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Deadly serious in Syria

Deadly serious in Syria

As critical as I have been and continue to be of Obama’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, I have a great unease with the schadenfreude being experienced in many corners over the vote in the British House of Commons refusing to take the first step towards authorizing the British government to use force in response to the Syrian Army’s use of chemical weapons.

It rightly is being portrayed as a massive loss not only for Cameron, but for Obama.

Take no joy in either.

The use of chemical weapons by a regime which has plenty of them is deadly serious stuff, more so even than the daily carnage which takes place every day in Syria.

It’s qualitatively different. And it has important implications not only for Assad’s future use of chemical weapons, but for Iran.

I found this analysis in The Telegraph by Dan Hodges quite good, Miliband was governed by narrow political interests – not those of Syrian children. I have left the Labour Party:

What is not in any doubt is that this is a catastrophe for British foreign policy. This morning Britain has the international credibility of Luxembourg. There will still, rightly, be military action against Syria. It’s just that Britain will not be a part of it. Those who wanted to see a loosening, or severing, of the “special relationship” have finally got their wish. The US will respond on behalf of the global community to the use of chemical weapons on the children of Syria without us.

But the implications go far beyond Syria. There is now no prospect of British support for any military strike against Iran, for example. Hooray, many will say. Well, be careful what you wish for. Because the events of the past 24 hours will have been observed just as closely in Jerusalem as they have been in Damascus. And Israel will have watched the spectacle of British politicians stating events in the middle-east are not their concern, and she will not forget. Unlike us, when the Israelis say “never again”, they mean it.


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If the vote against attacking Syria in the British House of Commons causes President Obama to back down from attacking them, good. Our President is set on a course which can only lead to his being apparently free of any Constitutional restraints on his use of power and that is not where most of us want to see our nation arrive. Syria be damned!, the most important thing for us is our nation, not theirs. There is no reason that the British vote should have been governed by anything other than their narrow political interest. The analyst’s remark, “The US will respond on behalf of the global community to the use of chemical weapons on the children of Syria without us.”, is pure drivel, written by someone who does not comprehend the limits of power nor the proper actor(s) in this tragedy. First, the children of Syria have parents, local, regional and national officials who have the primary duty to see after the well-being of those children. Second, there is little real, effective action to aid those children which can be taken by the United States in this matter. Consider what the effects of a bombing campaign will be: no matter how “smart” a bomb is, it is going to fall and hit something, that is to say, unintended damage to civilian targets (“the children!!) will occur; additional damage will be inflicted on the infrastructure – water, power, roads, bridges, hospitals etc – which are currently inadequate to the demands of wounded and injured of all ages – do you suppose a stick of 500 pound GP bombs will improve that capacity?

It was said many years ago that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Today, I would say that blind cries of “it’s for the children” are the first refuge of a scoundrel, for aid and assistance to children injured and suffering in a civil war is not going to be found by additional military action in that war.

Sorry, I’m not yet convinced that the Syrian government did this. The timing, especially with the UN inspectors in-country, is just too cute. Further, given this particular administration’s inability to discern fact from fiction or even plausible fiction, as illustrated by the “explanation” that the Benghazi attack was caused by a film clip of a trailer for a proposed movie, I have no confidence that this administration will avoid wasting our servicemen’s lives.

As far as I am concerned, Obama has hit the limit of my patience for the same reason Mubarak hit the limit of the patience of the Egyptian people: the uninvestigated deaths of our citizens.

    I agree with Valerie that there needs to be stronger evidence that it was the work of Assad’s brother.

    Until then, we should all butt out and that includes my own country as well… besides we have an election next Saturday and hopefully a change of government!!

    There is a reason for the uncertainty. Russia and Iran say that it is the Opposition forces who used the chemical weapons. I think that they are capable of doing that to their own in order to get the big people involved.

    Involvement at this point would be a total disaster.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Aussie. | August 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Hah. .I saw a headline in the Economist on the election ….. a defective personality vs a defective manifesto.

      I had to think which they were allotting a personality & which a manifesto .

