President Obama did Americans a favor by bungling his recent attempt to please his powerful backers who have long wanted the United States to overthrow the Assad dynasty in Syria.
Global and domestic critics thwarted the U.S. military action, at least for the time being. Obama and his team were not able to win credible U.S. and international support for bombing the Syrian installations as reprisal to the ruling government for the massive deaths of civilians in a suburb of Damascus from a gas attack Aug. 21. Obama has claimed the government inflicted the attack but has produced little evidence to counter denials.
One new development is a study showing, Cable News Far More Hawkish On Syria Than Public: Pew. "Poll after poll after poll has found that a large majority of Americans opposed a strike on Syria. But Pew found that in the week studied, the overall percentage of cable stories conveying a message that America should get involved (47% ) solidly outnumbered stories with messages counseling against a strike (27%).
A news story receiving little coverage in the United States further illustrated the pattern. It was a television interview in Europe of a Belgian teacher/journalist released after five months of captivity by the Free Syrian Army. Pierre Piccinin said he and a fellow hostage, an Italian journalist, overheard statements by rebels showing their responsibility for the attack on the target site, a rebel-held area.
Piccinin, a part-time journalist, said in the video interview that he had a "moral duty" to speak out against the Free Syrian Army, which he said he supported originally. He said he saw, however, that the main rebel group supported by the United States disintegrate into kidnapping, banditry, and the kind of brutal treatment that victimized him and his fellow captive.
We cannot know all the facts. But Obama surely knows there is a conflict that he and his team do not resolve when they cite secret evidence and seek to create new international law for this specific situation instead of using previous procedures, including those at the United Nations.
Syria's agreement to destroy its chemical weapons -- the Russia-brokered compromise to a U.S. bombing attack on Syria -- apparently provided a face-saving solution for Obama. Putin set the stage with an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, A Plea for Caution From Russia. But negotiations between the U.S. and Russia began Sept. 12 in Geneva on a tense note.
Following an orchestrated build-up for a bombing campaign, Obama had been poised to undergo a humiliating defeat of historic scale on the congressional war vote this week. It appeared that he was likely to suffer the worst defeat for a president on a major foreign policy issue since the Senate rejected President Wilson's bid in 1920 to join the League of Nations.
If Obama had proceeded with bombing despite an adverse vote? GOP members would have promptly launched an impeachment effort. Obama would have had a dog-fight for the rest of his term even if (as likely) impeachment efforts fell far short of a majority.
At this point, the high costs that the president was willing to pay for his projected bombing campaign require disclosure of the powers-behind-the-throne. They will resurface with another plan. The American public needs to be aware of the power they wield.
One indication is a major Guardian investigation Sept. 11 that revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) delivers to Israel raw intelligence regarding the electronic communications of ordinary Americans under no suspicion of wrongdoing.
Glenn Greenwald broke the story in NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel. The column derived from materials from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who most recently worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. The subtext shows, as does the Syrian attack effort by Obama, the high priority top federal officials place on assisting Israel even if it secretly undercuts traditional privacy rights that ordinary American citizens might think they possess.
Obama's planned escalation in Syria cannot be understood without reference to the pressure he faced from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel, and their Western business partners to promote revolution in Syria and wider war. The Mideast governments are allied with business interests in the United States -- and in United Kingdom and France, former colonial rulers of Saudi Arabia and Syria, respectively. The cost to U.S. taxpayers of Tomahawk missiles alone would constitute a windfall for Raytheon, the primary manufacturer. The spending would have occurred at the same time much of the nation experiences a stagnated economy of low-wage, dead-end jobs while interest rates rocket upward, creating more job losses in the housing industry during recent months.
Direct income to well-positioned war contractors is only a small part of the geo-political planning by power-brokers for the oil-rich Mideast, which carries great religious significance also, of course.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is the most visible face of this war lobby in the United States, along with his GOP sidekick, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina.
The key U.S. government player, however, is CIA Director John Brennan, whose career encompasses close bonding with Bush, Saudi, and Obama personnel -- as well as the key financial and operational elements of the war lobby. Brennan chaired the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an association of intelligence professionals, after he ended the first stage of his 25-year CIA career with a Bush appointment to lead the National Counterterrorism Center. As chief of counter-intelligence in the Obama White House, Brennan met daily with the president and could guide him on preferred policies.
In my new book Presidential Puppetry, I call Brennan a "string" between the power elite and the puppets: Brennan helps the elite manipulate the action in ways difficult for the audience to see.
Brennan developed close relationships with members of the Saudi royal family during his years as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s.
In arguing for a U.S. escalation of the war, Gulf royalty would hardly want to be seen, with their colorful robes flowing, traipsing through the White House visitor gates.
It might create a spectacle for the American commoners, or even a protest. In a scene captured on YouTube this month, former CIA Director and Iraq "surge" architect David Petraeus had to endure extreme heckling from ungrateful students as he arrived at City University of New York to teach a class on energy policy. Petraeus, among his other pursuits, now leads a Wall Street hedge fund under the banner of KKR.
As one measure of how much the government and mainstream media tilt toward war escalation, McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry each praised during a Senate hearing last week the advocacy of a young research analyst who was later fired from a pro-war think tank for lying about her educational credentials. McCain had read into the Senate record a Wall Street Journal oped by "Dr." Elizabeth O'Bagy, age 26, a senior research analyst for the DC-based Institute for the Study of War. She has recently appeared on Fox News and CNN, each of which has major investments from Saudi sources.
A separate story below examines that incident in depth. As an overview, the significance is not so much the resume-building of one ambitious careerist. That is common enough among the upwardly mobile opinion-leaders. The real story instead is that McCain and Kerry, the top foreign policy office-holding eminences of the Republican and Democratic Parties, would so enthusiastically endorse her judgments, as would some of the nation's most prominent news organizations.
The simple explanation is that the formula of attractive young women justifying war has proven highly effective in recent years in shaping public opinion. The subliminal message to viewers: War is not just to please grumpy old men, anti-Muslim fanatics, and fat-cat contractors. Instead, the right kind of attack can curtail chemical killing and genocide -- and otherwise advance democracy and other human rights.
Meanwhile, dissenting points of view by vastly more experienced experts are ignored if not suppressed.For example, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, is confined almost exclusively to blogs and foreign media as he publishes hard-hitting columns denouncing both the Obama and Bush administrations for wrecking the U.S. economy and reputation by pursuing horrific Mideast wars on the basis of what he calls lies and greed. The former Reagan assistant treasury secretary and author is a conservative scholar who has taught at major universities and authored well-regarded books.
The Rule of Zombies: Why Are Obama and Kerry So Desperate to Start a New War? is one of his many columns this past week on Syria. His judgments are harsh. For example, he describes the Obama and Bush administrations as "regimes," much as the Western media describe Syria's government. His "zombies" column claims in part:
The Russian government has given evidence to the UN that conclusively proves that the al-Nusra, al-Qaeda affiliated invaders are responsible for the attack. There is also conclusive proof that the “rebels” have chemical weapons. In addition, a highly regarded journalist has reported, using direct quotes and the names of al-Nusra fighters, that the chemical weapons were given to al-Nusra by Saudi Arabia without proper handling instructions, and that an accidental explosion occurred before al-Nusra could use the Saudi-supplied weapons to frame-up the Assad government.Very few people in the general public know that scholars such as Roberts exist since he is in effect blackballed from the mainstream media. But it is useful to understand the existence of such scholars, especially necessary after U.S. deceptions leading to previous war votes enabling fighting in Iraq and Vietnam.
