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Author Topic: EVERY 2A MUST REJECT SYRIAN WAR  (Read 16872 times)
THodgman
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« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2013, 11:26:01 AM »

Brian: how do we stop the US from using chemical weapons again? http://www.policymic.com/articles/62023/10-chemical-weapons-attacks-washington-doesn-t-want-you-to-talk-about

This seems like a much more pressing question to me, as the US has killed far more people than Assad and we are US citizens, not participants in a syrian civil war.

Getting further involved militarily means we're killing more people and assad will kill more people in response.

The wars in iraq and afghanistan are examples enough: saddam and the taliban were not awesome by any stretch of the imagination but their violence paled in comparison to the ~1 million that died due to US military intervention (and chemical weapon use).


« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 11:31:10 AM by THodgman » Logged
zanezor
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« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2013, 12:43:48 PM »

Brian, thanks a lot for joining the discussion---check out this article that I just got published, I think it will answer some of your questions with a lot of citations.

http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/09/08/this-is-how-the-american-youth-will-stop-the-syrian-war/

Basically: a "limited" strike isn't going to do much of anything, it's just a foot in the door to a larger invasion that we are dragging ourselves into---EU has agreed to act once UN reports on the chemical weapons are confirmed.

please share any and all thoughts/criticism publicly if possible

best,
Zane
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brubaie
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2013, 12:50:25 PM »

18 days ago, 1,400+ were slaughtered in Ghouta, and by all appearances they were as innocent as the thousands more your article calls us to remember. The spirit of your article is correct; the legacy of chemical weapons is horrific, and its victims should never be forgotten. That the U.S. has blood on its hands is an important issue to raise, and an important caution to anyone seeking regime change. Thankfully, Obama isn't.

I wouldn't blame those in Syria, with nowhere to hide if Assad uses chemical weapons again, for viewing your post as a well-meaning academic reminder that does nothing to address the civil war they're trapped inside. At this point in the conflict Assad has little reason not to use chemical weapons. The Syrian Army is fatigued, and chemical weapons are Assad's only asset capable of suppressing a dedicated uprising. The international community still appears happy to sit on the sidelines, watch, commonly remark about "how horrible it all is" while following with some variant of "but there are no good options for us."  

The attitude of many Kurds, the victims of the chemical weapons use in 1988 you cite (and again in 1992, when their uprising was again abandoned) is that the international community is great at faux-mourning them after they're gassed, but feckless in mustering their military might in their defense.  Perhaps you're right that U.S. chemical weapons use is a more "pressing" question, but it's not the most timely. There have been several incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria recently, the last taking the lives of 1,400+ innocents, including women and children. What should be done about that?

**Zane, just saw your post, and will read through the content more thoroughly. My initial view, unsupported by citation but based on a lot of reading, is that limited strikes have a low risk of escalation. Russia, Iran, Hezbollah etc.'s threats seem like bluffing. I doubt Putin wants any piece of a wider conflict, that a new Iranian president will really strike U.S. assets in Iraq, or that Hezbollah will use any of their limited resources in pursuing a role in an expanded conflict.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 12:57:14 PM by brubaie » Logged
THodgman
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« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2013, 01:45:30 PM »

I don't know whether Assad was responsible for the recent death of 1400+ people due to the use of chemical weapons. I've posted 4 sources earlier in this thread calling that claim into question. Others have called the credibility of some of these sources into question. I feel similarly about the credibility of U.S. propaganda. If nothing else, it seems odd that Assad would use chemical weapons while UN weapons inspectors were in Syria, knowing very well that chemical weapons use has been the U.S.'s red line for intervention.

I don't think my post was any more or less academic than any of the others here, as it bears on the very real question of what u.s. military intervention looks like and its relationship to the use of chemical weapons. I don't think those who died during the wars in iraq and afghanistan would have found it academic (in a pejorative sense) for more people to have brought up the u.s.'s history of using lies to justify wars and previous usage of chemical weapons before the wars happened.

