Saturday, September 14, 2013










Sunday, in the Bay Area, there's an event:

Sunday, September 15, 2013
12:30pm to 5:00pm

Walnut Park
downtown Petaluma, CA


Daniel Ellsberg - Pentagon Papers whistleblower, supporter of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden 
Jill Stein - 2012 Green Party Presidential candidate
Norman Solomon - author, activist, community organizer 
Therese Mughannam-Walrath - Palestinian peace activist
Michael Nagler - Director, Metta Center for Nonviolence
Marc Armstrong - Director, Public Banking Institute
Kamal Prasad - food issues activist
Also speakers on:

  • Immigration issues
  • Stopping mass incarceration
  • Fukushima nuclear plant
  • Unite Here labor campaign
  • Labeling GMOs


The Pounce & Denounce PlayHouse - Occupy Petaluma's own theater troupe
De Colores with special guest, Francisco Herrera (Música de las Americas)
Spoken Word & Drums by Masaba (the Last Poets), &
Michael Rothenburg
(100K Poets for Change)

Many Social Justice, Environmental, Labor, and Community Organizations will have Informational booths/tables.

The event is produced by the Petaluma Progressives and is cosponsored by KPFA 94.1 FM, the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, The Bohemian and the Committee for Immigrant Rights, Sonoma County. It takes place at Petaluma Blvd South and D Street, downtown Petaluma. It is free to the public.

Tamales, Rice, Beans, Other Goodies & Drinks Available.

For more info, call 707.763.8134
Or by email:

A KPFA friend asked if we could note the event and note that, from one p.m. to three p.m., KPFA will be covering the event live. That's over the airwaves (94.1 on the FM dial) in the Bay Area and around the world online (KPFA offers live streaming and archives -- some archived program is archived briefly, I didn't think to ask how long this would be archived, sorry).

From an announcement to a quandry, what's wrong with this paragraph:

George W. Bush once flubbed an aphorism (granted, an easy to flub aphorism) about being fooled once, shame on the fooler, being similarly fooled twice, then the shame was on you.1 Barack Obama has turned the scenario on its head. Obama was not fooled by Bush and the neocons pushing for an attack on Iraq. In 2002, while a United States senator, Barack Obama said, “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. … That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”2 For Obama, invading Iraq would be a dumb war.

That's Kim Petersen (Dissident Voice) making a common mistake.  Barack Obama was not a US Senator in 2002.   He was in the Illinois state legislature.  He would run for the US Senate in 2004.  And his opposition to the Iraq War?

And I'm so sad
like a good book
I can't put this 
Day Back
a sorta fairytale
with you 
a sorta fairytale
with you 
-- "A Sorta Fairytale," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her album Scarlet's Walk

For those who can't remember, let's revisit former President Bill Clinton's 2008 remarks:

"But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.' "
[. . .]
"Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004* and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break.
"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

"*" It was 2003 when it was first disappeared as Glen Ford has pointed out.

Barack took no stand against the Iraq War as a US Senator, instead choosing to vote to fund it over and over.  In 2008, Ted Glick became a two-bit whore for the Cult of St. Barack.  At the start of 2007, he was much more honest about just how warlike and centrist Barack Obama actually was (and is).

Today Iraq makes Ana Marie Cox's number one item the topic of Syria's crowded out of the news in recent weeks.  In a column for the Guardian, she notes:


Hey, there's still a war going on there! A milder, less deadly one, but sectarian conflict did not end with the official US military exit (over 5,000 armed private security contractors remain). Of all the other stories Americans should be aware of as the Syria debate continues, this is the most significant – and not just because the disaster looms so large in American memories, but because of the disaster that continues today – and has recently escalated. Car bombings and suicide attacks were killing a manageable 200-300 people per month last year; in July, that number was 900, and 700 in August – the deadliest months in five years. While far less than the 2,500 per month that died at the height of US involvement, the higher tolls are linked to Sunni extremists morbidly encouraged by the chaos next door in Syria.
Arming or aiding the Sunni rebels in Syria could give Iraqi Sunnis even more reasons to react with greater violence to the repressive techniques of the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Ana Marie Cox is correct that contractors remain.  Marines remain to guard the US Embassy and consulates.  The US military remains as 'trainers.'  As Ted Koppel pointed out in December of 2011, various others would (and did) remain behind.  And we'll yet again note Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which included, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

