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Senate Committee Approves Use of Force in Syria

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 Wednesday afternoon to approve a resolution that gives the Obama Administration the right to act against Bashar al-Assad's regime following chemical-weapons attacks. The vote sends the resolution on to the full Senate for another vote, where the smart money seems to be that it will squeak through, and then on to the House, where things are more opaque. ...

Marco Rubio has moved solidly to the no camp. The Florida senator and presidential hopeful was once a leading voice in favor of moving to topple Bashar al-Assad. But as Politico pointed out this morning, he's gradually shifted away from that stance, saying it's too late and aligning himself more closely with fellow 2016 contender Rand Paul. He voted against the resolution today, as did Paul. ...

Ed Markey won't get in line. The Massachusetts legislator is the newest member of the Senate, after what seems like decades of waiting in the wings. ... Democrats aren't presenting a unified front. Among the no votes today were liberal Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. The three Republican yes votes: McCain, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee's ranking members.

As U.S. Pushes For Syria Strike, Questions Loom Over Obama Claims in Chemical Attack

MARK SEIBEL: Well, you know, we’ve been told that a chemical attack took place, and the evidence seems to be that some sort of attack took place. We don’t actually know what the chemical was. The U.S. has said that it was sarin. There’s every reason to think that might be true, but we don’t know what the chemical test was that led them to conclude that it was sarin. We don’t know how the evidence was obtained. We don’t know what lab it was worked in. We actually don’t know how they arrived at that conclusion so quickly. You know, they announced it Sunday. But, you know, according to—again, to the secretary of state, it will take the U.N. two, three, maybe four weeks to reach that same determination in very modern labs in Europe. So there’s an awful lot we don’t know about that. And because we don’t know it—because we don’t know the details, at least in the public case—and again, you know, we’re not sitting in the classified briefings, but we don’t really know. We are being asked to—excuse me—to trust the assertion that it was sarin and that we know that, but, here again, it’s—we’re asked to make a leap of faith."

There's too much information and analysis in this Gareth Porter article to excerpt it here. Check it out, it is well worth reading:
How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration's summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.  

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate's deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and "confirmed" a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence "consistent with" a nerve gas attack.  

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don't really mean what they appear to say at first glance.  

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

Kerry Admits Possibility of 'Boots on the Ground' in Syria

Asked by Senate Robert Menendez (D-NJ) whether or not language should be inserted in a congressional authorization for an attack on Syria that would prohibit 'U.S. boots on the ground,' U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that would not be good idea. Kerry stammered, and then declared—"in the event Syria imploded, for instance"—that he wouldn't want to take that option "off the table" by inserting such a clause. ...

In a follow-up question on the issue, Kerry said he wanted to "shut the door" on the impression left by his previous answer regarding boots on the ground.

"All I did was raise a hypothetical question about some possibility, and I'm thinking out loud about how to protect American interests," he said. Then added, "There will not be boots on the ground with respect to the civil war." Whether that calculation would change "with respect" to some deeper conflict was not clear. ...

However, pressed by Sen. James Risch (R-ID) on what would happen "if this thing gets away from us" in Syria, Kerry again pushed off a direct answer, arguing that Assad would simply be crazy to respond to a U.S. assault on its military or sovereign territory.

First Syria rebels armed and trained by CIA 'on way to battlefield'

During a meeting at the White House, the president assured Senator John McCain that after months of delay the US was meeting its commitment to back moderate elements of the opposition.

Mr Obama said that a 50-man cell, believed to have been trained by US special forces in Jordan, was making its way across the border into Syria, according to the New York Times. ...

 The US announced in June, following the first allegations the Assad regime had used chemical weapons, that it would send light arms to the rebels but refused to provide anti-aircraft missiles and other heavy weapons.

American concerns were born partly out of the experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when CIA weapons given to the anti-Russian mujahideen were later used by the Taliban.

Is Obama lying about how many CIA-trained death-squad members he's sent into Syria? In the story above, Obama claims that he just sent the first death squad numbering 50 on Monday.  Marcy Wheeler, as usual, has the goods:
Why is Obama Changing the Date and Size of First CIA Death Squads to Enter Syria?

In direct contradiction to Obama’s Monday statement to McCain and Graham on the timing of the entry of the first US-trained death squads into Syria, we have this report from the Jerusalem Post that quotes a story first reported in Le Figaro:

The first group of 300 handpicked Free Syrian Army soldiers crossed the border on August 17 into the Deraa region, and a second group was deployed on August 19, the paper reported.

 The paper quoted a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis as saying the trained rebels group was passing through Ghouta, on their way to Damascus.