The arguments by Obama, Kerry, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power rang hollow. As a senator campaigning for the presidency, Obama had opposed in 2007 the possibility of a Bush bombardment of Iran in similar circumstances. Senator Biden had invoked his experience as a senator to describe any Bush-initiated bombing as unconstitutional — and grounds for impeachment.
Power’s status as an academic and a humanitarian paralleled Obama’s own career path. That background seemingly provides scholarly credentials for what might appear to the laity to be an incompatible combination: bombing to advance human rights. Power, shown at left, was far from alone in such advocacy, however. Many scholars, journalists, and diplomats in influential posts made similar arguments that ignored all inconvenient evidence. This kind of conventional wisdom by seemingly disconnected opinion leaders has often occurred in the Anglo-American establishment, as the late Georgetown professor Carroll Quigley documented in his iconic books and lectures.The late summer congressional dispute about bombing Syria pitted the public versus the puppet masters more clearly than any previous policy debate in memory.
Congressional constituent calls were running at least nine or ten to one against a U.S. bombing attack, according to many reports. The American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) launched a nearly unprecedented lobbying campaign in favor of bombing, as described in such columns as A Defeat for All-Powerful AIPAC?
Defense contractors, Qatari, and Saudi interests were among those seeking bombing also after the Saudis reportedly offered Putin $15 billion in arms and oil deals to abandon its alliance with Syria. The alternative media reported evidence that rebels and their allies had the motive, means, and track record for the fatal chemical attack in Syria. Rebels had been caught with gas previously. Many of the rebels were foreign jihadists not necessarily loyal to the Syrian civilians who were killed.
Most important, the rebels and their foreign sponsors had every motive to undertake a false flag attack to invoke United States military power to reverse rebel losses on the ground. Syrians, especially Christians, Kurds, and other minorities, were withdrawing their initial support for a rebellion against Assad.
Democratic strategist and longtime Soviet foe Zbigniew Brzezinski remarked in a little-noted and relatively rare interview, Brzezinski on the Syria Crisis, that he could not understand why Obama announced in 2011 that Assad must resign. He reiterated that view in another smallish publication. Even if Roberts is too controversial these days for the public eye Brzezinski, right, is readily available via a major establishment think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Meanwhile, conservatives Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and Laura Ingraham, and Libertarians Alex Jones and Ron Paul voiced views similar to those from the progressive left. Buchanan said, for example, that the chemical attack in Syria “reeks of a false flag operation.” Their common opponent was Wall Street, the military and energy sectors, and the political establishment represented by the leadership of the two political parties — and the major news organizations that slanted coverage to pro-bombing themes.
Most news reports focused on the benefits of war as: restricting chemical weapons use, promoting democracy, helping “Free Syria Army” rebels, and curtailing the power of foes of the United States, most notably Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, and Syria itself. United States public officials widely acknowledged those goals. Less obvious (and sometimes almost entirely secret) were additional potential motives, such as helping Qatar achieve easier pipeline access to Europe for its gas through Syria. Other benefits for Syria’s neighbors include destruction of Syria’s military power as a factor in the region.
This column's title promised an explanation of why puppet masters need presidents.
The answer, of course, is that the White House provides a unique soapbox to inspire and to command. Those like Obama who ascend to that stage have passed many tests to prove their steadfast loyalty on core issues -- and to develop powers of persuasion appealing to a popular audience.
But sometimes a podium is not enough, thank God.
FireDogLake, Guilty! UN Report on Syria Does Not Say What John Kerry Says It Said, Peter Van Buren, Sept. 20, 2013. Peter Van Buren, right, blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, 'We Meant Well'. The UN released its report on chemical weapons use in Syria. You can read it here. It’s not that long, just some forty pages including legal appendices. John Kerry says it confirms that the Assad regime fired the gas rockets. Unfortunately, that is not what the actual report says. In a court, Kerry’s case might be seen as circumstantial at best, certainly not enough for a jury to return a guilty verdict in a murder trial. The problem is that the report does not confirm anything other than chemical weapons were used. The U.S. is wholly misrepresenting facts in favor of another Middle East war. Unlike a fictional murder trial where one man’s life is on the line, should the U.S. attack Syria many, many people will lose their lives.
Huffington Post, Cable News Far More Hawkish On Syria Than Public: Pew, Jack Mirkinson, Sept. 17, 2013. A Pew study on Monday attracted attention for its assertion that Al Jazeera America, which promised a different take on the world than its cable news counterparts, mostly mirrored their approach when it came to the debate over Syria. But an equally interesting portion of the study found that all of the cable news channels were markedly more hawkish in their coverage than the public as a whole. Poll after poll after poll has found that a large majority of Americans opposed a strike on Syria. But Pew found that, "in the week studied, the overall percentage of cable stories conveying a message that America should get involved (47% ) solidly outnumbered stories with messages counseling against a strike (27%)." The breakdowns are striking. For Al Jazeera, pro-strike messages outnumbered anti-strike ones by 43-24%. On CNN, it was 45-23. On Fox News, it was 45-20. MSNBC, Pew found, had by far the most pro-strike sentiment, with a whopping 64%. But the network also had far more messages of opposition (39%) than its counterparts.
Video of Teacher/Journalist/Hostage Blaming 'Rebels' For Deadly Chemical Attacks That United States Blames on Government
Eretz Zen, FSA's Freed Belgian Hostage: FSA, NOT Syrian Govt, Behind Damascus Chemical Attack on August 21, Sept. 10, 2013. Two Europeans who were abducted and held hostage for several months in Syria claim they overheard an exchange between their captors which proves that 'rebels' were behind the recent chemical attack. In a number of interviews to European news outlets, the former hostages -- Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin and Italian journalist Domenico Quirico -- said they overheard an English-language Skype conversation between their captors and other men which suggested it was 'rebel' forces, not the government, that used chemical weapons on Syria's civilian population in an August 21 attack near Damascus.
"It is a moral duty to say this. The government of Bashar al-Assad did not use sarin gas or other types of gas in the outskirts of Damascus," Piccinin said during an interview with Belgium's RTL radio station. Piccinin stressed that while being held captive, he and fellow prisoner Quirico were secluded from the outside world and had no idea that chemical weapons were deployed. But the conversation which both men overheard suggested that the use of the weapons was a strategic move by the opposition, aimed at getting the West to intervene. "In this conversation, they said that the gas attack on two neighborhoods of Damascus was launched by the 'rebels' as a provocation to lead the West to intervene militarily," Quirico told Italy's La Stampa. "We were unaware of everything that was going on during our detention in Syria, and therefore also with the gas attack in Damascus."
