Thursday, October 1, 2015

Response to Complications Arise

(See: Just Above Sunset: Complications Arise)

Two nits to pick today, one with a Republican elected official, and the other with someone who has incredibly phenomenal ambitions to be one:

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First, there's that famous "Red Line", reported by Kristina Wong in The Hill:
[Foreign Relations chairman] Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) ... criticized the Obama administration for missing opportunities in Syria, citing the decision to pull back from its red line after the regime used chemical weapons.
The Republicans have been saying that for so long, a lot of people are starting to assume it's true, but here's what really happened when Obama used the phrase, "red line", in response to those who questioned under what conditions he would intervene in Syria:
Barack Obama used the phrase on August 20, 2012, during the Syrian civil war in relation to chemical weapons, saying that "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that 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. That would change my equation." 
In the US, the phrase then became a source of contention when political opponent John McCain said the red line was "apparently written in disappearing ink," due to the perception the red line had been crossed with no action. On the one year anniversary of Obama's red line speech the Ghouta chemical attacks occurred. Obama then clarified, "I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war," in reference to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
That Ghouta attack occurred in the morning of August 21, 2013.
Several opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs around Damascus, Syria, were struck by rockets containing the chemical agent sarin. Estimates of the death toll range from at least 281 people to 1,729. The attack was the deadliest use of chemical weapons since the Iran–Iraq War.
The president probably should have made clearer to everyone that, on the breach of that red line, we would not immediately be dropping troops into Syria with guns a-blazing. His actual response was more realistic:
United States President Barack Obama said the US military should strike targets in Syria to retaliate for the government's purported use of chemical weapons, a proposal publicly supported by French President Fran├žois Hollande, but condemned by Russia and Iran. ... 
In early September, the United States Congress began debating a proposed authorisation to use military force, although votes on the resolution were indefinitely postponed amid opposition from many legislators and tentative agreement between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on an alternative proposal, under which Syria would declare and surrender its chemical weapons to be destroyed under international supervision. 
In contrast to the positions of their governments, polls in early September indicated that most people in the US, UK, Germany and France opposed military intervention in Syria. One poll indicated that 50% of Americans could support military intervention with cruise missiles only, "meant to destroy military units and infrastructure that have been used to carry out chemical attacks."
Also, Republican members of Congress and candidates for president, especially those advocating that Obama listen to his military, please note the following:
In a survey of American military personnel, around 75% said they opposed air strikes on Syria, with 80% saying an attack would not be "in the U.S. national interest".
And to those who suggest Putin may be just trying to please his population back home?
Meanwhile, a Russian poll suggested that most Russians supported neither side in the conflict, with less than 10% saying they supported Assad.
But the bottom line was this:
Within a month of the attacks, Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and allow all its stockpiles to be destroyed. The destruction began under OPCW supervision on 6 October 2013. On 23 June 2014, the last shipment of Syria's declared chemical weapons was shipped out of the country for destruction. By 18 August 2014, all toxic chemicals were destroyed aboard the US naval vessel MV Cape Ray.
So to summarize, Obama once alluded to use of chemical weapons in Syria as a red line that, if crossed, would change the calculus of our getting involved in the Syrian civil war. One year after saying that, the line was crossed. He first considered a military response, but found very little appetite for it, neither among his fellow citizens, nor in Congress, nor in our military, nor among the populations of our allies. Instead, he opted to make a deal with the Russians and the Syrians for us to pick up all Syria's chemical weapons, then destroy them all at sea -- which was done.

Therefore, we here at The Inside Poop rule that the claims of Senators Corker and McCain and all those other conservatives, that the Obama administration decided "to pull back from its red line after the regime used chemical weapons", is nothing more than one of those flaming paper bags of poop that some nasty neighborhood brat places on your front porch, then rings your doorbell and runs away, hoping you'll come to the door and stamp out the fire -- which, of course, you do.

(We contemplated using the much-more concise "Pants On Fire", but that was taken.)