On the ground in Iraq, violence continues.  Twin bombings result in a large death toll on the edge of Baquba.  AP identifies the location as Umm al-Adham village.  AFP reports, "Iraqi officials say a bomb has struck a Sunni mosque during prayers north of Baghdad, killing 28 people in the latest eruption of violence to rock the country." at least forty-one more people are said to be injured. BBC News adds, "Two roadside bombs were detonated as worshippers left the al-Salam mosque after Friday prayers, police said." Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports:

At least 30 people were killed and 42 others wounded around midday when a car bomb hit worshippers as they completed their Friday prayers and went out of a mosque in the town of Ottomaniya, 15 km southwest of the provincial capital city of Baquba, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, one was killed and five others were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near a Sunni mosque in Qarataba, some 110 km northeast of Baquba, he added.

Raheem Salman, Isabel Coles and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) explain the two bombings "occurred about ten minutes apart in the ethnically and confessionally mixed city, situated around 65 km (40 miles) northeast of the capital Baghdad. The second explosion tore through a crowd of people who had rushed to help those hurt in the first blast."   KUNA notes the death toll rose to 35.

The attacks comes during an already violent September.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 403 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

In other violence today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul home invasion has left 6 family members dead, Khalaf Humeed Mohammed (Board Chair of Shura county local council) was shot dead in Mosul, a Ramadi sticky bombing left one police officer injured, an Ishaqi car bombing targeting a bus filled with people journeying from Samarra to Balad and left 3 dead and twelve more left injured, and, early this morning, 1 Khadija preacher was shot dead and a Alaadheim car bombing left four people injured.

One week shy of the nine month anniversary, the ongoing protests in Iraq continue today.  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in Ramadi, in Falluja, in Tikrit, in Mosul and in Baiji.The protesters are demanding basic rights and freedoms. They have to demand them because Nouri fails to honor the most basic promises fails to honor the most basic promises government makes to its citizens.  AP notes today, "Members of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority have been protesting against the Shia-led government since December, angered over what they see as second-class treatment of their sect and what they see as unfair application of tough anti-terrorism measures."

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Friday, September 13, 2013



marital aid

From March 17th, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Marital Aid."




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Starting with Syria.  Jason Ditz ( reports of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "Assad is said to have given an interview to Russian television announcing his intention to cede control of the arms to the international community. He will reportedly endorse the Russian plan, and say that it was Russia’s efforts, not US threats, that led to his decision."  The spotlight is on Russia.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has a column in the New York Times.  As Cedric's "He reads" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! SHOCKING!" note, US Senator John McCain is outraged.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi avoids the issue of war:

  1. Hopefully, when Pres. says "we must not forget that God created us equal" he includes gays and lesbians in Russia.

Her avoidance of the topic of war is because she's supporting it.  As Joseph Mayton (The Progressive) reported earlier this week, California's eighth district is not happy:

In the heart of San Francisco, a stone's throw from the United Nations Plaza and the Civic Center, scores of residents gathered in front of senior Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's office to push for an end to what one protester said was the "war-mongering that we saw in the lead up to the Iraq war."
For many, the calls for war are a return to the George W. Bush era of violence as an appropriate response.

To many of us in the eighth district, Nancy has morphed into The Bride of Bush.  Meanwhile Zaid Jilani (Moyers & Company) notes the morphing taking place in the Republican Party:

 In 2011, that started to change, when dovish Republicans like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) took office. In his foreign policy coming-out speech at Johns Hopkins University, Paul said he would “rather send some…professors around the world than I would our soldiers” and would “rather do that than go to war with Iran.” In May, 26 Republicans voted for an amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to implement a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan that only narrowly failed. Later that year, 225 House Republicans joined 70 Democrats to reject authorizing military action in Libya after hostilities began.
 Two years later, Paul took to the floor of the Senate to conduct a talking filibuster to protest the expanding use of drones. While he started virtually alone, his act of protest eventually drew enough popularity to culminate in 34 votes against the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director – with the majority of the Republican caucus, 31 senators, standing with Paul.