While stating that the rebels most likely exaggerated the accident's death toll, the Italian journalist stressed that he could not vouch whether "the conversation was based on real facts." However, he said that one of the three people in the alleged conversation identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general, La Stampa reported. Based on what both men have learned, Peccinin told RTL that it would be "insane and suicidal for the West to support these people." "It pains me to say it because I've been a fierce supporter of the Free Syrian Army in its rightful fight for democracy since 2012," Piccinin added. "There was sometimes real violence...humiliation, bullying, mock executions...Domenico faced two mock executions, with a revolver," Piccinin told RTL. Both men were kidnapped in Syria last April by a group of armed men in pickup trucks who were believed to be from Free Syrian Army. According to Piccinin, the captors soon transferred them over to the Abu Ammar brigade, a rebel group "more bandit than Islamist." "We were moved around a lot...it was not always the same group that held us, there were very violent groups, very anti-West and some anti-Christian," Piccinin said. The Italian government announced on Sunday that both men had been freed after Rome intensified negotiations with the 'rebels' for the release of the prisoners ahead of an anticipated US strike on Syria. Another 13 journalists are still believed to be missing in Syria, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Photogenic Pro-Rebel Syria Expert Unmasked As Careerist
Senator John McCain of Arizona, an advocate of more United States aid to the Free Syrian Army, sought to show during a Senate hearing that aid would not fall into the hands of radical Islam jihadists also fighting the Syrian government of Assad.
To illustrate his point, McCain cited the expertise of Elizabeth O'Bagy, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War shown at left during a recent appearance as an expert on Fox News.
The institute is run by Dr. Kimberly Kagan, wife of Dr. Frederick Kagan. The two are among five members of the family prominent in foreign affairs and closely identified with the neo-con movement. In 1996, two family members signed the Project for a New American Century document advocating war against Iraq. Victoria Nuland, Kimberly Kagan's sister-in-law via marriage to conservative scholar Robert Kagan, has bipartisan credentials after serving in high-ranking posts in the Bush and administrations. For the latter, she was State Department spokeswoman under Secretary Clinton.
O'Bagy helped arrange McCain's drop-by earlier this year to a Free Syrian Army post in Syria that became controversial because the senator was photographed with a purported radical jihadist, among others.
McCain's questions are as follows:
SEN. MCCAIN: Secretary Kerry -- John, over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran an important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O'Bagy -- I hope you saw it -- a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, spent a great deal of time inside Syria, including just this month.
And I want to read her assessment of the situation on the ground. And I quote the story. "The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups; this isn't the case. Moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory. Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely or even predominately by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards. The jihadists pouring into Syria from countries like Iraq and Lebanon are not flocking to the front lines. Instead, they are concentrating their efforts on consolidating control in the northern rebel-held areas of the country. Moderate opposition forces -- a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army -- continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime. While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I've watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups. They've demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authority, working closely with local administrative councils, and they've struggled to ensure that their fight against Assad will pave the way for a flourishing civil society."
John, do you agree with Dr. O'Bagy's assessment of the opposition?
SEC. KERRY: I agree with most of that. They have changed significantly. They have improved, and as I said earlier, the fundamentals of Syria are secular, and I believe, will stay that way.
SEN. MCCAIN: And I think it's very important to point out, again, as you just said -- it's a secular state. They would reject radical Islamists, and they, in some cases -- in the areas in which they have control, the people are demonstrating against them, is the information I have.
Huffington Post reporter Michael Calderone continued: "For McCain and Kerry, each advocating intervention, the op-ed served as a way to speak to concerns over the make-up of the forces fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, and whether they're hostile to U.S. interests."
However, it turns out that the recent master's degree recipient from Georgetown University does not have a doctorate, as she has claimed. Further, her work as an advocate for rebel troops came to light only after her op-ed and television appearances. Calderone wrote, "O’Bagy told The Daily Caller that she was paid as a contractor and she was not an employee of the group. She also said she was not directly involved in its lobbying. However, she did work with the group to help arrange McCain's visit with Free Syrian Army commanders in May."
"I’m not a warmonger,” she has responded to Politico. “I’m not advocating the United States start a war or get in the middle of one. At heart, I’m just a researcher. I love being in the field. I love doing the interviews and collecting the data.” She also said she is well on her way to earning a doctorate.
Whatever the case, the reliance of the nation's leading administration and GOP foreign policy office-holders and leading media organizations on her expertise shows how slanted the process can be as the war-lobby promotes the image of youthful, photogenic, non-veterans to ease public concerns over war escalation. The Huffington Post reported:
And while Kerry spoke before Congress about O'Bagy's "enormous" experience covering Syria, Janine Di Giovanni, a veteran foreign correspondent who has reported on the ground there, suggested that the young researcher had “exaggerated wildly her experience inside Syria.”
Di Giovanni told HuffPost that she's sure O'Bagy has read on Syrian history and the Assad family and that she's had some on-the-ground experience, "but not what she led Kerry and others to believe."
"Those of us who work in Syria, as reporters or researchers, are a very small group of people,” di Giovanni said. “We’re all incredibly cautious. We’re all protective of each other. It’s a very difficult job and difficult war to work in. It’s not a war to cut your teeth in. A lot of people were quite shocked when a 26-year-old Ph.D, so-called Syria expert who appeared to have never worked in the region, and whom no one had heard of, appeared on CNN and other networks as a Syrian expert.”
Appendix Of O'Bagy Coverage
Politico, WSJ op-ed writer Elizabeth O’Bagy fired for resume lie, MacKenzie Weinger and Kate Brannen, Sept. 11, 2013. The Syria researcher whose Wall Street Journal op-piece was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during congressional hearings about the use of force has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for lying about having a Ph.D., the group announced on Wednesday. “The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the institute said in a statement.
Huffington Post, Elizabeth O'Bagy, Syria Researcher Cited By Kerry And McCain In Hearings, Fired For Ph.D Claim, Michael Calderone, Sept. 11, 2013. During last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on possible military strikes against Syria, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) read from an “important op-ed by Dr. Elizabeth O’Bagy,” whom he described as a “Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.” That group fired O'Bagy Wednesday after learning she had falsely claimed she holds a Ph.D. O'Bagy, 26, has recently appeared on CNN and Fox News as a Syria expert, but had her public profile raised last week when McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry, right, cited her work in front of members of Congress discussing the possibility of military intervention in Syria.
CNN, Wagging the dog: The tale of Elizabeth O'Bagy, Jack Tapper, Sept. 11, 2013. "Wag the Dog" was a dark comedy about a fake war sold to the American people by public relations professionals and a Hollywood producer....It's all part of the weird world of Washington – a doctor who is not a doctor writes an op-ed testifying for the rebels, without disclosing that she is paid for by a rebel advocacy group, and her words are seized as evidence by experts – Kerry and McCain. It reminded some, a little, of when the Bush-Cheney administration leaked information in 2002 to New York Times reporter Judith Miller about Saddam Hussein trying to obtain metal tubes as part of his alleged plan to make a nuclear bomb. The story was page one on the Sunday edition of the New York Times, and that same day, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press. There is no need to exaggerate this connection because no one has credibly disputed anything O'Bagy wrote, while obviously the falsehoods distributed in the build-up to the war in Iraq are now the stuff of legend. But it is a reminder that a lot of stuff going on in D.C. is not organic, and is a lot more coordinated than many realize.
Related Syria Crisis News Coverage
U.S.-Russian Weapons Negotiations in Geneva
AP via Huffington Post, Syria Chemical Weapons: UN Security Council To Debate Resolution To End Bashar Assad's Arms Program, Matthew Lee and Sylvie Corbet, Sept. 16, 2013. The French foreign minister says an international conference to reach a political solution in Syria will include the opposition and will take place at the same time as the U.N. considers a detailed plan to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons program. Laurent Fabius said Monday the chief opposition movement will be invited to the meeting, which will take place in New York while the U.N. is meeting. The top diplomats from the United States, France and Britain stood side by side Monday to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to uphold his end of any deal on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. The United Nations Security Council is set in coming days to take up a resolution laying out plans for the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia.