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Trump now thinks Assad may be okay, after all?
“I’ve been looking at the different players, and I’ve been watching Assad,” Trump told O’Reilly. “I’m looking at Assad and saying maybe he’s better than some of the people we’re supposed to be backing because we don’t even know who we’re backing. We have no idea.”
Yeah, I've had those suspicions, too.

Since the first time I heard that Obama pronounced the American position as "Assad must go", I'd wished he hadn't said it. I never liked the idea of us singling out some country's leader, then telling the world that we think he ought to go.

For one thing, we did that in 1953, with Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically-elected popular prime minister of Iran, and it has been biting us back ever since. Also worth considering is a situation in which we say some guy has to go, but then he just keeps hanging in there, like some smarmy guest who won't go home after your house party -- something Assad has been doing. That makes us -- and in particular, Obama -- look a bit foolish. And thirdly, what's the point of saying some leader has to go, but then not lifting a finger to help him pack, so to speak? In other words, if we're really against Assad's leadership, we should show it by joining with some opposition group; otherwise, we should probably just put a sock in it.

I think I'd have preferred that, instead of deciding who's side to join in that war, since we couldn't ever verify that the good guys were really all that good, meaning we'd end up arming our future enemies, we should have stayed totally neutral -- and furthermore, quietly hinting to the Russians to do the same. The risk we'd face, of course, would be pissing off whatever legitimate rebels by not helping them in their time of need, and then watch them ally themselves with ISIS or somebody else we don't like. But while I'd be willing to take that risk, Obama was not -- and, to paraphrase some other president, Obama is the decider, not I, and certainly not all his Republican critics.

Not only did Assad start this thing by attacking peaceful demonstrators, pretending they were all evil extremists, then savagely killing thousands of civilians, apparently with chemical weapons and barrel bombs, but on top of that, he could not, and cannot, be trusted. In short -- in the words of many who have paid closer attention to the man than Donald Trump ever did -- Bashar al-Assad is a "pathological liar", a recent example being this interview he granted to the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen:
Bowen: What about barrel bombs, you don't deny that your forces use them? 
Assad: I know about the army, they use bullets, missiles, and bombs. I haven't heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots. 
Bowen: Large barrels full of explosives and projectiles which are dropped from helicopters and explode with devastating effect. There's been a lot of testimony about these things. 
Assad: They're called bombs. We have bombs, missiles and bullets. 
Bowen: So you wouldn't deny that included under the category of 'bombs' are these 'barrel bombs', which are indiscriminate weapons. 
Assad: No, there's no indiscriminate weapons. When you shoot, you aim and when you aim, you aim at terrorists in order to protect civilians. If you're talking about casualty, that's war, you can't have war without casualty.
Plenty of people have testified to seeing barrel bombs being dropped from helicopters in Syria. Nobody else but the government uses helicopters In Syria. Assad just denies things that everybody else knows is true, like the possession of those chemical weapons that he later turned over for destruction.

If Trump had only been following him over the years, he'd be aware of Assad's reputation as a blatant liar from way back, this being an assessment of his broken promises from the GlobalPost back in 2012:
Assad's vows have come almost weekly since the uprising began. And they are broken often times within days, or even hours. 
A little over a year ago, Assad promised to abolish the much-maligned emergency law that gives his security forces license to violently crackdown on threats to the state. A month later he again promised to lift the controversial law. Four days later the Syrian cabinet said it backed the law's removal. 
On April 21, 2011, there was little celebration when Assad finally made good on the promise. Little changed. His security forces continued to operate under the same impunity the law sanctioned. 
On June 20, 2011, Assad made a rare public speech, promising to amend the constitution and call his soldiers back to the barracks. Three days later the country's foreign minister promised "serious reforms." Syria would eventually hold a referendum on a new constitution, but it would do so amid violent crackdowns throughout the country. 
Turkish officials said it doubted the vote was legitimate. US officials called it "laughable." 
"It makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at the time. "Promises of reforms have been usually followed by increase in brutality and have never been delivered upon by this regime since the beginning of peaceful demonstrations in Syria."
I think I heard that Donald Trump has said everything he knows about the world comes from watching television and reading. Same with me. My advice to you is, just to be safe, don't vote for either of us.

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