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.

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THE PLANET offers you the chance to weigh in directly.
“Only, here and there, an old sailor, / Drunk and asleep in his boots, / Catches tigers / In red weather.”Wallace Stevens, final lines, “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” (1915).


  1. Russell Moody
    September 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Surreal how much Obama sounds like Bush on national security these days…

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      Like the Doublemint Twins, RUSS.

  2. Chazz Storie
    September 4, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Absolutely not! I don’t see any good coming from this. I don’t see what this has to do with our nation security and it’s bothersome that the United States once again has to get involved with another country’s problems. Yes, the situation in Syria is bad but that doesn’t mean the USA needs to go and do something about it. Seems this country is all about “helping” others – when this country should be helping it’s own.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      Thanks, CHAZZ.

  3. dusty
    September 5, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    What could possibly go wrong? These chemicals can be mounted on missiles. They may already be and they can reach Israel, Turkey and our warships in the Mediterranean. I have to believe this is all talk because this has all the earmarks of a tripwire for world war three. Please tell me I am having a bad dream. No good can come from this. McCain is insane.

    • Still wondering
      September 5, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Uncanny how a democrat will attack a republican instead of the moonbat democrat that is actually going to do this attack.

      • dusty
        September 5, 2013 at 11:52 am #

        I am actually independent. And I hate war. Obama is looking for advice. McCain wants war. He loves war. I am thinking of all the innocents who will die as a result of our first cruise missile. I was not attacking a republican but rather making a statement of fact.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      I can’t make any claims on Mccain’s sanity, DUSTY, but I can easily adopt your claim: “Nothing good can come from this.”

  4. Mr. X
    September 5, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    Unfortunately war means jobs, especially in Pittsfield. But, should we always be the one to try and police the world’s trouble spots when we have so many of our own in house that need our attention?

  5. Wilson
    September 5, 2013 at 4:36 am #

    Cut the standing army by 90%. Shut down all overseas military bases. Pull back all naval battle groups to territorial waters (except for nuclear missile subs). Then these questions don’t come up. If the Saudis are worried, they can take a break from frolicking with their harems in their palaces and fight their own battles; if the Israelis or Europeans care, they can divert money from programs that pay for perks like university and healthcare that Americans can’t afford and put it into military operations; if Russians want influence in the region, they’re free to exhaust their resources herding cats

  6. Jonathan Melle
    September 5, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    There are Humanitarian crises across the World. Assad is like Hitler. He needs to either go to prison or be assassinated. Hitler should have been killed at least a decade before he committed suicide at the end of World War 2. The nations of the Middle East dislike Assad. Like Hitler, he is a monster!

  7. MrG1188
    September 5, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    First and foremost, I haven’t heard any ultimate objective expressed by intervention, beyond “teaching the Syrian dictator a lesson.” If we don’t know what we want to accomplish, we probably won’t. Second, is “regime change” the unspoken objective? We want to rid Syria of Assad? How has enforcing regime change, either overtly or covertly, worked out for us in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Venezuela, Peru, etc, etc.,? Let’s just say there haven’t been a lot of positive results and yet we still haven’t learned our lesson. Russell Moody hits the nail right on the head above with his comment on Bush and Obama re: foreign policy; 2 peas in the same pod. Read the book “Dirty Wars” which details the US progress into turning the entire planet into a battlefield, and ultimately the evolving process of stripping the constitution of all meaning & value when it comes to “war,” surveillance, etc. by systematically and ineluctably placing all responsibility for such things in the executive branch with no oversight and no reporting requirements. Absolutely frightening. No…we have no business in Syria.

    The larger question is how do we handle genocide in other countries? It’s obviously unconscionable, but we stood aside and allowed hundreds of thousands of Tootsies to be slaughtered by Hutus with machetes 2 decades ago. We have remained on the sidelines during numerous other genocidal events. Syria needs to know we, and the rest of the world, are watching, but how we handle it and when we get involved needs a healthy discussion.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      You raise many essential questions, MRG, ones that the Administration has not sufficiently answered.

  8. Bill Sturgeon
    September 5, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    There will always be “Boots On The Ground”! Does this mission answer the requirements of the Powell Doctrine? Not in my judgment!

    • Ed Shepardson
      September 5, 2013 at 8:02 am #

      We have no right to wage war, any war, until we can properly care for the men and women who fight them.

      • danvalenti
        September 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

        Well expressed. We agree.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      Agreed. How can a military intervention be effective without the “Boots?”

  9. Bull Durham
    September 5, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Surgical missile strikes will do nothing to prevent another chemical weapons attack, because they won’t destroy the weapons cache. Only a full invasion would do that, and that would be disastrous.

    Secondly, while Assad is a brutal dictator, who exactly do we have in mind to replace him? Right now his opposition is backed by Al-Qaeda. When there really is no lesser of two evils, I say we stay out and back off.

    How many times did Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons against his own people? Dozens, and no one did a thing to stop it before 9/11 and our invasion, and we all saw how that worked out. This has bad military policy written all over it.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      Love that last line, BULL.

  10. CarlosDanger
    September 5, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    When will the US Govt ever learn that every time we stick our noses in other countries conflicts it comes back to bite us? If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, then our gov’t is insane.
    And if the middle eastern countries think Assad is another Hitler, then let them take care of him! But Assad is nothing like Hitler anyways, the comparison is ridiculous. Hitler was responsible for the ruthless murder of many millions of people, most of them in other countries. He also invaded numerous other countries, bombed civilian populations in other countries, and he actually declared war on the US. US ships were sunk by the Nazis before we were at war with them. Assad has done nothing like that.
    Obama has been a huge dissappointment.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      Agree, Carlos, that likening Assad to Hitler is ludicrous. Those who make that claim may do so, but in doing so, they admit they have no argument.