The U.S. used chemical weapons in Iraq after invading, has been arming the syrian rebels for at least 6 months, and may share responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. For all of these reasons, I think that highlighting how violent U.S. military intervention has been is worthwhile. And timely.

I think most people in Syria want the violence to end, and are only secondarily interested in picking sides or defending one side against the other. From counterpunch:

The growing unpopularity of the rebels does not necessarily imply that the government is becoming more popular. “Maybe 10 per cent support the rebels, 10 per cent the government and 80 per cent just want the war to end,” said one observer, who like everybody else in this piece wished to remain anonymous. Another person with strong links to the government said: “People are saying ‘We don’t care who rules us. We just want to live’.”

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/21/war-fatigue-grips-syria/

And, looking at the deeper history of the conflict, the death toll in syria was only at 3500 (as compared to 100,000 now) before the U.S. and its allies began supporting the rebels: http://www.thepeopleshistory.net/2013/09/making-sense-of-syria-part-i-proxy-war.html

Here's one more source alleging that the rebels used chemical weapons: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/father-of-dead-syrian-rebel-rebels-used-chemical-weapons-by-accident/

This story has been criticized by conservative PJ media for being "anti-US" "anti-Saudi" and "having ties to the occupy movement":
http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2013/08/31/shia-advocacy-journalism-behind-story-claiming-saudis-gave-rebels-chemical-weapons/
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 02:33:07 PM by THodgman » Logged
micksouders
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« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2013, 02:49:30 PM »

Mr. Clarke-Waxman,

As a friend of mine recently phrased it, Syria is the source of many troubling questions and a moral aporia for American liberals (and others) for so many reasons. Why doesn't the public get to see the evidence that ties the sarin to his regime? Why are chemical weapons that kill 1400 worse than small arms that kill 1400? What is the more horrible path: do nothing to stop an obviously evil dictator or bombing a country and killing civilians ourselves and hoping it does something? Is it morally wise or moral cowardice to factor Iran's reaction into our decision? Can we simply tell Syrian civilians, 'Sorry about that gassing, but Iran would be really upset and we're not quite ready for that?' Is it okay for us to say, 'Look, we've got many clearer and closer concerns, like education, debt, a crumbling national infrastructure and we're pretty tired of wars, particularly since the last two didn't go so well and therefore, so sorry Syria?" Can we even talk about SYRIA as it were a unified place, i.e., what helps and/or hurts SYRIA? I think the recent Onion article ostensibly by Assad pretty much laid out the absurd position we are in regarding Syria. The recent NYT article by Tim Egan on the legacy of the Iraq war on our Syria actions is also pretty good--and might explain why articles like yours are so common at the moment. I should say that I don't know what we should do in Syria, either.

That said, I find your position strange. Your article claims American duplicity because we haven't helped Syria for two years while many died, yet argues we should continue to not act, then reverses course on the first claim and says we have, in fact, been acting via the CIA and trainers for quite some time, which to you appears to be not evidence of past action in a complicated situation but of an imperial conspiracy. Is it your position that the US should or should not have acted to save the 100,000 who have died? Do we have any moral responsibility for those who die in chemical attacks if we do not act?

In addition, I am struck by the unique insight your article has into the motivations of the administration--you seem to extract from the smallest phrase--Kerry's note that escalation is not absolutely out the question--that escalation is absolutely the goal. How do you know administration's secret plans to draw in Syria? Your insight into what must be the most clandestine of meetings is...well...singular.

Despite your response to Rubiae that your article will answer some of his questions, I'm not sure it answered the important ones: does the US have a responsibility to stop the use of chemical weapons if we know with reasonable certainty that Assad did use them and may use them again? If your answer is the mild red-herring: "Well, the US has also committed atrocities" you will find no disagreement from me, but then the question is: does this bar the US from responding to ANY such actions overseas? For how long?