Washington Post, U.S., Russia agree on plan to seize Syria’s chemical arsenal, Anne Gearan, Colum Lynch and Karen DeYoung, Sept. 13, 2013. The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply. Opposition to military action against Syria appears to be even stronger in the Hampton Roads area, home to the nation’s largest naval base, than in the country at large.
Washington Post, Syria situation further strains Obama's relationship with the antiwar movement, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 13, 2013 Antiwar activists have run television and print ads, held rallies, organized petitions and blanketed congressional switchboards — all with messages of opposition to the president. “This moment around Syria is a high-water mark for progressives speaking out on military policy or foreign policy under Obama,” said Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org. “We strongly and publicly broke with the president on foreign policy for the first time.”
Washington Post, War-weary residents near Norfolk Naval Station quietly oppose military action in Syria, Carol Morello, Sept. 13, 2013. The sailors and Marines who frequent Rodney McKeithan’s barbershop are so exhausted that they often fall asleep in the chair while he shears their close crops even shorter. “They’re drained when they come in,” said McKeithan, 45, a retired Navy ship serviceman who operates three Custom Kutz barbershops near Naval Station Norfolk. “They talk all the time about how tired they are.”
New York Times, A Plea for Caution From Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, Sept. 11, 2013. What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria. Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies. Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
Washington Post, Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed, annotated and fact-checked, Max Fisher, Sept. 12, 2013. Russian President Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in today's New York Times urging President Obama not to strike Syria. It's a fascinating document -- a very Russian perspective translated into American vernacular, an act of public diplomacy aimed at the American public and the latest chess move in the U.S.-Russia standoff over Syria, one in which we the readers are implicated. Putin does make a number of valid and even compelling points, but there is an undeniable hypocrisy and even some moments of dishonesty between the lines.
Washington Post, U.S.-Russia talks on Syria chemical arsenal begin on tense note, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung, Sept. 12, 2013. U.S.-Russia talks over eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons began here Thursday on a wary and stilted note, as Secretary of State John F. Kerry said U.S. military forces remain poised to attack Syria if a credible agreement is not rapidly reached and implemented. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad added to the tension by saying that he is willing to place his chemical arsenal under international control — but only if the United States stops threatening military action and arming rebel forces trying to unseat him.
President Obama's Syria Speech
Washington Post, Inaction would embolden Assad, other hostile regimes, Zachary A. Goldfarb and David Nakamura, Sept. 10, 2013. In an address to the nation, the president says Syria’s alleged gas attacks violated humanity’s “basic rules,” putting our principles and national security at stake.
White House, President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the White House on Syria, Sept. 10, 2013.
Agonist via OpEd News, The people spoke through the eloquence of unity on Syria, Michael Collins, Sept. 11, 2013. The people spoke through the eloquence of unity to stop the attack on Syria and focus on problems at home. The war merchants will not give up. Vigilance and strength are the keys to defeating them again.
Agonist, Obama’s speech on Syria – analysis, Michael Collins, Sept. 10, 2013. President Barack Obama spoke as if his political future was on the line Wednesday evening during his address to the nation on the Syria crisis. He went through the horrors of the Syrian civil war, blamed the Syrian government for the August 21 chemical weapons attack, and provided verifiable (but, as yet, unverified) statements of fact concerning his certainty that the Syrian government initiated the chemical weapons attack. Before acknowledging the deal that was done to prevent an attack — the surrender of chemical weapons to Russia by the Bashar al-Assad government — the president went through his rationale for planning an attack on Syria and his switch to unilateral action to congressional involvement. He then explained how he submitted his proposal to Congress. The president ended with some war talk about the consequences for the Syrian government if they failed to live up to the to the chemical weapons surrender and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The speech was crisply delivered and concise. It also glossed over or distorted some key factors.
Atlantic, 7 Reasons Why the Public Is Right to Mistrust Obama on Syria, Conor Friedersdorf, Sept. 9, 2013. The public lacks basic confidence in Washington's foreign-policy judgment, and that skepticism is justified. Let us consider just some of the reasons that is so: 1. Team Obama acknowledged that the Iraq catastrophe is part of why Americans are wary of another war, and promised Syria isn't going to be the same. It's as if they don't understand why Iraq makes people wary. What Iraq taught Americans -- what Vietnam taught before that -- is that Washington foreign-policy planners cannot accurately say beforehand just how long a war will last, how much it will cost, or how many Americans it might ultimately kill, even though many of them earnestly believe that their prognostication is accurate.
Washington Post, On the path to success, Obama is giving diplomacy a chance, Fareed Zakaria, Sept. 11, 2013. Whatever the twisted path, whether by design or accident, the Obama administration has ended up in a better place on Syria than looked possible even days ago. The president was wise to take up and begin to test the Russian offer to remove and possibly destroy Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons. In fact, the offer has forced some clarity from a sometimes muddled U.S. foreign policy. For the president to turn this situation into a foreign policy success, he will have to maintain that clarity.
Washington Post, Obama’s Syria muddle, Dana Milbank, Sept. 10, 2013. What is the Obama administration plan in Syria? It depends on whom you ask and when. At 9 p.m. Tuesday, President Obama, in his address to the nation, said that he had “asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force.” This contradicted what his secretary of state, John Kerry, had said in testimony to Congress just 11 hours earlier. “We’re not asking Congress not to vote,” Kerry told the House Armed Services Committee. “I’m not asking [for] delay,” he added later. Kerry can be forgiven for being at odds with the president. The president, in the space of his 16-minute address, was often at odds with himself. He spent the first 12 minutes arguing for the merits of striking Syria — and then delivered the news that he was putting military action on hold.
OpEdNews,Too Many Years Of Lies: From Mossadeq to 9/11, Paul Craig Roberts, left, Sept. 10, 2013. Washington has been at war for 12 years. According to experts such as Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, these wars have cost Americans approximately $6 trillion, enough to keep Social Security and Medicare sound for years. All there is to show for 12 years of war is fat bank balances for the armament industries and a list of destroyed countries with millions of dead and dislocated people who never lifted a hand against the United States. The cost paid by American troops and taxpayers is extreme. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Erik Shinseki reported in November 2009 that "more veterans have committed suicide since 2001 than we have lost on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan." The neoconservatives who advocate America's hegemony over the world called for "a new Pearl Harbor" that would allow them to launch wars of conquest. Their plan for conquering the Middle East as their starting point was set out in the neoconservative "Project for the New American Century."