      No evidence of either .

delicountessa | August 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

There is ample doubt that it was Assad who used the chemical weapons. The rebels are Al Qaeda. We do know that they are not to be trusted. Consider the idea of Al Qaeda setting off the weapon, knowing that Obama issued his “red line” statement. Then, after the bodies are seen, they go on television begging for help from the West (Just like in Libya) —most specifically the USA. We then arm “the rebels” and give them money.
Al Qaeda won’t stop. There is that to consider. They have no qualms about martyring innocents in order to get what they want, but we also know that we will be hated no matter what we do. If we help, we lose blood and treasure and that will be used to recruit others to join Al Qaeda. If we don’t help, we lose neither of those and that, too, will be used to recruit others. For us, it’s lose/lose.
It is horrifying to see what is happening. I know it’s tempting to rush in and save the people from this atrocity, but to do so could end up hurting them more in the long run. More than this? You could ask.
Yes. Every time we’ve meddled in the Middle East, we’ve strengthened the terrorists and weakened the very ones we are trying to help. Especially since the Nobel Peace Prize winner took office. Iraq is in turmoil and falling back in the hands of the extremists. Afghanistan has always been a hopeless cause. Egypt is worse off because we supported the terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood (and still do)and Libya is not exactly a bastion of stability.

    I agree with your sentiment.

    There is a difference between this situation and the situation that arose in Syria. Moammar Gadhafi was using his Air Force as well as army tanks to bombard the people in Benghazi. It was for real. However, in Syria there is sufficient doubt about who set off the weapons. I know it sounds like a strange distinction, BUT the Libyans did not have access to the Air Force planes when they were bombarded!! and the Opposition Forces in Syria do have access to chemical weapons.

    The situation remains very uncertain.

-Has it ever, is it now, or will it ever be the objective of the Obama regime to secure or destroy the chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria? Regime change?


-Has it ever, is now, or will be the objective of the Obama regime to deter, let alone prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, other than reading empty rhetoric off a teleprompter, and sending strongly worded love letters to the Ayatollahs?


I think many, Worldwide, understand what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with Obama.

What we’re not dealing with is a legacy built by the men before him that says America will do the right thing, the hard thing, for the right reasons, for the benefit of all.

The Brits don’t trust Obama.

Do you?

    Excellent point about not trusting Barry Soetoro.

    I am in Australia and we are days away from a change in government. The useless idiots in government at the moment would sell us out to Barry.

      platypus in reply to Aussie. | August 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      Hopefully, the government gets replaced with one that will lift all the firearms bans. I’ve always wanted to emigrate to Oz but if I can’t own a defense weapon, I ain’t gonna.

      See, I’m over 65 and I really can’t whup a twenty-something.

        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to platypus. | August 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm

        Not likely. It was a conservative PM ( great friend of Bush ) who arranged the guns crackdown.

        You could try being a refugee but immigration at your age would be impossible..

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Aussie. | August 31, 2013 at 4:16 am

      I know you won’t read this Aussie but I can’t let that go. You would complain if this Labor govt did go with Obama & you would call them anti American left if they did not go with America.

      The fact is that he American military were here recently training the fcommando forces in chem weapons & responses. The systems are parallel & thus they most likely would co operate if asked.

      Your hatred for this government should not overlook basic alliances requirements.

Subotai Bahadur | August 30, 2013 at 10:53 am

Adding to the rational distrust of Obama’s claimed motives in attacking Syria is the small detail that every foreign policy choice of his regime seems to either benefit Al Quada and/or the Muslim Brotherhood or damage our allies and those countries and forces which while not allies can at least be worked with. Or both. Opposing a Syrian strike based solely on the word of Obama and his minions makes domestic and international sense on the face of it.

The joy at the British vote has another component. As buggered up as Britain is, and however much its government resembles a football bat; their Parliament at least some of the time takes its constitutional function seriously and acts as a check on the Executive’s attempts to rule by decree. A lot of Americans are jealous. The Democrats in Congress vote in lockstep with the White House akin to the old Supreme Soviet voting with the Politburo. And the Institutional Republicans vote like they are aspirant members of the Supreme Soviet wanting to impress the Politburo with their zeal.

