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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/4/13

The Obama Deception On Syria: Debunking the Lies, Hubris, and Myopia In The March To War.

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On August 31, with the nation eking out the final hours of summer, President Obama took to the podium and, shockingly, did not announce that he was going to continue in the trend of the Imperial Presidency, wherein the Executive branch, in the words of Chris Hedges, "abrogates to itself the right to declare war, which is, of course, traditionally the role of Congress." Rather, while maintaining that he believes he has the right to act without congressional approval, Obama announced that he would allow Congress to have a voice. His speech was also a direct pitch to the American people to win support for military intervention in Syria. While only 20% of the American people thought the US should take action in Syria when Obama spoke, that number was up from only 9% last week, indicating that while the march to war may have stumbled, it continues forward.
However, let's be clear, the United States is not on a humanitarian mission. Neither is it taking sides in a Syrian civil war. As horrific a dictator as Assad is, some of the rebel forces have direct links to Al-Qaeda and so are not so likely to advance US interests in the region were they to topple Assad. With that in mind, we will take a detailed look at the lies, hubris, and lack of vision in Obama's Syria deception speech of August 31 in this special expanded edition of Acronym TV.

President Obama's August 31 speech:
"Good afternoon, everybody. Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see -- hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children -- young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government."
While the United States has presented a powerful case, to borrow the phrase from President Obama, that the Syrian government is responsible for gassing their own people to death, the power in its case does not lie in truth and transparency, but in arm-twisting, deceit and obfuscation. The administration also stands at the ready to flout international law in its open disregard for UN authorization for force and the US constitution, for Obama, while prepared to give congress a voice, is also prepared to wage war on his own.
For everything you think you know about Syria, know this there is only one indisputable fact, according to William Polk, a long time foreign policy consultant who served in multiple Presidential administrations and as a member of the Policy Planning Council, was "cleared" for all the information the US Government had on weapons of mass destruction, including poison gas, and special intelligence. That one single indisputable fact is this:
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, on September 3, 2013, is the only indisputable fact we know.
With so little known about the chemical attack in Syria on August 21st, one credible report from interviews on the ground with rebels in the neighborhood where the deaths on August 21 took place points to the Saudis, not the Assad regime, as being responsible for the chemical weapons. In other words, the people who have the most to gain from the U.S. bringing all of its military might to bear on toppling the Assad regime told a reporter on the ground an account that is antithetical to the thesis, as preemptively put forth by John Kerry, that there is no doubt that Assad is behind the attacks.
The report comes from the Mint Press News, and while the outlet acknowledges that some "information in their article could not be independently verified" and promises updates as they became available, it is, in the words of Jim Naureckas writing at Fairness and Accuracy in reporting "those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical." The Mint Press News account is co-authored by Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student--who "spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents" and Dale Gavlak, is a longtime Associated Press Mideast stringer who has also done work for NPR and the BBC. The recipients of the chemical weapons are said to be Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports in July. (OE Watch,7/13). Turkey, Obama will remind us, is one of our friends in the region, and one the many reasons we should use military force in Syria:
{ from P resident Obama speech August 31 }
This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria's borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.
In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.
Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.
Again, while I can agree with Obama that the attack was an assault on human dignity, I fail to see how sending in missiles will do anything but cause further assaults on human dignity, with the exception being that, as experience teaches us, once an Empire like the United States takes step in one direction, there is no going back, and a mission creep is likely to set in and we will be militarily involved in the region for the forseable future.
With regard to the theory that Syria's actions are a threat to our national security, Congressman Alan Grayson had the f ollowing to say:
"that somehow one country's actions will affect another country, and another country, and another country. It's just the "domino argument" [from the Vietnam War] again. We'll call it the "bomb-ino argument" here. It's just not logical. It doesn't make any sense.
Also worth considering here: the United States is doing a fine job all on its own of making a mockery of the so called global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. Whether it be agent orange in Vietnam, our assistance with Saddam Hussein using them against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war the 1980's, our -- as the Pentagon has admitted, our own use of White Phosphorus in Fallujah in 2005 and our support for the Israeli government who has used White Phosphorus in Gaza in 2008.