Institute for Political Economy,The rule of zombies: Why Are Obama and Kerry So Desperate to Start a New War? Paul Craig Roberts, Sept. 9, 2013. What is the real agenda? Why is the Obama Regime so desperate to commit a war crime despite the warnings delivered to the White House two days ago by the most important countries in the world at the G20 Summit? What powerful interest is pushing the White House Fool to act outside of law, outside the will of the American people, outside the warnings of the world community? The Obama Regime has admitted, as UK prime minister David Cameron had to admit, that no one has any conclusive evidence that the Assad government in Syria used chemical weapons. Nevertheless, Obama has sent the despicable John Kerry out to convince the public and Congress on the basis of videos that Assad used chemical weapons “against his own people.” What the videos show are dead and suffering people. The videos do not show who did it. The Obama Regime’s case is nonexistent. It rests on nothing that indicates responsibility. The Obama Regime’s case is nothing but an unsubstantiated allegation. What kind of depraved person would take the world to war based on nothing whatsoever but an unsubstantiated allegation? The world’s two worse liars, Obama and Kerry, say Assad did it, but they admit that they cannot prove it. It is what they want to believe, because they want it to be true. The lie serves their undeclared agenda.
Washington Post, In full retreat on Syria, Michael Gerson, Sept. 11, 2013. Obama’s missteps have got us here.
Press TV via Fifth Estate, The 5 Most Ludicrous War Claims In Obama’s Syria Speech, Staff report, Sept. 12, 2013. Obama "speech" so packed with conflicting lies even the White House criminals cannot keep their fabrications straight; Congressmen already talking impeachment. 1. “I possess the authority to order military strikes.” No you don’t, Mr. President. Only Congress has the authority to declare war, and ordering military strikes would be a clear act of war, thus violating the Constitution. It would also violate the War Powers Act, which says that the President can’t engage in hostilities without a declaration of war or specific Congressional authorization unless there is “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” And Syria has done no such thing. 2. Syria’s use of chemical weapons is “a danger to our security.” Note that four paragraphs later, he said it wasn’t “a direct or imminent threat to our security.” So what kind of a threat is it? Well, a rather tenuous one.
New Yorker, Limited Options, George Packer, Sept. 13, 2013. The Administration’s case for making Assad pay is as practically flawed as it is morally defensible. The war-weary American people overwhelmingly oppose it, and the debate in Washington is not winning them over to President Obama’s side. There’s also a problem with the debate itself: Obama seems to be reserving the right to ignore Congress if it fails to deliver the verdict he wants, which has led Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, to accuse the Administration of “making a joke of us.” In the meantime, a number of Republicans talk about the Syria crisis as if it were an overseas extension of the debt crisis—another chance to thwart a President they despise. The geopolitics of military action are just as problematic: the United States, supported by a handful of mostly silent partners, is upholding a collective standard single-handedly, and preserving the mission of the United Nations by ignoring it.
Logistics of Chemical Weapons and Syria
OpEd News, Do Syrian Rebels Have Sarin? Robert Parry, Sept. 16, 2013. As the Syrian government agrees to relinquish its chemical weapons, questions remain about whether some elements of the fractious Syrian rebel forces have obtained their own CW. There have been scattered news reports to that effect although rebel leaders deny the accounts. Yet, one of the many questions left unanswered by the sketchy U.S. "Government Assessment" on the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus is whether U.S. intelligence analysts are among those who believe the rebels possess some stockpiles of chemical weapons. The dog-not-barking in that phrasing is the U.S. government's silence on whether some rebels have these weapons. After all, why would the U.S. intelligence agencies employ this narrow phrasing discounting the likelihood of a rebel attack on this one occasion if they could simply assert that the rebel forces could not have been responsible because they have no chemical weapons, period?
Washington Post, It could take years to secure Syria’s arsenal, experts warn, Joby Warrick and Loveday Morris, Sept. 10, 2013. Even if Assad agrees to relinquish his chemical weapons, securing Syria’s stockpile would be daunting. At left in a White House photo, the president presides during a cabinet meeting on Sept. 12, 2013.
AP via Huffington Post, Syria Will Sign Chemical Weapons Convention, Declare Arsenal, Foreign Ministry Says, Sept. 10, 2013. Syria's foreign minister says President Bashar Assad's regime will declare its chemical weapons arsenal and sign the chemical weapons convention. Walid al-Moallem also says Syria is ready to cooperate fully to implement a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control and it will stop producing chemical weapons. He adds that Syria will also place chemical weapons locations in the hands of representatives of Russia, "other countries" and the United Nations. He spoke Tuesday exclusively to the Al-Mayadeen TV station.
Fox News via Huffington Post, Karl Rove: Obama's Handling Of Syria Conflict 'An Unmitigated Disaster,' Sept. 8, 2013. Karl Rove is NOT happy with the way President Obama has handled the Syria debate. “This is an unmitigated disaster,” Rove said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s amateur hour at the White House.” Rove chastised Obama's behavior when asking Congress for permission to attack Syria. “He got right up to the edge, and then on Friday has the forty-five minute walks, pulls back and heads off to Sweden and the G20. The energy behind it dissipated."
AP via Washington Post, Obama, top advisers work to persuade public and Congress to back action on Syria, Staff report, Sept. 8, 2013. President Barack Obama is hitting the airwaves to try to convince Americans that limited strikes against Syria are needed for the United States’ long-term safety. “It is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday during one of his five network television interviews. “This is a very concerned, concentrated, limited effort that we can carry out and that can underscore and secure our interests.” But McDonough conceded the administration lacks “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” that skeptical Americans, including lawmakers who will start voting on military action this week, are seeking.
Global Research, Rattling the Sabre on Syria: Time to Cut Through Media Disinformation, Staff report, Sept. 5, 2013. The headlines of both mainstream and alternative media are replete with ever-evolving news on Syria. The world is holding its breath in terror, with many taking to the streets in protest and others working hard to ensure the truth on Syria reaches as many people as possible in an effort to prevent what would undeniably be a catastrophic war.
OpEd News, All Scrubbed Up, Nowhere to Show, Robert Parry, Sept. 4, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. "intelligence community has scrubbed and re-scrubbed the evidence" proving that the Syrian government launched a poison gas attack on Aug. 21, but this supposedly spotless data is still being withheld from the American people. So, just a little more than a decade after President George W. Bush misled the nation into a disastrous war in Iraq, President Barack Obama and his team are trying to sell a new war with Syria by presenting even fewer details. Members of Congress also are reprising their roles from 2002-2003, displaying almost no skepticism as they get "classified" glimpses of this well-scrubbed intelligence. And, the mainstream press has slid into the same careless acceptance of U.S. government proclamations as fact, just as it did a decade ago.
InfoWars, Syria: A Vote Of No-Confidence In The President, Jon Rappoport, Sept. 7, 2013. The push to war is such an obvious fabrication, only a complete fool or a dyed-in-the-wool Obama believer would opt for attacking Syria. This idea came from somewhere else. It’s been on the table for years, as part of a Middle East strategy to destabilize the whole region. It’s, on one level, a Mossad-CIA plan, with a Saudi twist. On a higher level, it’s a Globalist operation, whose end game is order from chaos.
War Is A Lie,This War Too Is A Lie, David Swanson, Sept. 7, 2013. Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies. When I'd researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn't based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie. That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it's contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government's current claims about Syria. The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history. Every other case for war has always been dishonest.
New York Times, French Release Intelligence Tying Assad Government to Chemical Weapons, Scott Sayare, Sept. 2, 2013. The French government sought to bolster the case for military action against Syria on Monday, releasing a declassified summary of French intelligence that ties President Bashar al-Assad’s government to the apparent use of chemical weapons outside Damascus last month.
