Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

On what basis are we rushing to war?

Posted by Charles II on August 28, 2013

Noah Schachtman of Foreign Policy, a neo-con lite source, is reporting that:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they’re certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime — and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime?

American intelligence analysts are certain that chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 — the captured phone calls, combined with local doctors’ accounts and video documentation of the tragedy — are considered proof positive. [Except they’re not. As we have reported, certain kinds of things called tear gas can cause neuro sysmptoms and even death].

Making the case even more conclusive were the images of the missiles that supposedly delivered the deadly attacks. If they were carrying conventional warheads, they would have likely been all but destroyed as they detonated. But several missiles in East Ghouta were found largely intact. “Why is there so much rocket left? There shouldn’t be so much rocket left,” the intelligence official told The Cable. The answer, the official and his colleagues concluded, was that the weapon was filled with nerve agent, not a conventional explosive.

So, there’s the case for war:
1) There were phone calls asking about the use of a chemical agent.
2) The Defense Ministry did not know that a chemical agent was used.
3) There were intact missile casings in the vicinity.

So far, nothing about a vital national interest or any indication that our intervention will help anything or anyone.

Or, for that matter, evidence that we are certain can actually survive the light of day.
_________________
Update: Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian on the provenance of the intercepts:

The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons – which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action – has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.

The 8200 unit of the Israeli Defence Forces, which specialises in electronic surveillance, intercepted a conversation between Syrian officials regarding the use of chemical weapons, an unnamed former Mossad official told Focus. The content of the conversation was relayed to the US, the ex-official said.

That will certainly reassure the doubters among us.

And now the Obama Admin makes it clear it has as little regard for international law as its predecessor. Karen deYoung, WaPo:

A closed-door meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, called to consider a British-drafted resolution authorizing the use of force to prevent any further use of chemical weapons in Syria, adjourned without action after Russia and China opposed the measure.

In response, U.S. officials made clear they considered such initiatives irrelevant to Obama’s decision on military action.

In a letter Wednesday to Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) echoed concerns that numerous outside experts have raised about the administration’s assessment of potential post-attack scenarios.

“These considerations include the Assad regime potentially losing command and control of its stock of chemical weapons or terrorist organizations — especially those tied to al-Qaeda — gaining greater control of and maintaining territory,” Boehner wrote.

It’s a shame that no one has considered the possibility that Assad might have lost control of his stock of chemical weapons prior to the deaths.

Is your congressman against the rush to war? Surprisingly few Democrats have signed onto Republican Scott Rigell’s letter urging Obama to consult Congress. Beto O’Rourke, Zoe Lofgren, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Rush Holt, William Enyart, Timothy Walz, Michael Capuano, Richard Nolan, Jim McDermott, Bruce Braley, Sam Farr, Anna Eshoo, Earl Blumenauer, Peter Welch, Jim Matheson, and Collin Peterson. Pahing Keith Ellison! I count 17 Dems out of more than 90 signatories. Paging Rosa DeLauro! Paging John Lewis! And several dozen more Democrats who claim to be for peace.

When Republicans are advocating sanity and Democrats are silent, you know something is seriously wrong.

BTW, anyone remember the rush to Iraq and the role of intercepts there?

16 Responses to “On what basis are we rushing to war?”

  1. jo6pac said

    I’m sorry but did you miss were my beloved country doesn’t care and the new news we the Amerikan govt will go it a loan. I guess ws is going to do well at the expense of Main Streets ever where.

  2. Why are the US and various European powers rushing to war against Syria? Because the House of Saud demands it.

    Here’s how it works:

    The conservative Sunni elites running the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its me-too ally Qatar hate the Assad family because they’re Alawite Shiites and also because Syria can get along just fine without being a gas station for the West. They also want to tweak the metaphorical noses of the Shiites running Iran, Syria’s chief ally. However, while they’ll throw some money at the cause, they don’t want to go to the bother of creating a standing army to invade Syria — partly because they don’t want to put that much skin in the game, but also because they don’t need to do so when they can persuade and/or pressure the Americans and Europeans to do it for them.

    They use a tad more persuasion in the spiel laid on the Americans, hinting if not outright stating that Assad, like Saddam, is a godless Commie socialist — and if there’s anything that the world has learned in the past century, ever since the Americans joined the European powers in invading Russia after they got done punishing Germany in 1918, is that America’s leaders and their business patrons will bust their butts (or rather, those of our draft-age kids) to either topple a decent and honorable leftist ruler somewhere or to protect a craven and evil rightist one. (See also: Paraguay, Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile, the Phillipines, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.) They also remind the USG that we “owe” them for their letting us use KSA land during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    With Europe, it’s a different story. The European nations generally get their petrol and natural gas from two sources, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Both of these nations aren’t shy about threatening to close the oil spigots in order to get their way. (Now you know why Germany is so desperate to get fully transitioned onto wind and solar, and why France is wedded to nuclear power.)

    • Stormcrow said

      Why are the US and various European powers rushing to war against Syria? Because the House of Saud demands it.

      Here’s how it works:

      The conservative Sunni elites running the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its me-too ally Qatar hate the Assad family because they’re Alawite Shiites and also because Syria can get along just fine without being a gas station for the West. They also want to tweak the metaphorical noses of the Shiites running Iran, Syria’s chief ally.

      Ah, thank you, PW.

      I wondered where this came from.

      However, while they’ll throw some money at the cause, they don’t want to go to the bother of creating a standing army to invade Syria — partly because they don’t want to put that much skin in the game, but also because they don’t need to do so when they can persuade and/or pressure the Americans and Europeans to do it for them.

      And also because, in all likelihood, the Syrian army would kill their troops by the shitload and send the survivors racing back home crying for their mommas.

      The Syrians have been in shooting wars on a fairly steady basis ever since 1948. They haven’t fared all that well against the IDF, since you need specialists out the wazoo to even hope to get combined arms warfare right. But their experience at infantry warfare will make most other states in the region take them seriously.

      OTOH, the Saudis are inexperienced as hell. They prefer working through proxies. But at times like this, that practice turns around and bites them.

      Once the bullets and shells start flying, the only practical way of fixing rampant inexperience is brutally Darwinian. But neither the geographic constraints nor the probable reactions of the major-power patron states will leave the Saudis much time for that.

  3. MarkH said

    “It’s a shame that no one has considered the possibility that Assad might have lost control of his stock of chemical weapons prior to the deaths.”

    Actually, I feel certain that has been considered. The question of fact is whether Assad ordered the attack or if someone else somehow managed to do this.

    Of course, beyond that there is the international politics and the domestic politics and public opinion and all that.

    After all, chemical weapons might exist in other countries as well as Syria and weapons have been known to be transported here and there. It’s worth knowing the facts before we start talking about ‘mushroom clouds’ and the like.

  4. Paging Keith Ellison!

    He and Tim Walz and Rick Nolan are demanding that the White House bring this to Congress for a vote — a vote that Obama knows he would lose:

    http://www.minnpost.com/dc-dispatches/2013/08/minnesota-delegation-wants-obama-consult-congress-syria

    From the article:

    A group of more than 50 Democrats, including Nolan and Rep. Keith Ellison, wrote Obama on Thursday asking him to go to Congress before launching a strike.

    “Congress must fully debate and consider the facts and every alternative, as well as determine how best to end the violence and protect civilians,” the letter said. “We stand ready to work with you.”

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