I'm afraid your perspective has taken the easy deductive way out of this mess and attempts to make a complicated to situation simple--it's all just imperialism. I.e., it begins with two premises: 1. Imperialist goals, present in any form, negate the moral basis for any action. 2. The USFG is an evil imperialist monster who only goals are to further its imperialism, therefore, all specific cases of US action can only be US imperialism.  You use these two premises, it appears, to filter all your conclusion and leads to color this war not as a particular case, but as just one more imperialist war with all the usual suspects whom ascribe all the usual motives with the all the blunt-instrument leftism and conspiratorialism of The Revolutionary Worker. You find it very easy to believe its a false-flag operation and very easy to believe the USFG wants another major war yet hard to believe Assad would use chemical weapons and hard to believe the USFG doesn't want another major war (despite the obvious negative impact it could have on the POTUS's political party and his own legacy).

There are very real questions about the Syria strike. It is not clear what we should do and I afraid we will not feel comfortable with any choice. But I think your position outlined in your article is not the most helpful. It turns real, true, ambiguous situations into conspiratorial certainties.
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brubaie
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« Reply #20 on: September 08, 2013, 03:25:32 PM »

Three final things;

1. No one has offered an alternate idea for how to limit chemical weapons use by Assad, nor disputed the likelihood of him using those weapons again. Saying there are problems with strikes, and historical baggage associated with U.S. military activity, is not in dispute. With all due respect, I and others already knew and believed these things; there has been some impressive detail added, but nothing in the way of a solution.

The closest I can detect is a link from June saying the Syrians are tired of war and ready to give in. I have no doubt the average Syrian is exhausted of war, but the outside forces at war in the conflict aren't about to fold, and Assad has few other options but more chemical weapons strikes.

2. Military intervention and regime change are both horrible ideas; the bill advances neither. It is a strike of chemical weapons stockpiles. A war or larger military intervention is doubtful. I don't know where people get the idea Obama/the U.S. are trigger happy. I think Obama was boxed in by his own "red line" rhetoric, worried about his legacy, out of other options and morally compelled by the videos we all witnessed. He has every incentive to severely limit the cost, scope and duration of any military action in Syria. I also don't know why Iran, Russia, Hezbollah etc. have anything to gain from widening the scope of the conflict. If the strike is limited, and I trust it would be, what's the risk of wider escalation or a military intervention that in any meaningful way resembles those that have been previously cited?

3. There is universal agreement among nations (including the skeptics in the Arab League, the EU, etc.) that Assad's forces carried out the attack. The only question still being debated with any credibility is whether Assad himself ordered the attack. I'm glad this is generally recognized, as I found the Assad/Russian suggestion that the opposition gassed civilians appalling and laughable. Even if Assad didn't order the attack, it's irrelevant; the strikes are at chemical stockpiles, not assassination missions aimed at displacing Assad.

If the goal is to mount a wider campaign against strikes, I think it'd be far more effective to offer any alternative solution. I'm sometimes moved by critiques of U.S. military activities, U.S. hypocrisy, dubious imperial motives and Congressional lobbying, etc. I never thought it was necessary for the U.S. to perform any military activity until the Syrian Army showed it had no moral or practical restraint in unleashing chemical weapons on thousands of innocent civilians. Strikes are costly, imperfect and create some risks of more innocent people dying. Can anyone offer a better possibility that offers the same ability to reduce widespread chemical weapons use without those risks and costs?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 03:27:41 PM by brubaie » Logged
THodgman
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« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2013, 03:42:30 PM »

Mick,

For what it's worth, Zane has not claimed that the chemical weapons attack was a false-flag operation and his article was written on the assumption that Assad used chemical weapons to kill 1400 people.

The article I posted from "the people's history" notes that the U.S. and its allies have been arming and supplying rebels in Syria for a while now, and during this time the death toll has gone from several thousand to over one hundred thousand. I agree with you that framing our opposition as against further escalation of american involvement in Syria may be more accurate but the bottom-line is that Zane and I both feel very strongly that violent military action and further escalation will not make the situation any better.

