Friday, September 6, 2013

The endless selling of war on Syria

Anthony DiMaggio (Counterpunch) explores how the White House has attempted to manufacture consent for war on Syria:

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky gained much notoriety from their seminal book, Manufacturing Consent, more than two decades ago.  The central thesis of that book – that political and media elites construct propaganda narratives in order to build support for U.S. foreign policy – remains as relevant today as ever.  Obama’s proposed intervention in Syria is a case in point.  Public support for military action remains quite low – ranging from between one-quarter to one-third of Americans according to recent polls.  That’s likely to change in coming weeks to months as the administration ramps up its pro-intervention rhetoric, and as political elites, reporters, and media pundits uncritically repeat and embrace his messages.

The 2011 intervention in Libya provides a template for the administration’s plan: defend an intervention via humanitarian rhetoric that lambastes a dictator for serious human rights abuses; deliver a number of public speeches in an effort to build support for war; and once troops begin to enter harm’s way, sit back and enjoy increased support as Americans “rally around the flag” in support of the conflict.  This formula was enough to gain support for intervention from between 50 to 60 percent of Americans in the case of Libya, and is likely to do the same in Syria once Congress goes along.

The process has already begun.  A senate committee already voted 10-7 to grant authorization for force, and a floor resolution is likely to follow in this Democratic controlled chamber.  The Obama administration has largely controlled the narrative on Syria over the last year and a half, stressing that the United States is seriously concerned with Assad’s abuses and use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.  A September survey from the Pew Research Center finds that by a factor of more than two-to-one, Americans conclude that, from what they have “read and heard,” that “there is clear evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.”  The beleaguered peoples of Syria, Obama contends, need a helping hand from the United States, which is said to be unconditionally concerned with protecting the safety and security of those targeted by Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its people has been largely accepted in political and media discourse, despite the fact that the administration has yet to present any concrete evidence.  The failure to present evidence presents a particular problem considering claims appearing in news reports that rebel groups may be guilty of using chemical weapons.  The Syrian government may very well have used these weapons, and this would probably surprise few people, but the key point here is that the administration has done nothing to present that case before announcing its campaign for war.

In analyzing major news stories via the Lexis Nexis academic database, my findings suggests that during early 2012 and in the first half of 2013 (both periods when reporting of the Syrian civil war was growing), the percent of stories referencing the Obama administration significantly outnumbered references to Congressional Republican opponents in the news by between ten to twenty percentage points.   In other words, the administration had a clear advantage in controlling the narrative on Syria – as presidents typically do when it comes to foreign policy.  Reports claiming that both the Syrian government and rebel groups have engaged in human rights abuses and used chemical weapons represent a challenge to Obama’s Syria narrative.

The propaganda model depends upon emotional pitches that are supposed to outrage.  That's all Women's Media Center has offered.  They're part of the propaganda model.

Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda used Women's Media Center to help launch the rollout for war on Syria.

That's another reason not to visit their crappy site.

By the way, if you missed Ava and C.I.'s "Media: The silence, the fawning, the unanswered," please read it now.  They really serve Jane Fonda in this piece.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, September 6, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri lobbies to kill the protest movement, the protests continue, Iran supposedly is ordering an attack on the US in Iraq if the US launches an attack on Syria, Women's Media Center fails the left by funding (and publishing) propaganda which is now being grabbed by conservatives to justify attacking Syria, Glenn Greenwald and others reveal more about Barack Obama's illegal spying programs and more.

At the Washington Post today, conservative Michelle Bernard tries (and fails) to make a coherent case for war on Syria.  Her prop of choice?  Iraqi women.  Bernard's part of the cheap trash who ignore Iraqi women.  The women of Iraq suffer and they suffer without any help from world government's so Bernard's lies aren't needed.  She insists that women are suffering in Syria.  It's similar to the propaganda Women's Media Center -- in the roll out for war that Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda all hope you never call them on -- was featuring a few months back.  That shouldn't surprise you.

When The Brides of War enlist to become love slaves of Barack, they run to Lauren Wolfe for information.  The hustler also works for The Atlantic.  She specializes in "OHMYGOD!WOMENAREBEINGKILLEDSOMEWHEREANDIMUSTANDWILLSTOPIT!"

Here's some information for all the tricked out sex slaves in the nunnery of St. Barack: War kills.

War kills indiscriminately.  There is no 'precision' in war.  It is bloody, it is messy and it is deadly.

Do women suffer during war?

Yes, children they do.  In The War Against Women, the late Marilyn French established this with a historical overview of war and how it functions alongside the patriarchy, how the domination sought in war is also sought in society.

I realize this is new ground for Michelle Bernard.   And probably for the idiot Lauren Wolfe.

Bernard wants you to know that, in 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq War, she actually managed to chat with a few Iraqi women in DC who had been brought in, by the Bully Boy Bush administration, to speak to Congress.  Guess what they told Bernard?  They wished the war had started sooner!  Isn't it shocking?  Iraqi women, as the war had just started, would be flown to the US to lobby Congress and they supported the war!  Well case closed, yet again!

But before Bernard does her victory lap, let's all grasp that the women were propaganda tools of the White House -- which is why they were able to travel to the US to begin with.

And let's further grasp what Michelle Bernard doesn't grasp or won't tell you.

The year is 2013.  Michelle insists that Iraqi women told her they were better off due to war ("What took you so long!" she quotes one Iraqi saying) so the US should attack Syria.

What's she leaving out?

How about today?

How about the effects of ten years of war on Iraq and, yes, on Iraqi women?  Let's start with Wednesday's snapshot:

And in southern Baghdad, NINA reports:
Police source told NINA that an improvised explosive device, emplaced near women beauty salon in Shurta neighborhood, went off wounding the salon's owner and three other civilians, happened to be nearby, as well as causing damages to the salon.

That attack is very important. al Qaeda may or may not be responsible for that attack but for years they have launched attacks in that area.  The attack, if carried out by al Qaeda, may have been an attack on business or anything.  But the best guess is it being an attack on women who refuse to live in Iraq as though Iraq is Afghanistan.

That attack was and remains important but no western news outlet treated it as such.  No one filed a report on it.  As always when women are the intended targets, the press looked the other way.  In fact, the only time the western press tends to note women dying is when they can (accurately or inaccurately) label them a prostitute.  Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International.  Last March, she wrote a column for CNN on the status of women in Iraq:

On the political front, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not appointed a single woman to a senior cabinet position, despite the fact women are guaranteed 25% of the seats in parliament by the constitution. The Ministry of Women's Affairs, a poorly-funded and mostly ceremonial department, is the lone ministry headed up by a woman.
 Constitutionally, women were able to secure the ability to pass their citizenship on to their children by non-Iraqi husbands, making Iraq one of a handful Arab countries with such a provision for their female citizens.

But on the other hand, women are no longer guaranteed equal treatment under one law in terms of marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. That law, the Family Statutes Law, has been replaced one giving religious and tribal leaders the power to regulate family affairs in the areas they rule in accordance with their interpretation of religious laws.

This not only is making women more vulnerable, it is giving women from various sects (Sunni or Shia) or religion (Muslim or Christian) different legal treatments on the same issues.
 Economically, women have gone from being visibly active in the Iraqi work force in the 1980s -- particularly in the farming, marketing and professional services sectors -- to being nearly non-existent in 2013.