On the Israel connection to all of this, consider that, as Max Blumenthal reports, U.S. intelligence gathering in Syria rely on Israeli intelligence assessments and that the Israelis supplied the communications intercepted from Syrian officials.
On August 26, U.S. Security advisor Susan Rice coordinated meetings in Washington with Benjamin Netanyahu's National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror. The agenda, as reported by Max Bloomenthal, "at least from the perspective of the meeting's participants, was to plan for the aftermath of a US strike on Syria that was already inevitable.
The following day, Vice President Joseph Biden became the highest level US official to blame Assad for Ghouta, declaring, "There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: The Syrian regime." Accept that, just as was the case with the run up to the war in Iraq, the intelligence turned out to be, in the words of the Associated Press, no "slam dunk".
And, as David Swanson points out in his article Caveman Credibility And It's Costs:
"Not only is President Obama's proposal guaranteed to make things worse, but it risks making things dramatically worse, with threats of retaliation now coming from Syria, Iran, and Russia. The U.S. media is already describing the proposed missile strikes as "retaliatory," even though the United States hasn't been attacked. Imagine what the pressure will be in Washington to actually retaliate if violence leads, as it so often does, to more violence. Imagine the enthusiasm for a broader war, in Washington and Jerusalem, if Iran retaliates. Risking a major war, no matter how slim you think the chance is, ought to be done only for some incredibly important reason.
The White House doesn't have one."
So why then would the U.S. insist on UN inspectors and then, as soon as the Syrian government granted access, attempt to pull the inspectors back?
President Obama's August 31 speech:
Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.
Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I'm prepared to give that order. (") I'm confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.
Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.
Perhaps the right thing to do for our democracy would be to allow a broader public debate based on the intelligence the admistration claims to have. Does our democracy gain nothing from the tax expenditures that fund our security and surveillance state? How long can the administration hide behind the lie that some intelligence can't be shared for risk of exposing the ways and means we get that intelligence.
As always, the strongest arguments are made when we reference the children and our responsibilities to them. This segment of the Obama speech, one fears, will bump the approval rating for a war in Syria higher:
"We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us."
But President Obama, with all due respect, you are wrong. This country was literally built on violating treaties, accords, and the values you say define us. We call it American exceptionalism. The Homestead Act of 1862 is but one of dozens of examples that bear this out. 50 million acres of formerly indigenous land in the west having been violently invaded by US Soldiers in violation of treaties was distributed by the government at low cost to white settlers only- and 100 million acres of indigenous land were given for free to railroad developers.
If the values that define our country include sending 3 million dollar missiles reigning down in Syria, creating a ripple effect of collateral deaths, refugees, and destruction whose potential reconstruction has the shareholders' of US contracting companies like Halliburton and missile makers Raytheon salivating as they dream of the guaranteed future profits war inevitably brings, then you can count me out of that value system.
Finally, perhaps the most telling section of the Obama Rose garden speech came towards the end, with his direct appeal to the American people:
And finally, let me say this to the American people: I know well that we are weary of war. We've ended one war in Iraq. We're ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that's why we're not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else's war.
"We know we can not resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military" are the commander in chiefs own words as he asks for our permission to commit our military to a civil war that has, among its rebel fighters, Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda linked groups. We did this before, in Afghanistan in the 1980s supporting freedom fighters with arms and training that counted among its members a young rookie in the terror game named Osama bin Laden. Those U.S. supported efforts in the region gave birth to Al-Qaeda and came back to hit us on September 11, 2011.
President Obama's August 31 speech: I've told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people's representatives stand together. I'm ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I'm asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation. Thanks very much.
The Nobel peace prize winning Obama has presented the American people and the world a binary argument: stand by and do nothing, or bomb, bomb, bomb. Diplomacy, for the most powerful nation in the world, is not on the table and that is the outrage that should have the American people ready to act, and move together as one nation to say without equivocation: no war with Syria.
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Dennis Trainor, Jr. is the creator and host of Acronym TV and the writer, director and producer of the documentary American Autumn: an Occudoc.
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