Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston





Friday, September 6, 2013

To Strike or Not To Strike (Continued)

The debate continues over intervention in Syria.  Some of it based on wrong information, such as that from Florida Representative Ros-Lehtinen, some of it that asks tough questions, such as that from former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, Robert Reich.

See below for those two examples and tell us what your thoughts are.

WRONG INFORMATION -- Representative Ileana ROS-LEHTINEN (R-Florida): 

"It is against the norms of international standards and to let something like this go unanswered, I think will weaken our resolve. I — I know that President Reagan would have never let this happen. He would stand up to this. And President Obama — the only reason he is consulting with Congress, he wants to blame somebody for his lack of resolve. We have to think like President Reagan would do and he would say chemical use is unacceptable."

What Ros-Lehtinen seems oddly unaware of, however, is that Ronald Reagan did exactly the opposite. For the majority of the 1980s, Iraq under Sadaam Hussein was locked in combat with the Islamic Republic of Iran in a war that killed more than 1,000,000 people on both sides. The United States explicitly backed the secular Hussein over the Ayatollah Khomeini’s government in Tehran, still smarting from the embassy hostage crisis that had only ended when Reagan took office. That backing not only included the shipment of tons of weapons to support Baghdad, but also looking the other way when Iraq unleashed its chemical weapons stockpiles — including sarin and mustard gas — against Iranian civilians and soldiers alike.

Recently declassified documents from that time indicate that not only did the U.S. government know that Hussein possessed these weapons, but “conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin.”

President Reagan also remained silent during the Al-Anfal campaign, in which Hussein used poison gas against the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq to put down a revolt against his rule. In what has later been called a genocide, more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed, nearly 100 times more than the attack that took place outside of Damascus last month.

1980s: Iraq 

CNN found that intervention is often weighed against political and economic costs. Declassified U.S. government documents show that while Saddam Hussein was gassing Iraqi Kurds, the U.S. opposed punishing Iraq with a trade embargo because it was cultivating Iraq as an ally against Iran and as a market for U.S. farm exports. 

According to Peter Galbraith, then an idealistic Senate staffer determined to stop Hussein from committing genocide, the Reagan administration "got carried away with their own propaganda. They began to believe that Saddam Hussein could be a reliable partner." Read once-secret U.S. documents

Here are Robert Reich's questions on intervention in Syria:

(1) Were Syrian civilians killed by chemical weapons? Yes. 

(2) How many? Estimates vary. 

(3) Was Assad responsible? Probably but not definitely. 

(4) Should the world respond? Yes. 

(5) What’s the best response? Economic sanctions and a freeze on Syrian assets. 

(6) What are the advantages of bombing Syria with missiles? 

  • (a) Highly visible response, 
  • (b) no American troops on the ground. 

(7) What are the disadvantages? 

  • (a) Syrian civilians will inevitably be killed, 
  • (b) it will fuel more anti-American, anti-Western sentiment, thereby increasing the ranks of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, 
  • (c) our involvement will escalate if Assad or others use additional chemical weapons or engage in retribution against the us or Israel, 
  • (d) we have no exit strategy, 
  • (e) most of our allies aren’t with us, and we can’t be the world’s policeman everywhere, 
  • (f) it will distract us from critical problems at home, 
  • (g) the Syrian rebels are not our friends. 
  • (8) So why is Obama pursuing this so vigorously? 

All good questions.  What do you think?

I'm still not convinced we should intervene at all.

For a very good analysis, go visit Infidel753 and read his thoughtful post.  Then call your Congressman or Congresswoman and let your voice be heard. 


(O)CT(O)PUS said...

It appears our country, our legislature and our people are so crippled by Post Traumatic Iraq Disorder, we have become incapable taking a moral stand or exercising a strategic initiative.

There may be no exit strategy, one way or the other, whether we act now or are forced to act by default later.

One way or the other, WMDs and terrorism will metastasize, and my question is this: Would you prefer to confront a lesser storm now -- or a greater, unavoidable, and far more costly storm in the near future?

Either way, not a good choice but one we will be forced to make - sooner or later.

Shaw Kenawe said...

It is also interesting to read on conservative blogs that they believe Secy. Kerry is lying.

These are the same folks who believed Colin Powell and all the others who sold the Iraq invasion to the American people.