The women who could afford it withdrew from the public space due the violence dominating the streets. 10 years ago Iraq produced much of its own food and had a productive industrial sector -- but now Iraq imports practically all of its food, and farmers and factory workers simply found themselves out of a job as industry ground to a halt. And while both women and men suffered as a result, the impact on women was greater due to their limited mobility in the face of poor security.
 Violence against women -- and the lack of legal protection for women -- is also on the rise. Women's rights groups blame the increase in violence on the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increase religious conservatism that often justifies the violence.
 MADRE's Yifat Susskind and Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed wrote a column on the status of women in Iraq this year as well:

If you talk to women in war zones anywhere, they’ll tell you that domestic violence increases in war-time. But in Iraq, violence against women has also been systematic. And unknown to most Americans, it has been orchestrated by some of the very forces that the US boosted to power.
Like religious fundamentalists everywhere, these sectarian militias and clerics have a social vision for their country that depends on subjugating women. But because the US wagered that they could deliver stability, these men were cultivated as allies in Iraq. As we now know, they never even got the stability they traded women’s rights for.
The dynamic was clearly at work in the drafting of Iraq’s constitution, heavily brokered by the US. To pass it, the US needed support from Islamist parties. They got it by trading away women’s rights. In fact, the current constitution is a huge step backwards for Iraqi women. It replaces one of the Middle East’s most expansive laws on the status of women, dating from 1959, with separate and unequal laws on the basis of sex. They subjected Iraqi women to a newly introduced Sharia law promoted in an article in the new constitution.
So the ridiculous Michelle doesn't just remain a groupie in the Cult of St. Barack,  she's also a dumb liar who thinks she can trick America into supporting war on Syria by insisting war was what Iraqi women wanted and it made their lives better.  And Women's Media Center -- Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and Jane Fonda -- need to be called out for entering into the dangerous relationship with Lauren Wolfe.  You'd think Gloria would especially avoid that relationship which makes it appear that Women's Media Center is nothing but a government propaganda outlet -- she will never escape working for the CIA in college or the rumors that she continued working for them after college.  I do not believe she worked for them after college.  She would deny the "working for" in college but she received rewards and she did their work, including reporting back afterwards -- a detail that she bragged about repeatedly in the 60s -- check the articles from that era -- but rewrote history a decade later when the Red Stockings went public with Gloria's CIA work.  For those unfamiliar with the charges, post-college, a sort of diagram is drawn of Gloria with various CIA and CIA-linked figures.  The Red Stockings felt that feminism was being watered down in the seventies and felt Gloria had a great deal to do with it.  They began digging around and found Gloria's college CIA link.  They raised the issue publicly and it was in all of the feminist press of the era except Ms. magazine (which Gloria controlled -- though one of the charges was that Ms. was a CIA front).  Gloria ignored the charges and people began lying for Gloria.  When she finally answered the charges, after Betty Friedan had helped publicize them, she suddenly never knew it was a CIA front funding her travel until after the fact.  And the media was kind to Gloria and ran with that crap without questioning it.  The same MSM printed articles in the 60s where Gloria bragged about her work for the CIA in that era, portraying herself as some sort of Agent 99.
It's very telling that Gloria, Jane and Robin would fund a Syrian project (Wolfe's) to begin with.  Feminists should be focused on Iraq where women's rights and status suffered a tremendous blow.  You want to speak out against war, how about you chronicle the effects war has had on the lives of Iraqi women.  Instead, they've funded alarmist propaganda which, no surprise, is now being used to argue war.
Gloria, Jane and Robin are you really that stupid?  (Answer: Yes, they apparently are.)
Gloria, Jane and Robin are silent on Syria.  They won't decry an attack on it and they have funded a propaganda mill whose intent is to force action.  What's going on here?
Three elderly women have made it their goal to cure male impotency.
At the heart of the arguments for an attack on Syria is the male impotency.  Scott Lemieux (American Prospect) notes today, "At bottom, as James Fallows notes, the case for action against Syria is based on the same logical error as too many foreign-policy disasters past: we have to "do something," and military action is ... something."  That feeling of powerlessness, that heaven forbid, even men might have to feel.  Instead of telling the Peter Pans of the world to go with it, explore it, grasp it and become better humans as a result, the elderly Wendys of Jane, Robin and Gloria intend to hover the beds in the nursery at night ensuring ejaculation, no limp noodles on their watch.
There is not a need to do anything.  Syria has a civil war.  Now Spain had a civil war (1936 to 1939) and the US government stayed out of it.  Many of those Americans back then who had a side in that war traveled to Spain and fought.  That's certainly an option for Nicholas Kristof and the other saggy penises.   600,000 deaths is considered a conservative estimate of the death tollYou can also review these stats offered by PBS for the American civil war

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I'm pleased to have this chance to chat with you for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t know who else has more cred than you.
What would a 23-year graduate of West Point offer us now regarding the dilemma in which Obama finds himself, regarding Syria?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I mean, if I could have five minutes of the president's time, I'd say, "Mr. President, the issue really is not Syria. I mean, you're being told that it's Syria. You're being told you have to do something about Syria, that you have to make a decision about Syria. That somehow your credibility is on the line."
But I'd say, "Mr. President, that's not true. The issue really here is whether or not an effort over the course of several decades, dating back to the promulgation of the Carter Doctrine in 1980, an effort that extends over several decades to employ American power, military power, overt, covert military power exercise through proxies, an effort to use military power to somehow stabilize or fix or liberate or transform the greater Middle East hasn't worked.
“And if you think back to 1980, and just sort of tick off the number of military enterprises that we have been engaged in that part of the world, large and small, you know, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and on and on, and ask yourself, 'What have we got done? What have we achieved? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing America's standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?'
"The answers are, 'No, no, and no.' So why, Mr. President, do you think that initiating yet another war, 'cause if we bomb Syria, it's a war, why do you think that initiating yet another war in this protracted enterprise is going to produce a different outcome? Wouldn't it be perhaps wise to ask ourselves if this militarized approach to the region maybe is a fool’s errand.
"Maybe it's fundamentally misguided. Maybe the questions are not tactical and operational, but strategic and political." You know, I have to say, I'm just struck by the fact that Secretary of State Kerry has become the leading proponent for war. It's our secretary of state's job apparently--

PHIL DONAHUE: He threw his medal-- he threw his medals back.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, that's why it's doubly ironic. 'Cause the Secretary of State is the war promoter. And that our secretary of state happens to be a guy who came into politics basically advertising himself as the guy who because of his--

PHIL DONAHUE: Understands war?

ANDREW BACEVICH: --Vietnam experiences, understands war, understands the lessons of Vietnam, and is therefore going to prevent us from doing dumb things. On the contrary, he's the lead cheerleader to go through another dumb thing.

PHIL DONAHUE: President Obama would say to you, "These are children being grossly and painfully killed."


PHIL DONAHUE: "How can you watch these videos with the foam coming out of the nostrils. And we've got to do something."

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, the attack is a heinous act. Now does the fact that they were killed with chemicals make it more heinous than if they were killed with conventional ammunitions? I'm not persuaded.
 I mean, I think the issue, one of the issues here, to the extent that moral considerations drive US policy, and I would say as a practical matter they don't, but let's pretend that they do to the extent that moral considerations drive US policy, there's a couple of questions to ask. One would be, "Why here and not someplace else?"
I mean, just weeks earlier, the Egyptian Army killed many hundreds of innocent Egyptians. And we sort of shook our finger at Egypt a little bit, but didn't do anything. So why act in Syria? Why not act in Egypt? I think that that needs to be sort of, that needs to be clarified.
And the other question will be, "Well, if our concerns are humanitarian, why is waging war the best means to advance a humanitarian agenda?" If indeed US policy is informed by concern for the people of Syria, let's just pretend that's the case even though I don't think it is. If it's informed by concern for the people of Syria, why is peppering Damascus with cruise missiles the best way to demonstrate that concern?
I mean, a little bit of creative statesmanship it seems to me might say that there are other things we could do that would actually benefit the people of Syria, who are suffering greatly, who are fleeing their country in the hundreds of thousands. Who are living in wretched refugee camps. Why don't we do something about that? Why wouldn't that be a better thing to do from a moral perspective than bombing Damascus?

