Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nairobi, Kenya Westgate Mall Terrorist Slaughter: The Aftermath

Like zombies in a horror movie, or Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, every time we're told that the Somali Islamofascist group al-Shabab (“the Youth”) is on the ropes, they suddenly lash out with maximum surprise, striking from the grave, attacking the court building in Mogadishu (Somalia's capital) where they killed two dozen people, hitting the UN, hotels, restaurants, anywhere where people are trying to live normal lives. [1]

Now they did it again, more spectacularly than ever, with the murderous assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. An estimated 12-15 thugs jumped out of vehicles and immediately started slaughtering shoppers and people socializing. So far, the official death toll is over 60, with an equal number missing and possibly killed, plus a couple hundred wounded, ranging in age from 2 to 78. (Maybe “the Youth” should change their Brand Name to “No Mercy!”)

The BBC carried a story based on an interview with a witness who described a young child shot by the terrorists, who then quizzed his sister and mother on some bit of Muslim trivia. They answered correctly, and then the Shabab butchers killed them anyway. When the boy screamed WHY?, they replied that they objected to their dress. (Well that's a good reason.)

Throughout the four day atrocity and seizure by the al-Shabab terrorists of Somalia, starting on the second day the Kenyan rulers issued daily claims that the battle was over. These assertions proved to be, shall we say, premature. There were also various claims about Americans and Brits being among the assailants, and one or more women. There was reason to be suspicious of the claims about American and British terrorists, due to the lack of specifics presented, and the obvious desire of the Kenyan elite to enlist more support from the U.S. and Europe.

Recently-elected Kenyan President Kenyatta* (who is under indictment at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, along with his deputy president) asserted that forensic experts (Kenyan ones? or foreign?) would examine the corpses of the terrorists to determine their identities, blurring earlier assertions by Kenya’s foreign minister that Americans and a Briton were involved in the siege.

Intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack,” Kenyatta* said. “We cannot confirm the details at present but forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.” Well maybe you could at least determine their genders? How hard could that be? [2]

Kenyatta* mentioned that three floors of the mall had collapsed, without explaining how or why.

Kenyatta* also claimed that five terrorists were killed and eleven others were in custody. He left murky if the eleven were attackers or accomplices rounded up elsewhere, as has been suggested by media reports.
Various witnesses reported that some terrorists managed to escape by blending into fleeing crowds. “Western security officials” also thought this may have happened. If so, that is indicative of grossly incompetent policing and lack of control of the crime scene. [3]

Kenyan official ineptness has been on jarring display throughout the terrorist siege. Like something out of a lurid Hollywood agit-propaganda movie, a handful of terrorists (no more than 15 at the top end of estimates) seized a 5 story mall including 80 stores, killed probably 130 or so people once the full death toll is properly tallied, and held off hundreds of “elite” Kenyan soldiers (with their Israeli, American, British, and French advisers in the background to hold their hands) with armored personnel carriers and helicopters, for four days. And not because hostage-rescue teams were conducting negotiations. It was combat all the way. What a pathetic performance by the Kenyans.

No surprise there: this is a country that recently had a fire at its international airport that civilians with buckets of water had to put out since the airport lacked even a single fire engine. Typical African country ruled by a selfish, feckless, greedy elite. (But all the blame goes to Western Imperialism, don't you know.)
Nor can this attack really be considered a surprise, as various secret police agencies have known for several years that Westgate Mall was a potential terrorist target, and had been scouted by the terrorists previously. [The CIA has a large station in Nairobi.]

And there have been plenty of previous terrorist attacks in Kenya, such as the truck-bombing of the U.S. embassy in 1998 attributed to al-Qaeda, which killed 200 people (almost all Kenyans), a 2002 attack on an Israeli hotel in Kenya, and a failed attempt to shoot down an El Al airliner with a surface to air missile. (The Shabab also like to attack churches and mosques in Kenya. That's because they're very religious, you see. Other ways the Shabab and their ilk prove how religious they are is by murdering people who they deem out of conformity with their dress code, cutting off the hands of musicians, destroying all art, and burying teenage girls up to their necks and throwing rocks at their heads until they're dead. And they're big on chopping off people's heads, just like their Saudi paymasters- and Wahhabism, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, is the ideological wellspring of jihadism.) [4]

It's obvious that two things the Islamofascists would like to totally extirpate from all of our lives are pleasure and freedom.

Al-Shabab also punished Uganda for contributing troops to the African expeditionary force in Somalia, with multiple bombings of the crowds gathered to enjoy the World Soccer Cup in 2010, killed 76 people. (A fine way to prevent people from enjoying sports. Sports are “UnIslamic” anyway.)

One of the people al-Shabab murdered in the Mall Massacre was the leading poet of Ghana- a great “victory” for them, in their eyes, I suppose. (Maybe they heard of Hermann Goering's quip “Whenever I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my gun,” and took it to heart.)

