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
      2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
      3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
      4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
      5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
      6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
      7. Is the action supported by the American people?
      8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
      Cato: Requiem for the Powell Doctrine (11/2003)
      Articulated by Gen. Powell when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, the Powell Doctrine was designed to avoid, as Powell once put it, “halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand or support.” The Powell Doctrine held that military force should only be used if there was a clear risk to national security; that the force used should be overwhelming; and that the operation must have strong public support and a clear exit strategy.
      ---
      In 1992, a more cautious and skeptical Colin Powell warned the public about what could happen when our forces are put in harm’s way with a vague injunction to “do good.” He declared: “We must not… send military forces into a crisis with an unclear mission they cannot accomplish — such as we did when we sent the U.S. Marines into Lebanon in 1983. We inserted those proud warriors into the middle of a five-faction civil war complete with terrorists, hostage-takers, and a dozen spies in every camp, and said, ‘Gentlemen, be a buffer.’ The results were 241 Marines and Navy personnel killed and a U.S. withdrawal.”

      As of 9pm 8/30/13: RETIRED Pie Warrior. Substance over Sh*t Flinging (as best as I am able) ~ JV

      by JVolvo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:44:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We lost 241 Marines with one Bomb (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mkor7, JVolvo

        I read one account. They were sending 1500 Marines in relief after the bombing but apparently the politicos felt that the 1500 marines would look much better at Grenada which we suddenly felt a need to get into after watching the horrors of all horrors.

        Reagan had  to get that off the front page.

        This account was from a Navy seal who was there 83-84 and it was a total cluster fuck. People were shooting at everybody. No one had any idea who was siding with who. The ROE was don't shoot unless your sure someone is shooting at you.

        There was also talk that the marines at the barracks had to have empty rifles.

        This is much worse because all 23 or 45 or 12 (does it matter?) sides hate America and they now have very sophisticated weapons thanks to the Russians. If anyone things we won't find a missile up the ass of a large warship of ours, they haven't been paying attention.The  Navy hasn't been in this much peril since WW11.

        “ Success has a great tendency to conceal and throw a veil over the evil of men. ” — Demosthenes

        by Dburn on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 03:35:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have often wondered if the humiliation of (0+ / 0-)

        Powell had something to do with the Conservatives' fear that he become President.

  •  This plants a huge seed of doubt in my mind... (34+ / 0-)

    ...as to what really happened.

    And reinforces my opinion that attacking Syria is a roll of the dice with huge stakes at play.

    Rolling the dice is a very bad idea in this context.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:54:53 PM PDT

  •  Republished to (14+ / 0-)

    Adalah--A Just Middle East.

    The Bible is 100% accurate. Especially when thrown at close range.--God

    by Flyswatterbanjo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 12:55:56 PM PDT

  •  Sending this to my New Mexico representitives - (12+ / 0-)

    and hoping fervently that they read this .
    Thank you, MB.
     Now I want to know the REAL reasons for calling for a strike on Syria. Though we may never know...

    •  Just follow the money. (5+ / 0-)

      It's just like every war. What does Syria have that every multinational corporation wants?

      Syria is the only significant crude oil producing country in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

      "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

      by fugwb on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:29:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Syria's goes to Europe, says that (0+ / 0-)

        Wikipedia article.

        •  That's true. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          la urracca

          But it's the same players in Europe as here. BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobile. Then add in Royal Dutch Shell and a slew of others. Same old shit. We use our young people for fodder and spend our national treasure for these rotten bastards......

          Hell, no wonder England voted not to intervene. They figured we would go and do the dirty work for them and they still get the prize.....

          "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

          by fugwb on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:21:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The pipeline which could deliver Iran's (0+ / 0-)

        gas to Europe will pass through Iraq and Syria. A Memorandum of Agreement to build it has already been signed.

        This will not be allowed.

        Yes, always follow the money. Greed is a huge motivator.

        Here is one link. The article appears elsewhere including Asia Times Online.

        Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

        by truong son traveler on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 02:14:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  On the whole, a worthwhile read... (11+ / 0-)

    My problem with the piece runs from sections 1-4 and stems, I think, from the piece being drafted prior to the White House's release of the "U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013." If the intelligence cited in that document related to regime forces' preparations for the attack (18-21 Aug) is credible, then many of the doubts expressed along a range from "we don't know who is responsible" to "the rebels must have done it" are significantly weakened.

    That said, the later sections dealing with the complexities of the crisis in Syria are pretty good.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:05:53 PM PDT

  •  I'm not convinced that we, including Mr. Polk, can (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    duhban, Texas Lefty, FistJab, hooper, Sky Net

    ...claim to have all of the information that the decision makers are discussing. I do know that I don't trust RT has a source for anything other than anti-U.S. propaganda.

    I know it troubles many on the Left to admit it, but sometimes other people know more about a particular situation. Too many times the implication of our arguments is that there is no need for government except to point out the corruption, ineptness, incompetence, and evil the people who are in it.

    I mean, why bother organizing or even voting if all we need to know about any all problems as well the correct solutions can be read here at DK?

    I love reading sermons to the choir as much as anyone, but sometimes we need a bit of circumspection when discussing matters of life and death. I haven't made up my mind, but I do not trust any argument that tries to sell this situation as easy, certain, or without moral deficiencies no matter what position one argues. Arguing from a sense of dishonesty on the account of passion is not a virtue.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:06:40 PM PDT

    •  I certainly didn't see Polk as arguing that he... (43+ / 0-)

      ...has all the information. That's never been his style: I've read his books on Iraq and Iran.

      While I agree about being cautious, and about much of what RT produces, I think it's also very risky to accept that because government officials know more details than we folks without security clearances, they therefore will necessarily have better judgment.

      We anti-Vietnam War folks were told repeatedly to zip our lips about the war because our leaders knew a lot more than we did. They did know more. But their decisions and rationale were wrong, and as we discovered from the Pentagon Papers, venal as well.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:31:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All due respect MB, this isn't Vietnam, or Iraq (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melfunction

        I don't think being against the government is a sufficient enough argument for anything other than ideology. Invoking Vietnam or Iraq doesn't do much at all to make this a less opaque situation. Having grown up in the South, I find the invocation of the Civil War for certain attitudes to be just as lacking.

