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Garden flowers.  Photo by: joanneleon. August, 2013.


War - Edwin Starr

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There's a freak out going' on.  Reading this NY Times Op-Ed by Putin and watching the reaction is one of the funniest things I've seen in this country in a long, long time.  But it's gallows humor again, for the most part because there is so much crazy going on too.  Last week we heard that there was a Russian delegation coming over to speak with our elected representatives.  I never heard anything else about that. But Putin claims that he wants to speak to the American people in this Op-Ed.  There are people screaming at the NY Times for even printing this, and it has just caused a shitstorm.  I'll excerpt the first few paragraphs but if you haven't read it already, of course it's something that you need to read in full to see why it's causing such a fuss.  The part about American exceptionalism seems to be the thing that has most people up in arms, but I really don't think that's the rub. I think the rub is that Putin had the gall to do this at all and the whole issue around him holding any kind of high moral ground or influence, especially while our government is in a state of confusion. And it's bigger than that.  I think a lot of people are finally realizing that our the chickens of our wars and policies are coming home to roost. That they couldn't see this coming is a whole 'nother matter.

A Plea for Caution From Russia
What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

Published: September 11, 2013

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

Laura Rosen and @20committee are losing it and they're just representative of the reaction of the American exceptionalists, the war hawks, the neocons, the Stuck-in-the-Cold-Warriors, and the Obama true believers (which is roughly the coalition of the willing for war on Syria -> Iran -> WWIII).  The true believers are a temporary member of that coalition, hopefully, since they are all about trying to find a way to convince people that this epic fail is really an Obama 11-dimensional chess move. No seriously, they truly are trying to pull that one again. Obama is secretly running rings around Putin.  

It has taken a week or so for the O Team and the rapid response teams to get their act together and distribute the talking points and such, after the shock from the failure of the full court press to convince the country and the Congress to march blindly into another "humanitarian intervention" war.  Despite flooding the media with graphic images and video and shoving them down our throats and that of all members of Congress, high level officials and the president himself demanding that everyone watch these videos, despite sending the AIPAC lobbyist army to Capitol Hill on the day they returned from recess, despite a rare prime time persuasive speech from the great orator, various dog and pony shows by the Kerry/Hagel/Dempsey team, speeches from Susan Rice (that was a brilliant move, not) and Samantha Power and everything else they could think of, all of it wrapped around the 9/11 anniversary and going all Godwin, the country is still saying Hell NO.  

We're hearing about how Obama and Kerry must have engineered the 'put Assad's chemical weapons under international control' diplomatic move, but the fact that Susan Rice's speech which happened immediately after that proposal was put forward, was a half hour late and was still a war hawk speech, the fact that Obama's speech seemed to be only slightly modified to include the diplomatic solution and postponement of votes, indicates that it was not something they anticipated to really take hold and they had to scramble after the idea caught fire.  

A friend on Twitter noted that this article in the NY Times seems to lay out Israel's position on the developments. To me it seems like there are a lot of conflicting feelings about the whole thing where a big divide is revealed between those who want to strike Syria and those who are leery of extremists taking control and then those who think that a continuing civil war is good for Israel because neither side is friendly to them.   This article, at least, focuses mostly on a disappointed and even angry response to the latest developments. Netanyahu is saber rattling again and indicating that Israel may have to go it alone and attack Iran. A number of different perspectives and messages are in the article so you really need to read the whole thing to get the full picture.  One thing is clear -- powerful factions in Israel are really angry with Obama.

U.S. Backing of Russian Plan Leaves a Wary Israel Focusing on Self-Reliance

JERUSALEM — In tallying winners and losers from the unexpected turn toward a potential diplomatic resolution of the crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons, Israel lands squarely in the question-mark column.
Dan Gillerman, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said the message to Iran was that “America’s allies cannot rely on it, that its enemies can do what they want and nothing will happen to them.” Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s former foreign minister and Mr. Netanyahu’s political partner, reacted to the developments with what has become practically a mantra here, “We rely only on ourselves.”
“The operational translation of this rule is that Israel should always be able to defend itself and will protect itself by its own strengths against every threat,” Mr. Netanyahu told the crowd. “The state of Israel is today prepared to act with great strength.”