John McCain, Nancy Pelosi and other assorted idiots are appalled by Putin's column. Why?  Here's the section that upset them the most:

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization – the United Nations – was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations' founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America's consent the veto by security council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without security council authorisation.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilise the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

As Betty explained last night:

Sorry but Putin is right.  Without approval from the UN Security Council, a US attack on Syria would be illegal and constitute an act of aggression -- per international law.
I'm not outraged that Putin's lecturing Barack but I do find it telling of just how awful Barack has been that Vladimir Putin is comfortable calling him out.
On the world stage, Barack is a joke and he has no one to blame but himself.

For those who may have missed how international law works, IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis has repeatedly explained explained it.  We'll include her speaking to Peter Hart on FAIR's Counterspin two Fridays ago:

Phyllis Bennis:  Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal.  No other agency, institution, organization has that right.  So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press.  It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options.  Yeah, there are other options.  The problem is they're all illegal.  The Kosovo model was illegal.  What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto.  So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.'  Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.'  It's like the hammer and the nail.  If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention.  The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace.  And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force.  The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations.  Period.  Full stop.

Jon Greenberg and Louis Jacobson (PolitiFact) speak with international law experts and their conclusions are the same as Bennis' conclusion and they point out, "The most important consequence of the United States flouting international law would likely be a loss of credibility whenever it sought to invoke international law down the road. Ignoring international law in one context makes it harder for the United States to invoke international law in other scenarios when the United States believes it furthers national interests or global security."  Bennis and Rev Jesse Jackson (Z-Net) weigh in on Barack's speech Tuesday night:

Still, the President unfortunately reserved the right to launch a military strike if the diplomatic effort does not succeed, and we urge Congress to oppose any such military authorization.

We cannot forget 2002, when then-President Bush persuaded Congress to vote for an authorization for war he claimed was only to strengthen his diplomatic hand. As we know, that authorization was instead used to justify an illegal war and occupation of Iraq, a war whose consequences continue to be felt across the region and here at home.

A potential alternative to a U.S. military strike – a strike opposed overwhelmingly by the American people and the U.S. Congress – is now on the table.

Russian, Syrian and Iranian diplomats are talking. Options that didn’t exist yesterday are suddenly on the table. The U.S. and our allies, with the United Nations in the forefront, seem ready to join those new initiatives to generate a binding, verifiable and enforceable UN resolution to rid Syria of its chemical weapons in a way that does not threaten wider war.

"Who knew there was a wide and deep anti-war consensus in the United States?!" asks Bernardine Dohrn (In These Times).  She then answers:

Apparently not the president, who appears blindsided by the growing opposition to U.S. military attacks on Syria, nor the always hawkish Sens. McCain and Graham, who speak for the aging national security elite, nor the New York Times, which flacked for a violent strike on the first day of Obama’s war announcement but made an about-face the next day, running a devastating front-page photo of “rebel” forces executing their trussed, face-down young prisoners point-blank.

The Voice of Russia notes Madonna, Ed Asner and Mike Farrell have weighed in against war on Syria.   World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet Tweets today:


 Ann Garrison (CounterPunch) notes, "President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Prime Minister David Cameron have all by now invoked Rwanda, 1994 as reason to drop Cruise Missiles on Syria, so I spoke to Paul Rusesabagina, whose autobiography, An Ordinary Man, became the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda, in the interest of clarifying the invocation."  Use the link to read the transcript of her interview.  Click here to visit her site where she's posted the audio of the interview (KPFA Evening News).  Yesterday, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted some basic facts about the civil war taking place in Syria.

  1. Sad, sad human rights report on says most children killed by indiscriminate shelling from both sides, government air strikes.
  2. report cites organized against civilians by government forces, says intelligence services could be guilty of war crimes.

  3. report - growing # of foreign fighters, more money and discipline means radical groups outmatching divided moderate opposition.

This afternoon, Free Speech Radio News (link is audio) reported on Syria.

Dorian Merina:  As the conflict in Syria continues, efforts to find a diplomatic solution continue with US Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Geneva, Switzerland today to begin two days of talks with Russian officials on securing and eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. But the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal report that the US has been sending shipments of weapons and other supplies to the Syrian opposition’s army at the same time it pursues these peaceful negotiations. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the US must stop threatening military force and arming the opposition in order for diplomacy to work. On Capitol Hill, FSRN's Alice Ollstein has more.