If the USfg doesn't want another war, why are Obama and Kerry pushing so hard for one despite widespread public opposition? Maybe the CIA wants another war.

There are many examples of false-flag terrorism supported or undertaken by covert agencies and a priori ruling out that possibility is also confirmation bias.

Advocates for further intervention need certainties, opponents do not. Obama and Kerry are claiming to know, with certainty, that Assad used chemical weapons. They are not saying that the situation is ambiguous, and they are not saying that the rebels might have used chemical weapons.

Brian,

1. Not intervening. The death toll has gone from a few thousand to one hundred thousand since the u.s. and its allies started arming and sending in syrian rebels. Intervening will only further the cycle of violence. And why the chemical weapons exceptionalism when most of the deaths in this war have been from ordinary weapons?

2. I think people get the idea that Obama is pro-war from his failure to shut down guantanmo bay, expansion of a global surveilance regime, the surge in afghanistan, the slow end to wars in iraq and afghanistan, our intervention in Libya, covert operations in Egypt, and saber-rattling rhetoric regarding Iran.

Iran and Russia may not have much to gain from widening the scope of the conflict. That may be why they are also trying to call into question the factual basis of the U.S.'s justification for war (that Assad used chemical weapons). Does that mean Iranian and Russian leaders may not push for war in response to a strike, just like American leaders are now?

"war ain't about one land against the next. it's poor people dyin' so the rich cash checks": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYvmz0Muw4U

3. There is not universal agreement that Assad's forces carried out the attack. The UK's parliament failed to vote in favor of intervention on the basis of these claims. 12 former US intelligence officials have called this into question. Russian and Iranian news affiliates have called this into question. Testimony from Syrian rebels have called this into question.

Why do you find the claim that Assad may not have been responsible for the chemical weapons attacks laughable, given that escalation and most of the deaths in the conflict occurred after the u.s. started arming and sending in rebels?

And why do you think our involvement will just end with these strikes? Remember when we went into Afghanistan just to "kill and capture bin laden?"

If you think the bright-line for military action against an army is showing "no moral or practical restraint in unleashing chemical weapons on thousands of innocents"... why are you not pushing for us to take military action against the u.s. military, which has shown no moral or practical restraint in using chemical, nuclear weapons, and other tools to kill millions of innocents? How on earth is the u.s. military a credible alternative? And why isn't "end our military involvement in syria" (which includes not striking them, and withdrawing our military support for some of the rebels) a credible alternative?

Who does assad have to gas when we aren't arming the rebels and 80% of syrians want the war to end?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 04:46:33 PM by THodgman » Logged
zanezor
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« Reply #22 on: September 08, 2013, 05:04:41 PM »

Brian and Mick (if i May),
First, I am deeply thankful for the thoughtful engagement from both of you.  I have to run soon so won't be on computer for a bit to type out a full-length response.  I have a few brief thoughts and will get back with a more in depth response later this evening or during tomorrow morning.
1. I am willing to admit that our fears of getting drawn into another war colored the way we wrote the article.  We do believe that a likely outcome of a strike would be further conflict, though, so we wanted to present the case for that assessment.  I need to do more reading and thinking to try and sort out my fears from the 'reality.'

2.  I hope that you two can share my skepticism given how much money has changed hands here.  I do not want to see the views of the majority of the American people (as recorded by polls which seem to be pretty accurate) to be squelched by a powerful minority.  This would be the most tragic option, especially if that ended up adding to the death count of the whole situation.

we  certainly could have done a better job focusing on a solution, and over the next few days we will work to provide a more detailed, pragmatic, prescriptive account of the situation.  I cannot imagine how difficult President Obama's life must be right now, but I hope that he and the Congress will relieve themselves of the burden by listening the the majority of Americans and trusting us with our country's future/

Zane
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