Kenya will not get peace unless they pull their military out of Somalia,” ranted Ali Mohamoud Rage, the all-too-appropriately-named Shabab spokesman, in a screed broadcast over the radio. Al-Shabab has also been blasting out giddy boasts via Twitter about their terrorist massacre at the Mall. (Despite their hatred for modernity, and a desire to recreate their demented version of an eighth century society, the various Islamofascists are perfectly happy to avail themselves of such modern technologies as radio, the Internet, automatic firearms, powerful explosives, internal combustion engine motor vehicles, jet planes, and so on- all things that if goons like them had been running the world all these centuries, wouldn't even exist. But one item of modern technology they do reject- vaccines. And in Pakistan for example they enforce a ban on them by murdering health care workers.)

At the same time, President Kenyatta called the terrorists “cowards,” an absurdity parroted by his fellow-ICC-defendant, deputy president William Ruto. (We heard the same inanity in the U.S. after the airliner kamikaze attacks on 9/11/01. What, aren't words like terrorist or monster or evil scum insulting enough? Is “coward” the worst thing someone can be? Anti-human nihilist is much worse, in my book.)
They are certainly no heroes to any normal human being, as they are not admirable, but obviously they did not lack courage, unfortunately. I wish they had been cowards, in which case they would have been unable to pull off their four day long carnival of carnage.

Both Kenyatta and al-Shabab declared themselves victors. That's a matter of perspective. (To the rest of us, neither look good.) But there's no question who the losers are in this round: humanity, decency, civilization are. [5]

* I wonder, will we ever have an American president named Americaman?

[1] The current New Yorker has a poignant article about a Somali chef who left a successful life in London (where he owned restaurants and has a wife and children) to return to Somalia to open restaurants and a hotel there to return life to the country. Needless to say, his businesses have been bombed repeatedly and al-Shabab has announced their intention to murder him. (“Letter From Somalia: Now Serving,” New Yorker, Sept. 30, 2013.)

[2] “Kenya’s President Says Mall Attackers Are ‘Defeated,’” New York Times, September 24, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Gunmen Kill Dozens in Terror Attack at Kenyan Mall,” New York Times, September 21, 2013.

[5] If we refer to the notional terrorist playbook the terrorism “experts” like to cite, I guess we have to chalk this one up as a win for the terrorists. Using a small number of attackers, they caused great economic damage to Kenya, striking its tourism industry, probably scaring off investment, and also scoring a political blow, making the Kenyan government appear weak and unable to defend the country. The terrorists appear strong, able to strike at will, in a fashion that generates great worldwide publicity for them. So they maximize their impact with a small, expendable force, upending an entire nation.

Time to wipe them out already. But pay compensation when you kill the wrong people with your drones or whatever, U.S.! That's both the moral thing to do and the pragmatic thing to do, if you really want to win your “War on Terror”TM and not multiply your enemies, like in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. You see how “realism” and morality are generally one and the same, in the long term, on the fundamental level?

Monday, September 23, 2013

McCain's Broadside At Putin Also Applies To The U.S.

GOP Senator John McCain was mightily peeved by Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed piece, planted there with the help of the US “public relations” (private propaganda) firm Ketchum. (Then again, McCain The Cranky is easily peeved. You might say he's chronically peeved, except when he's downright enraged.)

Putin actually put forth a strong argument against U.S. military action against the Assad regime in Syria. I don't agree with it, but the U.S. establishment has chosen to respond in the main not with refutation and counterargument but with dismissive contempt. McCain took it up a notch with a personal attack on Putin. [1]

Thus, McCain didn't bother refuting Putin's points. McCain just wanted to blast Putin for being a tyrant (and I'm not a Putin fan because I'm not a fan of autocrats, period). But ad hominem attacks don't refute the arguments of one's opponent. (At least not if one applies the rules of logic and reason, which are rarely applied, so I guess they don't count.) [2]

Big McC says that Putin “has made her [Russia] a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world." Arguably true. [I wonder what “nations that seek to build safer, more blah blah blah world” The Cainster had in mind? Give you one guess.]

But doesn't Honest John McCain's description of Russia exactly describe the U.S.? Its friends are different tyrants, to be sure. And certainly other nations mistrust the U.S., especially after its conquest of Iraq, based on lies, and now the exposé of the extent of NSA spying on everybody, from presidents to average citizens.

And the awful truth is that globally, no nation in the modern era has been a greater enemy to the oppressed than the U.S. The examples are too numerous to mention, the record of the details stretching to thousands of pages, so I will just cite a few salient examples to make the point here. (We'll leave aside the blindingly obvious examples of slavery, and genocide against the American Indians.)

It is standing U.S. policy to side with rich elites in every country it meddles and intervenes in, against the interests of the poor majority. Haiti is a perfect example of this U.S. behavior. Then we have invasions (such as Dominican Republic in 1965) and coups (Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, for example) designed to overthrow leaders and destroy governments that threaten to use a nation's resources for the benefit of the population of that nation. There are the numerous military juntas the U.S. has backed- what is more oppressive than that? The U.S. thinks propaganda is more powerful than facts, and all its politicians and propagandists have to do is prattle endlessly about their love and devotion to freedom and democracy and human rights and all that good stuff. But actions speak louder than words.