Sidebar, it's good to see Phil back on TV and while he wanted his down time and enjoys it, it would be great to have him as the permanent guest host on Moyers' program or, if he could be talked into it, the host of his own weekly program.  That media note also lets me note that Kim Petersen continues his media critique of The Real News Network with "TRNN and Intellectual Integrity" (Dissident Voice).
UPI reports, "An intercepted order from Iran instructs militants in Iraq to hit the U.S. Embassy and other interests if a military strike on Syria occurs, U.S. officials said.  Officials said the recently intercepted message was sent by Qasem Soleimani, head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, to Iranian-supported Shiite militias in Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday."  (Military Times carries a longer UPI report on this topic.)  Reuters adds the US Embassy in Baghdad is thought to be a likely target.  Hispanic Business headlines their report "Iran Orders Hit on U.S. Embassy if Syria attacked." At the US State Dept press briefing today, Matthew Lee (AP) attempted to get a statement on these reports from spokesperson Marie Harf.

QUESTION: Let’s start with embassy security personnel

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- movements, non-evacuation, evacuations, that kind of thing.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – were – are the threats that exist that – or that you believe to exist to your personnel and interest in Lebanon and – or Beirut specifically and in Adana – are they related to Syria, or are they related to something else?

MS. HARF: Well, these are potential threats, as we said in the statement this morning. Obviously, the tension in region – in the region, including in Syria, plays a role in this. I think it would be obvious to most people and would be silly to think otherwise. So clearly that plays a role there, other regional tensions as well. And we’ll continue evaluating on a post-by-post basis to see if we have to take any additional steps.

QUESTION: All right. And are – but are you aware of any specific – a specific Syria-related threat to either of these posts?

MS. HARF: I am not. No. Again, we said this morning --

QUESTION: You’re not. Okay.

MS. HARF: -- that we’re concerned about tension in the region and potential threats.

QUESTION: Right. I understand.

MS. HARF: Obviously, we make decisions on a post-by-post basis for – with a variety of factors, but I’m not aware of any specifics. But again, we’re evaluating information every day, and we’ll take appropriate steps as necessary.

QUESTION: Okay. So there was a report overnight, or last night, that there had been a threat or intelligence intercept of a threat to the Embassy in Baghdad.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you – and I noticed that unlike Beirut and – or unlike Lebanon and Turkey there was no new warning today, no new even internal thing that went up on the Embassy website in Baghdad. So I’m just wondering is that – does that – is that report accurate? Is there such a threat? Are you concerned about it? And if you are, is anything being done to reduce it?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to comment on reports about alleged intelligence that may or may not exist. Clearly, we remain concerned in looking at the security throughout the region. Again, you noted that we have not taken any action in terms of our posts in Iraq, so I think I would probably leave it at that for now on that point. Again, we’ll keep reevaluating, but nothing to announce for any other posts at this time.

QUESTION: So it would not – can – is it safe to infer from what you’re saying that the fact that there was no change or there hasn’t been any announcement – announced change to the posture in Iraq that that means that the – that you don’t really ascribe – if there really was such a threat, you don’t ascribe much credibility to it?

MS. HARF: I’m not – I wouldn’t – I would caution you from inferring anything, I guess. What I would say is that I’m not going to comment on this alleged piece of intelligence and that we will make decisions on our posts on a day-by-day basis on a variety of information. Again, nothing to announce in terms of Baghdad.

QUESTION: Right, except that you said “nothing to announce,” and then you say you’re not going to comment on this one --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- alleged threat. But then you point to the fact that there hasn’t been any change in posture in Iraq.

MS. HARF: Right. There hasn’t.

QUESTION: So if you’re not trying to make us or lead us to infer --

MS. HARF: I’m just stating a couple of facts.

QUESTION: -- anything --

MS. HARF: I’m just stating a couple of facts, Matt. You can infer what you like from it, but I’m just stating the fact that there’s been no change in Baghdad and that I’m not going to comment one way or the other on that report.
An attack on Syria solves nothing.  It will cost lives, it will cost dollars.  US Labor Against The War carries the following from the National Priorities Project:
Northampton, MA – As federal lawmakers and the American people grapple with the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria, National Priorities Project (NPP) announces the release of a new interactive tool tracking the Cost of National Security. The site features counters displaying the real-time cost of U.S. military programs, including the Tomahawk Cruise Missile – the weapon to be used in a strike on Syria.
Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Will Cost Taxpayers $36,000 Every Hour in 2013
“In 2013, the Pentagon already plans to purchase 200 Tomahawk missiles for a total cost to U.S. taxpayers of $320 million in just one year, or over $36,000 every hour,” said Jo Comerford, Executive Director at NPP. “That cost would spike if we ultimately fired hundreds of missiles at Syria, as we did in Libya.” In 2011, U.S. forces fired 110 Tomahawk missiles in the first hour of the strike on Libya. That conflict cost the nation upwards of $1 billion.
In addition to the Tomahawk, the new Cost of National Security site displays rolling counters tracking the cost per hour of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the entire Department of Defense, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Foreign Military Aid, and Homeland Security.
The site also allows users to see the local cost of these programs for 9,900 cities and towns, and every state, Congressional District, and county in the nation. In tandem with NPP’s Trade-Offs tool, users can see what their city or town could have bought instead – from police officers to school teachers to Pell grants.
Impossible to Predict the Cost of Intervention in Syria
“Back in 2003, Bush administration officials projected $60 billion as a high-end estimate for the Iraq war,” said Mattea Kramer, NPP’s Research Director. “A decade later, the cost of the Iraq war has exceeded $800 billion – including $7 billion this year. Bottom line, right now, it’s impossible to know if military intervention in Syria will cost the U.S. $100 million or hundreds of billions.”
Little Support for Military Intervention
According to recent polling, only 26 percent of Americans support military intervention in Syria, while 40 percent favor humanitarian assistance instead. In addition to military-related spending, Cost of National Security tracks humanitarian aid and spending on a host of domestic programs. Said Comerford, “National Priorities Project created Cost of National Security to provoke a national debate about what it takes to be a secure nation.”

Jo Comerford
Executive Director
National Priorities Project
243 King Street, Suite 109
Northampton, MA 01060
413.584.9556 w
413.559.1649 c

Isabel Coles and Peg Mackey (Reuters) report, "Baghdad and foreign oil companies at work in Iraq's giant oilfields are adopting extra security measures in anticipation of retaliatory attacks if the United States strikes neighbouring Syria, industry sources said on Friday."  Again, an attack on Syria solves nothing.  As Amria Mohsen (Huffington Post UK) observes:

