UPDATE: Watch President Obama speak to the nation as well as more detailed remarks from Ambassadors Power and Rice on Syria
(69% of Americans view speech positively: http://www.mediaite.com/online/poll-69-of-americans-viewed-obamas-syria-speech-positively-61-favor-his-approach)
The bottom line is the military threat as well as mounting evidence from Human Rights Watch and others seems to have worked (good article by Nicholas Kristof about it) as Russia and Syria are now offering a deal to sign the UN treaty on chemical weapons and give them up even though they didn’t admit having them days ago: http://nbcnews.to/13GPD6Q
Granted, the tactic of a public ultimatum calling for Assad to give up his WMDs should have been part of Obama’s pitch the same way Bill Clinton and of course George Bush called for Iraq to give up their WMDs with the verification of UN inspectors but apparently it had been discussed previously. Ironically, maybe it wasn’t tried because it sounded too much like the Iraq scenario.
But to review the debate so far…the “experts” on both sides have truly trivialized the debate on Syria argument with posts like about how Obama said he was against “dumb wars” , so here’s a quick reminder of what a “Red Line” looks like….because its definitely not some arbitrary thing Obama dreamed up:
Only Nasser in Egypt and Hussein in Iraq crossed it since WWII and both were dangerous aggressors who invaded our allies like the Axis Powers did.
The fact is the U.S. is the only country on Earth truly willing and able to ensure #neveragain. It is the price of leadership….if we don’t want to lead then we can sit back and let countries like Russia help spread genocide and anti-gay sentiment around the world instead.
To clarify, the President is NOT proposing that we intervene in a very complicated civil war…even if our missions might overlap. That’s because this kind of destruction is not the result of weapons of WAR…it is a result of weapons of GENOCIDE.
Hence, everyone can be “anti-war” but are they also “anti-genocide?” And if so, does that mean doing nothing about an active campaign of murder or can it also mean a “pro-peacemaking” position to stop it by any means necessary after all other alternatives have been exausted.
So, with relatively low cost to U.S. blood and treasure via air strikes that are separate from the civil war, we can probably deter further acts of genocide already banned by international law….regardless of what the UN votes on in 2013.
It might take more than a few days to stop it, but to say that this deterrent won’t affect anything or save lives is ignoring how it ended the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo (total of 0 allied casualties)…remember that bullies don’t handle getting punched back very well.
This is the exact OPPOSITE of the Iraq War. Instead of using a fake reason to wage a real war, this is a real reason to wage a military action to deter weapons of genocide.
If every military action was a WAR then Israel would be at “war” with Syria based on their own strike recently….but Syria and Russia didn’t lift a finger in response because they know it isn’t worth it.
Unfortunately, our politics are not grown up enough to realize the world is not black-and-white so we compare everything to other things we heard of without discussing the details of a policy instead.
For example, it is easy to criticize the fact that the Obama administration rejected supplying the opposition with gas masks because they thought they might actually somehow be used by either side against the other, but apparently sarin gas only needs to touch the human body to kill so they wouldn’t have helped anyway.
But regardless, Syrian Dictator Bashar Assad killed 1,400+ civilians (including 400+ children) on 8/21/13 via a sarin gas-launched missle attack…that is about 3000% more deadly than the typical daily civilian casualty rate and an unacceptable genocidal tactic.
Yes, 100,000 people have already died during the Syrian civil war since March 2011, but if you consider that approximately 36,000 were civilians that breaks down to about 40+ per day for even the most recent violent months of the war. So, if the chemical attacks continue, Assad could double the total of civilian casualties in less than a month.
I agree with John Kerry’s powerful case (Video & Transcript) and the President’s statement (Video & Transcript) for taking action on Syria now regardless of the split in a mostly uninformed public on what the war is all about. Here’s a primer and some additional bullet points so you have some background.
The good news is Obama is asking for congressional authorization for a limited military response to degrade Assad’s ability to massacre his people. Yet that’s also the bad news as many politicians, like the experts, are playing armchair general during a complicated military effort or are parroting their ideological bases right now who have collectively decided against intervention “Because Bush” or “Because Obama.”
Of course, any Republican who voted for the Iraq War who doesn’t support this resolution is a total hypocrite, especially because these are the same geniuses who claimed Clinton’s strikes on Kosovo and Afghanistan to punish Bin Laden for the embassy bombings before 9/11 were part of some “Wag The Dog” diversion from the Lewinsky scandal.