The truth is, the U.S. works globally on behalf of the rich against the poor. It systematically works to sabotage progressive politicians, activists, labor organizers, and scholars, even arranging their assassinations. It works to prevent the rise to power of progressive politicians wherever and whenever it can. (When they do manage to come to power, they are immediately treated as enemies, such as with Chavez in Venezuela, Correa in Ecuador, and Morales in Bolivia, among others. And look what they did to Allende in Chile! Arbenz in Guatemala got off easy by comparison- his life was spared, but not those of 250,000 and counting of his countrymen since 1954.)

McCain The Pain also thundered in his indictment that Putin and his regime "punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten, and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance. To perpetuate their power they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption."

Again, that's pretty close to a word for word description of the state of affairs in the U.S., with some caveats. Just dealing with the Obama regime: the Punish dissent and imprison opponents part is obvious. (In the imprison category, John Kiriakou, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, Barrett Brown, Edward Snowden if they can get their hands on him, and numerous dissidents unknown to the general public, and they would have locked up Internet activist Aaron Swartz if he hadn't committed suicide first. In the punish category, many more dissidents, such as Occupy Movement protesters, are subjected to beatings, pepper-sprayings, secret police stalking and persecution, and whistle-blowers are subjected to FBI raids and close brushes with imprisonment such as Thomas Drake and William Binney.) Or just review the history of the 1970s, 1960s, 1950s, and earlier periods. [In fact read some books on the subject- here's a link to some.]

Election rigging? McCain's own party has done plenty of that, via the fixed voting machines foisted on us by the Republican-owned companies that make them, and most notoriously the stolen 2000 Presidential election. [3]

Media control? True, the U.S. government doesn't control the media. But the Obama regime has broken new ground in attempts at intimidation and spying targeting the corporate establishment media itself. It has run massive electronic spying campaigns against the AP and Fox News (and those are just the ones we know about!) and menaced journalists with criminal investigations (and a sealed indictment against Julian Assange, and who knows who else).

Harass, threaten and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance? When has the U.S. not done that? The secret police in the U.S. systematically attack any group that threatens established power. Again, the fate of the Occupy Movement is a recent example. Anti-war groups are targeted not just by the FBI, CIA, local and state police, and others, but even by the military, which infiltrates, spies on, and disrupts them. The U.S. is ruled by corporate oligarchs who control both the national and various state legislatures.

How about Foster corruption in the courts and economy?

Too many examples here- thousands, at least- to list, so let's just name a few: Ever hear of the dirty deals done to deregulate the financial industry? Robert Rubin, Clinton's Treasury secretary, helped orchestrate that, and subsequently went to his reward (don't call it a bribe!)- a multimillion dollar a year sinecure at Citigroup.

We have just come through a period of systematic fraud by banks and credit rating agencies that created mortgages for deliberately overvalued homes issued to borrowers who would obviously never be able to repay them, rated the resulting “securities” Triple-A (the highest, “safest” rating) and fobbed them off on chump institutional investors. After that, there was an (ongoing) period of fraudulent foreclosures, with thousands of fictitious signatures on legal filings with courts, which looked the other way. (That's a twofer- corruption of the courts AND of the economy.)

Corruption of the courts: take the Inslaw scandal, referenced below. Or the systematic theft of billions of dollars in resource royalty payments owed to Indian tribes by the U.S., which went on for decades, including under Clinton (and probably continues today).

Meanwhile, people like Maher Arar can't even sue the U.S. Arar is the Canadian that the U.S. seized off a plane as he was flying home. (He was not even entering the U.S. but merely in transit back to Canada from a vacation.) He was falsely branded a terrorist by the “Royal” Canadian Mounted Police, so the U.S. secret police shipped him off to Syria for a year of torture and imprisonment in an underground grave. The U.S. merely had to intone the magic words “National Security” and the U.S. courts said he couldn't sue. Meanwhile, the corrupt Tom DeLay has just had his criminal conviction overturned on appeal. Funny how it always works out that way. (I could fill a lengthy tome with more examples.)

Then there's a “secret” court, the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” court, which rubber-stamps warrant requests by the secret police- something like 36,000- while rejecting about a dozen, during its existence. Sounds fair, right? No one ever knows what it does, or who it spies on (everyone, we have learned from Edward Snowden's exposé of the NSA), or why.

Finally we come to “terrorize and even assassinate journalists” who threaten to expose those in power. We have a very recent example of that: the murder of Michael Hastings by elements of the deep state. Apparently lured to a meeting under false pretenses, his car was taken over by hacking into its computer system at 4:30 in the morning and driven at high speed into a tree, but apparently after a bomb planted inside exploded, leaving the engine 200 feet behind the wrecked car. (The laws of physics would dictate that if it flew out of the car after hitting the tree- which it couldn't, since the tree would be in the way- it would have continued forward, just as JFK's head snapping violently backwards in Dealey Plaza in Dallas proves a bullet struck him from in front, fired from the grassy knoll.)