It certainly is true that we have PTID.

I am very much concerned. I have two very close relatives in the military.

skudrunner said...

But I was lead to believe Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. Now it is posted they knew about them during Reagan's term.

It does place out political coruptees in a precarious position. This must be the 3am phone call Hillary was talking about. This does place obama in a lose, lose position.

Shaw Kenawe said...

skud, How would Saddam have delivered his chemical weapons to the U.S.? Remember, Rice said we can't wait for a smoking gun to turn into a mushroom cloud?

What has that to do with the chemical weapons Reagan gave Saddam? We attacked Iraq because of the Bush Doctrine.

Instead of trying to make political points out of this terrible situation, a good American would be asking himself difficult questions so that he can tell his representative an informed opinion.

Coming here and gloating about a "lose/lose position" for Obama is at the level of a 10-year old.

But perhaps you're just an example of what has become of the right since Obama became president.

Rational Nation USA said...

"But perhaps you're just an example of what has become of the right since Obama became president.

Actually it goes back further than that.

Rational Nation USA said...

"But perhaps you're just an example of what has become of the right since Obama became president."

Actually it goes back further than that. "The Moral Majority" perhaps?

Rational Nation USA said...

"But perhaps you're just an example of what has become of the right since Obama became president.

Actually it goes back further than that.

Fuck The World said...

We might as well complete our conversion to a third world country.
Leave (recall troops and diplomats) the Middle East immediately. Cut all US aid to any Middle East country. Let Israel and European countries handle the problem. Withdraw. Become isolationists. Allow China and Russia to take control. They will leave us alone after we retreat from the area. Abdicate or role that fights for freedom and against oppression. After all, we only fight for those values for ourselves; and those values will not be attacked, if we just pull out.

Rational Nation USA said...

"... b) it will fuel more anti-American, anti-Western sentiment, thereby increasing the ranks of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East,

(c) our involvement will escalate if Assad or others use additional chemical weapons or engage in retribution against the us or Israel,

(d) we have no exit strategy,

(e) most of our allies aren’t with us, and we can’t be the world’s policeman everywhere,

(f) it will distract us from critical problems at home,

(g) the Syrian rebels are not our friends."

I am not normally hugely impresed by R.R, but when the man is right he is right. IMNHO the above points made by him are the strongest and most rational arguments for NOT intervening at this time.

When Syria threatens our national security, which is much less likely under Bashir al-Assad than if the Al Qaeda backed rebels win and take control of the government, then we should strike with whatever force is necesary. It's called self defense and is morrally and ethically justified.

As to the ill informed, politically motivted partisan you qoued first, part of the larger American problem.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

skud: “ But I was lead to believe Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. Now it is posted they knew about them during Reagan's term.

First, for your viewing displeasure, here is a YouTube video of Donald Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1983 during the Iran-Iraq war. Not only did the Reagan administration know about WMDs, who do you think supplied the raw materials, idgit!

The first Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, commenced on January 17, 1991. A United Nations Security Resolution (#687) established the terms of a ceasefire in April 1991. Among other provisions, Resolution 687 obligated Iraq to unconditionally destroy all chemical and biological weapons and dismantle its nuclear arms program. Iraq accepted these provisions on April 6, 1991 and thereafter abided by a regimen of U.N. inspections, which continued unabated until November 1998 when Saddam ordered all inspectors out of Iraq.

Advance the calendar to June 5, 2003: The U.S. refuses the call of former chief Inspector Hans Blix to allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq. Why? Because there were no WMDs in Iraq, constituting a huge intelligence blunder by Bush administration officials.

September 2003: According Hans Blix, Saddam kept up appearances of having weapons to deter any possible military attack. “You can put up a sign on your door saying ‘Beware of Dog’ without having a dog, “ he said.

I am hard pressed in trying to decide whether skud is willfully and relentlessly deceptive, willfully and relentlessly ignorant, a psy-ops Freeper troll, or all three.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Shaw: "I have two very close relatives in the military."

Ditto. My oldest daughter is a Lt. Colonel assigned to the Pentagon.

Dervish Sanders said...

Iraq destroyed it's WMD during the IAEA inspections. They didn't have any when bush ordered the invasion to "disarm" Saddam.