But progressives who supported intervention in Darfur and even Rwanda should be thinking twice too. Aside from the usual suspects regurgitating their typical “anti-war” talking points, even the more sober critiques of The Daily Show have become surprisingly flippant with segments that even compare American involvement in the Middle East to British imperialism despite the fact that I see faint economic advantage in getting involved.
And hence, Democratic elected officials or former elected officials who understand our responsibility in the world are lining up behind the President in the House (Nancy Pelosi), Senate (Elizabeth Warren), Policy (Tom Perriello), Grassroots (Howard Dean) and future Presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton) communities.
Meanwhile, there are already reportedly two million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey and other countries, with five million displaced people within the country’s borders….so the emerging threat of a massive WMD campaign would force millions more to try to escape the blanket use of terror anywhere and everywhere in their country. The costs of an increased refugee migration will fall upon the shoulders of the U.S. and its allies who already are supplying billions in aid.
Even if Assad takes further action against civilians, further U.S. involvement will have to be re-authorized but the world community will become more and more united so the “slippery slope” will be mitigated…but is Assad really so dumb that he would risk his regime further after possibly losing his much of air force and command & control abilities?
WHY IT MATTERS:
This course is a minimal approach that keeps in mind that due to the divided nature of the international community, partly because of Russia’s funding of Assad and typically anti-humanitarian vote on the UN Security Council, as well as the reflexive rejection of a anti-WMD campaign by the UK Parliament, the “coalition of the willing” might only include France and few other nations.
But frankly, the lack of sufficient American intervention earlier might have led to the situation we’re in now….an Appeasement 2.0 strategy where we allowed an aggressor to use WMDs on a small scale several times and finally have no choice but to act under less favorable conditions.
If a two-bit dictator can use these weapons now and not be punished then the biggest problem is not even what he did but what does he and other world leaders could do next as a result.
The U.S. announced in June that it would arm the rebels as a result of the less clear reports of WMDs being used but that support never really came and it definitely wasn’t a big fat Stop sign regardless so now Assad is ramping it up beyond debatable levels. So, maybe it’s 14,000 dead next time or maybe neighboring allies like Turkey, Jordan or Israel become affected.
Meanwhile, other rogue states like Iran will be emboldened to kill opponents and go nuclear while nuclear states like North Korea will be further strengthened by their cloak of WMD protection.
Some are reminding us that we didn’t do anything to Iraq after they killed tens of thousands with chemical weapons on the Kurds and Iran in the 80s…well, look how that turned out! We later fought two wars because of Saddam Hussein after he emerged as a wider threat to the region.
So, we might resent serving as the “World Police” is the price we pay if we want to live in a secure world, because when we don’t intervene (Pearl Harbor, 9/11) these things have a habit of approaching our shores eventually.
This was the work of the Greatest Generation that we must continue.
A world at the mercy of these kinds of tyrants is a world of further danger and poverty that affects us all.
FWDPROGRESS ARGUMENT SUMMARY:
“Support for a resolution to respond military to the use of WMDs in Syria”
-> “Heart” Talking Points (how the policy reflects our liberal democratic values)
* Why the “Red Line”: Using chemical weapons and genocide acts are banned under international law as a result of the devastating effects of such warfare during World War I and World War II
* The result of such an attack is an exponential increase in civilian casualties that increased the rate of civilian deaths by about 3000% because of ONE attack and are well beyond the parameters of acceptable war violence that could grow if unchecked
* Limited military action has no relation to a pre-emptive war or strike, or even a direct engagement in the civil war conflict, because it is a focused act of self-defense against the genocidal acts against the civilian population of Syria
-> “Head” Talking Points (how the policy reflects our national and socio-economic interests)
* Due to the lack of international will or capability, the U.S. is the only nation on Earth that can stem the crisis, which already surpassed the use of conventional weapons several times prior to this incident due to the lack of a global response
* As in the cases of Bosnia and Kosovo where there were 0 allied casualties, U.S. military intervention can utilize cruise missles and stealth or unmanned aircraft to damage Assad’s war-making capability at little risk to American soldiers or civilian lives in comparison to allowing the attacks to continue.
* Even with a sustained campaign, air strikes will require a relatively low economic cost compared to the current investments of billions of dollars in arms and non-lethal aid that have already been expensed and will most likely break the Assad regime’s commitment to further war crimes in favor of self-preservation
* Growing violence destabilizes the region and could affect Israel, Turkey Jordan or other allies that the U.S. is pledged to defend
* Rejecting the role of “World Police” and ignoring war crime violations could inspire Assad or other rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea to further pursue the acquisition and use of WMDs that could create a worldwide crisis, and like with Pearl Harbor or 9/11, some day could return to our shores
I also was concerned over his treatment in solitary confinement but I hope most civil libertarians are happy with the Bradley Manning sentencing yesterday.