Danny Casolaro was investigating the Inslaw scandal (an unbelievable example of corruption in the U.S. Federal Judiciary and Executive branch- read about it at the link) when he suddenly turned up dead in a hotel bathtub with his wrists slit, baffling his family and friends. This was a murder by the deep state made to look like a suicide. But don't take my word for it; "I believe he was murdered," no less than former Attorney General Elliot Richardson wrote in the NewYork Times. (Casolaro received numerous threatening phone calls prior to his death.)

We have the unresolved case of the “suicide” of Gary Webb. Webb wrote a series about the CIA's use of drug smuggling to fund the contra terrorists attacking Nicaragua during the Reagan regime of the 1980s. (A standard CIA practice since its very founding, since illegal drugs provides the CIA with untraceable, “off the books” funds, thus cutting Congress completely out of the loop and creating a state within a state with its own treasury department in effect.) Webb published these articles in the San Jose (California) Mercury-News, a second or third-tier newspaper in the U.S. media hierarchy.

Despite the fact that the story was absolutely true (and in fact reported earlier in the “alternative” media) the high priests of truth like the New York Times and Washington Post savaged the series and Webb's paper repudiated his work and fired Webb, in cowardly fashion. Webb was blacklisted by the establishment media and thus couldn't find employment in his profession. Ultimately he committed “suicide,” supposedly.

It is an open question whether, driven to despair by the media turning him into a pariah, he killed himself, or whether once again a vengeful CIA exercised its specialty of murder-made-to-look-like-suicide. (Easy for them to do, and they've had plenty of practice.) Either way, the power establishment bears the brunt of responsibility for Webb's death.

Much of the terrorism against journalists takes the form of legal terrorism, with threats of imprisonment for not revealing sources (as NY Times reporter James Risen is currently facing) or for “criminal conspiracy” with whistle-blowers for revealing “classified” information. Of course murdering journalists is also a good way to terrorize the rest of them. As the Chinese saying goes: “Kill one, frighten a thousand.”

But we also have to look at the systematic, ongoing murder of journalists in U.S.-backed regimes in Honduras and Colombia. That is also on the U.S. ledger. And Mexico, one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists, is also supported by the U.S. There journalists are either murdered by drug cartels protected by the police and state, which are indifferent or complicit in these murders, or murdered directly by state actors. The numbers slaughtered in these U.S.-allied nations vastly outnumber the handful assassinated in Russia.

Russia even has multiparty elections and a legislature, just like the U.S. And there is a small independent media (just as there is a small one in the U.S.) and visible dissidents (again, like the U.S.).

There is an important difference between Russia and the U.S.: in Russia, billionaires can be crushed by the state. That can never happen in the U.S.

Obviously we would be naïve to take at face value the honeyed words of Putin in his civilized, reasonable mode, or the pumped up moral indignation of a Vietnam War criminal and reactionary militarist like McCain.

But perhaps we should take heart in the fact that nowadays, imperialists and oppressors of all stripes feel compelled to talk as if they're democrats and friends of human rights. If hypocrisy is indeed the tribute that vice pays to virtue, it seems that the power-wielding oppressors must now make regular payments.

1] Putin marred what would have been a strong brief for his case by repeating the insulting and grotesque canard that it was the rebels who gassed their own enclave. That aside, his arguments were, in brief: 1) the UN was established to make sure that matters of war and peace would be decided by consensus. This has underlain international stability after World War II; 2) when “influential” [read: powerful] countries bypass the UN, it risks turning it into another League of Nations, that is, impotent and doomed; 3) a U.S. attack is widely opposed, including by the Pope, would create innocent victims, and would lead to regional chaos and terrorism, make more difficult resolutions to the Iranian nuclear question and Israeli-Palestinian problem, and undermine international law and stability; 4) the battle in Syria isn't about democracy, but a battle for power by many factions, and foreign jihadists are present, presenting a danger to Russia and other nations as they migrate out of Syria; 5) a U.S. strike without UN sanction would violate international law, and ; 6) U.S. unilateralism has led to bad outcomes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Oh, and 7) the U.S. isn't “exceptional,” it's just another nation among others, because remember, “ God created us equal.” (The neo-Czar has discarded the official atheism of the “Marxist”-Leninist Soviet Union and re-embraced the reactionary and authoritarian Russian Orthodox Church, a natural ally, just as the Roman Catholic Church has proven a reliable ally of fascist and reactionary regimes the world over. These are examples of what I call authoritarian symbiosis.)

Putin also offered a teaser of “cooperation on other international issues” if the U.S. plays ball on Syria, no doubt to put in there to get the Obama regime salivating in anticipation of Russian help on Iran and other matters. [“Give Us The Head Of Edward Snowden!” I can envision the U.S. demanding, again.]

