Tuesday, August 27, 2013







Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and text), guest host Frank Sesno moderated a discussion on Syria with Susan Glasser (POLITICO), Joshua Landis (Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma) and David Schenker (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) which was much stronger than the crap offered the previous Friday.  As Ava and I noted in "Media: Pimping War," Friday's second hour of the program, guest hosted by the hideous Tom Gjelten, kicked off with 15 minutes of basically calling US President Barack Obama a p**sy for not  bombing Syria.  Warren Strobel and Barbara Slavin were outright itching for war and ridiculing him.  We have on problem with the ridicule of any government official, but as Ava and I pointed out:

NPR refuses to question the credibility of the administration with regards to spying on the American people, despite one revelation after another, despite one lie after another.  But the network explains that if Barack "doesn't react in some more forceful way" with Syria, he will lose credibility. Those are the priorities when media whores gather.

Friday, while NPR pimped war, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) pointed out, "Officials continue hyping Wednesday’s allegations of a chemical weapons strike, saying that they believe such an attack probably happened even though they don’t have any actual proof to back that up." The doubts continue today.  No proof has yet emerged of anything.

The Diane Rehm Show features a photo of an apparently able-bodied man, able to hold a sign aloft, one that declares, "Dear Free World Enjoy Watching Us Burn."  If you're so bothered, Mr. Coward, get your chicken ass out of Lebanon (where the photo was taken) and fight for your damn country.  In other word, Baby Chicken S**t, stop expecting someone else to fight battles your too damn scared to fight. (And probably not a good idea to echo Rhianna's tag in a song on your poster when the song she sings "just gonna stand there and watch me burn" is entitled "Love The Way You Lie."  Just saying.)

Yesterday, on The KPFA Evening News, Glenn Reeder spoke with Conn Hallinan (Foreign Policy In Focus) about the alleged gassing.

Conn Hallinan:  The problem is that you can't talk about the [President Bashar al-] Assad government and the insurgency.  There are, I don't know, five or six different variations of the insurgency.  Even the Gulf Cooperation Council -- which is the group of monarchies that support the insurgency -- they don't see eye to eye. Saudi Arabia has locked horns with Qatar because Saudi Arabia is extremely anti-Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.  So the two of them are locked in a competition over the insurgency not only in Syria but also in the recent coup in Egypt.  So we don't know who all the actors are here.  I mean when someone says, 'Would we do this to ourselves?,' there isn't any 'we' in Syria, there isn't any unified 'we' in Syria to this.

Glenn Reeder:  You're talking about the opposition.

Conn Hallinan:  Absolutely.  Anyone could have done this.  And again this is not to say that I entirely rule out that the Assad government didn't do this or that someone in the military didn't do this.  It's just that, when you line up all of the ducks, they're not in a row and I think at this point you have to fall back on sort of old school journalism: You know, if your mother tells you that she loves you, you need three unimpeachable sources to be sure about that.  And I think that this is one of those cases.  The Syrian government has agreed to the investigation so let's see where the investigation goes at this point.

Glenn Reeder:  Okay, if it turns out that hundreds of civilians were gassed, does it matter who did it? In terms of whether the US -- or the West -- but we're -- let's just stick to the US -- should become involved?  I mean, despite what are now rivers of innocent blood flowing, should outsiders stand aside and let the country fight it out the way the US did in the deadliest war in United States history, the Civil War?

Conn Hallinan:  Yeah, exactly.  I mean, here's the problem.  Let's say the United States and France and Britain get involved and probably involve Turkey to a certain extent too -- what does it mean? On the simplest level it could mean that the United States would attempt to eliminate the Syrian air force which they could do fairly easily.  And they wouldn't even have to use airplanes to do it, they could do it with Tomahawks, they could do it with stand off missiels  they could pretty much take out the Syrian air force.  Okay, so what?  You still have this stalemate going on.  So you say, 'Well okay, we're going to invade and we're going to overthrow the Assad government.'  Okay.  So you overthrow the Assad government and that would be more difficult to do but it's possible you could certainly do it.  And then what?  And then you get in a fight with the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant -- what do you do with the Kurds?  I mean, this makes Afghanistan look like a cakewalk.  This is one of the most important Arab countries in the Middle East and the United States or its allies are going to intervene in its civil war?  This is going to be -- it's going to be just a disaster.  And I can't -- I can't  -- When I start thinking about all the dominoes that are going to come down from this one, it's very sobering.   The United States doesn't particularly want to do this.  And if you recall there was this report last week from the Joint-Chiefs of Staff of where they said basically we don't -- as far as the war goes -- we couldn't make a difference but if we won it for the other side, those people wouldn't be our allies.  And they wouldn't.

