Daily Archive: 09/04/2013

Sep 04 2013

Resolution to Attack Syria Passed by Senate Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 10-7, approved resolution authorizing a U.S. military response to chemical weapons use in Syria. The resolution goes the the full senate for debate and vote next week.

Republicans Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ) and John McCain (AZ) joined seven Democrats in approving the resolution.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined Republicans including Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) in voting against the resolution. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) voted present.

Sen. McCain had threatened not to vote for the resolution unless it contained stronger language about ousting Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.

“Without the provision for reversing the momentum on the battlefield the conditions are not created for the departure of Bashar al-Assad,” McCain told reporters as he emerged from a classified Senate briefing session. “There is no policy without that and no strategy.”

McCain insists he was promised that such regime change would be made part of US policy by President Obama when he met on Monday at the White House with fellow Republican Lindsey Graham.

“Senator Graham and myself were assured that three things would happen as a result as a result of the US reaction to Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” said McCain. “First, to degrade his capabilities to deliver those weapons. Second, to increase our support to the Free Syrian Army and resistance forces. And third, to change the battlefield momentum which presently is in favour of Bashar Assad and reverse it, which would then create conditions for a negotiated settlement and the departure of Bashar Assad.”

The resolution that was passed with two amendments proposed by Sen. McCain and sponsored by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)that contain controversial language making the goal of U.S. military intervention is to “change the moment on the battlefield in Syria.” Both amendments were passed with a voice vote.

The amendments point to degrading the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability and the arming of Syrian opposition as means of reversing the situation on the ground in Syria, where the Assad regime is generally considered to be winning.

The language appears to address McCain’s concerns about the resolution that he voiced Wednesday morning when he said he would not support the resolution as it was then written. McCain has consistently said he supports further U.S. intervention in Syria to topple Assad.

The White House has repeatedly said that the military action was not aimed at regime change. The game now changes. While the resolution may pass in the Senate, it faces stiffer opposition in the House.

Jane Hamsher at FDL Action has the whip count for the vote which should take place early next week.

Current Vote Count:

Firm Yea: 25

Lean Yea: 30

Lean Nay: 97

Firm Nay: 48

Sep 04 2013

Syria: Push For War With Little Evidence

There still no hard evidence that Syrian President Bashir al-Assad used an unknown chemical weapons, possibly an organophosphate, on his own people in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. Yet, the Obama administration and some hawkish members of congress are pushing for air strikes to take out strategic targets, swearing that it wi.l be limited, not target the civilian population or require American troops on the ground. The purpose as stated by Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to send a message to Assad to not use chemical weapons again without any evidence that he did. There are no guarantees that this will even work or that Assad will not strike back as is his right according to the UN Charter.

Chief of correspondents for McClatchy Newspapers and co-author of a recent article, Mark Seibel joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nereem Shaikh to discuss the holes in the evidence.



TRanscript can be read here

“When it came to questions of the efficacy of a U.N. investigation, or the number of people killed in the conflict, or even the U.S. rendition of what happened in what order, there are contradictions,” Seibel says. The United States has claimed it had “collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence” that showed the Assad government preparing for an attack three days before the event. “That claim raises two questions,” Seibel writes. “Why didn’t the U.S. warn rebels about the impending attack and save hundreds of lives? And why did the administration keep mum about the suspicious activity when on at least one previous occasion U.S. officials have raised an international fuss when they observed similar actions?”

Sep 04 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress, think carefully before intervening in Syria

President Obama’s decision to ask Congress to authorize any action towards Syria is both courageous and correct. He ignored the inevitable scorn he would get from the armchair patriots who believe the U.S. president can dispatch the military anywhere, at any time, for any reason. He reportedly overruled the advice of most of his national security team that wanted to strike Syria without going to Congress. After the British parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s appeal for authority to join the United States in the Syrian strike, Obama knew the vote in this bitterly divided and dysfunctional Congress would be “a tough sell.”

But he made the right call, responding not only to his constitutional obligation but to the more than 150 legislators from both parties who signed letters calling on the president to seek approval from Congress before taking action. According to polls, a strike on Syria, even in response to the proven use of chemical weapons, is opposed by a plurality of Americans. Neither the United States nor its allies faces any imminent threat from the Syrian regime. If the United States is a constitutional democracy, surely this is a case where the Congress, the people’s representatives, should determine whether the nation gets involved in – as the president put it – “someone else’s war.”

Phyllis Bennis: Striking Syria: Illegal, Immoral, and Dangerous

Whatever Congress may decide, a US military strike against Syria would be a reckless and counterproductive move

If I were very optimistic, I’d say that President Obama is hoping that Congress will follow the example of the British parliament, and vote against his proposed military strike on Syria. It would let him off the hook – he could avoid an illegal, dangerous, immoral military assault and say it’s Congress’ fault.

But unfortunately, I don’t think that much optimism is warranted. Obama’s speech – not least his dismissal of any time pressure, announcing that his commanders have reassured him that their preparations to fire on command are not time-bound – gives opponents of greater US intervention in Syria a week or more to mobilise, to build opposition in Congress and in the public, and to continue fighting against this new danger. As the president accurately described it, “some things are more important than partisan politics”. For war opponents in Congress, especially President Obama’s progressive supporters, keeping that in mind is going to be difficult but crucial.

Marcy Wheeler: “As He Determines To Be Necessary and Appropriate in a Limited and Tailored Manner”

Everyone who has commented on the draft Menendez-Corker resolution to strike Syria (pdf) has focused on this language:

   The President is authorized, subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, [my emphasis]

The pursuit of a somewhat pregnant war continues!

And while the resolution makes pains to limit our involvement geographically (though John Kerry implied today if Syria’s allies get involved than we’d be able to go after them), it also allows boots on the ground for non-combat functions.

   The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations.

And I’m rather interested in this language, which SFRC added from the White House version.

   Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States:

I’m sure that won’t be abused at all.

Natasha Lennard: High rhetoric as Kerry, Hagel pitch Syria strike to Congress

“It’s about humanity’s red line,” says Kerry, in a contentless narrative of good versus evil

With echoes of John Kerry’s statement of high moral valance on Syria last week, the secretary of state alongside Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel brought his rhetoric-infused war cry to Congress. [..]

Both Hagel and Kerry argued that the “morality” and “credibility” of the U.S. as a world leader hangs in the balance over striking in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people. The administration has chosen its course: a guilt trip into another war, buoyed by the added threat of “baddies” taking advantage of U.S. inaction. The Senate was presented a neoliberal tale of good versus evil (“All of us know that the extremes of both sides are there, waiting in the wings,” warned Kerry), with little content in terms of precise objectives or shape of the planned Syria attacks, nor a defense in terms of international law. Indeed, on the same day as Hagel and Kerry made their case to Congress, U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon warned that a U.S. attack could unleash further turmoil in the beleaguered region. Little matter: If the high, empty rhetoric of the administration is any indication, there will be war (despite Kerry’s comment to the Senate hearing that “President Obama is not asking Americans to go to war”).

Mary Bottari: Failing Up to the Fed, A Reporters’ Guide to the Paper Trail Surrounding Larry Summers

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein reports that Larry Summers is the “overwhelming favorite” of the Obama team for the job as Federal Reserve chairman. To convince the American public that one of the chief architects of the 2008 financial crisis should be the chief regulator of the U.S. financial system, supporters of Summers have their work cut out for them.

Cue the rewrite.

The New York Times reports that some of Mr. Summers’s supporters “argue that better oversight of derivatives would not have prevented or significantly diminished” the 2008 financial crisis. One former Treasury official told the Times that Summers secretly wanted derivatives regulated, but couldn’t win the support of Greenspan or Senate Republicans so dropped the idea.

For journalists who are being told what a brilliant man and insightful regulator Larry Summers was behind the scenes, here are a few items from his public record you might want to review.

Allison Kilkenny: Austerity Is for the Little People: Syria Edition

Schools, libraries, post offices and other public services are closing across the country in the wake of budget cuts, and Congress may have just voted to cut $1.5 trillion from programs like Head Start over the next decade, but many officials still feel confident the US is positioned to fund yet another expensive military operation in Syria.