[“A Plea for Caution From Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria,” by Vladimir V. Putin, New York Times, September 11, 2013. Also there was an interesting commentary about Putin's piece in the Guardian, “Vladimir Putin: arch manipulator with a mission to check US will,” 14 September 2013. The article isn't totally correct, however: for example it uses the phrase “U.S.-democracy promotion” without quotes, as if such a thing exists as anything more than verbal and ideological camouflage for actual U.S. aims, and an idiotic David Rohde quote to the effect that Putin “probably fears” he'll be overthrown if Assad is. Maybe if he's clinically paranoid, he does.]

[2] McCain also objected to being called "an active anti-Russian politician," asserting that "I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today." Hey John, maybe now you know how it feels to people who criticize U.S. policies and its socio-economic status quo when they're branded “anti-American,” including by guys like you. Or even called “traitors” for performing public services, like Edward Snowden and Chelsea (neé Bradley) Manning.

And speaking of regimes that are enemies of their own people, there's nothing like the NSA in Russia that monitors and stores ALL the communications of ALL its citizens, surreptitiously, and passes what it finds to the FBI and CIA and DEA and IRS and god knows who else for laundering and use in bringing criminal cases and harassment and persecution against domestic “enemies,” NOT “terrorists.” (Although the secret police routinely brand their enemies, like the Occupy Movement, environmentalists, and anti-war activists, “terrorists.”) In fact, no other nation on earth, not even North Korea, or China (that we know, although, inspired by the U.S. example, they might try it) does to its citizens what the NSA is doing .

3] And 2004 too. Ohio was stolen for Bush that year, giving him the Electoral College votes he needed to “win.” The Democratic VP nominee, John Edwards, wanted to fight it, but John Kerry, the Presidential nominee, said no. Later Edwards was retaliated against with a fraudulent criminal case brought by the Federal government falsely claiming a campaign contribution violation- Edwards won at trial- and a never-ending media vilification of Edwards over his sexual affair while his wife had breast cancer. Why, what a beastly cad! As usual in the U.S., any politician with progressive tendencies (such as Edwards) must be neutralized, marginalized, or destroyed as a threat to the reactionary system.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Assad Regime's Latest Taunting Tease of Obama

As I mentioned yesterday, Syrian Tyrant Bashar al-Assad's deputy prime minister actually declared a stalemate in the civil war/insurrection there, and called for a ceasefire.

That ploy lasted all of one day, it would seem. Today the BBC had a regime apparatchik on to explain how a deputy PM could be calling for a truce, and declaring a stalemate in the civil war, when that flies in the face of the dictator Assad's position. True to form for Assad regime gang members, what he said was absurd. It was that the deputy PM wasn't speaking for the government, he was speaking as a member of his party. You see, Syria isn't a dictatorship, it's a multiparty democracy! Who knew?

I'll bet nobody realized that before, since the deputy PM neglected to mention it when he pulled this latest pathetic, time-wasting, mind-fucking ploy of the regime he serves.

The Assad regime is going to jerk Obama's chain every day now, for however many months or years Obama wants to play along with Assad's transparent artifice. (Given how the sleazy con man and rip-off artist Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has kept the U.S. gravy train going for over a decade now, playing the Americans for saps, I'm not very optimistic about a quick end to the Syrian charade.) Actually Obama wants the Syrians to stall, the better for people to gradually forget or lose interest in the chemical weapon slaughter and Obama's “red line.”

Truth be told, Obama has some of the blood of those gassed children he professes such concern for on his hands. (We can gauge how much he really cares by what he's done about it so far- nothing. He let his Secretary of State [John Kerry] make a fool of himself by threatening an imminent attack, and then pulled the rug out from under him, announcing he'd get a Congressional authorization first, and now he's even abandoned that, in favor of letting the Russians jerk the U.S. around for the next six months or a year or however long, by which time the “issue” will be “old.”) Had he not in effect dared Assad to use gas by drawing a “red line,” Assad may never have used the gas. A dictator has to appear strong to his followers, or risk a coup. Assad was practically compelled to test Obama when Obama ordered him not to use chemical weapons. So he started with a small test attack. Obama pretended he didn't know Assad did it- talking as if he needed proof beyond a reasonable doubt to enforce his “red line”! (If only such proof, or any evidence at all, was required for the thousands in the U.S. military gulag.) [1]

By the way, Obama now has the brass to claim that it's “not my red line.” It's “the world's.” Oh. Except it was Obama who declared it, and Obama who pretended he was going to finally act, (sending the hapless Kerry on a very public fool's errand) after his previous inaction emboldened Assad to kill another 1,429 people (by the U.S.' count). And for good measure, firebomb some schoolkids a couple of days later, with one of his jets, which Obama should have destroyed by now. (If indeed the U.S. is “a force for good,” as its high-ranking apparatchiks and nomenklatura members are so fond of declaring.)

Well, I guess we shouldn't allow our hopes to rise when it looks like the U.S. might use its power for good. That only happens once in a blue moon. [I.e. rarely.] To be fair, Obama did fake us out this time. Who could have guessed that after making it seem that he was going to order a strike, he'd just slink off into some political miasma. And the U.S. did use air assets to save the Libyan uprising from being smashed by Qaddafi. (Much to the chagrin of various leftists, some of whom positively pine for the days of Qaddafi. I'm not exaggerating.)