Most importantly, we must question what the outcome of any strike on Syria would be. One would think it would be enough to see the carnage that this kind of adventurism inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. A succession of "wars on terror" and operations to "bring democracy" to Afghanistan has seen the country literally razed to the ground. Libya still remains in total chaos, whilst Iraq undoubtedly represents the greatest human tragedy of our time. Estimates put the death toll at between 100,000 and one million, with some as high as 2.7 million - again a bitter war of numbers that totally disregards the suffering inflicted upon the country. One would be remiss not to mention the effects that "humanitarian intervention" had on the city of Fallujah where the "toxic legacy of the US assault" - where there is, ironically, evidence that the US used chemical weapons - was considered, by international studies, to be "worse than Hiroshima."
Some will speak of the Syrian refugees.  They're not the only refugees in the world.  The Iraq refugee crisis continues -- internally and externally.  On internals, All Iraq News reports Parliamentary Emigration Committee Chair Liqa Wardi declared today that 110 families in Anbar Province had fled due to the violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee Chair Homam Hamoudi declared today that a military strike on Syria will not help anything and that the answer is to hold a Geneva II Conference to work towards peace.
But if, for example, your goal, like David Kilgour's, is regime change in Iran, you want war on Syria.  And it's in that context, not humanitarian concern, that Bomb-Bomb-Bomb-Iran John McCain's support for war on Syria really makes sense.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee bill (giving the White House everything it asked for) makes no sense either when you examine it.  Vote Vets' Jon Soltz (Huffington Post) points out:
Sixty-six American troops killed. Two hundred ninety-five Wounded in Action.
Are those numbers from an American combat operation? Not according to our government, which said they, and the other 50,000 troops in Iraq (which included me), were part of the "official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations," under Operation New Dawn, after August 2010.
I thought back to that, today, as I read about one very interesting line in the Senate resolution authorizing military action in Syria, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Most in the media, and on the Hill, talk about how the resolution disallows American troops on the ground. That isn't true. What the bill says is, "The authority granted in section 2 does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations."
That is key. Officially, those 66 Americans killed, and 295 wounded in Iraq were not part of combat operations, either. Yet, for those of us on the ground, we knew they very much were.
Whenever we send troops to the kind of asymmetrical battlefield that we had in Iraq, and would definitely see in Syria, they are automatically combat troops. They can face attack at any time, and would have to respond appropriately, at any time. To say they will be in any kind of safe-zone, away from combat, is naïve.
Jes Burns:  The US continued its domestic and international push for military intervention in Syria today.  Peace activists across the globe, from Cairo to Kuala Lumpur, have been marching and holding rallies to oppose military involvement.  And organizers intend to keep up the pressure - more protests are scheduled today and over the weekend.  FSRN’s Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.

Mark Taylor-Canfield:  Demonstrations are being held today in Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, and Seattle to show opposition to a proposed US military strike on Syria.  The latest opinion polls show that the majority of Americans are opposed to military intervention. Activists will be gathering in downtown Seattle to hold a rally and march, and in San Francisco protesters planned to converge on Market Street during rush hour.  Protests are also being organized in Asheville, North Carolina, Tuscon, Arizona and dozens of other US cities.  Activists in Seattle are also organizing a benefit to raise funds for Syrian war refugees. According to the Interoccupy website, more than 250 rallies and direct actions for peace in Syria have been scheduled since reports of a chemical weapons attack emerged.  Mark Taylor-Canfield, FSRN, Seattle.
The  International Action Center and A.N.S.W.E.R.  are organizing a series of protests:
Now is the time for the people to step up pressure on Congress and demand that they vote NO to any resolution authorizing a military attack on Syria.

On Saturday, September 7, people are descending on Washington, D.C., for a major demonstration that will assemble at the White House and march on the Capitol Building as Congress returns to Washington, D.C., and prepares to vote. This demonstration is initiated by a broad ad hoc coalition called the Vote No War Against Syria Coalition. If you or your organization would like to be an endorser of the Sept. 7 demonstration, email

Those who can will stay over in Washington for daily demonstrations, and to maintain a round-the-clock visible anti-war presence at the U.S. Capitol building beginning Saturday, September 7 and continuing daily as Congress meets to take up and vote on the resolution.

Syria shares a border with  Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.  It's largest border is the eastern border, where Syria and Iraq meet.  Asia News reports:

War "is a terrible experience" that "we have already had" and therefore "we feel a lot closer" to Syria," said Mar Raphael Louis Sako. Speaking to AsiaNews, the Chaldean patriarch called on the bishops, priests and faithful of Iraq "to fast for peace in Syria and the Middle East."
Stressing "the suffering" of the Syrian people, His Beatitude said, "We saw a similar thing ten years ago." From hindsight, after the United States-led war in 2003 ended in Saddam Hussein's fall, "we have had neither democracy nor freedom." Instead, "confusion and security are getting worse. . . . Every day, more people die in Iraq."

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has proposed an eight-point peace plan for Syria.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that before Nouri can resolve the crisis in Syria, he first needs to resolve the crises in Iraq.  Iraqi Spring MC is the protest movement's media outlet.  Protests have been continuous in Iraq since December 21stTom Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) reports of last Saturday's protests:

Many Iraqis are worried that democracy, never firmly rooted here, is sliding away from their country. On Saturday, Iraq’s security forces stopped demonstrators from protesting against the parliament’s pension program, which activists say is excessive. In Baghdad, police closed off several main roads and bridges to stop protesters from reaching designated gathering places.
Despite the prohibition, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities where protest leaders say police beat and arrested some participants. Iraqi officials said they forbade the protests because a large gathering would have been susceptible to a terrorist attack.
“We were expecting big support from the government, because we saw the government on the media in favor of pension reforms, but instead, they beat some of our friends and arrested them. It’s shocking,” says Akeel Ahmad, a protester who could not reach the demonstration due to police checkpoints.
The ban on Saturday’s protests is the latest evidence of growing authoritarianism in Iraq.
Nouri has actively attempted to shut down the protests -- including by attacking them.  The most infamous attack would be the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).  While slaughtering peaceful demonstrators in public, Nouri lobbied in private to shut down the protests.  Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:
In previous protests and in the latest one as well, the Iraqi government resorted to religious authorities to issue fatwas that forbade participation in protests, under the pretext of tough conditions in the region and in Iraq specifically.
However, Najaf’s four authorities rejected this demand and criticized the government. The latter had previously succeeded in obtaining fatwas from figures close to Iran, including Sheikh Muhammad Mahdi al-Asefi, the official representative of Khaminei in Iraq, and Muhammad Kazem al-Haeri, who is close to the Iranian leadership. Both issued fatwas warning people not to take to the streets, thus stirring even more distress.
The government made yet another attempt, when it sent a special delegation including prominent figures in the Islamic Dawa Party and the government, like Sheikh Abdel Halim Zuheiri, special adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, and Tareq Najem, former director of the prime minister’s office. A source close to the office of Muhammad Said al-Hakim told Al-Monitor that the latter received the delegation after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani refused — a sign of anger toward the government’s constant failure and massive corruption.
According to the source, Zuheiri expressed his concern regarding the protests that are being organized by activists from several cities in Iraq and asked Hakim to assist in halting them. However, Hakim strongly opposed Zuheiri in this regard and censured the Iraqi government, asking Zuheiri, “Why didn’t you respond to the demands of the protesters instead of trying to stop protests, which are a legitimate right for everyone?”
Sistani’s official representative, Seyyed Ahmad Safi, proceeded with his criticism for the failure and corruption of the government during the Friday prayer ceremony in Karbala. Moreover, he supported the protests that were meant to be held on the following day and asked the Iraqi government to implement a clear plan to solve the situation, in case it was sincere in its attempts to overcome the current problems. Sistani had supported the demands of the protesters in the past and described them as legitimate, while asking the Iraqi government to respond to them through providing services and security and canceling any unaccepted privileges that the MPs and ministers granted themselves.

Despite Nouri's repeated attempts to kill the movement, protests continue in Iraq. Protests continue in Iraq.  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in AmeriyaJalawla, Baji, Mosul, Baquba, Ramadi, and Baghdad.  In Babylon, Iraqi Spring MC reports Nouri's thugs have grabbed three preachers and nine worshipers. 
Turning to the US where's there no end to the revelations regarding Barack Obama's illegal spying programs. Joseph Menn (Reuters) reports, "The U.S. National Security Agency has secretly developed the ability to crack or circumvent commonplace Internet encryption used to protect everything from email to financial transactions, according to media reports citing documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden."  Jon Healy (Los Angeles Times) offers this call:

The latest Edward Snowden-powered exposé published by the New York Times, ProPublica and the Guardian is, to me, the most frightening. It reveals that the National Security Agency has moved beyond its historic role as a code-breaker to become a saboteur of the encryption systems. Its work has allegedly weakened the scrambling not just of terrorists' emails but also bank transactions, medical records and communications among coworkers.