Alice Ollstein:  A United Nations spokesperson told news outlets Thursday that it has received documents from the Syrian government regarding the prospect of joining the chemical weapons convention  -- the first step of a Russian-backed proposal for the government of Bashar al-Assad to turn over his chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community.  But in an interview with the Russian TV network Russian 24 on Thursday, Assad said the continued threat of military strikes from the United States as well as US supplied arms to the opposition could derail this diplomatic progress.  White House spokesperson Jay Carney defended the arms shipment in a press conference Thursday.  

Jay Carney:  The President on down has said that we are -- have been -- stepping up our assistance to the Syrian military opposition, no question.  The issue of Assad's chemical weapons is separate from our policy response to the civil war in Syria.  And that response is built around humanitarian support for the Syrian people, assistance to the opposition -- including assistance to the Supreme Military Council as well as an effort with a broad range of allies and partners -- including Russia -- to bring about a resolution of that civil war through a political settlement because that is the only way to end that war

Alice Ollstein:  But many peace advocates, international law experts and former government officials say the weapons shipments will only fan the flames of the violent conflict.  Ray McGovern who worked in military intelligence for 27 years told FSRN he's concerned the arms shipments will hurt the negotiations between Russia, Syria and the United States and so they're also likely to prolong the fighting on the ground.

Ray McGovern: It's chaos and so for us to be sending weapons into that calculus?  Well, it's just to give sop to the CNN crowd to say, 'Well we're doing what we can to help the rebels' -- al Qaeda and al Nusra, the most belligerent anti-American factions are the ones that are doing all the effective fighting.  The other factions, such as they are, will either join them or give up their weapons to them or whatever.  I mean this is a civil war in the most messy sense.

Meanwhile Adbusters ponders the selectivity of Barack's outrage over chemical weapons:

The use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq are a violation of the same international law Obama is now righteously defending. As we see the piles of dead children in Damascus, we're reminded of the pictures of deformed babies in Fallujah, Iraq. On August 29, 2013, a decade after the US invasion of Iraq, Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail points to videos of babies born in Iraq with horrendous defects and malformations. This is the legacy the morally upright US left in Iraq. Jamail says, “we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II.”
Meanwhile, as Assad admits to its chemical weapons stash and considers handing it over to avoid attack, Obama still, albeit tentatively, considers striking..

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Thursday, September 12, 2013







Alsumaria reports that Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes Russia's initiative to ease the tensions (with regards to the US march to war on Syria) by supervising any chemical weapons and putting them under international supervision.

At 9:00 pm EST yesterday, US President Barack Obama gave a nationally broadcast speech begrudgingly acknowledging the Russian effort.  From last night's speech (link is transcript with video option on the far right):

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory.  But these things happened.  The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it.  Because what happened to those people -- to those children -- is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.

Let me explain why.  If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons.  As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.  Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield.  And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.

 First off, allegations are not "facts."  As Revolution newspaper notes, "Whether the deaths were the result of chemical weapons and, if so, whether the attack was launched by the Syrian government or by rebel forces, has not been independently verified. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry initially demanded that the Syrian government allow UN investigators into the area, but then when the Syrian regime responded that it would give inspectors unlimited access, Reuters reported that: '[A] U.S. official said such an offer was "too late to be credible" and Washington was all but certain that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had gassed its own people'."  Alex Lantier and Joe Kishore (WSWS) also note Barack's 'facts' were assertions,  "Without providing a scintilla of probative evidence, Obama repeated claims that the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on August 21. Obama tried to bolster this assertion with various unsubstantiated assertions, combined with lurid images of the victims of the attack."