Obviously, current and former officials aren’t debating the moral implications of killing human beings in order to “save” other human beings as part of a murky plan that essentially boils down to underwear gnome logic (cruise mussels + something = Assad is gone and democracy!), but these same officials brazenly claim that the cost of a military operation in Syria will be “relatively easily absorbed.”

Sep 04 2013

Signatures of Sarin

See, the more you think about delivering your overwhelming(? more on that later perhaps) military power the weaker you seem.  So the key is to be random and crazy!

Shut The Fuck Up.

Sep 04 2013

Signitures of Sarin

See, the more you think about delivering your overwhelming(? more on that later perhaps) military power the weaker you seem.  So the key is to be random and crazy!

Shut the Fuck Up.

Sep 04 2013

On This Day In History September 4

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 4 is the 247th day of the year (248th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 118 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1886, Apache chief Geronimo surrenders to U.S. government troops. For 30 years, the mighty Native American warrior had battled to protect his tribe’s homeland; however, by 1886 the Apaches were exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. General Nelson Miles accepted Geronimo’s surrender, making him the last Indian warrior to formally give in to U.S. forces and signaling the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.

While Geronimo (Chiricahua: Goyaale, “one who yawns”; often spelled Goyathlay or Goyahkla in English) said he was never a chief, he was a military leader. As a Chiricahua Apache, this meant he was one of many people with special spiritual insights and abilities known to Apache people as “Power”. Among these were the ability to walk without leaving tracks; the abilities now known as telekinesis and telepathy; and the ability to survive gunshot (rifle/musket, pistol, and shotgun). Geronimo was wounded numerous times by both bullets and buckshot, but survived. Apache men chose to follow him of their own free will, and offered first-hand eye-witness testimony regarding his many “powers”. They declared that this was the main reason why so many chose to follow him (he was favored by/protected by “Usen”, the Apache high-god). Geronimo’s “powers” were considered to be so great that he personally painted the faces of the warriors who followed him to reflect their protective effect. During his career as a war chief, Geronimo was notorious for consistently urging raids and war upon Mexican Provinces and their various towns, and later against American locations across Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas.

snip

In 1886, General Nelson A. Miles selected Captain Henry Lawton, in command of B Troop, 4th Cavalry, at Ft. Huachuca and First Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood to lead the expedition that captured Geronimo. Numerous stories abound as to who actually captured Geronimo, or to whom he surrendered, although most contemporary accounts, and Geronimo’s own later statements, give most of the credit for negotiating the surrender to Lt. Gatewood. For Lawton’s part, he was given orders to head up actions south of the U.S.-Mexico boundary where it was thought Geronimo and a small band of his followers would take refuge from U.S. authorities. Lawton was to pursue, subdue, and return Geronimo to the U.S., dead or alive.

Lawton’s official report dated September 9, 1886 sums up the actions of his unit and gives credit to a number of his troopers for their efforts. Geronimo gave Gatewood credit for his decision to surrender as Gatewood was well known to Geronimo, spoke some Apache, and was familiar with and honored their traditions and values. He acknowledged Lawton’s tenacity for wearing the Apaches down with constant pursuit. Geronimo and his followers had little or no time to rest or stay in one place. Completely worn out, the little band of Apaches returned to the U.S. with Lawton and officially surrendered to General Miles on September 4, 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.

The debate still remains whether Geronimo surrendered unconditionally. Geronimo pleaded in his memoirs that his people who surrendered had been misled: his surrender as a war prisoner was conditioned in front of uncontested witnesses (especially General Stanley). General Howard, chief of Pacific US army division, said on his part that his surrender was accepted as a dangerous outlaw without condition, which has been contested in front of the Senate.

In February, 1909, Geronimo was thrown from his horse while riding home, and had to lie in the cold all night before a friend found him extremely ill. He died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909 as a prisoner of the United States at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On his deathbed, he confessed to his nephew that he regretted his decision to surrender. He was buried at Fort Sill in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery