Archive for September, 2013

False Advertising: The Marketing of Obama’s War on Syria

September 9, 2013

As the Obama administration continues to market its planned war on Syria as a “limited” strike and “shot across the bow,” the language of the resolution the Congress is being asked to vote on this week and the plans of the President’s national security team belie any such limited intention.

The text opens with the false claim that the Syrian government employed chemical weapons against its civilian population.  Of course, taking aggressive military action without UN authorization would be illegal under international law, regardless of anything the Assad regime has done.  But it bears repeating that the administration has produced no evidence to back up its claim, while the rebels clearly have chemical weapons capability and Carla Del Ponte, Member of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, last May said that a UN investigation indicated it was the rebels who had used nerve gas in a previous attack.  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/28/1234403/-Last-May-UN-s-Del-Ponte-found-evidence-Syria-rebels-used-nerve-gas

But beyond the fact that the war is being sold with lies, the fact that war is planned at all is being hidden by the administration and most or all of the mainstream media behind a false and misleading marketing campaign.  If the campaign is successful, we’re about to be treated to what is known among those who enforce the law of deception as “bait and switch” – when an advertiser draws the prospective mark in with one product while intending to deliver something else.

The truth is revealed in the language of the Authorization to Use Military Force as it emerged from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week on a 10-7 vote.  The document, labeled S.J. 21 on the Senate website, http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/b_three_sections_with_teasers/active_leg_page.htm, incorporates in one of its “Whereas” clauses that “the President’s goals of Assad leaving power” (along with “an end to the violence” and “a negotiated political settlement in Syria”) are necessary to a “stable, democratic future for Syria and regional peace and security,” and that achievement of this goal requires “decisive changes to the present military balance of power on the ground in Syria.”  The resolution goes on to state, “It is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria so as to create favorable conditions for a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria.”

The President himself came pretty close to calling for regime change by name when he told senior members of Congress at a White House meeting last week that the attack on Syria “also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required – so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region.”  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/03/obama-strategy-assad-republicans-syria

There is later on in the Congressional document a prohibition on the use of “the United States Armed Forces” on the ground in Syria “for the purpose of combat operations.”  One may wonder whether that language is intended to cover CIA operatives, advisers, or military contractors.  But in any case, ABC News has reported that the President’s national security team is planning a “significantly larger” attack on Syria than the administration’s marketing campaign would lead us to expect.

The ABC broadcast mentions use of B-2 and B-52 bombers as well as a “relentless assault” with “the vast majority” of the 200 Tomahawk missiles on Navy destroyers already stationed off the coast of Syria.  The broadcast quotes a senior national security official as saying the US assault “could do more damage to Assad’s forces in 48 hours than the rebels have done in two years of civil war.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDJBOgdm3uI

Anybody?  Does all of this sound like it contemplates a “limited strike” or a “warning shot across the bow”?  (Recall that a shot “across the bow” doesn’t actually hit anything.)  And how comforting will it be if no US Armed Forces have their boots on the ground, while hundreds or even thousands of Syrian civilians are killed and maimed in another “shock and awe” campaign that may well even ignite a larger regional war?

Along with the drums of war, I’m hearing regime change.  And unfortunately, the sound has become all too familiar.

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NO US War On Syria

September 4, 2013

President Obama now seeks Congressional approval for a military strike against Syria.

The Congress should save us and the President from this proposed folly by declining to authorize it.  The US and its allies should refrain from attacking Syria and instead promote a durable ceasefire and a political solution.

Assuming chemical weapons were used in Syria last month, who used them will likely remain unclear.  Carla del Ponte, former Swiss war crimes prosecutor and a member of a UN commission of inquiry on Syria, said last June in an interview with Swiss Italian broadcaster RSI that, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”

An attack on Syria without UN authorization would in any case be a clear violation of international law.  It would also be ill-advised, hypocritical, and deeply immoral.

As a senior British military commander told the Financial Times (8/29/13), “The idea that the west can neatly restrict any attack to a short duration punishment with the limits drawn exclusively by us is naïve in the extreme.”

If the President is really upset by the use of chemical weapons, perhaps he could arrange compensation for the victims of US use of other internationally condemned weapons of war, such as cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorous in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Agent Orange in Vietnam.   This is not to diminish or denigrate the horror of chemical weapons.  But unexploded cluster bombs can release over a wide area tiny bomblets that can do terrible harm to children who pick them up.  Iraqis are suffering terrible birth defects, especially in Fallujah, in the wake of widespread use of depleted uranium by the US military.  White phosphorus gas melts the skin and burns to the bone.

For more on these issues, see “Killing Civilians to Protect Civilians” by law professor Marjorie Cohn and attorney Jeanne Mirer, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marjorie-cohn/syria-civilians-violence_b_3826961.html.