Lurid images from YouTube videos.  As a US Senator was explaining to me of Senator Dianne Feinstein's idiotic support of war on Syria, Dianne's seeing YouTube videos, these are sparkly, new things to her.  This is the woman who, after all, was born three years before Charlie Chaplin made his silent film masterpiece Modern Times, she was born the year silent film star (and producer, director and writer) Mary Pickford announced her film retirement. Talkies, color pictures, black and white TVs, color TV productions, satellite TV, now streaming, it's all been such a long and crazy trip for Dianne who, at 80-years-old, is the oldest member of the US Senate.  Could whomever cuts her food for her show her the door to gracefully leave the Senate or are we next to see her with drool on her face during Senate hearings?  Or, worse, someone has to explain to her that "40 Days of Dating" is staged.  ("But I saw it on the computer thing!" Dianne insists.)

Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) points out the larger problems with Barack and Secretary of State John Kerry's 'intell':

Evidence of sketchy claims and lack of support for them came very early on in the propaganda process. The president and secretary of state made their initial appeal by claiming there would be no “boots on the ground.” The horrendously Orwellian phrase was meant to give them cover from criticism and get hesitant congress members on board. But when asked at a Senate hearing, Kerry hedged. “ I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.” The so-called gaffes were constant. When a reporter asked if the United States would be amenable to forsaking an attack if Assad gave up weapons, Kerry initially said it would be acceptable.
“Sure, if he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community, in the next week, turn it over. All of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting for that, but he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously.”
The White House and State Department back pedaled furiously from Kerry’s comment. His own spokesperson said that the secretary “was not making a proposal." The evil doers had exposed themselves as the aggressors that they are. They admitted to the world community that the stated reason for going to war is a sham and that there is nothing Assad can do to call off the dogs. Even if a diplomatic process begins, the United States and the other NATO nations will try something else to bring about the regime change that they claim not to want in Syria.

On the subject of the information and intelligence:

The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O'Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University. ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O'Bagy's employment, effective immediately.

Who is she?  Leslie Larson (New York Daily News) explains who and how she figures into the Syrian debate, "A Syria expert at a U.S. think tank, whose research was cited by both Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during Senate testimony, has been fired for lying about having a Ph.D."   Greg Myer (NPR) explains her conflicts were more than lying about a degree, "In an interview on Fox News and in other appearances, she came under criticism for serving as a both an independent analyst at her institute and for working on a contractual basis with an advocacy group that supports the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force. That group subcontracts with the U.S. and British governments to provide aid to the Syrian opposition."

Poor John Kerry, he really has become the joke of the administration. 

Along with offering 'facts' that were not facts, Barack also made an illogical assertion.  How do you claim that you have a right to break international law in order to enforce international custom?

IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis has repeatedly explained how the law works.  We'll include her speaking to Peter Hart on FAIR's Counterspin two Fridays ago:

Phyllis Bennis:  Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal.  No other agency, institution, organization has that right.  So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press.  It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options.  Yeah, there are other options.  The problem is they're all illegal.  The Kosovo model was illegal.  What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto.  So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.'  Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.'  It's like the hammer and the nail.  If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention.  The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace.  And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force.  The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations.  Period.  Full stop.

It's hypocritical to argue that international custom must be upheld . . . by breaking international law.

It makes no sense.  Neither did today's US State Dept press briefings moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: Based on what the President said last night and what the Secretary said yesterday afternoon, is it correct that the Administration wants to first work with the Russians to get a deal on securing the chemical weapons and taking care of them, and then take that agreement and somehow enshrine it in a UN Security Council resolution – a binding resolution, not a presidential statement – and use that as the basis for going forward? Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re getting a little ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: No, I know, but I’m asking about what your long – what your hope and intention is, based on what the President and the Secretary said yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me start with Geneva as the first step, since that, of course, is where the Secretary is heading. So as you all know, over the last 48 hours I guess it is, the credible threat of U.S. military action has created a diplomatic opportunity to remove the threat of chemical weapons in Syria without the use of force. The Secretary will be heading to Geneva, as I mentioned, later this evening to meet with not only Foreign Minister Lavrov, but we will also be bringing a team of experts to meet with their team of experts and discuss that.
So our goal here is to hear from the Russians about the modalities of their ideas that they have put forward, and to assess whether they will meet our requirement for the final disposition of Assad’s chemical weapons. In this stage of the process, our goal here is to test the seriousness of this proposal, to talk about the specifics of how this would get done, what are the mechanics of identifying, verifying, securing, and ultimately destroying the chemical weapons. And this requires, of course, a willingness from both sides. That’s what we’re focused on here.
At the same time, I would look at this as parallel tracks, or there are three tracks happening at once. One is that. The second is the UN and their efforts that are going to be ongoing in New York. We will not be – the Secretary will not be negotiating or discussing a UN Security Council resolution as part of the next couple of days. That is not our goal here. Those efforts and that work will be done in New York. And then, of course, there is the efforts that we’ve had underway with Congress. And there’s no question, and it doesn’t come as a surprise – in fact, we welcome it, as the President said last night – that they would take into account the events of the last couple of days.