Of course Obama was reluctantly pushed into that one- remember “leading from behind”? How does he come up with those flippant, fatuous slogans to camouflage and dignify his awkward, oddball behavior? Does he invent them himself or does his staff brainstorm them?

Obama seems to think he can outsmart his political opponents, domestic and foreign, whether it's Bashar al-Assad, Hamid Karzai, or Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, with not much more than verbiage. (He'd be great at academic politics.) His record is mixed at best, at least in power. (He certainly proved adept at getting elected, however, handily out-manipulating Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Mitt Romney on that particular playing field, the one of U.S. electoral politics.) But I don't think his intellectual intelligence is the right kind of intelligence for the foes he's faced in power. And if you look at the assets and positions of those first four foes I named, you'd think a clever President of the United States, one with a great deal of popular support, could get the better of them, rather than vice versa.

So as compensation, he personally picks people to die by drone, and increases the domestic repression in the U.S., spying on journalists and treating them as criminals and constructing the most nightmarishly all-encompassing secret police hyper-surveillance state anywhere, ever, by far.

Well, where does that leave us? Another decade, another mini-holocaust, this time in Syria, while the rest of the world's population looks on as spectators. What is wrong with this species? That is the deeper question, a question that is deeper than mere politics. It's a psychological, an ontological, an existential, a biological, and a meta-political question, which also has profound social and cultural dimensions that must be analyzed. Such a question requires more than a brief essay to do justice to it.

1] Speaking personally, gassed children- adults too, for that matter- bothers me enough that if I had the power to do something about it to punish, weaken, and deter the perpetrators, I would. Like the kind of power the President of the United States has.

But then we get the deeply disingenuous argument from the “anti-war” crowd (by the way, isn't there a war in Syria right now? Why don't these clowns demonstrate outside the Syrian embassies and consulates in protest? Just asking) that “what difference does it make how someone is killed?” Isn't that as much- if not more- an argument for intervention as for standing off to the side with one's hands in one's pockets and bleating for “dialogue” and “negotiations”? (Yes, it is. There, I answered my own rhetorical question.) And I think Assad has shown what he thinks of dialogue and negotiations when he answered unarmed protesters by gunning them down in the streets, when he dealt with teenagers writing graffiti against him by having them tortured, murdered, and handing their mutilated bodies to their families with gangster threats to keep quiet about it. Or when he gave not one, but two UN mediators in a row the runaround, blowing his insulting lies in their faces. Or when he's spent the past two and a half years reducing cities to rubble, targeting hospitals, clinics, and medical workers, sniping at civilians, and using the heavy weaponry of a military designed to fight other nations against a trapped civilian population, all in order to cling to power at all costs. Doesn't look like he's interested in that “negotiated solution,” the heirs of Neville Chamberlain keep blathering on about.

Speaking of “war,” Syria has shot down a Turkish jet, and has shelled Turkish towns, killing Turkish citizens. It's also set off car bombs at the border. I don't hear the “no war!” crowd (careful you don't shout yourselves horse, dearies) saying Syria is “at war” with Turkey. (And Turkey just shot down a Syria helicopter it claimed was over its airspace.) Is firing a single bullet, say, a “war”? A limited military strike is not a “war.” It can be construed as an act of war, if the target nation so chooses.

This is a semantical game, a rather dishonest one, with double standards aplenty deployed by its advocates. There are two types of characters involved in it: 1) Assad agents, and 2) people allergic to Western, especially U.S., power, but who have no problem with the worst tyrants and despots and aggressors provided they aren't allied with the U.S. bloc.

Real principled.

If the latter group were actually motivated by humanitarian principles, they would not manifest this double standard. They should try being consistent. (Something they demand from the U.S.)

And it's not that most of them are pacifists, either. Most apparently regard fighting fascism in World War II as a righteous cause, for example, and romanticize the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War against the traitor Franco's fascist uprising. (An exception is the late Howard Zinn, who went around late in life lecturing that neither the American Civil War nor World War II should have been fought by the U.S. His People's History of the United States still stands as an important, clarifying work, but he sure had his head far up his ass later on.)

I just think it is a sign of having an ideological cement block for a brain if you think the U.S. is ALWAYS wrong in EVERY situation, and whoever it happens to be opposing is in the right. (That seems to be in practice the Noam Chomsky view of the world these days, at least the first half, although he would deny it.)

Yes, the U.S. is an imperialist power. So is Russia (for centuries), so was Iraq under Saddam Hussein (a failed one, to be sure), so are or have been lots of nations. It is simplistic, black and white thinking, and intellectually lazy (and morally feckless, if not worse) to just put a black hat on the U.S. and see all conflicts in that light. I take a backseat to no one in denouncing U.S. crimes, but that doesn't make everything the U.S. does criminal, and the U.S. is not the sole source of evil in the world. Far from it. (But it's so much easier to act as if it is. You don't have to think and deal with complexities that way!)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Assad Willing To “Talk About” Handing Over His Chemical Weapons

Gee, that's odd. I thought that “framework” worked out by the U.S. and Russia meant he was going to hand them over, not “talk about” it.