Economic sanctions and a freeze on Syrian assets... as suggested by Robert Reich sounds like a good first step to me.

billy pilgrim said...

where was the outrage and urgency when >100,000 citizens were euthanized by conventional weapons?

even jon stewart, once obama's biggest toadie, is against this exercise in futility.

Anonymous said...

Americans are "war weary." This war on "terrorism" which started on 9/11 has run its course within the American psyche. Much like the war on "communism" which is what the Vietnam war started off as.

Eventually Americans forget what all the war is all about.

Our "wars" are not conventional, they are against some "ism" and usually involve special interests, Syria is no different; we have humanitarian issues, we have Israel and we have oil.

Lets not fool ourselves about who benefits from our going into Syria.

Lets also not forget that chemical and nuclear weapons in the hands of the wrong people are a threat to our national security.

But, going to war may make the threat of having WMD in the hands of the wrong people even greater.

At some point we, the world, are going to have to find a better way and maybe, just maybe Syria may be the point where we all sit down, in frustration, and find that way...

We are kind of running out of other options...

Shaw Kenawe said...


The U.S. is a signatory to an international agreement, I believe it was signed in 1993, about using chemical weapons during conflicts. [Someone may be more up to speed on the details on this than I am.]

Sadly, killing hundreds of thousands of people with conventional weapons is considered humane.

I don't understand it at all.

Dead is dead, whether by chemicals or bullets and bombs.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Richard B. Bernstein:

"There are people on the public stage who have genuinely agonized over lessons of the Bush disaster. They say, with some conviction, that they will never be fooled again.

But for all of these neocons stuck on the wrong side of history — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, say the names loud and clear — it’s not a change in conscience at work; it’s a change in presidents. Later this month, dozens of Republicans in Congress will make the same decision, simply because they hate Obama, and would oppose him if he declared Grandmother Appreciation Day.

The voice that stands out most by his silence, the one that grates with its public coyness, is Bush himself. He has refused to take a side in the Syrian conflict. The president, he said, “has a tough choice to make.” Beyond that, “I refuse to be roped in.”

This is cowardice on a grand scale. Having set in motion a doctrine that touches all corners of the earth and influences every leader with a say in how to approach tyrants who slaughter innocents, Bush retreats to his bathtub to paint."

Corrie B. said...

They laud Reagan as some kind of most recent historical hero for their party, but his average approval ratings were about the same as Obama's average approval ratings to date. Funny how they would like to recreate history to suit their needs. Well, everyone does that to some extent, but when it comes to politics the current GOP seems to be more culpable in this regard.

"When the facts contradict the legend, print the legend." --John Ford

I Support President Obama said...

Wicked, the cons prove their stupidity once again:

from a con blog: "But lets face facts, Obumbler and the Democrats are now war the mongers, and the Liberal blogers seem to be very silent over that. As is the Progressive Wicked Witch of the Blogisphere."

You've posted twice on the subject. Proving again and again that they don't have skills to read so they make shit up. Doesn't stop them from making embarrassing asses of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Interestingg that the wingers are all hot for Putin because he's going against Obama. The wingers love to call Obama a commie/marxist. They don't know that Putin's relatives supported Lenin and Stalin. So they're rooting for a commie and his relatives over our American president?

Are they that sick with hatred?

FreeThinke said...

I found this offering from THE BARD of MURDOCK clever, apt and amusing. The link to his blog appears below. I encourage everyone to make frequent visits to his blog, which is composed entirely of satirical poetry very neatly put together. - FT

__ Sandbox Diplomacy __

From Cairo to Damascus,
From Riyadh to Bahrain,
Each time Obama dithers
He makes his weakness plain.
He cannot make decisions.
He knows not how to act.
His strategies are hopeless,
His tactics inexact.
He starts with senseless bluster.
He draws a scarlet line.
He lays a demarcation,
And waves his sharpened tine.

Upon his foe’s traversal,
His rhetoric is stilled.
His promises are broken,
His words lie unfulfilled.
His enemies are strengthened,
His allies left impaired.
He weaves a rope of bombast,
And leaves himself ensnared.

~ The Bard of Murdock

FreeThinke said...

This is by far the most intelligent observation I have yet seen regarding this sorry situation:

Ms Shaw said to Billy Pilgrim, who raised a vitally important question:

"The U.S. is a signatory to an international agreement, I believe it was signed in 1993, about using chemical weapons during conflicts. ...