      • Russell Moody
        September 6, 2013 at 7:24 am #

        Only a word of caution here for me… it isn’t that Assad is another Hitler as much as how long we sat by, allowing millions of people to be murdered. The argument that “it isn’t our conflict” or “let the Syrians kill Syrians if they want to” doesn’t sit well with me.

        Using chemical weapons on one’s own people is surely an event that should give us the impulse to act. Resisting the impulse may be prudent, but we then must decide how it is that we are to respond. Doing nothing for long or choosing to ignore it because we have no ‘dog’ in the fight is unacceptable.

  11. C Trzcinka
    September 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    It is not the case that the Iraq war was “lost”. It probably wasn’t worth the cost but the objective of establishing a democracy in the middle east was achieved, the current turmoil aside. But, but, but, what exactly does the Iraq war of 2004-2011 have to do with Syria today? We know that somebody has WMD and that they’ve used them. The most likely user is Assad. We don’t have a direct link with Assad, otherwise Russia and China would have to support a UN action. We have three choices; do nothing, regime change and a short attack. All have risks but I’m with Obama, Kerry, McCain and Boehner and say a short attack has the best chance of preventing further WMD attacks in Syria and elsewhere.

    • Kevin
      September 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Have to disagree, Mr. Trzinka. Iraq technically has a democracy but it’s not functioning as we know democracy or don’t you know about the attack a couple days ago in Bahgdad that killed 43 and woulded many more? You favor a “short attack” but why? What will that do? I like what Mr. Bull Durham says, short of all out invastion nothing will change. Stay out! Stay out! Stay out of Syria.

      • danvalenti
        September 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

        Thanks for your input.

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      We respectfully disagree about the Iraq war as winnable. We agree that even “victory” (whatever that would have looked like) wasn’t worth the cost of going in. Of the three choices, all have risks, but not invading (not quite the same as “do nothing” but close enough) has the fewest.

  12. Scott Laugenour
    September 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    I can’t help but suspect that calling for a Congressional vote on military action was not on any White House radar screen until the British parliament’s vote made news. The constitution has long been forgotten by the executive branch on these matter, so that you London for setting the example and reminding us of what our founding fathers wished for. The British NO vote was correct and if the US Congress listens to its constituents rather than the leadership bully-types and the war lobby it will vote the same. Obama is sounding like Bush, Kerry like Cheney, and our ‘liberal’ Senator Markey, who also voted for the war in Iraq, is now voting ‘present.’ Sure wish there were more of us in the opposition party. Unlike the Republicans and Democrats, though, we’ Greens are united amongst ourselves, and apparently with the majority of voters, in calling for a NO vote.

    • Scott Laugenour
      September 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

      … of course I meant to type ‘thank you, London’ !!

    • danvalenti
      September 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks, SCOTT. Well expressed, as always. You point about the unconstitutional and long-abused executive branch “privilege” to unilaterally declare war without a Congressional declaration will be the topic of tomorrow’s PLANET.

  13. Giacometti
    September 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    As everything in modern society is based on data… isn’t it data that is used to launch fighter jets, drop bombs and run the armies of the world ? Therefore one would think that intense cyber warfare could shut everything down in Syria without killing one person. The way a virus drives me nuts when my computer is attacked it would certainly drive the Assad Government to the brink of surrender if the brains in our armed forces simply bombarded every computer system in Syria with a super virus written in the United States with a secret language much like how the American Indians helped win the war with Japan using they’re language.. Just a thought from outside of the box.

    • danvalenti
      September 6, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      A most interesting approach, G.

  14. dusty
    September 6, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Keep in mind that China and Russia are not backing us on this. Why does so much of the world think that America going after Syria is such a bad idea yet we want to do it anyway.?

    Does Assad seem like the type of person that is going to just run and hide or does he seem like the type of person that may react with a vengeance? And if he reacts with a vengeance do we then have another Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan?

    My guess is that Assad is sitting somewhere with his finger on a button waiting for our first act of aggression. And when he sees it he is going to make us wish we never pushed our weight around. These chemical weapons could be anywhere and he may (even out of spite) just release them to spit in our faces. Only idiots would risk this.

  15. Larry
    September 6, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    We should be minding our own business and stop policing the other side of the globe. We have our own problems right here in the US….. Throwing trillions down at a fricken rat hole elsewhere is not helping desperate souls in our own country find shelter, food, or heat thier homes. In fact, its making it tougher though higher energy costs which inevitably drive everything else up.

    Hopefully, there is someone in congress with some sort of common sense!!!!!

    • Larry
      September 6, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      WOW! Sorry for how lousy my comment was written…… I can’t even understand it myself! I can’t even blame that one on spell check or nipping for that matter…. Just laziness! 🙁

  16. Scott
    September 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Obama and Bush are the same. Once again using the death of innocents to further a hidden agenda. Wake up America!

  17. Scott
    September 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    If we have to smoke Assad to make a statement that gov’ts can’t use wmd’s on their people fine but while we’re at it let’s smoke all the rebels too who are affiliated with al qaeda, why would we help people who want us all dead? Just like Libya looks like America isn’t half bad when our guys are dying for you and we’re bombing your enemy and doing all the leg work as well as financial backing. We have people right here in America who need a life line!