He also called the UN chemical weapons inspectors' report “unrealistic,” as if it was something from Mars. (After all, it was the rebels' who gassed their own enclave, don't you know. Even Russia agrees!)

Assad says the most outrageous things as if he's being totally reasonable. He's willing to talk! Reasonable guy!

As long as all you want from him is listening to his sick bullshit, he's quite accommodating.

Actually he did put a price tag on the handover: One Billion Dollars. And it will take a year. (Not a week, as Kerry demanded in his off-the-cuff comment that started this disarmament scheme ball rolling. (Or do we have to put “off-the-cuff” in quotes now? Are we to believe this was all prearranged? If so, it's bizarre.) Assad also had one of his lackeys claim they want a “cease fire.” So peace-loving! His stooges in the West (both leftists and rightists) will take that one and run with it, for sure. Reminds me of Hitler constantly claiming to want “peace” while extracting concession after concession from his appeasers. Gangster methods don't change much.

And Russian neo-Czar Vladimir Putin is keeping up the disgusting lie campaign of pretending the Syrian rebels gassed their own area.

To make matters worse, the fanatical foreign jihadists are now opening waging war on the Syrian rebels; today they drove them out of a town on the Turkish border. So by sitting on its hands, the U.S. has helped come to pass what it feared, and why it sat on its hands- the growing strength of the Islamofascists. Way to go, Obama. I repeatedly inveighed against this stupid strategy starting way back. Obviously the way to prevent that would have been to strengthen the indigenous rebels. Now the Islamofascists are better armed than the original rebels. (Saudi Arabia is partly to blame for that, of course. Some “ally.” The U.S. keeps invading all the wrong countries. It should have invaded Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, if it wanted to fight Islamofascist terrorism. It should have invaded Pakistan, not [or in addition to] Afghanistan to root out the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The U.S. doesn't seem to know what it's doing. Meanwhile, under the pretext of “fighting terrorism,” it steals all the communications of everyone it can, including all Americans.)

Anyway, Obama is too busy building the edifice of a total surveillance state, brick by brick, to do anything decisive about Syria. Pay no attention to his blather about the vital importance of upholding “international norms” and protecting “our children” and international law and blah blah blah. He's been bloviating in high-falutin' fashion at least since his national debut at the Democratic Party Convention in 2004, where he retrod already well-trod rhetorical ground with a “progressive” speech. (Right-wing Democratic Goveror of New York State Mario Cuomo was doing that for years, before Obama, as have many other Democratic Party con men. It's a standard trick in the Democratic Party's bag of deceit, deception, and manipulation.) Unfortunately there are millions of willing dupes who should know better by now who eagerly swill the vile Kool-Aid, because they want change but are too cowardly to actually oppose the system, even if only to vote for Ralph Nader or the Green Party. Even something that tame is too “radical” for the Democratic Party's useful idiots.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Obsene Russian-Syrian Charade Gets More Grotesque

The UN chemical weapons inspectors just turned in their report to the Secretary General on their investigation of the August 21 sarin gas slaughter in Syria. Even though, as per their instructions, they do not say who launched the attack, but merely present the evidence they gathered, it is clear that Assad did it. The rockets carrying the gas were launched from his military's positions, the rocket fragments recovered were his munitions.

So today the Russians are insisting they have "evidence" that the rebels did it. They're still on that. (What evidence? They don't say. These are the same guys who were recently demanding that the U.S. produce its evidence that Assad did it, which he obviously did.)

So much for this bullshit "framework" under which the lying scum of the Assad regime and their ultracynical Russian enablers are supposed to hand over Assad's chemical arsenal. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Meanwhile, Assad has plenty of useful idiots in the West on both the left and the right (including the far left and the far right in the good ole U.S. of A.) running interference for him to stave off any military attack by the U.S., which they call "war." As if there isn't a real war going on in Syria right now.

By the way, the U.S. has employed limited military force hundreds (if not thousands) of times in the past two centuries, almost never with a Congressional declaration of war. The third President of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson, sent a naval fleet to the Mediterranean to wage a war against the Barbary pirate states that had been seizing ships and their crews for ransom. Congress didn't "authorize" it or declare war that time, either. And as far as "international law" is concerned, if it is illegal for the U.S. to destroy Assad's air force, then let the UN police come and arrest the U.S. and put the U.S. in jail.

The main "law" of global affairs is the law of the jungle, Might Makes Right. It should be on a more civilized level than that, but it isn't yet. So if a sadistic beast like Assad can commit atrocities, the U.S. or whoever can make him pay for it, if they feel like it. People who have a problem with that have their heads up their asses morally speaking, at best. (However many of the defenders of course are active agents of the Assad regime, which is a type of creature even worse.)

