SYRIAN CAULDRON ROILING, BUT SHOULD THE U.S. TRY TO PERFORM ‘SURGERY’ TO STOP THE BOILING? THE PLANET THINKS NOT … WE’D LIKE TO HEAR WHAT YOU THINK; OUR REPRESENTATIVES ARE LISTENING
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, SEPT. 5, 2013) — Some national issues hold such great import that even a site such as this, which primarily feeds off local fodder, must address it. This happens, of course, from time to time, and it’s happened now. THE PLANET speaks of Syria, of course.
The United States finds itself in the middle of an important discussion. Do we go to war or not? President Barack Obama’s unusual decision to pull back at the last second to get Congressional blessing puts the nation in an odd “Twilight Zone” of deliberation. The important thing is that we take advantage of the lull and let our voice be heard.
Please tell us: What do you think? Should the U.S. intercede militarily in Syria? With war being the messiest and most unpredictable of enterprises, can anyone, including the President of the United States, seriously speak of “surgical attacks,” two or three days in and out, as if he’s a dentist extracting a wisdom tooth? THE PLANET doesn’t think so. Will the action mean anything in the long run, particularly since Obama has ruled out (or so the Administration claims) “boots on the ground?” Can we believe what any of the national politicians are saying? If so, on what basis?
Is such a “surgical” strike possible in the tinderbox that is the Middle East, on a sovereign country, without the prospect of so-called Allies backing the action? And what do you make of President Obama’s surprising, 11th-hour decision not to unilaterally launch a strike against Syria but wait until Congress returns (Sept. 9) to issue him authorization — or not? What should Congress do with the matter? Should our elected representatives in the House and Senate on Capitol Hill give Obama the go-ahead, or should they take a stance to draw the line against another needless war? Why should we even believe that Obama “needs” Congressional approval. Wasn’t that aspect of the Constitutional shredded nearly 50 years ago in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?
For THE PLANET, having read as much as we can from numerous national and international websites and knowing what we know today, we would not advise an intervention in Syria. We would call on Congress to repudiate Obama’s request for war, based on the following factors:
1. The Administration has yet to provide irrefutable proof that Syrian strongman Bashir al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. It seems clear someone used gas, but we don’t know who or why. We only know what, where, and when.
2. Syria lies in the Middle East, an obvious fact that Obama seems to dismiss. Military intervention there, at this point, with the hatred of the U.S. at its peak overseas, would invite disaster. The notion of a meaningful “surgical” strike seems to us like fantasy.
3. Other foreign countries are being cautious. Granted, that’s not a reason to decide our course of action, but as a factor, it must be included. In Parliament and the House of Lords, in a rousing debate carried on C-SPAN, the Brits turned down Prime Minister David Cameron‘s request to invade Syria. Good for them.
4. If you’ll recall, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were also sold to Congress and the American people as a low-risk action necessary to the U.S.’s national security. We were told that Weapons of Mass Destruction existed when they didn’t. We were told that those two countries posed a direct threat to U.S. security. They didn’t. We were told the interventions would be quick, “surgical,” and contained, with a quick exit. Fact is, the U.S. had no exit strategy. They lost both “wars” in the end game. The war in Afghanistan is still going on, the longest conflict in this country’s history, and Iraq lies in turmoil. Much good we did there, eh? We are 10 years removed since President George W. Bush flew in on a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier and stupidly declared, “Mission Accomplished.” Bush must have been thinking of his Big Business buddies such as VP Dick Cheney, who have made fortunes on the aftermath of the mayhem. Now it’s Obama’s turn to sell us a bill of goods. Why? And why now?
6. The cost of war. Since 2001, the cost of both the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq total about $1.5 trillion and counting. The U.S., particularly, U.S. taxpayers, shouldn’t be asked for another penny to throw away in such disdainful manner.
5. Put it this way: If the government has been lying to We The People on almost every public policy matter since the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, why should we believe them now?
As for Obama’s decision to postpone action at the last second and seek the blessings of Congress, it’s a litmus test for how one personally feels about the President. His enemies will rake him over the coals for indecision. His supporters will praise him for respecting the Constitution.
Why did he wait? Did he want to have other fall guys if he moves, with approval, and it literally blows up in his face? Does he truly respect due process, something U.S. Presidents have not done since Harry Truman? Or did Obama simply play pragmatic politics, backing off from action that four out of five citizens have disapproved in poll after poll? We shall see.