How bad is it?  CNN explains:

According to the reports, the NSA, alongside its UK equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters, better known as GCHQ, has been able to unscramble much of the encoding that protects everything from personal e-mails to banking systems, medical records and Internet chats.

The agencies' methods include the use of supercomputers to crack codes, covert measures to introduce weaknesses into encryption standards and behind-doors collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves.

That's a lot of new information to absorb and sometimes the best way to understand new information is for it to be broken down into a discussion.  Yesterday evening, on KPFA's Flashpoints, guest host Kevin Pina explored the latest revelations with The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's Shahid Buttar:

Kevin Pina:  Well, Shahid, am I right in saying that people should not be complacent just because we're getting -- sort of getting used to the news now?  That we should still be concerned about this?

Shahid Buttar: Absolutely.   You know, every day, more trickles out.  And the latest revelations that the NSA and its British counterparts have essentially cracked commercially available encryption codes has dramatic implications for everything from online commerce to our most private communications.  And it is absolutely essential that the American people stay very loud and engaged to force a long overdue change and for us to restore fundamental rights.

Kevin Pina:  Well so what does this mean that they've cracked basic encryption codes?  It means that no data can ever be secure now?

Shahid Buttar: For all intents and purposes.  There are some strong versions of encryption that remain, at the moment, uncracked by the NSA.  But one of the implications of today's revelations is that the NSA is much further along in its crypto-analysis project to essentially de-encrypt everything than anyone at this point had realized.  There was a famous  saga from the 90s, the crypto-wars, when essentially Silicon Valley  had essentially outflanked the Pentagon and now the tides have changed and until the latest revelations no one had even realized that that had happened.

Kevin Pina:  Well I'm also wondering, you know, there's a G-20 that's going on now and you know if it weren't for Syria pushing it off the board now, Edward Snowden would probably be high up there on the list of what Russia and the United States would be discussing.  But with Syria, there's no peep whatsoever about it, just a few mentions here and there.  But Edward Snowden did a great contribution.  Did he not make a great contribution to our understanding of exactly the full extent of NSA spying on its own citizens?

Shahid Buttar:  No question.  Absolutely.  An enormous contribution.  The only quibble I would have is we still don't know the full extent and even the entire corpus of his disclosures would not itself about the latest revelations was the fact that the NSA describes American consumers as "adversaries"  and has worked not only to rig the international encryption standards to suit its own ends and also collaborated in secret with the tech companies to engineer vulnerabilities into their own commercially available programs but also that they'd actually employed spies -- human intelligence operatives into the tech companies which is deeply disturbing.  And the fact that all of this is happening in secret yet still available to contractors -- like Edward Snowden -- is especially disturbing.  It's disturbing in a lot of different directions.  The idea that we, the American people are paying our tax dollars to an agency that regards us as adversaries is certainly a problem in itself.

 So the selfish (and criminal) actions of the NSA have put the entire internet at risk?  Yes.  James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) report:

"Backdoors are fundamentally in conflict with good security," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Backdoors expose all users of a backdoored system, not just intelligence agency targets, to heightened risk of data compromise." This is because the insertion of backdoors in a software product, particularly those that can be used to obtain unencrypted user communications or data, significantly increases the difficulty of designing a secure product."
This was a view echoed in a recent paper by Stephanie Pell, a former prosecutor at the US Department of Justice and non-resident fellow at the Center for Internet and Security at Stanford Law School.
"[An] encrypted communications system with a lawful interception back door is far more likely to result in the catastrophic loss of communications confidentiality than a system that never has access to the unencrypted communications of its users," she states.

AMY GOODMAN:  Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! We haven’t spoken to you since your partner, David Miranda, was held at Heathrow for nine hours, the airport in Britain, and we want to get to that. But first, talk about the significance of this latest exposé that both The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica have published today.

GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, I think there’s significance just in the partnership itself. It’s very unusual for three media organizations to work so closely on a story of this magnitude. And that happened because the U.K. government tried forcibly to prevent The Guardian from reporting on these documents by pressuring The Guardian editor-in-chief in London, Alan Rusbridger, to destroy the hard drives of The Guardian which contained these materials, which is why they ended up making their way to The New York Times and ProPublica. So I think it clearly backfired, now that there are other media organizations, including probably the most influential in the world, The New York Times, now vested in reporting on the story.

The significance of the story itself, I think, is easy to see. When people hear encryption, they often think about what certain people who are very interested in maintaining the confidentiality of their communications use, whether it be lawyers talking to their clients, human rights activists dealing with sensitive matters, people working against oppressive governments. And those people do use encryption, and it’s extremely important that it be safeguarded. And the fact that the NSA is trying to not only break it for themselves, but to make it weaker and put backdoors into all these programs makes all of those very sensitive communications vulnerable to all sorts of people around the world, not just the NSA, endangering human rights activists and democracy activists and lawyers and their clients and a whole variety of other people engaged in sensitive work.

But encryption is much more than that. Encryption is really the system that lets the Internet function as an important commercial instrument all around the world. It’s what lets you enter your credit card number, check your banking records, buy and sell things online, get your medical tests online, engage in private communications. It’s what protects the sanctity of the Internet. And what these documents show is not just that the NSA is trying to break the codes of encryption to let them get access to everything, but they’re forcing the companies that provide the encryption services to put backdoors into their programs, which means, again, that not only the NSA, but all sorts of hackers and other governments and all kinds of ill-motivated people, can have a weakness to exploit, a vulnerability to exploit, in these systems, which makes the entire Internet insecure for everybody. And the fact that it’s all being done as usual with no transparency or accountability makes this very newsworthy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Glenn, going back to the mid-1990s in the Clinton administration, when the government tried to establish these backdoors into communications on the Internet, there was a public debate and a rejection of this. What has happened since then now in terms of how the NSA operates?

GLENN GREENWALD: Right, it’s interesting. If you go back to the mid-'90s, that debate was really spawned by the attack on Oklahoma City, which the Clinton administration—on the Oklahoma City courthouse by Timothy McVeigh, which the Clinton administration immediately exploited to try and demand that every single form of computer security or human communication on the Internet be vulnerable to government intrusion, that it all—that there be no encryption to which the governments didn't have the key. And as you said, a combination of public backlash and industry pressure led to a rejection of that proposal, and the industries were particularly incensed by it, because they said if you put backdoors into this technology, it will make it completely vulnerable. If anyone gets that key, if anybody figures out how to crack it, it will mean that there’s no security anymore on the Internet.

And so, since the NSA and the U.S. government couldn’t get its way that way, what they’ve done instead is they resorted to covert means to infiltrate these companies, to pressure and coerce them, to provide the very backdoors that they failed to compel through legislation and through public debate and accountability. And that is what this story essentially reveals, is that the entire system is now being compromised by the NSA and their British counterpart, the GCHQ, systematic efforts to ensure that there is no form of human commerce, human electronic communication, that is ever invulnerable to their prying eyes. And again, the danger is not just that they get into all of our transactions and human communications, but that they are making it much easier for all kinds of other entities to do the same thing.





Thursday, September 5, 2013

Saying no to war on Syria

This is from "US Service Academy Graduates Oppose Bombing Syria" (OpEdNews):

Founded in   2006 in reaction to the dishonorable and criminal   practices of the Bush administration regarding its attack on Iraq, U.S. service academy graduates, unified by two anti-war affiliated groups , oppose the Obama government's plan to bomb Syria. Its use of chemical weapons remains highly speculative, despite the usual political harangue. We fear that the same self-serving evidence combined with the same specious, expedient reasoning will lead to yet another immoral bombing campaign of death and destruction. And the majority of victims will again be innocent civilians, this time Syrians.

The president tries to sugarcoat its effects. He assures Americans that there will be no "boots on the ground." But that doesn't mean there will be no crime, no murder, no slaughter. As in Iraq, there will be plenty of boot-less feet on the ground"children's feet and their mothers', the feet of young men and women and the feet of the old, innocent feet all. How many feet-on-the-ground were destroyed in Iraq? We remember well the picture of the Iraqi girl in Basra whose feet were obliterated along with her life. There were millions like her, maimed, murdered, displaced from their homes, sent from this world. Millions! We oppose that same deadly thinking and propaganda that brought chaos and death to the Iraqis and many others. And now possibly to the Syrians.

The relentless march to war is replete with demonization, self-righteous arrogance and bullying. The risk of committing war crimes on the civilian populations is high. We remember well the dissembling Colin Powell's performance. We oppose all efforts to launch an attack on Syria based on flimsy evidence and political bombast.  

We should all  be saying "no" to war on Syria.  And many are.  Garth Kant and Chelsea Schilling (Global Research) report:

Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria – by a margin of as much as 499 to 1.

A national debate is raging on Twitter. Tweets and statements from members of Congress – both Democrat and Republican – show tremendously strong opposition to President Obama’s call for an air strike on Syria:

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., tweeted, “Calls and emails from my constituents is 100 to 1 AGAINST getting involved in Syria. The American people are speaking.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said 99 percent of the calls his office oppose an attack.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said, “Constituents who have contacted my office by phone or mail oppose action in Syria 523-4 so far.”

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted, “My phones are blowing up, and an overwhelming amount of constituents oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria.”

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., tweeted, “Syria constituent calls 489-2 against.”

Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.V., said of “about 1,000 calls to my office, maybe 5 are for.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said calls and emails to his offices are 600 to 9 against striking Syria.

Contact Congress and let your lawmakers know how you feel about authorizing President Obama to strike Syria.

I've contacted mine.  I hope you'll contact your lawmakers.

I also hope you realize that a military strike on Syria can effect the entire Mideast region.  C.I. notes Timothy Arango had a good NYT report about the ways various sects in Iraq see the threat of a US strike on Syria.  It really is a strong report.

For Iraqis, the fate of the two countries is seen as inextricably intertwined, and thus they believe they have a great deal at stake in what decision is made in Washington. The war in Iraq has already inflamed sectarian tensions, emboldening Sunni extremists to raise the tempo of attacks against the Shiite-dominated government, while also motivating Shiite men, with support from Iran, to travel to Syria to fight alongside the government forces and their ally, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.       

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, September 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis fear what happens if the US attacks Syria, the Pope calls for peace talks with Syria and rejects military strikes, Barack Obama is shunned at the G-20, John Kerry is called a liar by the President of Russia, Nancy Pelosi wants to compete in a dick swinging contest, and much more.

US President Barack Obama wants war on Syria.  It's wrong for many reasons.  One that no one seems to be raising is cost.  The authorization the White House wants from Congress -- passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- does not prohibit "boots on the ground."  Secretary of State John Kerry had a meltdown over 'no boots on the ground' being in the authorization during the Senate committee's hearing on Tuesday.  He also spoke in terms of actions additional to a 'precision strike' which is why it is a 90 day authorization that Barack's enablers have passed.  It has not passed the Senate, it has not passed the House.  Judging from complaints to the public e-mail account, either local anchors across the country are really stupid or they're being intentionally stupid to imply it's a done deal.  All that being voted out of Committee does is send it to the Senate floor for a vote.  Being voted out of Committee does not change a bill into a law.  Jason Ditz's Antiwar piece that just went up may make that clearer.  Opening sentence: "After yesterday’s 10-7 committee vote set the stage for a tight vote in the Senate about the Syrian War, the issue may end up entirely academic, as ABC News is the first to call it, and based on the public comments the war is headed for a defeat in the House of Representatives."

Many are noting the lack of restrictions to the authorization Barack Obama wants. (See Jason Ditz' "Senate Committee Approves Loophole-Ridden Syria War Resolution" at  Who's going to point out the blank check aspect?  Congress controls the purse.  The measure the White House wants and that the Senate committee passed is a blank check and isn't the US supposed to be in the midst of a fiscal crisis?

You've not only got the failed economy, you've also got sequestration.  Across the board cuts.

So why is the US Congress being asked to authorize any new action without such an action having a clear and public price tag?

The US economy remains in the toilet, services are being cut (further cut) across the country and more cuts are due to come shortly and on top of this outstanding (unpaid) bill, Barack wants to toss on military actions when there is no threat to Syria?

And the White House will not return to extend the 90 day authorization.  It will just plow on through if it feels the need.  Meaning ten years from now someone may write a letter to the Seattle Times' editors on the money spent on the Syrian War the way Kathy Swoyer writes them now:

Today in Iraq, 10 years later, countless lives --  military and civilian--  have been and continue to be lost, hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were spent, and Shiite/Sunni violence is rearing up again. Al-Qaida terrorism is now robust.
What, exactly, have we gained?
The biggest threat to the US economy has been and remains Barack Obama.

He now wants to turn that destructive force on Syria.

The years long effort for war on Syria has already run up a large tab -- in money and resources.  In resources, you have John Kerry and the State Department spending 2012 and this year attempting to persuade foreign countries into supporting war and pressuring them to cut off ties to Syria.

That has a huge cost.  Might life be better for the Iraqi people if high-profile US visits to Iraq in the last two years had been about the needs of the Iraqi people and not the US government's need for war with Syria?  And what was Nouri given to make him announce (briefly) that they would stop flights from Iran to Syria?

If diplomacy had been used for humanitarian reasons, then high-profile US visits would have been about wrongful imprisonments, the need to stop torturing, the need to stop shooting at Iraqis taking part in a sit-in and, at the very least, the need to provide the people with basic public services (electricity, potable water, etc.).

A lot of liars in Congress and in the press want to insist attacking Syria would be a "humanitarian action."  They ignore the reality of what they're demanding.  As Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune) observes, "It may look antiseptic from Washington, but only because the Syrians have no means to respond [to an attack] in kind.  But to anyone in Syria, there will be no doubt that we are waging war."  Activist, author and candidate for governor in California Cindy Sheehan weighs in on these 'humanitarian concerns'  at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox:

Now, Obama and Pelosi want to kill Syrian children so their government doesn’t kill them? I don't want the Syrian government or US supported rebels to kill anyone, but I am sure that dying by a US made and launched missile is much more compassionate than any other way? Obviously the “problem” that the US has, is not that it loves children so much, but that it’s Murder, Inc and wants a global monopoly on carnage.
 To me, and many others who really pay attention to needs of children, what is urgent is for the US to stop all its wars that harm families all over the world, even here. Why do you think our economy is tanking and the social safety nets are being greatly reduced or eliminated? Our overwhelming monetary and psycho investment in the military industrial complex!

FYI, Cindy's campaign site is here.  If  the liars in Congress and the press have are so concerned about 'humanitarian' intervention in Syria, why have they expressed no humanitarian concerns about Iraq?

KUNA reports the European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a statement condemning Tuesday's attacks in Iraq.  Her statement in full [PDF format warning] can be found here:

I condemn in the strongest terms the series of car bombings that killed many civilians on Tuesday in predominantly Shia districts of Baghdad.  My thoughts go out to the many innocent victims and I express my condolences to their families.
I am seriously concerned by the escalation of violence in Iraq over the past months which is fueling sectarianism and undermining the stability of the country.  I call on all political, religious and community leaders to increase their efforts to end this dangerous cycle of vilence.  I am confident that the Iraqi people will remain steadfast in their rejection of sectarian violence and work towards a successful transition to democracy and long term stability for the benefit of all of Iraq's citizens.