Guardian, Defiant Assad challenges west over chemical weapons evidence, Kim Willsher, Sept. 2, 2013. Bashar al-Assad warns military intervention in Syria could spark a 'regional war' and claims 'Middle East is a powder keg. Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has challenged the west to come up with "a single piece" of evidence that he has used chemical weapons. He warned that any military intervention in Syria could spark a "regional war." "The Middle East is a powder keg, and today the fuse is getting shorter," he said in an exclusive interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro. Assad's interview came just two days before the French parliament is due to debate Syria and the possibility of military intervention against Damascus in response to the chemical weapons attack. The Syrian president warned: "Whoever contributes to the reinforcing of terrorists, financially and militarily, is an enemy of the Syrian people.
Syria on the Ground
Washington Post, CIA begins delivering weapons to Syrian rebels, Ernesto Londoño and Greg Miller, Sept. 11, 2013. The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.
Washington Examiner, Assad tells Obama to stop arming rebels, or no deal, Joel Gehrke, Sept. 12, 2013. President Obama must promise not to arm rebel forces or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will not hand over his chemical weapons, the embattled leader told a Russian state media outlet today while demanding that Israel also surrender its nuclear arsenal. “When we see that the U.S. genuinely stands for stability in our region, stops threatening us with military intervention and stops supplying terrorists with weapons, then we will consider it possible to finalize all necessary procedures and they will become legitimate and acceptable for Syria,” Assad told RIA News. Obama asked Congress to postpone a vote authorizing use of military force in Syria after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to broker a deal whereby the U.S. would not attack the Assad regime if he surrendered his chemical weapons.
AFP via France 24-TV, 12 Alawites killed by jihadists in Syria's Homs, Staff report, Sept. 11, 2013. Twelve civilians from Syria's Alawite minority, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, have been killed by jihadist fighters in the central province of Homs, a Syrian NGO said Wednesday. Fighters from the Al-Nusra Front and another rebel group attacked three Alawite villages near the city of Homs Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "Fierce clashes broke out between rebels and army troops," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The rebels entered the village of Maksar al-Hissan and "shot 12 Alawites to death before leaving the area." Troops retook the village on Tuesday night, after clashes in which they lost two men and killed several members of Al-Nusra, he added. The region, which is mostly home to Alawites and Bedouin communities, has been largely free of fighting over the past year.
Huffington Post, Top 10 Unproven Claims for War Against Syria, Dennis Kucinich, Sept. 5, 2013. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, I researched, wrote and circulated a document to members of Congress which explored unanswered questions and refuted President Bush's claim for a cause for war. The document detailed how there was no proof Iraq was connected to 9/11 or tied to al Qaeda's role in 9/11, that Iraq neither had WMDs nor was it a threat to the U.S., lacking intention and capability to attack. Unfortunately, not enough members of Congress performed due diligence before they approved the war. Here are some key questions which President Obama has yet to answer in the call for congressional approval for war against Syria. This article is a call for independent thinking and congressional oversight, which rises above partisan considerations. 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.
Israel and Syria
OpEdNews, Red Lines And Green Lights -- Israel Still Angling For Attack On Syria And Iran, Jonathan Cook, Sept. 18. President Barack Obama may have drawn his seemingly regretted "red line" around Syria's chemical weapons, but it was neither he nor the international community that turned the spotlight on their use. That task fell to Israel. Israel and the US both regard Syria as the geographical "keystone" of that axis, as Israel's outgoing ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, told the Jerusalem Post this week, and one that needs to be removed if Iran is to be isolated, weakened or attacked. But Israel and the US drew different lessons from Iraq. Washington is now wary of its ground forces becoming bogged down again, as well as fearful of reviving a cold war confrontation with Moscow. It prefers instead to rely on proxies to contain and exhaust the Syrian regime. Israel, on the other hand, understands the danger of maneuvering its patron into a showdown with Damascus without ensuring this time that Iran is tied into the plan. Toppling Assad alone would simply add emboldened jihadists to the troubles on its doorstep. Israel and the US have struggled to envision a realistic endgame that would satisfy them both. Obama fears setting the region, and possibly the world, ablaze with a direct attack on Iran; Israel is worried about stretching its patron's patience by openly pushing it into another catastrophic venture to guarantee its regional hegemony.
Bloomberg, A Defeat for All-Powerful AIPAC? Jeffrey Goldberg, Sept. 9, 2013. The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald recently asked on Twitter: "Would a House vote against a Syria strike be AIPAC's biggest defeat in Congress in at least a decade?" Greenwald has, for many years, advertised his profound distaste for Israel, so it's reasonable to assume that he's rooting for the weakening of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington. he Obama administration's UN Ambassador Samantha Power, a major advocate for the war and close friend of the president, is shown at left.
American Conservative, AIPAC Gets Its Game On, Rod Dreher, Sept. 9, 2013. Politico reports that AIPAC is flooding the zone on Capitol Hill: The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is planning to launch a major lobbying campaign to push wayward lawmakers to back the resolution authorizing U.S. strikes against Syria, sources said Thursday. Who speaks up for the Christians of Syria? America has no business allowing itself to be dragged into this war by either the Saudis or the Israelis. Neither the Saudis or the Israelis give a damn about the fate of the ancient Christian communities of Syria, and to be perfectly blunt, it’s not their responsibility to do so. It is the responsibility of American Christians to do so, given that nobody else in this country has their backs on Capitol Hill. Unlike AIPAC lobbyists and their client, I’m not asking America to enter the Syrian civil war on behalf of Syrian Christians. I’m asking for us to keep America out of it.
OpEd News, On Syria, AIPAC, The 800 Pound Gorilla, Risks Looking Like A Chimp! MJ Rosenberg, Sept. 7, 2013. AIPAC is taking an incredible risk by making an unprecedented full court press to pass the bomb Syria resolution. Never in its history has it gone all out to achieve passage or defeat for anything not directly related to Israel. And, because Congress is snugly in its pocket on Israel issues, it rarely needs to fight.
Wayne Madsen Report, Obama's Syrian chemical attack "proof" relies solely on Israeli intelligence, Aug. 28, 2013 (Subscription required). WMR's sources inside the Washington Beltway report that President Obama relied solely on signals intelligence (SIGINT) provided by Israel's version of the U.S. National Security Agency, Unit 8200, to conclude that Syria's government ordered the August 21 chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Unit 8200 claimed it had intercepted a communication from a Syrian army unit operating near Ghouta on August 21. The Unit 8200 intelligence was exclusively passed by the Israelis to the Obama administration, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. WMR has also learned that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, were opposed to taking military action against Syria based only on Israeli SIGINT.
Russia and Syria
Washington Post, Kerry, Russian delegation in Geneva to explore Syrian deal to eliminate chemical weapons, Anne Gearan, Sept. 11, 2013. During hastily arranged talks here with Syrian ally and go-between Russia, the United States hopes to draft a blueprint for disarming Syrian chemical weapons — a diplomatic deal that could avert U.S. missile strikes and a likely political loss for President Obama at home.
USA Today, Putin calls Kerry a liar on Syria, David Jackson, Sept. 5, 2013. Things aren't exactly warming up between the Obama administration and Vladimir Putin, left, even as President Obama arrived in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit. Putin called Obama Secretary of State John Kerry a liar over Kerry's testimony this week before Congress. The question may be al-Qaeda's influence on the Syrian rebels, an issue Kerry has downplayed. Speaking to his human rights council Wednesday, Putin said, "This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans), and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad." Putin has criticized Obama administration claims that Bashar Assad's government attacked the rebels with chemical weapons.