        I must say that I find most persuasive the voices on both sides who have the honesty to state that there are no good choices, but then go on to make an argument for what they believe is the less noxious course of actions. That upfront honesty is my screen and I am sticking to it.

        The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

        by sebastianguy99 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:30:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is my biggest problem with most of the (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          melfunction, Albanius, Lawrence

          left commentary on this...folks almost invariable start off with some version of "We've seen this before..."

          No offense, but to me that means they're not thinking clearly, literally.  Rather they're reminded of something else (Iraq, Vietnam, etc) and this colors their judgement.  We all tend to see what we expect to see.

          The other side of this is that (as a bot) I have to watch my tendencies as well.  Specifically, this gas use needs to be well-proved to be Assad's doing.

          •  So there's no value of learning from history? (6+ / 0-)

            If someone you know has a long track record of lying or misdirecting about a particular thing, then would you say "Oh, but experience is no guide" and take their word the next time.

            The interests and priorities of the US as a government have been the same since the end of World War II. And the outright lies as justification in the activities of other nations has been a constant theme. Grenada, Panama, the babies taken out of incubators in Kuwait, the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq's WMDs, enabling Allende's overthrow and murder... good grief, this isn't analogy, this is experience.

            So what's different all of a sudden?


            Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

            by Jim P on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:13:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, but history shows that it's been the same (0+ / 0-)

              group of insiders doing it, except for Vietnam.  Maybe even then.

              The same elite group of power-guys...Wall-Streeters, Dulles-CIA etc, PNAC, Rand Corp., Kissingerists, arms promoters, etc.  Mostly Republicans, some Dems during Kennedy, Johnson.  Those willing to cross any line to "protect our interests."

            •  We have not always been bad, it's off & on. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Albanius, Lawrence

              And it's according to who's doing it, specifically & personally.

              It is an empire, and many of its decisions come straight from protecting that status.  But even so it doesn't behave the same at all times, nor is it understandable with a single narrative.

              What's different is that Obama is not Cheney or McNamara.  He is certainly criticisable for other things but is not one to lie us into war in Syria.  He's been avoiding involvement there for years.

        •  My first diary taking a stance on the subject... (7+ / 0-)

          ...was one which had as its theme that there are no good choices.

          But I don't agree with your assessment in two matters:

          • I'm not saying (and I don't think many people are) that an intervention in Syria will turn out like Vietnam or Iraq. What I'm saying is that we are being told about how this will be limited and quick and make a difference. Just like we were for those other conflicts. There was also considerable, let me be generous, shading of the truth about those conflicts, and there is reason (always) to be concerned about such shading when the drumbeats for war are sounding. Experience tells us so. The graveyards, too.

          • The idea that keeps coming up here is that those of us progressives/liberals/leftists (as compared with libertarians) who are opposed to intervention in Syria and criticizing the administration over state secrets and surveillance are therefore against government in general, or even against this administration in general, is bogus. That's certainly not my view and I don't think it's even close to the view of the majority of those who reject intervention.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 07:46:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I must admit (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lawrence

            the recent discosures of state secrets and surveillance have dampened my trust.

            When officials have been proven to have lied to us on other matters it sticks in my mind and erodes the confidence I would have otherwise had.

            Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

            by DRo on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 04:05:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  agreed (0+ / 0-)

            As I have said from the beginning, there are no good guys anywhere in this situation (including the US), there are no good options that lead to a good end, and all roads seem to lead to Shitsville. At best, all we can do is choose the option that we think leads to the least-bad result.

            Ideologically, I am not a pacifist and I am not in principle opposed to the use of military force. But I do ask that it be used ONLY when it has a clear obtainable objective that cannot be gained any other way. At this point, it seems clear that Assad has used chemical weapons, in violation of international law--and it also seems possible that the rebels may also have used chemical weapons, in violation of international law. In my view, ANYONE who uses them, under any circumstances, deserves to be facing charges of "crimes against humanity" in Le Hague, and their access to such weapons removed.

            IF the Syrian chemical-production plants are in a location that makes them vulnerable to a strike without killing a lot of innocent civilian bystanders, and IF the remaining Syrian nerve gas is chemically unstable enough to degrade into uselessness leaving Assad with no chemical arsenal if his manufacturing is cut off (and it's not yet clear that both of those are true), THEN it would be acceptable to me to look at that as a limited-strike option, using the minimum force necessary to remove Assad's ability to illegally use chemical weapons. And under those circumstances, removing Assad's ability to produce chemical weapons would also at the same time remove the rebels' ability to use them as well, since they would also seem to be getting their chemical weapons directly from Assad's own arsenal.  Consider it a two-fer.

            BUT . . .

            As I have repeatedly said, I am adamantly against any unilateral American action to "enforce international law". Given that the US itself has rejected the jurisdiction of the World Court and has itself blocked any application of international law to itself or its international buddies, I see no reason to allow the US to enforce international law on others that it does not even accept for itself.

            And in my view we cannot allow ANY nation to unilaterally appoint itself the world's police force, since the temptation for ANY "superpower" is to enforce the rules against people it doesn't like, and ignore the rules against people it does like. International law makes the world a better place, and it must be enforced---but allowing a "superpower" to unilaterally decide which laws get enforced and against whom, is not "international law"; it is plain ole superpower imperialism, and it makes the world a worse place. We cannot allow it.

            So I am against ANY international law enforcement, by ANY country--whether it's the US, France, UK, Russia, China, or Lichtenstein--that does not have the explicit prior approval and authorization of the UN.

            And that is why I oppose any military action in Syria.

             

  •  If he knows all this certainly those in charge (14+ / 0-)

    know all this.  So they're lying us into another war.  Maybe a big, long expensive, deadly one.
    This is all information that has been readily available since this war started and during it.  
    The plans have called balkanization all along just like with the other Arab countries.  

  •  I wonder how many people we could (17+ / 0-)

    have fed and sheltered with the money we'll be spending on this attack.