At 35 years, he only received 30 minutes in prison for each of the 700,000 documents he published on Wikileaks and according to Ezra Klein he is eligible for parole after eight years in prison…that is just SIX MINUTES in prison per document.
Considering that some progressive-leaning news sources I trust have only shared one item he leaked that would qualify as “whistle blowing” so I think that’s a pretty positive outcome.
In the video, an Apache helicopter kills 11 Iraqi men because they thought they were part of an armed gang they were tracking with an RPG and AK-47s but it turns out only one man was armed. Then when a van comes to pick up a wounded man who the helicopters were holding off on firing upon, they fire again and kill the driver. A Reuters journalist was also killed but its unclear in the article whether he was in the van.
So, this leak to bypass Pentagon stonewalling of the Freedom Of Information Act request for the video from Reuters is understandable even though the information might have been eventually released.
Yet this is ONE incident and I’m not aware of any other evidence that would totally reframe the case. Regardless of our personal opinion on whether they should have been classified, were the remaining 699,999 documents critical to sharing further “whistle blowing” incidents?
It seems Manning didn’t share too many new facts and mostly just de-classified tons of information to get revenge on the Defense Department….and in the process committed de-facto espionage because he gave secret information to ALL our enemies (not just one) via the web.
I don’t think that is a protected right that many Americans are familiar with and cheering on this kind of cyber-vigilante behavior is not going to build the credibility of crusading activists and reporters like Glenn Greenwald who called the sentence: “Sick, sad, pathetic, and disgusting.”
Regardless of the mistakes of the United States, no citizen deserves a blank check to reveal details of our country’s national security apparatus and the “heroism” of a Manning or Snowden is tarnished when they act like they have one….and as a result help Russia and other countries or factions who are a much greater threat to human rights.
That is the problem with the “libertarian” ideology…when you migrate from the cause of Liberty to Hypocrisy.
Do we trust Barack Obama….or Edward Snowden?
Since the NSA leaker is dominating the news and splitting Democrats I figured I would try to digest it and share my thoughts….as despite all the concern I keep noticing holes in the criticism.
I find it funny that people like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes are already getting worked up about the spying implications of Google Glass even though its just a PHONE ATTACHED TO YOUR HEAD.
The CIA can’t magically see everything you see because you’re wearing it….unless you purposefully stream to YouTube with it for several billion people to enjoy.
So, let’s take a step back. There is probably a need for more transparency in terms of what is going on with NSA surveillance programs, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sign of the apocalypse, as President Obama makes a pretty good case (VIDEO: http://huff.to/1bdlVGK) that “they help prevent terrorist attacks” with a balance of security and privacy and aren’t anything that should be surprising to anyone…whether they knew the fine details or not.
Let’s put things in perspective….would you rather the government see your nameless phone number connected to other nameless phone numbers in a database OR…..
#1 YOUR name and picture published in a public online database (facebook and other social media)
#2 YOUR number being published in a book that is distributed at every citizen’s door in step your region. (phone books)
#3 YOUR name and address and official correspondence being available to be read on the public street. (mailbox, garbage can)
#4 YOUR complete call log being owned by a giant corporation (phone bill)
#5 YOUR salary and expense information being submitted to a big federal agency to determine how much of it you should give to the government. (IRS)
#6 And finally….YOUR social security number being kept in a massive database of every American owned by the federal government. (duh…Social Security)
So, when we see polls that millennials are overwhelmingly in favor of Snowden’s leak it means they’re for government transparency but not necessarily against their OWN personal transparency due to these factors.
Overall, the public doesn’t seem too concerned though, with 77% of Americans saying they think surveillance programs have stopped terrorism: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/nsa-prism-privacy-92435.html
According to reports I have seen, the government might be able to search a sea of our phone numbers to find patterns or connections that lead to terrorist activity but if they want content from an American via phone OR email they need a warrant from a judge. If you’re not an American or are communicating with suspected terrorists it would be a FISA judge.
MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM HERE ->
Washington Post: “Here’s everything we know about PRISM to date” http://wapo.st/1a521jx
Patriot Act overwhelming support: The NSA has been cagey about the topic but despite some occasional complaints in the media the Patriot Act debate has come and gone several times over the years….should anyone be surprised by this capability?