"Sadly, killing hundreds of thousands of people with conventional weapons is considered humane.

"I don't understand it at all.

"Dead is dead, whether by chemicals or bullets and bombs."

BRAVO, Ms Shaw! At last we have found a political issue in which we can agree completely (I think!;-)

I being I would have added "being hacked to pieces by machetes," beheaded, and locked in buildings to be burned alive to the list, but no matter. Your heart's in the right place, and your logic flawless. THANK YOU.

Jerry Critter said...

Bombs are just another type of chemical weapon. Where is the morality in substituting one type of chemical weapon for another? Like Shaw said, dead is dead. The means is immaterial.

FreeThinke said...

CORRECTION: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, and Jeanne Kirkpatrick were NOT “Neo-Conservatives.” With the possible exception of Kirkpatrick, (I have to admit I’m not sure), those men have always been Republicans.

The Project for a New American Century Thinktank -- or stinktank, as it turned out -- was the birthplace of the Neo-Conservative Movement, and largely responsible for fomenting the policies that pushed George W. Bush into the series of blunders that came about as the result of our at-first successful “regime change” operation in Iraq. PNAC began as the brainchild of William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams, Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Jeanne Kirpatrick, were prominent members of the PNAC movement.

Initially PNAC seemed like a great idea -- preserving and enhancing America’s hegemony in a volatile, increasingly dangerous world. After all, we were the good guys, and we had just been viciously attacked b barbarians. Strengthening our hand and our image as a force majeur mondiale et formidable seemed the wisest course at the time.

George W. Bush, of course, mishandled the whole thing by trying to play the nice guy while engaging in aggression on a mammoth scale. He “misoverestimated” our capacity to prevail -- our patience -- our will -- and most of all our ability to resist the tremendous power of the fiercely partisan media always determined to destroy any Republican in power at any and all costs.

The result has been the waste, corruption, confusion, loss of any unified sense of national purpose and tremendous loss of blood, treasure and prestige abroad we live with today,

Why anyone would want to support President Obama’s apparent determination to make the same mistakes for which his predecessor has been justifiably reviled I cannot imagine. Syria’s internal problems not our business anymore than the internal affairs of Iran.


PS: Mr. Bernstein's nakedly partisan, pointedly contemptuous, article is contemptible, itself. All this rehashing and second-guessing concerning our Middle East policy post 911 (really post 1947!) does nothing to help clarify what our objectives ought to be in our present plight

Shaw Kenawe said...

Timothy Eagan:

"He’s there in every corner of Congress where a microphone fronts a politician, there in Russia and the British Parliament and the Vatican. You may think George W. Bush is at home in his bathtub, painting pictures of his toenails, but in fact he’s the biggest presence in the debate over what to do in Syria.

His legacy is paralysis, hypocrisy and uncertainty practiced in varying degrees by those who want to learn from history and those who deny it. Let’s grant some validity to the waffling, though none of it is coming from the architects of the worst global fiasco in a generation."

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Even within families, there is disagreement over current Syria policy. I refer to a conversation last night with my oldest daughter.

First some background: My daughter is a high-ranking officer assigned to the Pentagon with substantial Mid-East experience: 4 deployments totaling 8 years on the ground (in Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, as examples), starting with the first Gulf War (1990-91).

Her viewpoint: Stay out. Why? No matter how violent and bloody, no matter how unconscionable, no matter how sectarian and divided, virtually all peoples of the region are unanimous in this attitude: They prefer to be masters of their own fate without the intervention of former colonial powers. After the first Gulf War, George #41 made this blunder. He kept a residual U.S. force stationed in Saudi Arabia – often cited by al-Qaeda as a prime motive for targeting U.S. interests (recall the Khobar Towers bombing incident). All sides in these various Mid-East conflicts share this xenophobia.

Acknowledging her point, I raised another issue: Mid-East conflicts have metastasized beyond the region; witness the spate of terrorist incidents spanning 4 continents. IOW, when regional conflicts spill into our territory and impact our citizens, we have compelling national security interests at stake.

Her reply: We should make every effort to maintain security within our borders but avoid another Archduke Ferdinand historical error that may draw us into wider and more protracted conflicts. After decades of supplying arms to so-called allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, the time has come for them to do their own heavy lifting, she says.