[N]ote the dates and location: they entered on August 17 and 19 and they passed through Ghouta. The large number of deaths from a suspected chemical warfare agent occurred on August 21 in Ghouta. In fact, the second paragraph of the Jerusalem Post article notes:
Le Figaro reported that this is the reason behind the Assad regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus on Wednesday morning, as UN inspectors were allowed into the country to investigate allegations of WMD use.
Were these first groups of CIA-trained death squad members the target of the attack? Or could it be even worse than that? ... Whether they were the targets of an attack by Assad’s forces or whether they were the agents carrying out a false flag attack, US-trained death squads could well be at the center of the disputed use of chemical weapons.
Here's an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post article that Marcy mentions above.  As she notes, there's a tidbit in there about some of the death squad trainers being Israeli commandos.  Also, speaking of "boots on the ground," there appear to be a number of booted Americans in Jordan, just a line away from Syria:
Report: Syrian rebel forces trained by West are moving towards Damascus

Guerrilla fighters trained by the West began moving towards Damascus in mid-August, French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Thursday. ...

The rebels were trained for several months in a training camp on the Jordanian-Syrian border by CIA operatives, as well as Jordanian and Israeli commandos, the paper said.

The first group of 300 handpicked Free Syrian Army soldiers crossed the border on August 17 into the Deraa region, and a second group was deployed on August 19, the paper reported. ...

The United States has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise there, at the request of the Jordanian government, US President Barack Obama said on Friday.

"This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems," Obama said.

Eleanor Holmes-Norton: "I'd vote to bomb some brown people in order to keep Obama from looking like a wimp."
Dem Congresswoman: ‘Only Reason’ I’d Vote to Strike Syria Would Be ‘Loyalty’ to Obama

The District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate to Congress says that because of her uncertainty about striking Syria, the only reason she would see herself voting to authorize military action would be out of “loyalty” to a fellow Democrat in President Obama. ...

As D.C.’s delegate to Congress, Holmes is unable to actually cast a vote in the debate, but she told Press: “If [Obama] gets saved at all, I think it’ll be because, it’ll be because of loyalty of Democrats. They just don’t want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national stage.”

She elaborated: “At the moment, that’s the only reason I would vote for it if I could vote on it.

Please tell me that Nancy Pelosi has a serious primary challenger.
Nancy Pelosi’s Rank Hypocrisy Exposed by Syria Intervention Debate

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spent the holiday weekend gaming out Syrian intervention scenarios with her 5-year-old grandson. The ranking House Democrat told a group of reporters assembled outside the White House on Tuesday that her grandson, just out of toddlerhood, expressed his concerns that eliminating the ability of Bashar al-Assad’s forces to use of chemical weapons on civilian population centers cannot be reasonably considered a vital national interest and American intervention is, at this time, unjustified. Of course, the child used slightly more universally understood terms to express his opposition to the forthcoming war.

But Pelosi said that she supports intervention in Syria anyway, over the objections of her grandson. She defined America’s national interest in this case as the enforcement of the globally recognized prohibition on the battlefield use of chemical weapons. This, the first violation of this norm in the post-Cold War-era, demands a response that only the United States can deliver. Pelosi essentially told the press that the anti-war argument is a child’s argument.

Oh my. Does Obama know that bad people are using chemical weapons in Somalia?
Doctors Without Borders Leaves Somalia

Humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders announced earlier this month that it will withdraw from operations in Somalia. And last week, it revealed that medical centers were flooded with patients showing signs of exposure to toxic nerve agents around the time of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Why did Obama missile & torpedo Syrian peace deal?

WikiLeaks Files Second Criminal Complaint in Germany

This afternoon the Federal Prosecutor of Germany (Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof) registered a complaint filed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This is the second of four jurisdictions where WikiLeaks is filing a criminal complaint during the month of September against unlawful interference in journalistic activities. The first complaint was filed this morning in Sweden ahead of Obama’s state visit on 4 and 5 September as persons in the US delegation may have knowledge of the US multi-agency response to WikiLeaks.

The complaint concerns the monitoring of Julian Assange in Berlin in 2009 and the seizure of WikiLeaks property on 27 September 2010.

WikiLeaks decided to withhold matters contained in this complaint until the conclusion of the court martial of PFC Chelsea Manning.

The US military used the results of intelligence action against WikiLeaks in Germany in 2009 to facilitate its prosecution of PFC Manning for charges of aiding the enemy and wanton publication. Julian Assange said: "The results of unlawful US spying against WikiLeaks in Germany in 2009 has ultimately been used to help put political prisoner PFC Chelsea Manning in prison for 35 years."

"Chancellor Merkel must answer two simple questions: Did she authorise the use of US military bases to spy on journalists in Germany? And did she authorise the export of the results of this spying to the United States prosecution of alleged WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning?"

The property seized on the flight from Sweden to Berlin Tegel airport included evidence of a war crime perpetrated by US forces in Afghanistan in which more than sixty women and children were killed, known as the Garani massacre. The property seized also contained a report of the military intelligence monitoring in Berlin in 2009.