FireDogLake, Putin Calls Kerry a Liar as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Says America Will ‘Suffer Loss’ in Syria, DSWright, Sept. 5, 2013. The attempt by the Obama Administration to bring the international community together for a war on Syria is not going well. First the UN refused to support the action, then the British Parliament balked, and now Russia and Iran are starting to heat up the rhetoric used to oppose the war.
Washington Post, Putin warns against Syria strike, wants more proof, Will Englund, Sept. 4, 2013. One eve of summit, the Russian leader downplays souring of relations with U.S. and questions evidence on Syria.
USA Today, Putin calls Kerry a liar on Syria, David Jackson, Sept. 5, 2013. Things aren't exactly warming up between the Obama administration and Vladimir Putin, even as President Obama arrived in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit. Putin called Obama Secretary of State John Kerry a liar over Kerry's testimony this week before Congress. The question may be al-Qaeda's influence on the Syrian rebels, an issue Kerry has downplayed. Speaking to his human rights council Wednesday, Putin said, "This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans), and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad."
Washington Times, Russia’s reset: Cold War no longer water under the bridge as ships sail to Syria, Shaun Waterman, Sept. 9, 2013. The Cold War is back — with a whimper, if not a roar. Russia’s deployment of its most powerful warship and a spy vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to observe any U.S. operations against Syria reflects the worsening state of U.S.-Russian relations in the past few years and underscores lost opportunities for bilateral cooperation, analysts say. Last week’s Russian gunboat diplomacy and Moscow’s spoiler role at the Group of 20 summit and on the U.N. Security Council, where it has blocked any action against ally Damascus, have led some analysts to make comparisons to the Cold War. "It’s half a Cold War,” said Barry Pavel, a former defense official who worked on the White House National Security Council in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. President Vladimir Putin is a “creature of that era. He is KGB through and through,” Mr. Pavel said, referring to Mr. Putin’s tenure in the Russian foreign intelligence agency now renamed the Federal Security Bureau.
National Interest, Brzezinski on the Syria Crisis, Zbigniew Brzezinski, June 24, 2013. Editor’s Note: Following is an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, right, former White House national-security adviser under Jimmy Carter and now a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. The interview was by Jacob Heilbrun:
Heilbrun: What happened to President Obama that brought us here?
Brzezinski: There is a mysterious aspect to all of this. Just consider the timing. In late 2011 there are outbreaks in Syria produced by a drought and abetted by two well-known autocracies in the Middle East: Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He all of a sudden announces that Assad has to go—without, apparently, any real preparation for making that happen. Then in the spring of 2012, the election year here, the CIA under General Petraeus, according to *The New York Times of March 24th of this year, a very revealing article, mounts a large-scale effort to assist the Qataris and the Saudis and link them somehow with the Turks in that effort. Was this a strategic position? Why did we all of a sudden decide that Syria had to be destabilized and its government overthrown? Had it ever been explained to the American people?....I’m afraid that we’re headed toward an ineffective American intervention, which is even worse. There are circumstances in which intervention is not the best but also not the worst of all outcomes. But what you are talking about means increasing our aid to the "least" effective of the forces opposing Assad. So at best, it’s simply damaging to our credibility. At worst, it hastens the victory of groups that are much more hostile to us than Assad ever was. I still do not understand why—and that refers to my first answer—why we concluded somewhere back in 2011 or 2012—an election year, incidentally—that Assad should go.
Benghazi and Syria
Washington Free Beacon, Frank Wolf Asks if Benghazi Site Was Stockpiling Syrian Weapons, Adam Kredo, Sept. 9, 2013. Says the issue has a bearing on congressional debate over Syria strike. A top congressional appropriator suggested on Monday evening that the State Department and CIA might have been stockpiling weapons for Syrian opposition fighters when they came under attack by jihadists in Benghazi, Libya. “I firmly believe that whatever the State Department and CIA were doing in Benghazi had a direct connection to U.S. policy in Syria — a policy that to date has not been fully revealed to the American people or Congress,” Rep. Frank Wolf (R., VA) said on Monday evening during a discussion focusing on “unanswered questions” surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans. “Were these rebels being armed with weapons collected in Benghazi?” Wolf asked, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “Again, there is reason to believe this may be the case and a clear explanation is warranted.” The issue has a direct bearing on Congress’ debate about military intervention in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad stands accused of using chemical weapons. “Given the pending request for authorization to use military force in Syria, it is more important than ever that the Congress understand U.S. support and assistance to Syrian rebels and whether groups responsible for the American deaths in Benghazi may have been at the same time benefiting from U.S. assistance in Syria,” Wolf said.
Gulf Monarchies and Syria
Infowars, Is The United States Going To Go To War With Syria Over A Natural Gas Pipeline? Michael Snyder, Sept. 4, 2013. Why has the little nation of Qatar spent 3 billion dollars to support the rebels in Syria? Could it be because Qatar is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won’t let them build a natural gas pipeline through Syria? Of course. Qatar wants to install a puppet regime in Syria that will allow them to build a pipeline which will enable them to sell lots and lots of natural gas to Europe. Why is Saudi Arabia spending huge amounts of money to help the rebels and why has Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan been “jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime”? Well, it turns out that Saudi Arabia intends to install their own puppet government in Syria which will allow the Saudis to control the flow of energy through the region. On the other side, Russia very much prefers the Assad regime for a whole bunch of reasons. One of those reasons is that Assad is helping to block the flow of natural gas out of the Persian Gulf into Europe, thus ensuring higher profits for Gazprom. Now the United States is getting directly involved in the conflict. If the U.S. is successful in getting rid of the Assad regime, it will be good for either the Saudis or Qatar (and possibly for both), and it will be really bad for Russia. This is a strategic geopolitical conflict about natural resources, religion and money, and it really has nothing to do with chemical weapons at all.
Zero Hedge, Meet Saudi Arabia's Bandar bin Sultan: The Puppetmaster Behind The Syrian War, Tyler Durden, Aug. 27, 2013. Yesterday the Telegraph's Evans-Pritchard dug up a note that we had posted almost a month ago, relating to the "secret" meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Saudi's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with Putin and regaled him with gifts, including a multi-billion arms deal and a promise that Saudi is "ready to help Moscow play a bigger role in the Middle East at a time when the United States is disengaging from the region," if only Putin would agree to give up his alliance with Syria's al-Assad. What was not emphasized by the Telegraph is that Putin laughed at the proposal and brushed aside the Saudi desperation by simply saying "nyet." However, what neither the Telegraph, nor we three weeks ago, picked up on, is what happened after Putin put Syria in its place. We now know, and it's a doozy.
Wayne Madsen Report, Bandar buying political support in US and Europe, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 6, 2013 (Subscription required). WMR has learned from multiple intelligence sources in Washington, London, Beirut, and Paris that Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan has paid off key members of the U.S. Senate and House leadership, as well as key ministers of the French government, with "incentive cash" to support an American and French "shock and awe" military strike on not only Syria but Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. Much of the money Bandar is using to buy off members of Congress and the French National Assembly originates from a $2 billion slush fund amassed by Bandar as a result of bribes paid to him by the British defense firm BAE Systems for a Saudi oil-for-weapons deal made with Britain in the 1980s. Over more than two decades, the Bank of England transferred some $2 billion to the accounts of Bandar and other Saudi officials as a deal "sweetener." British Tornado and Typhoon Eurofighter aircraft were provided to Saudi Arabia, in addition to Tornado upgrades and missiles.