    If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

    by AoT on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:11:30 PM PDT

  •  This article has become woefully out of date (8+ / 0-)

    in only a few short days. We now know significantly more of what intelligence from multiple countries says.

    Specifically, we have a story that multiple intelligence services picked up chatter from a three-day "training exercise" in which Syrian forces mixed the ingredients to make Sarin, loaded the result into rockets, got their gas masks ready, and made preparations for later disposal of the materials, which degrade over time. Then we got the satellite data plus chatter on the launches, and what the spy services call "open source" data over social media and from organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Then we got traffic from the regime trying to find out who launched the attack and shut it down.

    So if this is correct so far, we have a rogue field commander, possibly Assad's younger and nastier brother General Maher al-Assad, going off the reservation. A Doctor Strangelove Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper scenario.

    In which case all of the speculation about how Bashar al-Assad would have to be crazy to use chemical weapons goes out the window. Maher, by all accounts, simply enjoys killing, and doesn't do diplomacy. So the normal logic of international relations does not apply. The logic of a family dictatorship is what counts.

    Now we have to ask a different question. What incentives can the world, and the US in particular, give to President Assad to rein in his brother or to give up chemical weapons? This is very different from the question of how to get Assad to give up power or to negotiate meaningfully on any other issue.

    In this context a targeted strike on Syrian command and control makes some sense, even though it would to begin with make it harder to exercise operational control over Maher. But Bashar and his advisors can probably think of something. For example, just not holding live-weapons poison gas drills would do fine.

    Like at Chernobyl, where all that was needed was simply not holding a "safety inspection" consisting of turning off all of the safety systems in order to observe them regaining control. Oops, too late! Come on, who could have foreseen that?

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:14:51 PM PDT

    •  That was the one big hole I wanted him to address (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eyesbright, Albanius

      The article was pretty comprehensive, and gave decent rationales for his perspectives; but he noted the report that a Syrian military leader had acted independently, but in the next section on who might have done it, and why, he never addressed that at all.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:33:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The background parts of the piece are still... (18+ / 0-)

      ...wholly relevant. The war didn't start in April.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:33:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But that is where this piece fails greatly by (5+ / 0-)

        attributing it all to a drought and protests by rural peasants while completely failing to mention that the Arab Spring swept into Syria with massive, largely peaceful protests, as it did in almost every other Arab nation.

        That is a huge omission and makes me wonder whether the author is up to speed with current events or whether he is captured by 20th century thinking that makes a quality analysis of the situation there impossible.

        Because, without factoring in and understanding the Arab Spring, it is impossible to come to a quality understanding of the current situation in Syria.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:25:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  MSF made the following statement: (17+ / 0-)

      Disclaimer Concerning Information Purportedly About MSF in Syria.

      Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is aware that incorrect, manipulated information about MSF and Syria is circulating on the internet and social media.

      We reiterate what we stated in our press release on August 24:

          MSF does not have the capacity to identify the cause of the neurotoxic symptoms of patients reported by three clinics supplied by  MSF in Damascus governorate.
          MSF was not and is not directly present at these clinics.
          MSF does not possess the capacity or ability to determine or assign responsibility for the event that caused these reported symptoms to occur.

      Any statement or story that asserts any of these things is false.

      We ask you to please continue checking MSF's official websites to find accurate, correct information on MSF communications and activities in Syria.

      Thank you.

      woefully irresponsible comment with regards to MSF.

      Civil Men Are For Civil Rights

      by mimi on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:35:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Both can be true (0+ / 0-)

        There could have been "chatter" about apparent rocket launches, and/or hearing things about symptoms or other events; and at the same time none of those being official statements of MSF that they can document or take responsiblity for.

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:53:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, the chatter was picked up by spy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Albanius

          services such as Israel on the Golan Heights or US and German or other sigint ships in the Mediterranean, or possibly by satellites and drones; and the information on symptoms of possible neurotoxicity is all over social media, including horrific videos.

          MSF is entirely correct that you don't do remote diagnoses when there is a UN team on the ground collecting evidence to be analyzed properly. The team has gathered its evidence and left, and we should hear some actual results within a week.

          Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

          by Mokurai on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:36:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some of the "chatter" was an MSF press release (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Albanius
            Syria: Thousands Suffering Neurotoxic Symptoms Treated in Hospitals Supported by MSF
            “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress,” said Dr. Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations
            “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack,” said Dr. Janssens. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events—characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers—strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons.”
            http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/...

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:03:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And MSF has issued a reponse (9+ / 0-)
              Syria: MSF statements should not be used to justify military actions

              Response to the US administration and other governments referring to MSF Statement of August 24

              28 August 2013 - Over the last two days, the US Administration and other governmental authorities have referred to reports from several agencies, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while stating that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was “undeniable” and to designate the perpetrators. MSF today warned that its medical information could not be used as evidence to certify the precise origin of the exposure to a neurotoxic agent nor to attribute responsibility.

              Last Saturday, MSF said that three hospitals it supports in Syria’s Damascus governorate had reportedly received 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms, of which 355 died. Although our information indicates mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent, MSF clearly stated that scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required and therefore an independent investigation was needed to shed light on what would constitute, if confirmed, a massive and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian law. MSF also stated that in its role as a medical humanitarian organisation, it was not in a position to determine responsibility for the event.

              Now that an investigation is underway by UN inspectors, MSF rejects that our statement be used as a substitute for the investigation or as a justification for military action. As an independent medical humanitarian organisation, MSF's sole purpose is to save lives, alleviate the suffering of populations torn by Syrian conflict, and bear witness when confronted with a critical event, in strict compliance with the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

              The latest massive influx of patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in Damascus governorate comes on top of an already catastrophic humanitarian situation facing the Syrian people, one characterised by extreme violence, displacement, the destruction of medical facilities, and severely limited or blocked humanitarian action.

              Please not there is a difference in the numbers claimed by the White House and MSF. The WH assessment did not give a source for its figures.

              I wouldn't trust "chatter" or some intelligence sources on this matter, not after the lies that have been uncovered about Iraq.


              "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
              TheStarsHollowGazette.com

              by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:31:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That's not chatter (0+ / 0-)

              which specifically means regime (or sometimes rebel) communications picked up by spy services. That's the open source data.

              Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

              by Mokurai on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:51:58 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Bit of a walk back to clarify 8/24 press release (0+ / 0-)
        Syria: Thousands Suffering Neurotoxic Symptoms Treated in Hospitals Supported by MSF
        http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/...

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:05:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is the original press release (4+ / 0-)

          not a "walk back."


          "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
          TheStarsHollowGazette.com

          by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:33:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, that is the oft cited original (0+ / 0-)

            Their latest is a "walk back" from that one.

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:11:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Could you explain how (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ek hornbeck, caul

              you think this is "walk back" from the original press release?


              "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
              TheStarsHollowGazette.com

              by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:27:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  BTW I quoted (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ek hornbeck, caul

              the entire original press release to you two and a half hours ago. Did you at least read it?


              "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
              TheStarsHollowGazette.com

              by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:31:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry that was the disclaimer (7+ / 0-)

                but it did contain the link to the original release, which I will post here because I can.

                Brussels/New York, August 24, 2013 -- Three hospitals in Syria's Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died.

                Since 2012, MSF has built a strong and reliable collaboration with medical networks, hospitals and medical points in the Damascus governorate, and has been providing them with drugs, medical equipment and technical support. Due to significant security risks, MSF staff members have not been able to access the facilities.

                “Medical staff working in these facilities provided detailed information to MSF doctors regarding large numbers of patients arriving with symptoms including convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress,” said Dr. Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations.

                Patients were treated using MSF-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. MSF is now trying to replenish the facilities’ empty stocks and provide additional medical supplies and guidance.

                MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack,” said Dr. Janssens. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events—characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers—strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent. This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, which absolutely prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

                In addition to 1,600 vials of atropine supplied over recent months, MSF has now dispatched 7,000 additional vials to facilities in the area. Treatment of neurotoxic patients is now being fully integrated into MSF’s medical strategies in all its programs in Syria.

                “MSF hopes that independent investigators will be given immediate access to shed light on what happened,” said Christopher Stokes, MSF general director. “This latest attack and subsequent massive medical need come on top of an already catastrophic humanitarian situation, characterised by extreme violence, displacement, and deliberate destruction of medical facilities. In the case of such extreme violations of humanitarian law, humanitarian assistance cannot respond effectively and becomes meaningless itself.”

                (emphasis mine)

                And let me repeat MSF's mission statement so you are very clear where I stand with White House and anyone else using these statements as a basis to attack Syria:

                Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a private international association. The association is made up mainly of doctors and health sector workers and is also open to all other professions which might help in achieving its aims.

                All of its members agree to honor the following principles:

                Charter

                Médecins Sans Frontières provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.

                Médecins Sans Frontières observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance and claims full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.

                Members undertake to respect their professional code of ethics and to maintain complete independence from all political, economic, or religious powers.

                As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the missions they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation other than that which the association might be able to afford them.

                BTW, you do know that I work for them.


                "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
                TheStarsHollowGazette.com

                by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:45:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  in context of my diary yesterday, I find THIS: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blackjackal, Emmet
      Specifically, we have a story that multiple intelligence services picked up chatter from a three-day "training exercise" in which Syrian forces mixed the ingredients to make Sarin, loaded the result into rockets, got their gas masks ready, and made preparations for later disposal of the materials, which degrade over time.
      very very interesting.

      If true, it answers many of the questions I raised in my diary yesterday:

      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      It indicates that the stability of the Syrian nerve gas is not any better than was the Iraqi, and that the Syrians responded to this in the same way that Iraq attempted to, by keeping their ingredients separate so they wouldn't degrade as quickly, and mixing them together only just before the planned use.  The Iraqis were never able to do that effectively. If these reports are correct, Syria may have had better luck with it.

      In light of this, the US may indeed have concluded that striking the Syrian production facilities will, within a short time, also lead to the complete elimination of Syria's entire nerve gas arsenal as the already-existing stockpiles degrade over time and cannot be replaced. Just as it did in Iraq.

      So it seems to me now that the attack, when it comes, will consist of missile and drone strikes on the CW production facilities.

      Thanks for posting this---it is very interesting.

      •  Actually, no (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        caul, Albanius

        Striking the CW facilities would spread a nasty precursor chemical, methylphosphonyl difluoride (to be mixed with isopropyl alcohol for production) far and wide into surrounding civilian populations, and possibly allow looting of remaining stocks. The administration is talking about attacks on Syrian Command and Control installations in order to degrade the operational effectiveness of the entire Syrian military, with the hope that it can be taken as an incentive not to use CW again, and perhaps not to do live weapons drills with CW.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:44:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  read my diary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Albanius, claude

          Whether striking the production plants will affect civilians (whether with diflour or with GB) depends on where the plants are.  In Iraq, all the production facilities were bombed with virtually no effect on any civilian populations, because Iraq had located its production plants in relatively remote areas, for security reasons.  I presume Syria has also, though, as I note in my diary, we the public have no way of knowing. The US Government, though, almost certainly DOES know where all the plants are--and if they are isolated enough to be destroyed without civilian risk, I think it a pretty safe bet that they will be the target--especially if the US sees the bonus effect of removing Syria's entire nerve gas arsenal through degredation, as a result.

          PS--Let me state, before some breathless pie-fighter gets their undies all in a knot at me, that I am simply assuming what the US will probably think and do--I'm not, repeat not, as in n-o-t, saying that I like it or agree with it. As I have repeatedly said over the past few days, I see no good end to anything that anyone does in the Syrian civil war, I see no "good guys" anywhere in this situation (including the US), and I am adamantly opposed to any unilateral US action to "enforce international law" that does not have specific previous authorization by the UN or NATO.

          I should not NEED to state that, but alas the many silly roving gangs of hyper pie-fighters we have here, makes it, sadly, necessary.

    •  Polk's wrong on facts, premises and conclusions (0+ / 0-)

      I'd have to write an equally length response to cover the mistaken premises, the facts he's got wrong, and to criticize his conclusions.

      That said, you've made a nice start here.

      Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you: Armisticeproject.org

      by FischFry on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 09:18:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not a mistake to enforce (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Texas Lefty

    one of the few commonly agreed upon bans in the world.

    Is acting fraught with unknowns and dangers? Sure but so was Kosovo and frankly if the world refuses to act I fully expect nations like Syria to use chemical weapons like sarin that are not only frighteningly effective but relatively easy to make.

    I find it sad that many here and most of the world wants to that.

  •  All Iran has to do is scare a few oil tankers and (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuckvw, MrBigDaddy, WheninRome, Sandino

    the price of gasoline will double.  If they actually sink one and block oil shipments then it gets really interesting.  They can very easily bottle up half the oil supply.  The global economy would slam to a sudden stop.

  •  According to John Kerry around 1500 (8+ / 0-)

    are dead in Syria because of chemical attacks, or as they say, a little over 2 weeks of gun deaths in America.

    Anyone still thinking that wanting to own a gun is normal? Wanting to own a gun is an immediate indicator that you should be the last person to have one.

    by pollbuster on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:41:17 PM PDT

  •  Thank you, MB, for republishing this (4+ / 0-)

    well-reasoned and informative essay.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:44:29 PM PDT

  •  Retaliation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, aliasalias, HCKAD

    One of these times, one of these nations the U.S. attacks will find away to return the attack to American soil. Maybe not this time, but then again, maybe so. It will happen before this century is over.

  •  Of particular note is Polk's assessment of (11+ / 0-)

    ... the consequences and costs associated with such an attack.

    Note that Polk does not attribute such action to a vast conspiracy, the MIC, corporate cartels or the like.

    What he writes about are human foibles that lead even intelligent people into unwise choices:

    Zinni put it in more pointed terms, “You’ll knee-jerk into the first option, blowing something up, without thinking through what this could lead to.”

    Why is this?  It is called "mission creep."  When a powerful government takes a step in any direction, the step is almost certain to have long-term consequences.  But, it seldom that leaders consider the eventual consequences.

    ...

    Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government,  it may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed. They may regard it as a sort of license to go ahead in this wasting war.   Thus, the action will have accomplished little.  Thus,  as General Zinni points out, America will likely find itself saddled with another long-term, very expensive and perhaps unwinnable war.

    What we have yet to hear from Obama, Kerry or Congressional supporters of an attack are the consequences of such action. What will be the fallout in the weeks and months to follow for the Assad regime, the Syrian rebels, the U.S. and the region? How does all this play out? What is the purpose?

    I think we likely won't hear those kinds of explanations because we never do. JFK trapped himself in the Vietnam disaster while surrounded by the "best and the brightest."

    I suffer under no illusions that Obama would do any better.

    Calling other DKos members "weenies" is a personal insult and therefore against site rules.

    by Bob Johnson on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:52:22 PM PDT

    •  Really? You think Obama and crew (0+ / 0-)

      are that stupid?  That they have been paying no attention to how "destabilization" has worked out in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and Egypt?  That they are unaware of "consequences"?

      Wow.  Just wow.  You have even a lower opinion of them than I do . . . I at least credit them with having a (malevolent) purpose . . .

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:29:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah slick, the outcome outweighs the need to (0+ / 0-)

      show might. Fuck all that horseshit about America being for human rights and shit. We got politics to worry about.

  •  an astounding piece. read it earlier. (0+ / 0-)

    good that you post it here. thanks.

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

    by pfiore8 on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:54:15 PM PDT

  •  I'm glad he gave you permission to reprint. (9+ / 0-)

    It really needs to be read in full.

    Thank you for going to the effort to get that permission and for bringing it to the site.

    "But the traitors will pretend / that it's gettin' near the end / when it's beginning" P. Ochs

    by JesseCW on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:57:48 PM PDT

  •  excellent diary (0+ / 0-)

    as always

    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by greenbastard on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 01:58:54 PM PDT

  •  We need a lot more of this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dance you monster, 3goldens, CenPhx

    Thanks, MB.

  •  Correct me if I'm wrong, Tim, but this guy just (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albanius

    wrote that entire, huge piece of "analysis" on Syria and he didn't once mention the Arab Spring that swept through so many Arabic countries.

    Sorry, but I have to ask this:

    Where the hell has this dude been these last 2 1/2 years and why the hell would would he be qualified to write about this if that key event doesn't even factor in his analysis?!

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:12:06 PM PDT

    •  He may not have used the term (0+ / 0-)

      but in my reading he most certainly explained one of the main motivators to the upheaval and revolution in the area. Hunger is a powerful motivation.

      Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

      by ricklewsive on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hunger is one of the motivations inherent to the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Albanius

        Arab Spring, but only one.  Corruption, lack of freedom, lack of opportunity are other major factors.

        Sorry, but writing a lengthy piece about the situation in Syria and completely ignoring the Arab Spring aspect of it gives me the impression that this author didn't really start paying attention to Syria until very recently.

        The Arab Spring is a major factor, if not the key factor, to how this all began.  And it will likely be a big factor in how it continues.

        "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

        by Lawrence on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:40:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  one thing i am surprised doesn't come up more (9+ / 0-)

    often is any discussion of the syrian civil war's situational parallels with the lebanese civil war, especially with regard to how that long and complex conflict was affected by the repeated intervention by outside powers, both in terms of proxies and overt occupation.

    •  Yeah... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming, Lawrence

      I'm reluctant to grab onto analogies too tightly, but a very recent re-read of Khalaf's Civil and Uncivil Violence: a History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict (Columbia UP, 2002) has me thinking in that direction too...

      Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

      by angry marmot on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:21:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think most Americans know very much (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming, Texas Lefty, poco

      about Lebanon, except maybe that a bunch of Marines were killed there and that Israel has invaded it repeatedly.

      Robert Fisk "Pity the Nation" ought to be mandatory reading in for all high school seniors.