What do you think, people? Please get involved in the discussion on this vital issue. If you think the U.S. should go in, tell THE PLANET why we’re wrong. When the White House and congressional staffs do a Google search to get a pulse for what the American people think, they will find PLANET VALENTI. Your say just might be the tipping point, one way of the other. The staffs of this state’s two senators and of our district congressman monitor this site. In other words, in some small way, your say will have some effect.
There have been numerous, perhaps countless, pieces done on the Syrian situation. Here is one that we found among the most interesting:
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UK intelligence chiefs have told Prime Minister David Cameron it is “highly likely” the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical attack on 21 August, which killed at least 350 civilians in eastern Damascus.
The assessment was written by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) on 27 August and released by Downing Street on 29 August.
The BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera gives his analysis of the assessment below (GC).
A chemical attack occurred in Damascus on the morning of 21 August, resulting in at least 350 fatalities. It is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale.
GC: A central reason for the relative confidence of the assessment is a view that it could not be the opposition and therefore had to be the regime which launched the attack.
The regime has used CW on a smaller scale on at least 14 occasions in the past.
GC: The accompanying letter from the chair of the JIC says that it has judged with the “highest possible level of certainty” that chemical weapons have already been used 14 times but not on the same scale. The JIC appears very confident that these attacks were by the regime and may have more intelligence about these incidents than the 21 August attack.
There is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability in this attack.
GC: This key sentence indicates that they have only “some” intelligence pointing to the regime carrying out the attack but nothing so conclusive as to dispel all doubt. It is described in the accompanying letter as a “limited but growing body of intelligence”. It is also described as highly sensitive, meaning it might be intercepted communications or material from another country. The prime minister has been shown it, but it is not included in this assessment.
These factors make it highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.
GC: This is the key judgement of the document. The phrase “highly likely” indicates a significant degree of confidence but not absolute certainty.
Extensive video footage attributed to the attack in eastern Damascus (which we assess would be very difficult to falsify) is consistent with the use of a nerve agent, such as sarin, and is not consistent with the use of blister or riot control agents.
GC: This paragraph, along with the accompanying letter, shows that the judgement that chemical weapons were used is based on what is known as open source information – in other words not secret intelligence but in this case public video footage. It also suggests they do not have separate confirmation of the use of chemical weapons, for instance in the form of analysis of samples at UK labs, which does seem to have taken place in the wake of other previous attacks. The committee chair says it has asked experts inside and outside government to see if this video could have been faked in any way by the opposition and has come to the conclusion that it is real.
There is no obvious political or military trigger for regime use of CW on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence in Syria of the UN investigation team. Permission to authorise CW has probably been delegated by President Assad to senior regime commanders, such as [*], but any deliberate change in the scale and nature of use would require his authorisation.
GC: This judgement is important because it suggests the JIC have some idea of the chain of command for the use of chemical weapons but are still not sure why chemical weapons were used and on precisely whose orders on this occasion. The accompanying letter says this area of motivation is the one where it does not have high confidence in its assessment. There has been speculation as to whether the attack was launched on orders from the top or on the initiative of a local commander.
There is no credible evidence that any opposition group has used CW. A number continue to seek a CW capability, but none currently has the capability to conduct a CW attack on this scale.
GC: This judgement is interesting because it tells us that some rebel groups have been trying to get hold of chemical weapons. There has been great concern that those opponents of the regime linked to al-Qaeda might get hold of them. However, the UK appears convinced that no opposition group would be able to carry out the kind of attack seen on 21 August, therefore meaning the use of weapons logically would have to have been by the regime.
Russia claims to have a ‘good degree of confidence’ that the attack was an ‘opposition provocation’ but has announced that they support an investigation into the incident. We expect them to maintain this line. The Syrian regime has now announced that it will allow access to the sites by UN inspectors.
GC: The inspectors will be looking to prove if chemical weapons were used but are not expected to say by whom.
There is no immediate time limit over which environmental or physiological samples would have degraded beyond usefulness. However, the longer it takes inspectors to gain access to the affected sites, the more difficult it will be to establish the chain of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
GC: A chain of evidence is required to be sure that a particular sample was not tampered with before it is analysed for proof that chemical weapons were used.