“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.
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Dennis J. Kucinich: The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria
This attack on Syria, under the guise of striking ISIS, is by definition, a war of aggression. It is a violation of international law. It could lead to crimes against humanity and the deaths of untold numbers of innocent civilians. No amount of public relations or smooth talking can change that.
And yes, members of this Democratic administration, including the president who executed this policy, must be held accountable by the International Criminal Court and by the American people, who he serves.
But as we know, war is a powerful and cynical PR tactic. I expect the bombing of Syria will momentarily boost the White House’s popularity with self-serving heroic accounts of damage inflicted upon ISIS (and the U.S. equipment they use). Stuffing the November ballot box with bombs and missiles may even help the Democratic Party retain the Senate.
But after the election the voters will discover that the president played into the hands of extremists, hurt civilians, and embroiled our country deep into another conflict in the Middle East.
Jonathan Hafetz: Don’t Execute Those We Tortured
After years of legal battles, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will finally be put on trial before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, though a trial date hasn’t yet been set. If he is convicted, as expected, he will almost certainly face the death penalty. And, assuming one believes in the death penalty, it would be hard to think of a stronger candidate for its use.
But there are reasons Mr. Mohammed should not be executed, irrespective of how one feels about capital punishment. He was the victim of blatantly illegal treatment – the C.I.A. waterboarded him 183 times in March 2003, and threatened to kill his children while imprisoning him in a secret jail – at the hands of the government. [..]
The absence of accountability for those who encouraged and conducted torture leaves the criminal sentencing of convicted terrorists as one of the few tools, however imperfect, that remain for addressing past abuses of law, and restoring America’s reputation for dedication to the norms of international law. If convicted, Mr. Mohammed should be spared, because his execution – after years of mistreatment in a series of secret C.I.A.-run prisons before he was moved to Guantánamo – would send a disastrous message about impunity for torture and about the rule of law.
The Obama administration has devised an extraordinary legal justification for carrying out bombing attacks inside Syria: that the United States and its Persian Gulf allies have the right to defend Iraq against the Islamic State because the Syrian government is unable to stop the cross-border terror group. [..]
Yet, beyond the danger to world order if such an expansive theory is embraced by the international community (does anyone remember how World War One got started?), there is the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and many of those same Gulf allies arming, training and funding Syrian rebels for the purpose of preventing the Syrian military from controlling its territory and then citing that lack of control as the rationale to ignore Syria’s sovereignty.
In other words, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other enemies of Syria covertly backed the rebels inside Syria and watched as many of them – including thousands of the U.S.-preferred “moderates” – took their newly acquired military skills to al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations. Then, the U.S. and its allies have the audacity to point to the existence of those terror groups inside Syria as a rationale for flying bombing raids into Syria.
Amy Goodman: Global Warming and Global Warring
Hours after 400,000 people joined in the largest climate march in history, the United States began bombing Syria, starting yet another war. The Pentagon claims that the targets were military installations of the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, as well a newly revealed terrorist outfit, the Khorasan Group. President Barack Obama is again leading the way to war, while simultaneously failing to address our rapidly worsening climate. The world is beset with twin crises, inextricably linked: global warming and global warring. Solutions to both exist, but won’t be achieved by bombing. [..]
Indeed, the Pentagon has long considered climate change to be a major threat to the national security of the United States. In its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon noted that the many impacts of climate change “will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions-conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
So it is fair to ask, why not address the threat of climate change when it is still possible? Asad Rehman, of the international environmental group Friends of the Earth, who was in New York for the climate march, told me, “If we can find the trillions [of dollars] we’re finding for conflict whether there’s been the invasion in Iraq or Afghanistan or now the conflict in Syria, then we can find the kind of money that’s required for the transformation that will deliver clean, renewable energy.”
Richard (RJ) Eskow: 100 Zephyrs: Why the Left Must Challenge Corporate Democrats
Writing in Real Clear Politics, my Campaign for America’s Future colleague Bill Scher dismisses Zephyr Teachout’s call for progressive primary challenges against conservative Democrats. Scher argues the left should focus instead on “gaining influence without launching a civil war,” arguing that “unlike the dynamic in the Republican Party, disagreements within the Democratic family are not debilitating.”
This idea has been raised before: that infighting between the party’s left and right wings are nothing more than a set of relatively minor policy differences within the “Democratic family” (to use Scher’s words), and that they’re best solved with genteel discussion and issue-oriented campaigns rather than “war”-like primary challenges.
It’s an attractive vision. Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. [..]
Elected Democrats must understand that a betrayal of their principles will have consequences for their electoral futures. There may be cases where a primary is ill-advised. But we need hundreds of Zephyr Teachouts, ready to challenge straying Dems when they break their campaign promises, shift their allegiances to the corporate “dark side,” or forget to “dance with the ones who brought ’em.”
You can call that “civil war” if you like. I prefer the term “democracy.”