The Republican House will not seriously oppose anything Obama does, be it illegal, immoral, or unconstitutional. They will accept being lied to under oath with no reaction. They will accept the setting up of the precursor of a police state; and give every indication that the actual establishment of one will go unopposed. And they will not use the power of the purse to fulfill their constitutional duty to protect the Constitution. What you see is envy and admiration. Would that we had at least one party in Congress with a measurable testosterone count.

Subotai Bahadur

So what combat capabilities does Britain have?

Seems to me they have cry-baby marines that actually cried on TV when captured by Iranians in the Persian Gulf. Recall that incident, anyone?

What did the Brits do when they chopped the head off a soldier in London? They told their soldiers not to wear their uniforms off base. That’s right, they did!

The last British soldier was Margaret Thatcher. And she is dead.

Obama, President Panty-Waist, is just praying the republican congress won’t vote for a military strike. That is his OUT for not acting on his red line. Funny how our pinko president used the term, “RED LINE” instead of just “crossing the line.”

PersonFromPorlock | August 30, 2013 at 11:08 am

There’s another question: should the American government start something, even a *virtuous* something, which, by all recent history, it hasn’t the perseverance to finish successfully? Or even the honesty to say – and stick with – what a successful finish would be?

There are many factors here, and many approaches, each having its own pluses and minuses. “Let them kill each other, and Allah will sort them out!” is not my own view, but it is eminently defensible. The Iranians, Russians, Israelis, and Chinese have already taken this president’s measure. A few rattle windows will not improve that. Recall what happened after the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit.

For the conspiracy theorists:

Don’t Show Obama This Report About Who Really Is Behind The Syrian Chemical Attacks

(I’m not one to post every little rumor on the internet, but since this is from Zerohedge, it’s worth noting. I’m not sure I believe it–just putting it out there)

Henry Hawkins | August 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

Watching Obama play at being a Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East is as horrifying as watching a five year old with a loaded shotgun running around a crowded schoolyard.

I see the British parliament refuse a PM’s call to arms for the first time since 1782 and I find I cannot blame them. They reject not America, nor time-honored allegiances. They reject Obama and his slap-happy manner of conducting extremely important affairs in the most volatile region of the world. As a fervent Obama opponent this does not please me one bit. I am embarrassed for my country. I only hope that Israel, the UK, and our traditional allies understand the problem is temporary.

    Browndog in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Or, as the Russian Deputy Prime Minister put it:

    “Monkey with a hand grenade”.

    You raised an excellent point.

    As an Australian I have to worry about our current out of control government. Little kevnie wants to do Barry’s bidding (hopeless idiot). However, there are many Australians who have a different opinion. We are in election mode and hopefully next Saturday we will have a new government that is not ALP!! The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott has stated that we should not rush into anything. I agree with Tony Abbott.

    Since Australia is in election mode, we face the same difficulties because Parliament has been dismissed and we are in what is called Caretaker mode. The Prime Minister, our little kevnie, cannot make that kind of decision at such a time.

    I am glad that David Cameron was defeated on this matter this time.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Aussie. | August 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      I always think things go much better in caretaker mode. At least they are not passing laws we don’t need.

One last note:

Obama send warships to the Mediterranean.

Putin responds by sending warships to the Mediterranean.

How does Obama respond?

He sends 1 more warship to the Mediterranean.

war games…

You are absolutely right, professor, this is not a time for joy.

The use of chemical weapons against civilians is abhorrent. It was correctly cited as one of the several reasons why we went after Saddam Hussein. His removal was in part a consequence of his willingness to murder his own people wholesale.

I do not want my grandchildren living in a world where the use of chemical weapons by genocidal thugs against innocent people is common-place. That means there must be consequences for the use of these weapons.

Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hollande understand this; that is why they have voiced the desire to deal with Bashir Assad. Unfortunately, neither has been willing to communicate the stark facts simply to their people, with the predictable result that the British and French people aren’t willing to go forward in an operation that will spill blood and cost treasure.

George W. Bush was (mostly) straight-up in why he thought we had to go after Saddam in 2003, and look at the opposition he had. Is it any surprise that Barack Obama, having been demonstrated to the satisfaction of many to be dissembling on national security issues such as Benghazi, Iran, the NSA and Afghanistan, now has no credibility at home when he says (correctly) that Syria must be punished for crossing a red line in the use of chemical weapons? That if we don’t punish Syria then other genocidal thugs will conclude that it is similarly safe for them to trample that red line?