The report Conn Hallinan is referring to is reports on a letter from the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, which is now online and you can read it [PDF format warning] at the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Democratic Party website:

To the specific point in your letter, there are certainly actions short of tipping the balance of the conflict that could impose a cost on them [Syrian government] for unacceptable behavior.  We can destroy the Syrian Air Force.  The loss of Assad's Air Force would negate his ability to attack opposition forces from the air, but it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict.  In a variety of ways, the use of U.S. military force can change the military balance, but it cannot resolve the underlying and historic, ethnic, religious, and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.
Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides.  It is my belief that thr side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor.  Today, they are not.  The crisis in Syria is tragic and complex.  It is a deeply rooted, long-term conflict among multiple factions, and violent struggles for power will continue after Assad's rule ends.  We should evaluate the effectiveness of limited military options in this context.  

That's from a private letter to US House Rep Eliot Engel  which Engel then leaked to the Associated Press (Dempsey knows Engel leaked it) as part of Engel's decade long war against Syria.  It's not just that he teamed with Bully Boy Bush on this, it's also that Engel is seen as representing the interests of the Israeli government in the US Congress and not the interests of the people who voted him into Congress.  Those ties to the Israeli government do not help his cause on the international stage.

On Syria, I was asked by a friend with The Nation if I would weigh in on something. Bob Dreyfuss has a piece calling for calm in the face of cries for war on Syria:

 Now, however, with the usual suspects on the right calling for blood, expect the White House to come under heavy pressure from liberal imperialists and others -- including Secretary of State Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice -- to take aggressive action.

If I have the right article, I was told Valerie Jarrett's name was in the list, this is what I'm weighing in on.  Dreyfuss got called out for a piece a little while back which included Jarrett, Power, Hillary Clinton and maybe Rice.  I didn't weigh in because I hadn't read it and didn't hear of it until after there was a mini-tsunami.  If someone feels Dreyfuss or anyone is writing something sexist, they should absolutely call it out. I'm not a Dreyfuss fan, that's been noted here before.  I have no desire to rescue him from criticism.

But if Dreyfuss is covering the administration (and he is) and women in the administration are pushing for something (and they and John Kerry are), his noting women pushing for something or his calling them out for pushing for something is not sexism.  Women can be called out for their actions.  This can be done kindly or rudely.  As can happen when calling out men.  Tone doesn't matter and he can mock them and that's not sexism.  It only is sexist if he's mocking them using sexist stereotypes. Calling out women, in and of itself, for promoting war is not sexism.  Apparently when the piece was published (I think Friday or Saturday -- I'm going by the phone call details), a small round of "He's being sexist!" started up.  As the piece was explained to me, Jarrett's name was in it (Kerry's wasn't).  But Bob Dreyfuss calling out Jarret, Rice and Power is not sexism.  His mocking them is not sexism.  And let's refrain, please, from stupid notion that 'we haven't had three powerful women before so we shouldn't criticize!'  That's as stupid as refraining from criticizing Barack due to his skin tone.

In echoes of the rush to war on Iraq, US government officials insist Syria has gassed their own.  (There's no proof of that and with UN inspectors fired on today -- it would seem more likely that rebels either were behind a gassing or didn't want the alleged incident investigated.)   Saddam Hussein, we were told by Bully Boy Bush and others, gassed his own.  This was shocking!  This was chemical warfare!  The US government was outraged that chemical warfare would be used on a people!!!!  Clearly, such outrage meant, the US would never tolerate or aid in chemical weapons being used on a people!

But . . .  Press TV reports today:

Newly declassified CIA documents show that the United States had a hand in Iraq’s deadly chemical attacks on Iran during the 1980-1988 war against the Islamic Republic, a new report says.
During the war, the Iraqi military attacked Iran several times using mustard gas and sarin with the help of satellite imagery, maps and other intelligence provided by the US government, the Foreign Policy magazine said, citing CIA documents and interviews with former US intelligence officials.
US officials have long denied having knowledge of the US involvement but retired Air Force Colonel Rick Francona, a then military attach√© in Baghdad, said the American officials knew of Iraq’s intention.
"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," Francona told Foreign Policy.

Fars News Agency picks up the story as well but brings in current claims regarding Syria:

The US government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus, while there is no clue to throw the responsibility for the attack on anyone's shoulder, except for the common sense which says rebels should be blamed. But a generation ago, America's military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, Foreign Policy said in a report.

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. US intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on US satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn't disclose.

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