QUESTION: I understand. But are you – are – is it your desire, is it the Administration’s desire, to see any potential, acceptable agreement with Russia on the weapons – is it your desire to have that as part of or at least referenced in a Security – a binding Security Council resolution?

MS. PSAKI: We do – we are working towards, of course, a binding UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: That would include – that would be the enforcement mechanism for the agreement with the – because an agreement just between Russia and Syria on this is not going to be good enough for you, is it? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: There’s no question that there has to be an international community engagement here and role. What that is and the form it takes, we’re not quite there yet. But when I say credibility and verifiability, that’s all related to what the outcome would be.

QUESTION: So it is – is it – so is it correct or not that you want to see this – if some kind of acceptable agreement can be reached with the Russians, that you would like to see that as part of a UN resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to litigate what could or couldn’t be in a UN resolution.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re pursuing that.

QUESTION: Then let’s leave --

MS. PSAKI: We’re focused on day-by-day here.

QUESTION: Then let’s leave that out of it for a second --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and just talk about the UN resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What do you want this resolution to have in it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to tell you about what we would like to see --

QUESTION: But do you – all right. But you do want a resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. That’s what we’re pushing for, absolutely.

QUESTION: Yes. Why do you want – why is it – I guess I’m asking – this is a major and significant change from last week and from even on Monday, because the Russians have still said that they don’t want a resolution. And on Friday, your Ambassador to the UN said it would be – what did she say – “It is naive to think that Russia is on the verge of changing its position and allowing the UN Security Council to assume its rightful role as the enforcer of international peace and security. In short, the Security Council the world needs to deal with this urgent crisis is not the Security Council we have.” Now that was Samantha Power on Friday, not John Bolton in 2003, and frankly it makes her – she kind of sounded more – makes him sound kind of moderate, those lines. Why is it that you now think that the Russians, even after Lavrov and Putin said they don’t want a resolution, will go for one?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: And this is when Lavrov and Putin said this yesterday, after the whole – their whole thing about getting a deal with the Syrians.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I can’t obviously predict what the Russians will or will not – I understand – I saw their comments yesterday. Let me take the first part first, the reference to the speech. There’s no question that in the last 36 hours events have changed. And leadership is having the flexibility to seize opportunities when there’s potential for them. We’re not naive about the challenges. We don’t think this will be easy. But that’s why we’re going to Geneva, and these events of the last 36 hours happened post the speeches that you’re quoting.

QUESTION: I understand. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the problem here – and maybe you don’t – maybe I’m misunderstanding what the Russian position is – the Russians have said that they’re willing to push the Syrians for a deal on the chemical – on their chemical weapons --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- an agreement on that. They have not said that they’re willing to have this go to the UN or they’re willing even to have a UN Security Council resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your Ambassador to the UN and the National Security Advisor, the former UN ambassador, have both said, essentially, it’s a waste of time at the – the President said that, essentially. So I don’t get why it is now even – I don’t get why it is now that you think that such an endeavor would be productive.

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of things. One is a lot of those comments from our Ambassador to the UN and Susan Rice and the President came before the last two days. I understand you’re also referring to the comments of the Russians.


MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict what they’ll be willing to support. But what has changed is that on Monday, when Foreign Minister Lavrov came out and made his statement, that was a more serious statement that showed a greater willingness to engage on this than we had seen in the past.

QUESTION: But his statement said nothing about the UN.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Or any kind of an enforcement mechanism, right?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. And those negotiations and discussions will happen at the UN with appropriate UN counterparts. But there’s no question that was a positive step and an indication of more of an openness than what we had even 72 hours ago.