The US government has nothing to say about Tuesday's attacks which killed 87 people (Iraq Body Count tally).  It rarely has anything to say about anything to do with Iraq.  Yes, Sunday, they did issue the following:

Press Statement

Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 1, 2013

The United States strongly condemns the terrible events that took place at Camp Ashraf today, which according to various reports resulted in the deaths of and injuries to numerous camp residents. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims and those who were injured in today’s violence.
We are deeply concerned about these reports and are in regular contact with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), as well as Government of Iraq officials. We support UNAMI's efforts to conduct its own assessment of the situation and call on the Government of Iraq to fully support those efforts.

We further call on Iraqi authorities to act with urgency to immediately ensure medical assistance to the wounded and to secure the camp against any further violence or harm to the residents. We underscore the responsibility of the Government of Iraq and all relevant stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of residents at both Camp Ashraf and Camp Hurriyah, and we affirm the call by UNAMI for a full and independent investigation into this terrible and tragic event. Those found to be responsible must be held fully accountable.

But before you applaud them, that's idiotic.

All the ones arguing humanitarian grounds for Syria -- including the ridiculous US House Rep Debbie Wasserman-Schultz with her "as a Jew" statement -- need to ask where is the humanitarian concern for the Ashraf community?

The United States could actually put more boots on the ground in Iraq as a result of that attack.  International law would allow that (some legal scholars would argue that international law compels it).

I must have missed Debs Wasserman weighing in on the attack, "as a Jew," right?

Adam Schreck (AP) reported Tuesday that the United Nations just confirmed the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  Al Mada noted Monday that Nouri's declared he should be over the Iraqi investigation since he's commander-in-chief.  And that's exactly why he shouldn't be over it.  Tuesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a statement which included:

 Reiterating his previous statement, the UN Envoy expressed his outrage at the brutal killing of the camp’s residents. Mr. Busztin took note of the statement issued by the Government of Iraq announcing it has initiated its own investigation into the tragic events and acknowledging its responsibility for the safety of the camp’s residents. “I call on the Iraqi government to ensure that a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into this atrocious crime is conducted without delay and that the results of the investigation are made public”, he said.

Deb Wasserman may not grasp the basics so let's review slowly.

Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."

"As a Jew," Debbie Wasserman, shouldn't attacks on encampments of persons alarm you?  Attacks carried out by government forces?  Shouldn't that bother you?  Or do use Nazi Germany allusions as rarely as you use soap and water?  There is no oil crisis, we need only figure out how to tap into all the oil on Debbie's face and in her hair and the term "energy crisis" will be a relic of the past.

Liars supporting an attack on Syria say that a red line has been crossed?

How many times is Nouri al-Maliki going to be allowed to attack the Ashraf community before your so-called 'humanitarian' concerns kick in?  Unlike Barack's claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has gassed (and killed) a community, there are no doubts as to what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has done.  Despite giving his word to the US government at the end of 2008 that he would not attack the Ashraf community, he has repeatedly done so.  He has killed them repeatedly -- so much so that it could be argued the world's 'exit plan' for the Ashraf community is passage by bullet.

Independent Catholic News reports today:

A spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “The Iraqi government has a moral and legal duty to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. The Baghdad authorities must ensure the safety of the residents to prevent any more violence being inflicted on them and to facilitate their swift resettlement in a third country, under international supervision.”
The Anglican Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, said he was "troubled by reports of the latest attacks" - "and by news that Iraq has been denying the Ashraf residents the right to family visits and full access to proper medical treatment".
Bishop Pritchard said that he would like to see United States' forces "take back responsibility for protecting Camp Ashraf".

Yet Debbie Wasserman-Schultz hasn't said one word -- "as a Jew" or as a member of the US government, she's not said one word.  John Kerry hasn't said one word.  The US government has a legal obligation to the Ashraf community.  By international law, they are bound to secure the safety of these residents.  Barack cites no international law aspect to his desire to attack Syria because there is no such law.   And, get honest, there's no real humanitarian concern about Syria or the residents of Syria.

The liars can't fight with facts so they make emotional appeals.  You see that on every level.  Marcia noted last night that Russian President Vladimir Putin rightly called out the lies John Kerry has been spouting off lately.  Today, Matthew Lee (AP) reports the official State Dept response to that: spokesperson Jen Psaki declared Kerry to be "a decorated combat veteran who has had more than words aimed at him."  Oh, alright then.

What the hell does that have to do with whether or not he's a liar?  And, excuse me, but in the United States, roughly 40% of the population feels that "decorated combat veteran" Kerry lied about his Vietnam experiences, he is widely and publicly denounced by other veterans of that war, and didn't he toss ribbons of honor in a protest?  Yeah, he did.  So maybe next time Jen has no logical response to "Kerry lied," she can describe him as "a half-decorated combat veteran"?

And please grasp how sad and disgusting Psaki's words are.  She is trying to shut down a discussion by gasping "combat veteran!"  Sorry, Jen, it's not a protective shield.

More importantly, how dare the supposed diplomatic branch of the United States try to hide behind the Pentagon?  That's the best they can offer?  Well that's Barack's administration for you: The Worst  and The Dullest.

And sadly, they can't even lie well.  Bully Boy Bush has them beat clearly.  Grasp the current administration is not just liars, they are bad liars.  John Glaser ( compares Kerry's lying to Congress to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's lies -- and no one in this administration ever gets punished for lying but damned if Barack doesn't go after truth tellers like whistle blowers Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden and reporters like the New York Times' James Risen.   Former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich offers a piece on ten claims they are making that have not been backed up.  Here's the first one:

The questions the Obama administration needs to answer before Congress can even consider voting on Syria:

Claim #1. The administration claims a chemical weapon was used.

The UN inspectors are still completing their independent evaluation.

Who provided the physiological samples of sarin gas on which your evaluation is based? Were any other non-weaponized chemical agents discovered or sampled?

Who from the United States was responsible for the chain of custody?

Where was the laboratory analysis conducted?

Were U.S. officials present during the analysis of the samples? Does your sample show military grade or lower grade sarin gas?

Can you verify that your sample matches the exact composition of the alleged Syrian government composition?

Dennis is out of Congress.  Sadly, 73-year-old Nancy Pelosi remains there.  Vast amounts of plastic surgery have obscured her age (though not made her look young or even younger).  They apparently have obscured her judgment as well.  David Jackson (USA Today) notes she gushed that Barack is one "tough hombre."

We get it, Nance, no one sports a bigger strap-on dildo than you, you are the exception that proves Freud's laughable penis envy theory, we get it.  But as you praise Barack's Hombre Diplomacia grasp it's no different than the Cowboy Diplomacy of Bully Boy Bush which you used to call out.

Like John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi is Catholic.  Vatican Radio reports, "Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world on Wednesday, once again inviting Christians of every denomination, believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will to take part in the worldwide fast and vigil of prayer and penance for peace, which he has called for September 7th, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, whom we venerate as Queen of Peace."  Independent Catholic News adds, "There will be prayers for peace in St Peter's Square and in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, this Saturday.  The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, has welcomed the Pope's appeal and will be there praying and fasting for peace in his country. In an official letter sent,through the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, the Mufti said he is preparing to participate in the special pro-Syria day on September 7, and proposes organizing an interfaith meeting with the Hoiy See."  And AFP quotes the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Monsignor Mario Toso, declaring, "The Syria conflict has all the ingredients to explode into a war of global dimensions. The solution to Syria's problems is not in armed intervention. Violence will not decrease and there is a risk of a conflagration that extends to other countries."
Many world leaders are in St. Petersburg today for the G-20.  Russian President Vladimir Putin is presiding.  Reuters notes, "Pope Francis, in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the G20 conference, urged world leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution" in Syria."  Vatican Radio has posted the letter in full and we'll include this section:

From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself, as seen, for example, in the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, the many armed conflicts which continue to afflict the world today present us daily with dramatic images of misery, hunger, illness and death. Without peace, there can be no form of economic development. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development.
The meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the twenty most powerful economies, with two-thirds of the world’s population and ninety per cent of global GDP, does not have international security as its principal purpose. Nevertheless, the meeting will surely not forget the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Syria. It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding. The leaders of the G20 cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of the beloved Syrian people which has lasted far too long, and even risks bringing greater suffering to a region bitterly tested by strife and needful of peace. To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community. Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.