      "But the traitors will pretend / that it's gettin' near the end / when it's beginning" P. Ochs

      by JesseCW on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:22:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Where lobbies represent sectors of the economy.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    basquebob, aliasalias

    ..and society with vested interests, the pressure to do something become immense.  We have often seen this in American history." - William Polk

    This is excellent chronology in reporting tying in with historical sequence of events like this.

    It establishes more than a time table it clearly marks a trend. And that trend by the moves made seems to be geared towards intervention - war making

    An identifiable pattern of aggression as the answer over diplomacy.

    Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government,  it may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed.
    100's of thousands were killed - that didn't do it; it took chemical weapons to launch this all out campaign against the Assad regime.

    Another march to war

    Thx MB
    ..................................
    P.S.
    A question I've had for awhlie now - what happened to autopsy investigation?

     Missing even as Kerry gave his speech. This is only a very small part, but one that I haven't heard much about. A direct examination of the actual victims would have answered a lot.

    Why did the investigators not do a more thorough job? The doctor at the site told The Guardian reporter..  
    That since evidence of chemical weapons use on the ground had been:
    “corrupted”  or destroyed
    It seemed like a missing piece of the puzzle easily found before all the calls to strike, red lines, violations or internatinal norms etc. especially since norms are:
    My feelings aside, use of chemical weapons has been common
  •  Great piece, thank youi for bringing it here and (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks to William Polk for asking the important questions and even with context and grey areas and such.....mmmmmreality....tasty........

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:32:24 PM PDT

  •  Having read all points of views, this is going (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RockyLabor, 3goldens, peregrine kate

    to end up badly for everyone if Kerry gets his way. Diplomacy is the only course of action, by forcing Putin's hand and have him talk to Assad with an offer of a safe passage to Russia.

  •  One quibble with Mr. Polk (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias, VeloDramatic, NYFM

    What is the source of the information on the death toll numbers? The White House assessment stated:

    A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.
    Yet gives no source for those numbers, neither does Prof. Polk

     As near as I have seen from report by MSF made on Aug 24, that approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms and of those 355 died.

    So, as afar as I can tell, those numbers are not an "indisputable fact" nor is the White House assumption that it was the Assad government as seems to be the accepted narrative by congress and the news media in the US.


    "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013
    TheStarsHollowGazette.com

    by TheMomCat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 02:34:09 PM PDT

  •  Great education, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ricklewsive
  •  What's more criminal is that the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany, peregrine kate, HCKAD

    UN, Us, the Arab League, Nato or whomever didn't act to give relief for the lack of food and water.

    What is needed is aircraft carriers loaded with desalinization plants and cooperative agreements with countries on the Mediterranean to allow pipelines for water. We have a failed state here, and the world let it happen because they all had their greedy eyes on some advantage. We should be pouring food and engineering help to get water in there.

    It should be an object lesson to what can happen anywhere on the planet, even here. When resources are scarce and people lack food and water, all bets are off.

    •  I agree. What a big failure. We always seem to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WheninRome, HCKAD

      have billions for war, but many don't want to send billions for peace and humanitarianism.

      And all that leads to where we are now.

      202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

      by cany on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:35:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is it possible that destabilization IS the goal? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HCKAD

    I hate to be so cynical, but chaos and destabilization seem to have been the outcome of our other ME "adventures."  

    When Polk asks "who benefits," that is the first place my mind goes.  Who benefits from chaos in the region?  We are not so foolish as to not look at other ME outcomes and read them as prologue for Syria.

    Nothing is as evilly imaginative as the mind of a teenage gamer. -- Sychotic1

    by Sarea on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 04:42:51 PM PDT

  •  John Kerry is our lead diplomat. (0+ / 0-)

    There is something wrong when the lead diplomat is hawking war.

    I wonder if it's Kerry's job to throw the false information as much as it was Colin Powell's.  His credibility for calling for war is his Vietnam anti-war demonstration participation. (where he gallantly threw "another soldiers" medals over the White House fence).

    Maybe, now that he's a big toad he doesn't want to appear squishie.

  •  No body benefits (0+ / 0-)

    When  the sad history of this chapter in US/Mideast foreign policy is written, students and scholars will ask:

    just WTF were they thinking?
    They were warned, but we stumbled on.
    And
    Why didn't someone do something to stop the madness?

  •  Interesting read (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albanius, enemy of the people

    And while it contains a lot of information, it is notable for what it doesn't contain.

    - the conclusion speaks as if the US is alone and/or will be saddled alone with the consequences.  There is insufficient mention of France, neighboring Turkey, or the Arab nations that are anti-Assad regime.  

    - France in 2003 was against the Bush War in Iraq; now they are closely aligned with the US; having fought Libya spillover in Mali, they might be expected to be leading against intervention due to arguments it will make things worse; they have made a different calculation

    - Turkey, in particular as a neighbor of Syria and opponent of the 2003 Iraq War, might be expected to align itself with opposition again.  They aren't - they are with Obama.  They seem to have made a different calculation on options than negative one reflected in this piece

    - the Syrian opposition is described as if it were like the Afghan factions, but they are different countries with different histories

    - there is more evidence of the complicity of the Assad regime in the attack than is noted here

    Yes, it would be a messy situation.  But is already is a messy situation.  Unlike 2003, we would not be going into a stable, although reprehensibly led, country and creating instability.  To paraphrase Zinni, Syria is already spawning demon progeny in terms of refugees, ethnic and sectarian atrocities, etc.

    So while useful, it should be taken as an advocacy piece that had been written with the conclusion already in mind - stay out of the Syrian war.

    This is a fair minded position.  Even supporters of Obama, like myself, don't quarrel with opponents concerns.  

    But there are solid arguments for both yes and no.  This piece, by leaving out the whole picture, is not dispositive.

    "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

    by FDRDemocrat on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:02:24 PM PDT

  •  There's "mission creep." There's also "Tinderbox" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Albanius

    and Archduke Franz Ferdinand might have an opinion on what that could mean.


    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 05:20:31 PM PDT

  •  Read this earlier (h/t to Digby) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, nota bene, Albanius

    If Polk's assessment is correct, there does not seem to be any way to apply leverage to Syria via military force that gets us to anyplace we want to go.