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the 9/11 anniversary was exploited to push the Syria agenda but still it's cringe worthy.
Partisanship, Syria tension intrude on 9/11 memorial

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid down his own partisan marker during a Senate speech in which he segued from remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, victims to challenging members of Congress to back Obama’s plan to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons, with a possible military strike if a new diplomatic push fails.

“Even as we pay tribute to America’s tradition of freedom for every citizen, across the globe an evil dictator denies his citizens not only their right to liberty, but also their right to live,” Reid said.


Obama appeared to make an indirect reference to the high-stakes chess game over Syria in his remarks at the Pentagon.

“Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is at times necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek,” he said.

Hagel also made an apparent reference to Syria in a brief speech later in the day to Pentagon employees.

Jim White at emptywheel has, several times, brought up the important point that in order to really remove chemical weapons from Syria, we need a ceasefire, and nobody is talking about that.
Journalists Grope Blindly Around Syria CW Destruction Without Discovering Need for Ceasefire

In my post yesterday morning on the French move to submit a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to an international group for their safe destruction, I noted that this process naturally would require an immediate ceasefire. My underlying assumption was that the need for a ceasefire would be obvious to anyone giving the situation any thought.  Personnel will need to move freely about the country to find and log the materials that will need to be destroyed. These materials will need to be moved to central locations for incineration or chemical processing to render them safe. If the personnel and the dangerous materials they will be transporting are attacked indiscriminately, the risk of releasing huge quantities of very dangerous agents looms large and the very process of trying to prevent civilian deaths could instead to lead to widespread lethal exposure.
Even more sad, though, is how our two leading bastions of foreign policy journalism, the New York Times and Washington Post, addressed the issue of how the chemical stockpiles can be destroyed. Both noted how “difficult” the process will be during the ongoing hostilities, but neither managed to point out the necessity of a ceasefire. -

In fact, not only has no one been talking about a ceasefire, but news was leaked yesterday that the CIA has provided the Syrian "rebels" with weapons and they have been flooding into the country for two weeks now. I'm not sure why they'd leak this news on 9/11 but maybe it was meant to appease the people who are very angry at Obama for delaying the Syria vote and for not just plunging forward with the bombing.  In other words, people who are representing the point of view that McCain voices.  It really does not seem like the Obama administration is serious about the diplomatic solution because the shipments have been planned since June and the timing seems to have been coordinated with the planned strikes.
U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month.
U.S. officials, speaking about the provision of nonlethal aid, said they are determined to increase the cohesion and structure of the rebel fighting units.

“This doesn’t only lead to a more effective force, but it increases its ability to hold coalition groups together,” said Mark S. Ward, the State Department’s senior adviser on assistance to Syria, who coordinates nonlethal aid to rebels from southern Turkey. “They see their leadership is having some impact.”

Keith Alexander is in deep shit.  Emptywheel is not buying the latest line.
Keith Alexander’s Ignorance By Design

One of the most publicized lines from yesterday’s FOIA disclosures comes from Keith Alexander’s declaration to Reggie Walton on how the Section 215 dragnet went so horribly awry. He claims — without explaining the basis for his knowledge — that no one knew how all this worked.

Furthermore, from a technical standpoint, there was no single person who had a complete technical understanding of the BR FISA system architecture. (Alexander 19)
The comment comes amidst a section that discusses not system architecture, but simple legal compliance, [...]

But one thing is clear: he either doesn’t claim actual knowledge about the subject he is addressing beyond what actually got documented, the most important topic in his declaration. Or he does, but for some reason he was, in this matter alone, uncomfortable asserting that as a clear fact.

Yet somehow, having spoken to remarkably few people, he somehow feels confident claiming no one knew about the entire architecture (an irrelevant issue to the legal and management problem at hand)?

I would suggest Alexander’s lawyers [counsel!] — the very people who provided false information to the court and false advice to NSA personnel — might have a good deal more certainty about what happened than Alexander. But somehow they managed to avoid making sworn declarations to the court about those subjects.


Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

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