Truthout/Buzzflash, John Brennan Was Number Two at the Bush/Cheney CIA During Renditions, Enhanced Interrogations, and the Iraq War, Mark Karlin, Feb. 21, 2013. Given that we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is worth noting that President Obama's CIA chief nominee, John Brennan, was a Bush/Cheney man at the top level of the intelligence agency during the post 9/11 period. In 1999 he was appointed chief of staff to George Tenet, then-Director of the CIA. Brennan became deputy executive director of the CIA in March 2001. Remember, this was at a time that Cheney, as vice president, was taking unprecedented trips to CIA headquarters in Virginia to muscle the intelligence officers there to create facts to fit the propaganda justification for invading Iraq. There is no indication that Brennan objected or tried to keep the agency independent of the coercion. More than that, Brennan was a cheerleader for torture and rendition, as Glenn Greenwald noted back in 2008, when he expressed concern about Brennan's role as a national security advisor in the Obama White House: "It simply is noteworthy of comment and cause for concern — though far from conclusive about what Obama will do — that Obama’s transition chief for intelligence policy, John Brennan, was an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity."
Editor's Recommendations On Other Topics
Guardian, NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel, Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty, Sept. 11, 2013. The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals. Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis. The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state. The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing. The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies "pertaining to the protection of US persons", repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights. But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive "raw Sigint" – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: "Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and un-minimized transcripts, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content." See also: NSA and Israeli intelligence: memorandum of understanding – full document.
Moyers and Company, The War on Terror is Still Everywhere, Paul Waldman, Sept. 11, 2013. The War on Terror perspective, where the most extreme overreactions become the ordinary way of doing business, has infected all kinds of government actions. I point you to this story in yesterday’s New York Times by David Carr, which on first glance doesn’t look like it’s about the WoT, but I think in some ways it is. It’s about Barrett Brown, right, a journalist who has reported on the activities of Anonymous, the internet hacking group. If prosecutors have their way, Brown will spend the rest of his life in prison because he posted a link. I kid you not: "In 2010, he formed an online collective named Project PM with a mission of investigating documents unearthed by Anonymous and others. If Anonymous and groups like it were the wrecking crew, Mr. Brown and his allies were the people who assembled the pieces of the rubble into meaningful insights… In December 2011, approximately five million e-mails from Stratfor Global Intelligence, an intelligence contractor, were hacked by Anonymous and posted on WikiLeaks. The files contained revelations about close and perhaps inappropriate ties between government security agencies and private contractors. In a chat room for Project PM, Mr. Brown posted a link to it." Among the millions of Stratfor files were data containing credit cards and security codes, part of the vast trove of internal company documents. The credit card data was of no interest or use to Mr. Brown, but it was of great interest to the government. In December 2012 he was charged with 12 counts related to identity theft. Over all he faces 17 charges — including three related to the purported threat of the F.B.I. officer and two obstruction of justice counts — that carry a possible sentence of 105 years, and he awaits trial in a jail in Mansfield, Tex.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Legal Schnauzer, Cases Of Ken Nowlin And Penni Tingle In Mississippi Raise Red Flags About Criminal Defense Lawyers, Roger Shuler, Sept. 16, 2013. The legal "profession" is filled with ugly secrets, and one of the ugliest is this: Quite a few criminal-defense lawyers are more concerned with serving prosecutors' interests than those of their own clients. Our research indicates this can happen in several ways. One, the defense lawyer will charge a client an outrageous sum and then do relatively little work, putting the accused in danger of being both convicted and financially ruined. Two, the defense lawyer will do little or no discovery that could prove his client's innocence. Two ongoing cases in Mississippi provide classic examples of how vulnerable a citizen can be when charged with a crime--especially in the murky world of federal, white-collar statutes that tend to be so poorly worded the accused often has no idea if he's actually committed a crime or not. One of the Mississippi cases involves Ecru insurance broker Ken Nowlin, who became entangled in the kind of Bush-era political drama that is all too familiar to many Alabamians. The other involves Penni Tingle, a former chief financial officer from Hernando who was accused of embezzling funds from IKBI Inc., a general contracting firm owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
OpEd News, Licensed to Kill: The Growing Phenomenon of Police Shooting Unarmed Citizens, John Whitehead, Sept. 16, 2013. I've been contacted by many older cops equally alarmed by the attitudes and behaviors of younger police today, the foot soldiers in the emerging police state. Yet as I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves, this is what happens when you go from a representative democracy in which all members are subject to the rule of law to a hierarchical one in which there is one set of laws for the rulers and another, far more stringent set, for the ruled. Hence, it is no longer unusual to hear about an incident in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later.
AP via Huffington Post, NSA Surveillance Documents Released By Officials Show Misuse Of Domestic Spying Program, Paul Elias, Sept. 10, 2013. Federal officials have released previously classified documents showing misuse of a domestic spying program in 2009. The documents released Tuesday show Obama administration officials misled a secret spy court about its use of domestic phone data. The documents say officials accessed domestic phone numbers that weren't properly shown to have a deep enough connection to a terrorism investigation to warrant monitoring.
USAWatchdog,Time to Tell these Crooks they’re Fired -- Karen Hudes, Greg Hunter, Aug. 28, 2013. World Bank attorney Karen Hudes says she is one of a group of global whistleblowers. Hudes contends, “We’re running out of time. It’s time to tell these thugs and crooks that they’re fired.” Hudes goes on to say, “We don’t have to wait for anybody to fire the Fed or Bank for International Settlements . . . some states have already started to recognize silver and gold, the precious metals, as currency . . . there are other alternatives like Bitcoin . . . We, the consumer, can choose which currency to use, and that’s what we’re going to do in very short order.” What’s really going on in Syria? Hudes, who was Senior Counsel and worked at the World Bank for 20 years, charges, “Qatar, who has all this natural gas, wanted to run a natural gas pipeline through Syria to reach the European market. Who’s supplying the European market with gas? Russia. . . . All this business about dead babies and sarin gas is just all to keep us confused.” Hudes says this is not a fight about money but survival of the planet.
Huffington Post,Tina Brown Splits From Daily Beast, Forms 'Tina Brown Live Media' Katherine Fung and Jack Mirkinson, Sept. 11, 2013. Tina Brown is leaving the Daily Beast and forming a new company called "Tina Brown Live Media," she announced Wednesday. BuzzFeed was the first to report the news that Brown was parting ways with IAC, the Barry Diller-owned parent company of the Beast. The site's Peter Lauria wrote that Diller had decided not to renew Brown's contract, which expires in January. Sources close to Brown, however, told HuffPost's Michael Calderone that it was Brown's decision to sever ties with IAC. Tina Brown Live Media will be focused around Brown's "Women In The World" conference, along with other live events. Brown told the Beast that the new company's mission would be "theatrical journalism." A statement announcing the company was a bit more detailed, saying that it would "merge Brown's lifelong commitment to journalistic inquiry with her innate ability to dramatically stage storytelling" and would be "devoted to sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates." Capital New York wrote that Brown gathered the staff of the Beast together on Wednesday to break the news to them in person.