    And here's the thing that is the real kicker - this all started with a drought from 2006-2011. If you wipe out the agricultural base in any country, that country is going to be under severe stress. But the news doesn't talk about this at all - it's almost as though they'd have us think Syria is going to pieces just because Assad is a bad man, instead of a bad man caught up by natural disaster and worse policies.

    Nobody wants to say the problem with Syria may have started with Climate Change - because we don't want to think about the implications of that.

    And especially not with the IPCC report coming out.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:30:03 PM PDT

  •  I can't really respect the analysis. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, Lawrence

    I assume that the original had footnotes, but to me, he's basically making up all the reasons why a CW attack would be at a different place or manner to be effective, doubting that the Assad regime would not maximize it's use,  and THEN says:

    That is speculative, but the second benefit to the rebels of an attack is precisely what has happened: given the propensity to believe everything evil about the Assad regime,  daily emphasized by the foreign media, a consensus, at least in America, has been achieved  is that it must have been complicit.
    It was speculative from start.

    HEY COGNITIVE INFILTRATORS! I googled "confirmation bias" and Daily Kos raided my house! And and and smashed my hard drives! Ask CNN, it's all truthy!

    by Inland on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 06:33:19 PM PDT

  •  I have found a disturbing trend (0+ / 0-)

    in the media in the past couple of days referencing "in violation of international norms".  Not "international laws", because Syria is not in violation of those.

    If being in violation of "international norms" is now something that warrants a military response, then shouldn't we be a similar target for sentencing teenagers and the mentally ill to death?

    •  a point of fact: (0+ / 0-)
      in the media in the past couple of days referencing "in violation of international norms".  Not "international laws", because Syria is not in violation of those.
      Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention which outlaws the manufacture or deployment of chemical weapons, but Syria IS a signatory of the Geneva Protocols which outlaws the USE of chemical weapons.

      So if either the Assad government or the rebels have used chemical weapons in combat, they have violated international law.

  •  Long diary (0+ / 0-)

    Too many misrepresentations to address.

    Fine, you push this marrative, but youd better pray you have it roght, because of not you will be complocit when Assad eacalates and kills more.  As of now I am sure we will not attack and Assad will escalate his gas attacks.   I'm hoping you'll be pleased with that.

  •  I'll reiterate what I said in another diary. We (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, The Story Teller

    cannot turn a blind eye toward atrocities on an anti-war belief. There are times where action is required.

    Frankly, you lost me when showing this guys credentials as an consultant to the Kucinich Presidential Campaign. If there was ever a politician I would trust less on securing America I can't think of them at the moment.

    Beyond that though, we are supposed to be the beacon for standing up for human rights. How could we possibly retain that mantel by turning a blind eye toward the atrocities occurring in Syria. You have only one argument to dissuade action and that is that the al-Assad was not responsible.

    If there is credible evidence that this tyrant gassed his own people I see no recourse other than some form of punishmnent. YMMV.

  •  I found what Mr Polk had to say (0+ / 0-)

    extremely valuable and yet I'm still torn.  While he laid out extremely valid points of view and obvious concerns, he is no longer the insider in this formula.  There could very well be information that he is not privy to that is vital to the final decision.  

    But torn I am and my sole letter to the White House has been to not respond, not because I do not believe there's justification but because our resources are so badly strained and there are more dire issues we need to put our full attention to.

    Mr. Polk left out one major factor in his analysis in my opinion and that is what is to be gained by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party in their push to strike.  I see no financial reward, no guarantee of political success and, more importantly I've yet to see real deception coming from those players while they've held the reins.  If it's determined later that the Assad government was not behind the attacks and we've used our might to intervene, the political damage will be great, could derail Democratic hopes for the White House in 2016, certainly would dash any thoughts of retaking Congress.  Polk asked the question of why Assad would take such a risk.  I contend that the risk is greater for our action.  Why didn't he ask that?  

    So here's my speculation as to the motives for the administration's push for involvement.  

    1.  The evidence is overwhelming of Assad's direct hand in this but some of it is extremely classified involving embedded resources, moles, informers and can't be made public.  Perhaps that intelligence is showing us that even more horrific scenarios are coming, possibly even spreading outside of Syria.  

    2.  An analysis of the economics of the situation are such that the strike holds off the looming world wide depression we've been on the precipice of since Obama took office.  This is an odd idea but bear with me.  It involves the fact that the Republicans have been successful in clamping the national pocket book.  The sequester is having daunting effects.  Our biggest national industry and source of money into the economy is the MIC.  Hate them as we do, until we can get a sane Congress, we do not have the ability to begin shrinking that part and bolstering our fading infrastructure, adding back those vital federal jobs we've lost.  As insane as it sounds, we may need to spend military dollars to keep our nation alive until 2014.  This might be the one area that the Republicans will bend on to allow opening the pocketbook.  Of course this is a terrible thought but put yourself in that seat for a moment and consider balancing what seems to be an illogical military strike that certainly has some moral justification to a renewed recession, possible major depression that would kill or destroy the lives of millions.  This thought creeping in your mind that 2014 is our last chance.  Without success then in changing Congress (and a stable economy is vital for that) the bad guys take over again and we go full blown fascist.

  •  Oh wow. Missed this a few days ago.... (0+ / 0-)

    Glad I got a chance to read it today. Great information.

  •  Syria and international law (0+ / 0-)

    The doctrine of humanitarian intervention holds that one state has the right to intervene militarily to protect population in another state. A United States military court recognized as much at Nuremberg. http://www.loc.gov/... p. 981-982. The doctrine does not require action.  But it would legitimize punishment for use of chemical weapons.

    The doctrine of reprisals allows the taking of otherwise unlawful action to punish and deter violations of the law of war. In World War II, for example, Germany put Canadian POWs in chains, and the Canadians retaliated by doing the same to German POWs. Reprisals are not allowed against civilians and civilian objects, but that leaves a wealth of legitimate military targets. This doctrine, too, would legitimize strikes in response to use of chemical weapons.

