Syrian rebel fighter

President Obama will address the American people on Tuesday about the crisis in Syria, as he tries to convince Congress to support his plans for military intervention. We’ll discuss the latest developments in Syria and Washington D.C.

Guests:
Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at USF and senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus
David Mark, editor-in-chief of Politix, an online community focusing on national politics, and former senior editor with Politico
Steve Weber, professor of political science at UC Berkeley and author of books including "The End of Arrogance, America and the Global Competition of Ideas"
Robert Danin, senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    President Obama swore to protect this country from all enemies foreign and domestic. Syria has done NOTHING to the United States to warrant us attacking them.

    And let’s not forget we have been told for years now that we have to cut programs and services to Americans because the Federal government lacks money. Yet we now have money to spend on a new war? And it WILL be a war!!

    • thucy

      Thank you, Beth. One silver lining to this rotten and tired drumbeat for more war is learning that conservatives like yourself and liberals like myself both agree this military strike is a terrible idea.

      The other silver lining is realizing that we have tough Congressmen willing to decimate Obama’s lousy rationale for the military strike. Liberal Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, a Bronx Science alumnus, has been relentless in speaking truth to power. His interview on PBS Newshour last week was a tornado of truth-telling. He also revealed this bombshell in the Times on Saturday:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/07/opinion/on-syria-vote-trust-but-verify.html

  • colinvgallagher

    Even if the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on its own nationals, that alone does not represent a threat to the national security of the United States. It is very disquieting to hear that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobby for the Israeli government, is now pressuring Congressional representatives to vote for an attack upon Syria without any authorization from the United Nations. Are the billions of dollars in military and economic aid that we give to Israel each year (aid that is given without any conditions such as limits on settlements in the Occupied Territories) going to be cut to pay for our involvement in this new Middle Eastern war?

    • thucy

      Don’t worry, Colin, AIPAC ain’t gonna win on this vote. Let ’em waste their money.
      Obama’s going down for the count, which is exactly what he deserves for selling out on the very principle that got him elected.

  • thucy

    Anyone who fretted, as I did, that the tradition of fierce, funny, Jewish-American, anti-war truth-telling had passed with the death of Norman Mailer in 2007 should take heart.
    Taller, fiercer, and more pointed US Congressman Alan Grayson is here to fulfill the role:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec13/grayson_09-05.html

    watch it and take heart, there’s still hope for the USA!

    • Bob Fry

      I’m watching this now. A great video, thanks for the link.

  • johnqeniac

    Here are very few of the many things that need to be debated seriously by the American people before acquiescing to yet another attack by the U.S. military on yet another country:

    – The civil servant Barack Obama, who has taken an oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution, has nevertheless expressed total contempt for that Constitution and for the American people, and claims that it is none of their business who he attacks with the United States military. He claims that he is not bound by the United States Constitution.

    – The civil servant Barack Obama has shared no actual intelligence data with the American people to support his claim that there is no doubt whatsoever that the Assad regime is responsible for the (apparent) chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Syria. Only publicly available YouTube videos.

    – There are allegations that the intelligence data may contradict his claims:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/08/syria-chemical-weapons-not-assad-bild

    http://consortiumnews.com/2013/09/06/obama-warned-on-syrian-intel/

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/29/verify-chemical-weapons-use-before-unleashing-the-dogs-of-war/

    – A full and open discussion of the evidence is needed.

    – The Obama regime, after a year and a half of avoiding the issue of the Syrian civil war, is now attempting to force Congress to make a rushed decision to back an attack without adequate consideration of the evidence, of other possible options, and of the possible and likely consequences of an attack. This pressure to prematurely endorse an attack is being applied despite the unlikelihood that Assad (assuming he was responsible for the Ghouta attacks) would try another attack in the present circumstances in full view of the world and with enormous U.S. strike capability just offshore of Syria. There is time for a full debate.

    – The Obama regime has consistently stated that Assad has no legitimacy and Assad must go, from the outset of the Syrian civil war. Therefore it would be foolish to imagine that the Obama regime will not attempt to exploit this attack to weaken the Assad regime to the fullest extent possible, and may well use the opportunity to arm the various rebel forces. This could result in the collapse of the Assad regime, and hence the collapse of any organized Syrian government, and the compromise of whatever WMDs Assad has. Given the possible consequences of an attack, it is reckless to proceed without a thorough debate and discussion of all of these possible consequences.

    – The Obama regime has never negotiated seriously with the Russians, who are key to controlling Assad. Rather Obama has only lectured and commanded the Russians to do as he demands.

    – The Obama regime refuses to allow Iran into negotiations concerning Syria, despite their key importance to the crisis.

    – Our leaders, including this president, past presidents, and the Congress, have shown themselves to be consistently dishonest with the American people in their efforts to gain acquiescence for attacks, invasions, and occupations, and criminally reckless, stupid, and incompetent in their execution of such attacks, and that recklessness and incompetence has resulted in enormous loss of life, and enormous monetary costs.

    Greg Slater

  • Bob Fry

    Are you tired of our Bombs for Democracy foreign interventions? Just go to http://www.house.gov/, enter your zip code, and find your Representative. Then you can send an email expressing your opinion.

  • Chemist150

    Precedent does not nullify the Constitution. It means that Congress did not contest the President’s actions and would have voted in favor. 9-11 was in self defense and puts it in the Presidents court without approval.

    Obama has become a puppet and the US wants to take out the radar net that has been supplied to Syria by Russia and Iran. Syria is the weakest of the allies against the US (Iran, Russia, Venezuela).

    The US has painted itself into a corner by pushing US allies to be dependent on the US capabilities and in the mean time, those that the US pushes around have been developing their own technology and are uniting against the US.

    We need to change our policies and learn to play nice.

  • Chemist150

    Thanks for pointing out that this is a civil war. There are supporters of both sides internally. This is not a war like when Germany was invading other countries.

    The US would be choosing sides and Ban Ki-Moon has pointed out that it would be Illegal for the US to act independently without UN agreements. It’s a matter of enforcement of the UN agreements which makes it no more legitimate than the League of Nations.

    Has the US asked Assad to relinquish control have the chemical weapons? If not, the US is simply a war monger who wants to beat up someone they don’t like.

  • ZA_SF

    As someone who generally opposes war, I have reached the conclusion that airstrikes (not occupation) is a worthy response against the specific abuse of chemical weapons used against civilians. The balance of power in Syria’s civil war is a different objective, and Americans can choose not to conflate them. The default world opinion is actually not for regime change, even with Assad’s nonchemical atrocities. On the whole the likely consequences of action are preferably to the likely consequences of inaction (additional chemical abuses in Syria & beyond, additional even more difficult challenges to US resolve on every other value the US espoces), in my view.

  • chris wynton

    The decision to intervene in Syria would appear to be unpopular in both chambers of Congress and with the American public according to polls. It would be a mistake to label the President’s last minute decision to take the issue to Congress as a “missed opportunity” or blow to the country’s credibility.

  • Park Presidio United Methodist

    Chemical use by Syria? How about chemical use by US : white phosphorus in Falluga, depleated uranium by our military throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Explain to us also our previous alliances with Syria, even sending prisoners to Syria for rendition: “Syria: From Valued Ally to ‘Vicious Enemy.'” . Everything sound too reminiscent of Saddam Hussein and Iraq. We need our President to be the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, not Commander in Chief.

    • Chris OConnell

      I often think of that Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, it’s not Obama’s fault. He could have declined it but that would have been rude. But it has to be the worst decision that Committee ever made. He still has 3 years so maybe he will surprise us.

      Disregarding the many civilians killed incidentally or accidentally, he’s literally killed boatloads of people, er, men in their teens to 40s, in so-called signature strikes. We don’t even know their names, but they are military age males with the wrong person or engaging in activities that we deem suspicious (from thousands of miles away, in a different culture and language) so we wipe them out.

      Or I think of citizen al-Awlaki.who was hunted down and killed almost without a doubt for only one reason: his speech. He was not operational. But his speech was very inflammatory and very dangerous. And very effective. He inspired many lone wolves to attack and he encouraged such behavior. The Supreme Court has declared that we have the 1st Amendment right to advocate violence generally (the Founders did it!), just no incitement to immediate violence.

    • allan blair

      WP is not a chemical weapon, it just burns.
      Depleted uranium is not radioactive enough to harm you unless ingested. Don’t try to play it off as a dirty bomb.

  • bernice

    I’m concerned that with a credible threat Assad will disburse chemical weapons to extremists . Is some monitoring or prevention possible?

  • EIDALM

    Attacking Syria would be one of the most stupid action the US have ever taken, it is like adding gasoline on raging fire. Assad and his goons will all hide into their bunkers,and most of the victims will be innocent Syrian civilians. We have no idea who are the opposition are and may be just be just helping extremist like Alqeada or others to take over the country of Syria. Such attack may lead to regional or even global wars….I DO BELIEVE THAT THE INTENDED TARGET OF THIS ATTACK IS THE COUNTRY OF IRAN..

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Michael Krasny asked: [in the face of the U.N. veto.]”What else can the U.S. do?”

    What the U.S. can do is organize a bold, nonviolent course of action: A marathon global electronic town meeting series — at least one or two hours daily, using television and radio as well as Internet — and keep it up until the conflict resolves.

    This relatively inexpensive and less risky public commitment could trigger positive results far beyond Syria.

    Ask the countries of the world to carry the signal to all citizens. Invite representatives of all factions to make their points, verbally, to a global audience, rather than with bullets and bombs. Invite distinguished peacemakers to help mediate and comment. [Needless to say, we have four ex-U.S. Presidents; and distinguished diplomats such as George Mitchell, and many others. We have Ted Koppel and Michael Krasny…]

    We, the People of the World, can do this, and we can endure the uncertainties just as well as we can endure the uncertainties and risks of military actions. Military options will always be there if such an extravention, to coin a phrase, should fail. But it won’t fail if we will only try, with “Good Will-Peace Ideals” as our guides, and maintaining “gritty good will” through the rough spots.

  • EIDALM

    It is real sad to have another U S president as another stooge for the NEOCONS and AIPAC both are part of Israel right wing Lukod party who highjacked the US government and it’s mighty army to murder millions of people in the middle east and destroy so many countries…And why most Jewish members in the U S Congress including Diane Feistein and many others are beating the drums for this war as they did in the case of Iraq and elsewhere in the middle east….Obama shamed the Peace Noble Prize and he should give it back…The bloodshed of innocent people of the middle by hatemongers ethnic group in the U S has to stop..

  • Chris OConnell

    Waking up at 6:45 last week and literally hearing John Kerry decrying WMDs and exhorting the world to go to war against (or at least attack) Syria was a bit disorienting. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be quite hilarious. And there is that Onion quality to it all, the idea that this must be a joke, right?

    Not that quoting Marx will get you too far in the US. but Marx wrote: “History repeats… first as a tragedy, then as a farce.” In this case, with the arrogant but bumbling Bush vs. the debonair Constitutional Professor, I think the first time was a farce, and what is going on now is a tragedy.

    We got CHANGE in 2008. Hostilities moved from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Libya and now Syria. Lethal drone usage massively expanded. The NSA continued out of control.

  • 99to1

    Here are some relevant points that were missing from this on-air discussion:

    • No one has yet produced proof that the Syrian regime is responsible for the Aug.21 chemical weapon attacks.

    (The US government claims to have proof, but refuses to release any of it to the American public, or to the UN).

    The reason offered for this refusal– that to do so would compromise top secret “intelligence-gathering sources and
    methods” – is an obvious lie.

    Why?
    Because the US routinely releases aerial surveillance records whenever it suits their state purposes, and did so in the case of Syrian battle sites just a few weeks prior to the August 21 incidents.

    Let us recall, the USG was also not reticent about providing an aerial intelligence show-and-tell in the fraudulent run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

    • It is illegal under the US Constitution and international law for the US military to initiate first-strike (unprovoked) aggression on anyone, anytime, for any reason except self-defense following an attack on the US.

    • “POTUS does not require permission from Congress or the UN to initiate unprovoked military aggression.”

    False.

    See Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution

    [mentioned in passing by Prof. Nunes]

    and the War Powers Act, [full text below].

    (It’s short. Take a minute to familiarize yourselves with it).
    _____________
    50 USC § 1541 – Purpose and policy

    (a) Congressional declaration

    It is the purpose of this chapter to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into
    hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.

    (b) Congressional legislative power under necessary and proper clause

    Under article I, section 8, of the Constitution, it is specifically provided that the Congress shall have the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution, not only its own powers but also all other powers vested by the Constitution in
    the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer hereof.

    (c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation

    The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to

    (1) a declaration of war,
    (2) specific statutory authorization, or
    (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
    ____________

    • No one yet knows for sure what chemical weapons were used August 21.

    They were almost certainly not Sarin from Syrian arsenal stock.
    Why?

    Because real Sarin is deadly on skin contact. None of the
    rescuers or medical personnel shown in the original videos released by Syrian rebels, were wearing any protective gear whatsoever.

    • The UN inspectors have not released their findings yet.
    Even so, the UN has already announced that their investigation will only identify the chemicals used, not who fired them.

    (And why not? Surely there are fragments of
    the weapon delivery vehicles available – whether rocket, mortar, or artillery shell – which could identify or narrow down the range of origin.
    Does anyone else suspect the heavy hand of the US
    being applied to UN pressure points?)

    • It is quite possible, even likely, that the actual perpetrators were Syrian rebels.

    Why?
    Because Obomber had already warmed up the Tomahawks with his previous red-line statements some two months earlier
    about a then-hypothetical eventuality of poison gas.

    Take a hint from theater: If a gun is presented in the living room in the opening act, you can count on it going off in the third.

    The rebels’ part was to stage a false-flag attack with weapons provided by some foreign proxy (CIA? Saudis? Israelis? ) then saturate the Internet with YouTube videos of “dead
    children in their pajamas” *

    Then stand back and wait for the US missiles to start flying.

    (*Phrase included in a constituent letter from Dianne Feinstein explaining her reasons for bombing more Syrian children with US cruise missiles.)

    Additional note on “precision” weaponry: Cruise missles
    are completely indiscriminate within the range of their blast zone.

    “Precision strikes” by US drones have killed far more Arab civilians than were gassed in Ghoutan.
    Who should bomb the US to teach its president a lesson?

    • Other evidence suggesting a rebel origin for the chemical attacks on Ghoutan:

    — UN inspections in Syria earlier this spring turned up evidence of rebel chemical weapons, says UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte. On May 6th, del Ponte told Swiss radio interviewers, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.” http://tinyurl.com/d4jmna4

    — Brag videos posted to the Internet showing irregular fighters (not Syrian military) loading and firing gas canister warheads from a field cannon and in possession of gas masks and other chemical weapons with Saudi markings.
    Examples: tinyurl.com/mm92d3y

    — On March 31, Turkish police captured Al Nusrah terrorists in possession of 4.5 lbs. of Sarin. The US airbase at Incirlik in Adana appears to have been their target.

    Source: US Army news analysis: http://tinyurl.com/l9grbbp

    This is the ONLY proven Sarin weapon incident in the region.

    Rebels interviewed by an independent reporter said they were provided Sarin weapons by the Saudi chief of intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, (also known as “Bandar Bush” for his long association with that American political family).

    Story: http://tinyurl.com/nbrykrr

    Which Syrian poison gas story do you find more credible?
    Compare here: http://tinyurl.com/nwqyeau

  • allan blair

    There are two arguments that I have heard so far for not intervening in Syria:

    One is an antiquated view from the new Republicans that aspires to Antebellum notions of a long-gone America that could not possibly exist in today’s globalized world.

    The second stems from selfish and privileged population who prefers to see others suffer rather than themselves. What happened to “never again” in Rwanda? We prefer to notionally support good while sitting back on the couch.

    Why have none of the major talking points in this discussion focused on America’s role of leadership in the world? Whatever your take on if that role is a good or bad, that’s the way it is. If the United States sits back on this and does nothing, what message does that send? That all of a sudden it is okay to gas your own people? If we want to stand up for what is right in the face of evil and oppression, and in the face of a sheepish non-confrontational world, then we must act now and send a clear message that this is NOT okay. The actions of Assad are morally wrong, and we will not tolerate it.

    • thucy

      Let me guess… you never served in the US military and neither do any of your children or loved ones.

      Chickenhawks abound. It’s all about your moral outrage, never about you getting up off that couch you referred to.

      • allan blair

        You’re immediatley trying to discredit me without even knowing me. You must not have anything to say that would discredit my position.
        (For the record, I currently serve in an Infantry BN that got back from Afghanistan earlier this year, where I earned a BSM for service, and worked with Afghans who were more desperatley willing to do good for their country than the vast majority of Americans.)

        • thucy

          Thanks for your service, which is equal, I’m sure, to that of any non-gun-toting schoolteacher in inner-city Detroit. And I can easily deflate your argument: the attempt to disable a chem weapons supply by bombing it is so obviously counterproductive when you claim to want to protect civilians that it is almost unbelievable.
          I thank my lucky stars that there are leaders smarter than Obama; it’s depressing that it turns out to be Uncle Putin.

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