My response: Too late. We cannot re-write history and reset the clock of Mid-East perceptions. Since the cancer of Mid-East sectarian conflict has metastasized worldwide - and Western interests are often in the crosshairs of these conflicts - we have little choice but to intervene.

Fair enough! A perfectly civil and reasonable exchange of views between father and daughter – shared with readers of this forum. Ironic when I think about it, the career military person in my family prefers to avoid the military option; the aging pacifist now favors intervention.

As thorny and nettlesome as this Syria issue has become, it should not turn into another partisan slugfest. By all means, argue the merits but avoid the temptation to engage in wanton and gratuitous Obama-bashing. Be forewarned: If you do, the cephalopod will unleash buckets of noxious ink (along with citations and substantiation that will make your heads spin). Beware the fearsome and predatory cephalopod, or else you will be sorry.

Shaw Kenawe said...

(O)CT(O)PUS, that was a reasoned and well-presented discussion that gave me another insight into something I, too, am trying to sort out.

I have to say that for now, I'm in agreement with your daughter, but I also will listen carefully to Mr. Obama when he presents his case on Tuesday.

Thank you for sharing this. It deserves to be seen by everyone.

Dave Miller said...

Octo AND Shaw... I profess to lean against military action... That is where I start.

However, and Octo brought up a very valid point. We are indeed dealing with some realities that have been years in the making.

To try and fashion a Middle East policy without acknowledging that our past history and actions have affected people there over decades, is foolish.

We cannot turn back the clock and ignore our past screwups and interventions any more than we could have uninvaded Iraq.

The struggle for me is getting people to even acknowledge that these realities exist.

Octo, what do you do then? What do you do when people are unwilling, or unable to process factual information that impacts what we can, or are trying to do, that might be negative towards the US?

Jerry Critter said...

For someone who has been awarded the Nobel Peace prize, Obama should be laying the case for an act of peace, not an act of war!

Infidel753 said...

Shaw, belated thanks for the link.

The situation in Syria cannot be understood without grasping the religious sectarian issues which are driving the conflict. The Asad regime is dominated by members of the Alawite sect, who thus effectively dominate Syria even though they are only 12% of the population. The rebels are mostly militant Sunni groups (Sunnis are about 70% of Syria's population) including at least one group affiliated with al-Qâ'idah. Let that sink in: If we intervene on the side of the rebels, we will be fighting on the same side as al-Qâ'idah.

The chemical-weapons attack was not a foray into terrorism which will be followed by further such attacks outside Syria if we do not retaliate to deter it. It's the act of a minority-rule fascist regime with its back to the wall.

As ghastly as Asad is, I'm now satisfied that if the rebels win, things will get much worse. They have already begun persecuting and killing the Christian and Alawite minorities. If they take over the country, it's all too likely that this persecution would turn genocidal. Asad's ambitions don't extend far beyond his own country, but the rebels include jihadists with global ambitions, including but not limited to al-Qâ'idah.

These are our choices: A murderous fascist dictatorship or a bunch of even more murderous religious fanatics. There's no third group of Jeffersonian democrats waiting in the wings.

Helping the rebels defeat Asad would practically guarantee that Syria would become a terrorism-exporting Islamist state like Taliban Afghanistan.

We cannot help the Syrian people, nor do ourselves any good, by sticking our hand in that bucket of scorpions. Stay out.

Infidel753 said...

Oh, and to "Fuck the World": Military power is most successful when it isn't used, but maintains peace through deterrence. That's what our network of alliances worldwide does. That's the middle ground between pointlessly lashing out into a complex conflict our leaders don't understand, and completely withdrawing from the world. Either would be destabilizing.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Dave: "What do you do when people are unwilling, or unable to process factual information that impacts what we can, or are trying to do, that might be negative towards the US?"

Perhaps it depends upon the dwelling place of those indigenous persons who cannot process factual information. If they reside within the blogosphere, they are probably comment trolls. If they are inside the Mid-East, they are probably Babylonian trolls. No matter. For better or worse, we are all sailing to Byzantium. Shall we speak of what is past, or passing, or to come?

Rational Nation USA said...

I agree Jerry.

Fuck The World said...

And America has done so well making those decisions. HA.