QUESTION: All right. Well, assuming that the UN Ambassador and the former – the current National Security Advisor, former UN Ambassador speak for the Administration, is it still the Administration’s view that it was – it is naive to think that the Russians are on the verge of changing their minds in the Security Council, and that then it’s not realistic – the first was Power, this is Rice – it’s not realistic that it’s going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well I --

QUESTION: Is that still the position of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I read and watched both of their speeches.

QUESTION: Right. But is that still the position of the Administration --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, the --

QUESTION: -- given the fact that the Russians have not said anything or made any sign that they’re willing to allow the Security Council --

MS. PSAKI: You are correct, and I’m not implying that they have. But things have changed in the last 36 hours. We’re working towards a goal here of working with them. I can’t predict what will or won’t come out of the UN Security Council. I know they have a meeting later this afternoon. And beyond that, everyone in the Administration who gave those speeches are all working towards the same effort.

QUESTION: Okay. But I can – I’m a big fan of the Emerson line that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but I – aren’t you, by going back to the UN, guilty of the naivete that Ambassador Power discussed on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I don’t see how what the Russians have said changes anything at the UN, and I don’t see how it can be acceptable for you for there just to some kind of a buddy-buddy agreement between Putin and Assad on the chemical weapons if there’s no enforcement, as --

MS. PSAKI: I just said we’re fully supportive of and pushing for a resolution. What I’m --

QUESTION: I know. But why isn’t that – why doesn’t that make --

MS. PSAKI: Let me just finish.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: What I’m also conveying is that we don’t conduct diplomacy and foreign policy with inflexibility, just to say the things we said last week, when events on the ground change and when a greater opportunity presents itself.

QUESTION: So would you say that the Administration – despite what Ambassador Power said on Friday about being naive, you would say that it is not naive to think that Russia is now on the verge of changing it? I mean, --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we have --

QUESTION: -- either you are guilty of being naive, as she said on Friday, or you’re not.

MS. PSAKI: I simply don’t think it’s that simple.

QUESTION: All right.

Tom Hayden (Los Angeles Times) observes:

The dominant mantra we heard from the president’s allies Tuesday was that it was the credible threat of American military force that caused Russia, Syria and Iran to agree to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons. If that argument keeps us out of another war, it deserves some credit, even if it's only partly true.
But it could also be said that it was the “credible threat” of democracy -- a defeat of his war plan in Congress and in public opinion polls -- that caused the Obama administration to back away from the military brink and seek an honorable way out.

Let's note some reactions to the speech.   Frank Rich (New York Magazine) offers this on the speech, "He started with a call for military action, then veered into a prayer for diplomacy before trailing off into an inchoate 'stay tuned' denouement. I guess this proves that if you mate a hawk with a dove, you end up with the rhetorical equivalent of turducken. I'd like to believe there was some other aim, but what could it have been? A humanitarian preemption of ABC’s The Bachelor? This address should have been put on hold by the White House the moment the attack was put on hold because the urgency of the appeal for force had evaporated. Now, if the Hail Putin Pass proves a Russian-Syrian bluff or some other form of mirage, the president can't give the same speech again, minus the diplomacy part. One prime-time strike to sell the country on air strikes, and you're out."  Truth-Out posts a Real News Network (link is text and transcript) of a discussion on the speech moderated by Jaisal Noor and featuring Rania Masri and Chris Hedges.  Excerpt.

NOOR: So, Rania, let's start with you. As an activist that's been speaking out against this possible intervention, against U.S. involvement in Syria, what's your response to this speech? Obama asked Congress to delay a possible vote authorizing intervention in Syria.

MASRI: It really was what we had expected. I mean, those of us who've been spending time at the Hill and following the news, President Obama's speech was what we had expected. The postponement was expected. And [incompr.] that he postponed it not only because the Russians provided him with a really strong political way out, a political possibility for chemical weapons deterrence in Syria, but also because he simply didn't have the votes in Congress. Were this to go to the House, it would have failed. It might even have failed in the Senate.

NOOR: And, Chris, I want to pose that question to you. It seems like within the past few weeks and days, this war has become or this possible intervention in Syria has become increasingly unpopular. At least that's how it's been reported in the press. What's your response to his speech and the fact also that he had to delay this vote in Congress?