If voters or activists or experts or our elected members were concerned about it, especially after the abuses of the Bush Administration, there could have been a bigger firestorm but there’s wasn’t….and since people I respect like Diane Feinstein passionately defend it I tend to back their judgement because they understand the threats and reason for these programs better than I.
Every Case Needs A Case Study: The law as written SEEMS too broad but the funny thing is, if it was so vulnerable to abuse wouldn’t we know about it? I don’t see a parade of victims on CNN telling their story. Even in the liberal press I am not sure I have ever seen any media reports of anyone who ever complained about being a victim of it.
Of course, it is hard to PROVE someone is spying on you but wouldn’t some court cases have come up where some of the evidence used to track a person looked sketchy? Wouldn’t someone be trying to bring this to the Siupreme Court.
If only one of over a million people with Top Secret clearance could share what the programs are actually doing maybe we could get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, “leakers” like Edward Snowden seem to be making their case with a generic info dump or some examples of the governmetn’s capability under the law but lack hard proof of abuse, or at least a story, of WHO is being affected….and at the very least WHAT violations actually occurred.
Great Power AND Great Responsibility: The fact is our government has the license to kill and spy….and they should. Otherwise, we need to have a huge discussion about our national security strategy.
We couldn’t plan our decision on the Bin Laden raid via a poll on msnbc.com or with a hashtag conversation on twitter. If the government makes a mistake with that Power it will almost always come out and it will be held accountable. But unlike with the drone or Gitmo issue, I don’t see any poster children for opponents to wave at us yet.
Snowden says he could do anything he wants, including snooping on the President, but some experts doubt it and so what if he COULD….every Secret Service agent carries a gun but would we be impressed if one of them divulged it in an interview that he COULD have killed the President with it?
Whistle Blower or Traitor: Unfortunately, the “whistle blowers” don’t have much credibility either when they flee to Hong Kong to divulge that the U.S. is not just spying on its own citizens, but how its spying on China too, OR dump 700,000 documents onto a web site for the whole world to read like Bradley Manning did. What exactly did we learn from Manning that we didn’t already know? And how is what he did much different than giving the Al Qaeda or any of our enemies the information directly….that would be an obvious case of treason.
A real Whistle Blower needs to consider some protocol before letting the cat and the whole litter out of the bag. Ideally, they should go to an Inspector General or a member of Congress with their concerns before the media…and probably only reveal damaging documents upon request on a need-to-know basis. Apparently even an an aggressive journalist like The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald held back some material because Snowden revealed so much.
Then if several media sources have published stories on the same damaging material shared by a “whistle blower” the burden of proof can switch to the government to prove the accusation is false.
The government doesn’t seem to enjoy the same burden of proof in the media as the court of law….but maybe they should!
Imagine if we outed the source of ABC’s fake Benghazi emails…wouldn’t they be liable for distributing fraudulent government documents? Nothing happened….so much for Obama’s harsh treatment of the press.
So, it’s fair to ask for more transparency and maybe some new restraints but the bottom line is the program is legal as it passed on an OVERWHELMINGLY bi-partisan basis through the very public piece of legislation called the Patriot Act.
If people don’t like it, tell the President and tell our Congress Members but let’s not equate a slightly voyeuristic American intelligence system trying to protect its citizens to Big Brother trying to control them. The “Surveillance State” worked when it found a needle in the hay stack in Boston via street-side closed circuit cameras…was anyone upset?
IS THIS FWDPROGRESS?
BREAKING: CNN reports that “smoking gun” email was doctored
Meanwhile….This is NOT The Onion! Congressman Issa:
OBAMA COVERED UP BENGHAZI TERRORIST ACT BY USING TERM ‘ACT OF TERROR’
WHAT RESPECTED REPUBLICANS ARE SAYING:
Former Bush 43-appointee Defense Secretary Bob Gates calls military response criticism “cartoonish”: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3460_162-57584087/gates-some-benghazi-critics-have-cartoonish-view-of-military-capability
Former Bush 41-appointee UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering says mistakes were low-level: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/12/thomas-pickering-benghazi_n_3263073.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003
Conservative columnist David Brooks on GOP scapegoating:
THE SAME PEOPLE WHO CUT FUNDING FOR EMBASSY SECURITY ARE DEMOGOGUING CIA & STATE DEPT MISTAKES…
Benghazi Myths vs Facts: http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/05/11/the-truth-about-the-rights-latest-benghazi-atta/1940
13 Benghazis that occurred under Bush: