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article imageOp-Ed: Obama and Syria — When credibility goes bankrupt

By David Delmar     Sep 4, 2013 in Politics
The drumbeat of war is deafening once again. These days, if the US is not fighting simultaneous wars the White House seems to reel from ennui. This time, the target is Syria.
What is the reason for this latest jingoistic uproar? During an “off-the-cuff” remark at the White House, Obama feebly mumbled some incoherent words about living in a world where dictators gas “women and children” (forget about men). Drone strikes which murder civilians are acceptable in the Obama rubric—but not gas. Gas is a “red line.” One is advised to keep a bottle of Tylenol nearby before trying to make sense of that distinction.
Unfortunately, the US has no credibility when it offers humanitarian motives as bases for waging war. How can we take Obama seriously that Assad’s crimes deserve punishment when his administration’s allies include the horrifying dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain, and when his own administration routinely flouts international law and murders civilians? Obama’s hypocrisy simply reaffirms one of the most enduring truths about American foreign policy: international law matters—but applied to “them,” not “us.”
It is also important to note that we can’t yet be sure that a gas attack actually took place. We also can’t be sure it was the Syrian dictator who orchestrated the attack (if it happened) as opposed to the fanatical rebels fighting against him. The United Nations has not yet made a finding on either point. Though not the most credible source, Vladimir Putin suggested it would be “utter nonsense” for the Assad regime to have used chemical weapons when it was winning the Syrian civil war.
In the absence of a contrary finding by the UN, Putin’s skepticism is not outlandish. Using chemical weapons would be consistent with the character of the sadistic Syrian rebel forces who have reportedly murdered children for making jokes about the Prophet Muhammad and who, in one horrific video, filmed a man cutting out the heart of a dead Assad soldier and then taking a bite out of it (I personally saw this morbid spectacle online).
No sadism or barbarity can be placed beyond the contemplation of these Al Qaeda-associated guerrilla forces. This latter connection, by the way, is perhaps the most bizarre fact about Obama’s desire to wage war against Assad: doing so would, in a very real sense, ally the US with Al Qaeda. Could the futility of US foreign policy be more prominently displayed?
Rejecting UN calls for reticence and relying on US intelligence (which is, in this case, based in part on intelligence provided by the Israeli government, which would like nothing more than to see the US take military action against its longtime Syrian enemy), Secretary John Kerry and President Obama are zealously convicted both that there was a chemical attack in Syria and that the Assad regime is responsible for it. One can’t begrudge them their certainty. After all, US intelligence never gets anything wrong.
Recall, however, that Candidate Obama was vigorous in attacking his predecessor for shirking the international community and “going it alone” in Iraq. Now, as he awaits Congressional approval for military action in Syria, he doesn’t seem to mind that the UN is not on board.
And speaking of Congressional approval, Candidate Obama once told Charlie Rose:
[t]he president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
Somewhere along the line, Candidate Obama changed his mind about this, too. The former constitutional law professor now insists he has the power to wage war in Syria with or without Congressional approval.
Ultimately, whether it is congressionally approved or not, we are told waging war in Syria is necessary lest the US look “weak.” When Jack Kennedy refused to publicly trade US missiles in Turkey for Soviet missiles in Cuba to avoid nuclear war, he was also afraid he might look “weak.” So it was that every man, woman and child on earth almost perished.
God knows how “strong” JFK might have looked in the shadow of a worldwide mushroom cloud. There are those who ominously suggest we might find out if President Obama blunders us into another deadly war.
Let’s hope not.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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