HEDGES: Well, Rania is right. He didn't have the votes, so he had no choice.
But I think this is really symptomatic of an exhaustion on the part of the American public after 12 years of war, 12 years in Afghanistan, ten years in Iraq. They have seen this scenario before. The clips of atrocities, the appealing to American exceptionalism, the high-blown rhetoric of patriotism. Kerry even trotted out once again World War II, calling this the Munich moment and referring to the graves, Normandy. And none of it worked.
It didn't work because at this point people have been lied to so many times. The excuses and propaganda that is pushed forth and has been pushed forth year after year just fall flat. It doesn't work anymore. And I think people understand that when you drop Tomahawk missiles, each Tomahawk missile carries a 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bomb or 166 cluster bombs. And they're talking about dropping hundreds of them.
You know, this circular logic whereby we go in and kill civilians--and Dempsey, the chief of staff, said there would be, quote-unquote, collateral damage to stop the Assad stopping regime from killing civilians, it just--it doesn't work anymore after Iraq and Afghanistan. I think we're really seeing a kind of implosion of the myth of war, which has sustained these imperial adventures. And I think Obama just got cornered. You know, left, right, it didn't make any difference. The [incompr.] sick of it.
And let's not forget that internally, we are, like all dying empires, being hollowed out from the inside in terms of infrastructure. I live near Philly, I live in Princeton. The school system is shattered with closings and layoffs. Libraries are being shuttered. Head Start is being cut back. Unemployment benefits are not being extended. You know, we've reached a point of both physical and emotional exhaustion.

Libertarian Justin Raimondo ( points out:

We are told a Kerry gaffe, an impressive display of Putin’s diplomatic jiu-jitsu, and – most of all – the "credible threat" of war led to what the Obamaites and their media cheerleaders are hailing as a great victory for this administration. A look at the timeline of events, however, effectively debunks the official narrative.
The key development here wasn’t Kerry’s fumble and the Russian interception but the announcement by majority leader Harry Reid that the Senate vote on the war resolution would be delayed: the War Party simply didn’t have the votes. What the administration discovered, to their horror, was that the more they made their case to the American people the less support they had: every time Kerry opened his mouth, their poll numbers went down a few points, and a few more members of Congress came out against intervention.

The World Can't Wait Tweeted:

  1. No! 's speech did not convince us to support an illegitimate, unjust and immoral war with

Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) dissects five claims from the speech:

1. “I possess the authority to order military strikes.”
No you don’t, Mr. President. Only Congress has the authority to declare war, and ordering military strikes would be a clear act of war, thus violating the Constitution. It would also violate the War Powers Act, which says that the President can’t engage in hostilities without a declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization unless there is “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” And Syria has done no such thing.

A.N.S.W.E.R. decodes Barack's speech:

The U.S. war threat against Syria has not ended. But the particular path to war has required a shift because of resounding domestic and global opposition.
The U.S. Congress will now be asked to pass a different resolution than the one originally supported by the White House. The new resolution will be constructed to authorize Obama to carry out military strikes if the U.S. government decides that Syria is not in full compliance with a new UN resolution calling for its chemical weapons stockpiles to be totally destroyed.
This was precisely the scenario used by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney when they launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Even though the Iraqi government complied with UN weapons inspections demands and was actively disarming its own military forces, Bush simply declared that Saddam Hussein was not complying with UN resolutions and launched the U.S. war that toppled the government.
In Syria, like with Iraq, Libya and Iran for the past decades, the U.S. government goal of toppling independent, nationalist governments uses an assortment of tactics, including economic and financial sanctions, funding and arming internal domestic opposition, providing international legitimacy and recognition to the internal opposition, cyber attacks, and in some cases direct bombings and invasion.

Fred Goldstein (Workers World) also views the speech as a charade, "Many are hoping that this proposal will put the skids under the U.S. war drive against Syria. But that would be a fatal error and a complete misunderstanding of Washington, the Pentagon, the oil companies and the military-industrial complex, which are behind the drive to overthrow the independent, sovereign government of Syria."  BBC News provides this video reaction of various people in the Middle East to an attack on Syria.  Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report -- link is text and audio) has a strong commentary on the lies used to call for war on Syria.

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