    Neither of these doctrines amounts to an obligation, however. They are permissive, that is, they legitimate an attack on Syria, facts permitting, but do not require it. I say “facts permitting,” because there has to be strong and valid evidence in order to invoke them. They aren’t a carte-blanche.

    The use of poison gas has been against international law since 1900, if not earlier. That was entry-into-force date of treaties banning use of "poison or poisoned arms" and missiles delivering "asphyxiating or deleterious gases" in international armed conflict.
    http://bit.ly/... (Art. 22) and http://bit.ly/... . A 1907 treaty banned nearly identical to one of those earlier ones, use of “poison and poisoned weapons” http://bit.ly/... (Art. 23). Key parts of the two major treaties are known loosely as the "Hague Regulations," not "The Geneva Convention." Turkey and France ratified all three agreements. Turkey and later France controlled the territory that became Syria. Therefore, Syria, too, is bound by those conventions.

    Many allude to a chemical weapons treaty of 1925, calling it the Geneva Convention. Actually, it’s the Geneva Protocol of 1925, and the “Geneva Conventions” are separate treaties entirely. The Protocol didn’t actually ban chemical weapons, but it confirmed earlier treaty provisions that did (see above) and extended the ban to “bacteriological” weapons.

    In any event, the International Committee of the Red Cross found that there is now a rule at customary international law which prohibits use of chemical weapons, even in non-international armed conflict. http://bit.ly/.... The customary-law status of this rule makes it binding on Syria.

  •  We should be giving them bread instead of bombs. (0+ / 0-)
sdf, Bob Johnson, claude, Sharon, JekyllnHyde, Sylv, Alfred E Newman, nota bene, i dunno, RF, Paleo, oofer, AaronInSanDiego, native, daninoah, Joan McCarter, Pandora, TrueBlueMajority, emal, greenbird, surfbird007, MouseThatRoared, Shockwave, mrhelper, just another vet, wu ming, MsSpentyouth, Wintermute, cotterperson, Vico, eeff, willyr, Pompatus, HootieMcBoob, elfling, RFK Lives, hubcap, Creosote, bronte17, cbythesea, missLotus, 88kathy, TracieLynn, fugwb, Euroliberal, whenwego, ehavenot, chuckvw, lunacat, farmerhunt, pollbuster, egarratt, ctsteve, navajo, Brit, k9disc, kharma, psnyder, emmasnacker, jlynne, CitizenOfEarth, Eyesbright, churchylafemme, Steven Payne, dkmich, KateCrashes, ybruti, Deward Hastings, Mosquito Pilot, jcrit, DarkSyde, eve, Sybil Liberty, nailbender, Skennet Boch, Bluesee, 3goldens, sc kitty, run around, Simplify, truong son traveler, basquebob, TigerMom, YucatanMan, Laurence Lewis, Lepanto, fixxit, mojo workin, pasadena beggar, Sara R, Burned, Kayakbiker, lotlizard, CompaniaHill, RichterScale, Sandino, LieparDestin, Tunk, Shotput8, sillia, Alan Arizona, Asinus Asinum Fricat, xaxnar, CJnyc, Jim P, begone, Dolphin99, poco, buddabelly, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Kingsmeg, Yellow Canary, koNko, AoT, Catesby, KenBee, Magnifico, blueoasis, Farradin, zootwoman, Blue Wind, triv33, birdbrain64, HairyTrueMan, JVolvo, sceptical observer, onionjim, Dyana, profh, rsie, doingbusinessas, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, agent, frostbite, kurt, jjellin, Little, cpresley, pgm 01, FoundingFatherDAR, zipn, pfiore8, wa ma, SpecialKinFlag, tgypsy, FishOutofWater, Mary Mike, Blue State 68, david mizner, daveygodigaditch, Dave in Northridge, Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle, suejazz, Ninepatch, aliasalias, newpioneer, NoMoJoe, Kentucky Kid, HCKAD, acnetj, crose, bobswern, Sarea, JML9999, MichiganGirl, Assaf, on the cusp, rmonroe, seriously70, misterwade, also mom of 5, poligirl, OleHippieChick, Buckeye Nut Schell, pickandshovel, SottoVoce, No Exit, dzog, LaFeminista, maggiejean, multilee, McGahee220, J M F, Leftcenterlibertarian, driftwood, lostinamerica, LinSea, dharmasyd, Carol in San Antonio, Nebraskablue, maryabein, shopkeeper, mkor7, JesseCW, civil wingnut, moviemeister76, Flyswatterbanjo, Livvy5, jpmassar, catilinus, Clyde the Cat, Just Bob, commonmass, moenrj, FogCityJohn, serendipityisabitch, Susan Grigsby, vixenflem, boriquasi, CcVenussPromise, angelajean, Lady Libertine, paradise50, beverlywoods, Yasuragi, Funkygal, Betty Pinson, beolba, Nada Lemming, leu2500, soaglow, cany, Onomastic, annieli, Tommye, implicate order, AuroraDawn, Reston history guy, BlueJessamine, deeproots, Teiresias70, smiley7, muddy boots, tardis10, enhydra lutris, Square Knot, peregrine kate, aoeu, chira2, myrmecia gulosa, PhilJD, VTCC73, blackjackal, stlsophos, imlpdx, GrannyGeek, DRo, RockyLabor, T100R, jaebone, Azazello, DawnN, glhf, mbrock49, anodnhajo, sow hat, DeadHead, greenbastard, dance you monster, Eric Nelson, rustypatina, just want to comment, 420 forever, 2thanks, Horace Boothroyd III, Darryl House, This old man, InAntalya, chicagobleu, MasterKey, Free Jazz at High Noon, TBug, whizdom, ricklewsive, lunachickie, New Minas, wxorknot, wasatch, AZ Sphinx Moth, this just in, Windowpane, Robynhood too, WheninRome, english breakfast, Sue B, Ray Pensador, Illinois IRV, MrBigDaddy, goodpractice, gypsytoo, alice kleeman, ORswede, Smoh, BadKitties, Demeter Rising, The Story Teller, LilithGardener, Ironic Chef, boriskamite, River Rover, Kimbeaux, TheDuckManCometh, dannyboy1, anana, Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, bygorry, joegoldstein

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