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      Escalation in Syria

      A Syrian army soldier wears a medical mask in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, August 24, 2013 (Photo: AP)The Obama administration lacks a public mandate for escalation in Syria. While the elites seem gripped by war fever, "barely one in four Americans back attacking Syria even if it’s proven poison gas was used on civilians.” And only ten percent of the British public favors sending even small weapons to Syria. Never in the decade of the War on Terrorism has the gap between elites and the public been wider. On the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, the public mood is decidedly set on domestic priorities. 

      Tragic for his domestic agenda, President Barack Obama drew a "red line" last year at the threat of Syrian gas attacks against civilians. Either Assad has decided to flaunt that red line or, far more likely, someone has exploited the opportunity to trap the administration into a choice between escalation and losing "face" as a superpower. US officials have compounded their self-inflicted problem by seeming to rush to judgment before the United Nations investigation is complete. 

      Based on a Guardian report, Israeli intelligence provided the White House with intercepted Syrian communications about chemical weapons. The UN demanded on the weekend that Syria provide access for inspectors, who were at work by Monday, which the US abruptly described as an unacceptable delay. 

      The suggestion that someone has provoked the US into escalation will offend many commentators. But caution is justified by recalling the fabricated "weapons of mass destruction" that gave pretext for the Iraq War. In another example, the Joint Chiefs in 1962 proposed incidents of sabotage, sinking ships and blowing up airfields to "cause a helpful wave of national indignation" for invading Cuba. During that crisis, President Kennedy exploded with words that every president should remember, "I don't care who it is, nobody is going to force me to do anything irrational just because they feel that it is going to save the image or the name of the country."

      Perhaps Obama is studying Kennedy's prophetic words, but the pressure to attack Syria is overwhelming. Obama is said to lean towards cruise missile attacks on Syria's airfields and other infrastructure, and not "regime change." However once the escalation begins, Obama has little control over Syria's response, or potential reactions by Russia or Iran. Additionally, if Assad's regime implodes, Obama inherits a crisis in which al-Qaeda-linked insurgents may come to power. In any scenario, Obama will be sacrificing scarce resources for his threatened domestic agenda for an unwinnable sectarian war across the Middle East. 

      The Israelis reportedly see Obama's resolve towards Syria as a test for the next showdown over Iran. Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Mali, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan - where does it end? What will it cost? 

      Congress, silent so far, may be compelled by domestic public opinion, to insist on application of the War Powers Resolution in order to -- quoting the president's own words - "rein in" his presidency. 

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      Reader Comments (2)

      Okay, Tom. Here's your guy, Barack Obama, whom you strongly supported with your commentaries leading up to the 2012 election.

      And here is your situation: Obama is planning to do something that most progressives oppose. You claimed that Obama would listen to us because we helped him get re-elected. You claimed he would be concerned about his "legacy" and would be more affected by public pressure.

      So, how is this going to work? Virtually all members of Congress have admitted that public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to any US military strike against Syria -- even if it is proven that the Syrian regime unleashed a chemical attack against civilians.

      The offices of Congressmembers have received an avalanche of emails and phone calls expressing strong opposition to any attack against Syria.

      The public has done its job -- exactly as you recommended. The message is loud and clear: No war on Syria.

      But what are the public figures who helped Obama get re-elected (like you, for example) going to do now?

      Are you going to publicly declare that you oppose Obama's plan?

      Are you going to write commentaries just as persuasive as the ones you wrote to get Obama back in office -- but this time against his war plans?

      Are you going to point out that even with the approval of Congress, attacking Syria would still be a gross violation of international law and international treaties?

      Are you going to call for Obama's impeachment if he engages in military strikes against the strictures of international law and the US Constitution?

      Or, what.....?

      NOW is the time we find out if getting Obama re-elected was really about "saving ourselves" -- or if it was just about "saving Obama" so that he could continue his service on behalf of the corporations that backed his election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.

      September 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSatya

      Tom Hayden can claim success.

      The American electorate has done exactly what he hoped for when he called for Obama's re-election in 2012. The public is overwhelmingly opposed to any military strike in Syria, and they have let their Senators and Representatives know that. The calls nationwide are coming in at over 95% opposed, or more. Pollsters have never seen such deep and wide opposition to a proposed presidential action. This is unprecedented. People are angry and they are raising their voices on this issue.

      So, is President Obama reacting as Tom Hayden predicted? Is Obama listening to the public and respecting their wishes to avert a military strike? No, sad to say.

      In fact, he's doing just the opposite.

      Obama has re-doubled his efforts to convince and coerce Congressmembers to vote for the military authorization.

      His White House spokespeople have flooded the airwaves to support his plan to launch missiles.

      Even though Obama and his advisers admit that they do not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the Assad regime's complicity, they still claim that they are "certain that Assad is guilty of using chemical weapons against his own people", and must be punished.

      White House officials urge people to rely on "common sense" to come to the same conclusion -- when common sense can just as easily lead to the conclusion that Assad did not use chemical weapons.

      Even more revealing, Obama has actually encouraged members of Congress to ignore the voices of their constituents if they personally want to support this war. Obama's advisers have also indicated that there is a significant likelihood that the president will ignore the will of Congress if it votes against him, and he will order a military attack on Syria even without public support or the backing of the Congress.

      And all of this occurs as President Obama readily admits that there is "no imminent threat" against the United States from Syria -- which means that any attack would be in violation of international law and the United Nations charter, whether or not Congress supports it.

      So, here we are.

      Is Tom Hayden willing to admit that he was misled by Barack Obama? Will he admit that he was wrong to urge progressives to support Obama in 2008 and 2012? Will he admit that Obama is nothing but a corporate representative, doing the bidding of his military-industrial backers?

      It's either that, or Hayden should admit that he was primarily a corporate Democratic Party supporter all along, and he was playing a role just to make sure Obama retained power. He can't have it both ways, that's for sure. Which is it? Will Tom Hayden be honest with his supporters now?

      The lesser evil is still very, very evil. And Hayden helped put the lesser evil in office. He shares responsibility with Obama for the economic devastation he continues to wreak on the poor and middle class in the US. He shares responsibility with Obama for the destruction of our civil liberties, and for his illegal surveillance programs. And he will share responsibility for each death and injury that may be caused by Obama's threatened military attacks.

      These are the real-world impacts that have directly resulted from Tom Hayden's political actions. Will he own up to them? We shall see.


      September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSatya
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