Barack is attending the G-20 as well.  This spring, he was shunned at the G-8 (when it was group photo time, other leaders made a rush to walk in order not to be walking with Barack -- this was even evident in the photos the White House posted).  AFP reports today, "World leaders arrived Thursday for a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin where they would discuss the crisis in Syria, with US President Barack Obama showing up alone and well after the main group."  David Jackson and Zach Coleman (USA Today) report:

President Obama renewed efforts Thursday to persuade global allies to back a military strike on Syria over the use of chemical weapons, a strategy he is also pushing with members of Congress in the United States.
Attending a G-20 summit in Russia otherwise devoted to the global economy, Obama said before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he looked forward to "an extensive conversation" about Syria.
That includes "our joint recognition that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed," Obama said.
No wonder they avoid him.  Yesterday, he tried to pretend his ridiculous red line was somehow the world's red line.  This was addressed on Jake Tapper's The Lead (CNN -- link is text and video):
President Barack Obama argued Wednesday that any red line he drew against chemical weapons use in Syria was based on international norms, saying: "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line."
One year ago, in Agusut 2012, Obama said, "A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized ... That would change my calculus."
"What he's trying to do is depersonalize this. He's come under a lot of criticism. People are saying it's your red line, you set it, now we have to take military strikes so you don't lose your credibility," said CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger. "In fact, it is his red line. He drew the red line, he spoke about it – the two are not mutually exclusive. It could be the world's and his. He is going to Congress asking for this military action. I think he owns the request," said Borger. "What he was trying to do is say to Republicans in particular, 'You don't need to do this for me. Take me out of this.'"
And there is Iraq.  Yesterday Adam Schreck (AP) Tweeted:
Krishnadev Calamur (NPR) looks at the region and how they view an attack on Syria.  We'll note the section on Iraq:

Iraq has been careful to maintain neutrality in Syria, but its prime minister blamed the recent increase in violence on what was happening next door.
"The internal situation in Syria is playing a major role with what's happening in Iraq," Nouri al-Maliki said .
He was also critical of the proposed in Syria.
"The military solution is a dead end that has nothing in it but the destruction of Syria," he said. "Nothing is obvious on the horizon other than destruction, catastrophe and a civil war that has no winner."
Maliki previously would further destabilize the region.
In recent years, Iraq has drawn closer to Iran, and, , has granted Iran access to its airspace to deliver weapons and fighters to Assad.
It's worth pointing out that the Obama administration, in its attempt to make a case for military action in Syria, has insisted it , where the U.S. spent more than eight years until the withdrawal of troops in 2011.

 On this, Nouri's position is the position of a number of Iraqis.  But it is not the position of Iraq.  The KRG only recently made a statement to the effect of they will stay out of it.  The Kurds in Iraq generally speaking support the Kurds in Syria.  In Iraq, the Kurds have a semi-autonomous area.  In Syria, they do not.  The US-invasion of Iraq toppled the presidency of Saddam Hussein and his government which was seen as serving the Sunni population.  After the invasion, the (US-installed) Shi'ites took over.  They are the majority population in Iraq.  In Syria, it's the other side of the coin with an estimated 74% of the population being Sunni Muslim.  Some Sunnis in Iraq support the Sunnis in Syria and some Iraqi Sunnis cross the border to fight in the Syrian War.  (Some Iraqi Shi'ites also cross the border to fight in Syria's civil war.)

The whole point here is that when you step away from leaders, you find a wider view and it's really simplistic to say: This is the Iraq view.

NPR would have been better off presenting Nouri's view as Nouri's and noting that Moqtada al-Sadr and Ayad Allawi are among those in agreement with him.  In the Sadr bloc's statements made yesterday, the Sadr bloc specifically noted that there was a wide range of opinions re: Syria within the National Iraqi Alliance -- a Shi'ite alliance of various political groups including Moqtada's bloc, Nouri's State of Law,  Ibrahim al-Jaafari's National Reform Trend, Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, and Ammar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
Today, Tim Arango (New York Times) goes into more detail and facts than the NPR analysis did:

Now that the United States is considering missile strikes on Syria, Iraqi Shiites like Abu Mohaned say they see history repeating itself -- even if across a border -- and they are prepared to once again take on a familiar adversary. If the United States strikes Syria, Iraqi Shiites will see it as their fight, too, and pour across the border to assist Mr. Assad, many people here said.
“No honorable man will accept what the Americans want to do in Syria,” Abu Mohaned said, reflecting the view of Iraq’s Shiite majority who see any threat to Mr. Assad as an intervention on the side of a Sunni-led, Al Qaeda-aligned rebellion.
It's a strong analysis which should be read in full.  Al Mada reports that the Iraqi Council for Peace and Solidarity issued a statement today saying a military strike on Syria would be harmful, would not restore order and, without UN approval, would be illegal.   It should also be noted that Iraq already has enough problems to address without a US attack on Syria.  Mashreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) observes:

Here, in a country such as Iraq, there is talk of “dictatorial” solutions to the Iraqi crisis. This nation is dreaming of a savior — similar to Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — to stage a coup and bring the crises back to ground zero.
On Aug. 31, some Iraqi state institutions were indirectly talking about a “dictatorship is the solution” hypothesis, even if masked by numerous national and democratic slogans.
On this date, just hours before the start of protests across the country — organized by youth groups and calling on the government to cancel pensions for members of parliament and special rank civil servants — Iraq’s chief prosecutor issued a statement requesting that protesters postpone their movement until the security situation stabilizes.
His statement included expressions such as: “postponing protests until times of safety and stability,” “a high sense of national responsibility to confront the growing terrorist threat backed by foreign states” and “whoever fails to fulfill his duty to protect Iraq, its people and properties will be thrown into the trash bin of history and will be cursed; no one will feel sorry for him.”
This statement coincided with another issued by the Iraqi Interior Ministry for the same purpose. This last statement included even more threatening expressions such as warnings that Baathists and terrorists could infiltrate the protests.

Kitabat reports that Basra is witnessing a series of assassinations and the targets are "peaceful Sunni men."  The weapons of choice are said to be guns with silencers.  The report states that government officials know of these assassinations, know who is behind them and yet turns a blind eye allowing the criminals to have no fears of punishment.
 The Vatican spoke out against war with Iraq as well.  No one in the administration seemed to concerned back then.  They probably won't now.  But were I a practicing Catholic, like John Kerry, I think the call from the Vatican would have some resonance.  When the head of your church/faith is calling for peace talks, how do you blow that off?

Last night, Ruth weighed in on how Texas and Mississippi National Guard are at present not honoring marriage equality.  Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (and chaired it until becoming, this year, the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee).  Her office issued the following on the new order regarding the military and marriage equality:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, September 05, 2013                                                                               (202) 224-2834
Senator Murray’s Statement on VA Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement after U.S. Attorney General Holder announced yesterday that President Obama has directed the Justice Department to stop enforcing Department of Veterans Affairs provisions which deny full access to spousal benefits for same-sex married couples:
“This long-awaited move by the Obama Administration is a major step towards finally ensuring each of our heroes and their spouses receive the same quality care and services once they leave the military – no matter who they love. And after pressing Secretary Shinseki to expedite the process for dignified, same-sex burials in our national cemeteries, I am thrilled yesterday’s news will no longer force veterans to face uncertainty when mourning the loss of their spouse. Our veterans and their families, who selflessly served our nation and have given so much, will finally be afforded the benefits they have so rightly earned. This is not only a matter of fairness and equity, it is simply the right thing to do.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834
RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office