Journalist Barrett Brown faces prison for posting hyperlink

Tomorrow, a federal judge will weigh a prosecutor's motion for a gag order in connection with the U.S. government's prosecution of journalist Barrett Brown. The motion represents a troubling turn in an already-troubling case for press freedom--a case that could criminalize the routine journalistic practice of linking to documents publicly available on the Internet, which would seem to be protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution under current doctrine.

Brown is a reporter and commentator whose work has appeared in the Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Vanity Fair. ...

Prosecutors allege that Brown posted a hyperlink to a file available on the Internet to a chat room he set up to crowdsource information about the intelligence contracting industry. For doing so, he faces years in federal prison.

Journalists frequently crowdsource, or benefit from the crowdsourcing of, analysis of large datasets. Sometimes the data has been obtained lawfully and sometimes it has not. By the U.S. government's theory, journalists can be held criminally liable merely for linking to a publicly-available file that contains sensitive information, whether or not they had any part in actually obtaining the data in the first place.

Could this signal the rise of a more radical, militant labor movement, unwilling to allow themselves to be sold down the river by a union bureaucracy that cares more about buddying up to politicians than promoting the interests of the working class?  
Longshore Union Quits the AFL-CIO

In a surprise move, the 40,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced its disaffiliation from the AFL-CIO yesterday. ... The ILWU, known for its militant traditions and progressive politics, has been drawn into turf wars with other unions in recent years—particularly in the grain export terminals of the Pacific Northwest, where longshore workers have been locked in a high-stakes battle over master contract standards since 2011. ...

In an August 29 letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, ILWU President Robert McEllrath cited these ongoing juristictional battles as part of the union’s decision to disaffiliate. ... The letter also cited the federation’s compromised positions on health care and immigration reform.

“[The AFL-CIO] wants to organize these big conventions, and rally to pat themselves on the back, doing nothing to promote the working-class,” said ILWU Coast Committeeman, Leal Sundet, who supported the union’s decision to disaffiliate.

The ILWU supports a national single-payer health care system, while the AFL-CIO is “in lockstep with Obama,” Sundet said. He criticized the federation for being unwilling to discuss the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act, which discriminates against union Taft-Hartley benefit plans and will impose a so-called “Cadillac tax” on generous benefit plans.

Sundet also chided the federation’s position on immigration reform. The AFL-CIO is backing a bill that he contends will only make things harder for working-class immigrants, because it is “designed to give [only] highly-paid workers a real path to citizenship.”

Nurses Union President: Obamacare Falls Short

Tar sands a dirty outcome of free trade failures

Canadian crude has become a longstanding source of energy for the U.S. To keep the flow continuous and secure, the U.S. has strategically negotiated free trade agreements with an eye toward control of future Canadian energy supply and less toward sustained mutual benefit. The result is an agreement that drives energy exports from Canada, guaranteeing the U.S. a high percentage of Canadian oil and natural gas. Under NAFTA (article 605), Canada must maintain the previous three-year proportional average of energy exports of total energy supply (domestic production plus imports) to the United States. This means that if, for example, Canada has exported 50 percent of their total energy supply to the U.S. over the past three years, they must maintain energy exports to the U.S. at 50 percent or higher of their total supply, even if it means allocating more energy away from its own domestic need.

... Sovereignty can only be described as absent in cases where Canada is unable to provide its own natural resources to its own people in need.

Still other NAFTA provisions can be used to force tar sands bitumen across the border. Articles within NAFTA’s chapter 11, often referred to as investor-state provisions, could potentially be used by TransCanada to push through Keystone XL, avoiding public debate and environmental regulation. Investor-state provisions allow corporations to bring lawsuits against governments if they perceive unfair treatment or loss of projected revenue. As of March 2013, over 100 cases have been brought about using NAFTA’s chapter 11. ...

On July 16, 2013, the EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger addressed an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. Mr. Oettinger spoke of the EU’s declining energy production, its increasing energy import dependence, and the hope that through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, a “trans-Atlantic energy trade” can be established between the U.S. and EU, noting the new energy wealth the U.S. has obtained through unconventional fossil fuel resources. From a social justice perspective, NAFTA presents us with a history of failure due to trade liberalization. It is quite clear that if the TTIP and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass with articles similar to the proportionality clause and investor-state provisions, what little voice people and their communities have to control and limit unconventional energy extraction will be handed entirely over to industry, trade representatives and corporate-influenced trade tribunals. Heeding the call to renounce the pipeline at the PUC on September 4 is the first step toward resisting unconventional energy extraction and the violations of sovereignty it brings.


Stop US Attack on Syria

March to the Capitol Sponsored by ANSWER and Codepink

at the White House, Sat, Sep 07, 2013 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Click here for directions and information

From the Imgur Public Gallery

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

Naomi Klein - Overcoming 'Overburden': The Climate Crisis and a Unified Left Agenda

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The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated

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