When we attacked Iraq in 2003, Democrats complained that we had no overall strategy, no plan for the peace, and no exit plan. You’d think that in 2013 the Obama administration would be smart enough to learn from that, and present to us a coherent strategy and some sort of exit plan, as best as can be envisaged today. Mr. Obama has not done that — either he doesn’t trust the American people to understand it, or he doesn’t believe that he needs approval of the American people, or — worst of all — he doesn’t have a plan.

None of this inspires confidence. Confidence is exactly what we need right now; confidence that our leaders are honorable to an American code, confidence that smart people are being allowed to do their jobs, and confidence that people will be held accountable.

Mr. Obama doesn’t inspire confidence; therefore we have none.

The Telegraph piece is correct: take no joy in this. Our friends and enemies alike will see the lack of resolution, backbone and confidence here in the U.S., Britain, France and so on, and act accordingly.

But Mr. Hodges is wrong if he thinks Mr. Obama will act “on behalf of the global community”. Mr. Obama either will not act at all because he can’t convince us to have confidence in him, or he will act despite that, and his acts will be done as being done for himself.

And that’s the worst part of this.

Freddie Sykes | August 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

The British should be our closest allies but consider how Obama has treat them over the last 5 years. It was a close vote and Obama’s attitude towards their country may have swayed enough to cause the difference.

PersonFromPorlock | August 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Thinking about this a little more, maybe the real problem is that those who are running the present-day US government (I include the Republican House) are too unserious be trusted to take America to war.

If there is a case for the US going to war in Syria then let Obama go before Congress and the American people and make it.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to myiq2xu. | August 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Obama will not consult anyone likely to disagree with him. It is very clear this includes his own advisory staff.

Bitterlyclinging | August 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Can’t help but get the feeling that we’re careening headlong into this generations September, 1938 in Munich moment, regardless of the circumstances of how we got here.

The Western Democracies pleas of “Please Mr Hitler, we’ll do what whatever you want. We’ll give you whatever you want, but just no more war!” just made that war that much more inevitable.

We are still dithering about Syria’s very nasty Islamic Fascistic regime and our Dear Glorious el Jefe Messiah Obama wants to do something because he once laid down a line in the sand and then kind of moving it or doing what?

This time also reminds me of August, 1939, when so many expected something bad to happen in Europe.

Except, no one expected quite the war that followed, which was due entirely to all the world class dithering that had gone before, by England, France, plus FDR trying to figure out how to avoid getting caught doing something by a then somewhat compliant media.

Henry Hawkins | August 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Prediction: Obama issues a press release at midnight tonight, to the AP’s headquarters night janitor, that he is asking the Senate Foreign Relations Cmte to consider forming a subcommittee whose task it would be to consider whether we need to establish a Senate Advisory Council to consider whether we need to develop a working definition of what the fuck “a whole bunch” of nerve gas weapons means, and further, whether Assad has satisfied the determined quantification of the aforementioned phrase. Meanwhile… FORE!

BannedbytheGuardian | August 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Firstly dan hodges has a mother called Glenda Jackson. THE person who assaulted out eyes with her pea breasts all through the 70s.

Yeah I am going to take his advice .

Secondly Israel is the next door nation & has some justification in eliminating any chemicals in Syria.

Let them do it.

    Secondly Israel is the next door nation & has some justification in eliminating any chemicals in Syria.

    Let them do it.

    Do you then guarantee not to accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing/war crimes/occupation/disproportionate response when or if she does intervene? Or if Israel has to respond to an attack on its territory, as threatened by Syria and Iran?

    Will you be writing protest letters to the UN against yet another biased UN resolution against Israel?

    Or is Israel once more to be damned whether she does or does not intervene?

BannedbytheGuardian | August 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm

And that f**ckin asymmetric haircut. When the term -asymmetric warfare started spreading in the 2000s that head was all I could think of.

I just want to make sure I have this right for the MSM:

In the Bush era, going after WMDs and finding chemical weapons with the approval of Congress was a shameful act.

In the Obama era, going after chemical weapons without the approval of Congress is not a shameful act.