Too bad John Kerry isn't president. He at least talks like he'd actually strike, if he had his druthers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Do Russia and the U.S. Share a Goal in Syria?

Another day, another event in the fast-moving saga of Syria's poison gas arsenal.

Now the sadistic Assad regime that rules that benighted land has announced that it's on board with the Russian-U.S. “framework” (it's not an “agreement” until the UN Security Council votes for it) to neutralize Assad's chemical weapons arsenal- in conformity with what the UN Security Council is going to cook up. We don't know several things: 1) to what extent is the Assad regime really going to live up to whatever requirements the UN sets and relinquish control of the toxic arsenal; 2) what, if any, enforcement mechanism is Russia going to allow the UN Security Council to impose, since it rules out force, and 3) how much of the Assad regime's apparent cooperation (so far only verbal, plus beginning the process of joining the Chemical Weapons Ban treaty) is due to Russian pressure on it, and how much due to the regime's calculations of its own self-interest. [1]

Russia has a motive in taking away Assad's gases. Like the U.S., it fears Islamic jihadists, the Chechen versions of which commit terrorist attacks in Russia and Russian-controlled territory. Like the U.S., it may well fear chemical weapons eventually falling into the hands of jihadists in Syria. [2]

So it has cunningly found a way to kill two birds with one stone. Get the chemical weapons out of Syrian hands, and block a U.S. military attack on the Assad regime, which it supports. (Assuming their scheme ultimately works.)

And Obama is practically indebted to the Russians for getting him off the hook. He didn't want to launch that military attack he kept threatening, especially with Congress set to vote against it. Incredibly, this intelligent man, this clever politician, systematically painted himself into a corner, first by drawing a “red line” barring Assad from using chemical weapons, then by letting Assad get away with the first testing-the-waters chemical attack, which revealed Obama's lack of resolve, then after the large attack in August by promising retaliation, then by ineptly trying to wiggle out of his own threat by kicking the ball over to Congress in order to shift responsibility, which backfired. And he made only pro forma attempts to rally the country to respond to the Assad atrocity. (He's never been interested in trying to do anything politically hard. He generally takes the paths of least resistance. He's a political surfer, riding the waves, not a mountain climber willing to tackle uphill challenges.)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has just weighed in (after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry scurried to Israel to brief him BEFORE going to Paris to huddle with the British and French) demanding that Syria be “stripped of all chemical weapons.” He said the whole region would be safer. (Given the Assad regime's attacks on Turkey, and Jordan's fearfulness, and the Assad habit of setting off car and truck bombs in Lebanon and much other evil mischief there, Netanyahu has some evidence in support of his statement.)

1] We are already seeing how this might play out, with Kerry threatening vague “consequences” for Syrian non-compliance, and invoking Article 7 of the UN charter, implying authorization of military force. The U.S. position is that no further UN Security Council action would be required. The Russian position is that it would be. Thus while the words written down are agreed by the U.S. and Russia, each puts its own, mutually-conflicting, interpretations on the words. This is a common phenomenon in international affairs. So while this vital difference on the use of military force is papered over in the agreement, and elided in public statements, it lurks ominously just below the surface, like a landmine.

2] In fact Vice President Joseph Biden spelled out the shared U.S.-Russian interest in preventing the chemical weapons from falling into other hands, in Iowa on Sunday, September 15th. He also claimed that Obama earlier had made this pitch to Russian President (and neo-Tsar) Putin, which supposedly laid the groundwork for the Russian-U.S. demarche. We don't know if this is a face-saving falsehood or something based in fact. It doesn't jibe with the apparently off-handed comments Kerry made in response to a reporter's question (Q: What could Assad do to avoid a U.S. strike? A: He could give up all his chemical weapons in week. Turn them all in. But that's not possible.) which the Russians then seized on. I think there would have been a more formal public proposal by either the Russians, the U.S., or both, if there had been a prior agreement. And why wouldn't U.S. officials have been publicly making the point earlier that “Russia has the same interest as we and the international community have in ridding Syria of chemical weapons”?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Here We Go Round The (Diplomatic) Mulberry Bush, the Mulberry Bush, the Mulberry Bush...

Lovers of diplomacy and “peaceful solutions” to such “problems” as atrocities, mass murder, and ruthless tyrants systematically reducing the nations they rule to rubble must be in Seventh Heaven over the “framework agreement” between the U.S. and Russia to disarm [sic!] the Assad regime of Syria of its chemical weapons. To recap, the agreement (which the Syrian tyranny isn't even a party to, yet) calls for Assad to turn over by next week a complete and accurate accounting of his chemical weapons arsenal and all relevant locations, equipment, and delivery munitions. The regime is supposed to allow UN chemical weapons inspectors “immediate and unfettered” access to those sites. Then by November the regime is supposed to have destroyed its chemical mixing equipment. And within a year the regime must be completely rid of chemical weapons and production facilities. (Dream on.)

And if the Assad regime fails or refuses to comply? Why, then the matter goes straight to the UN Security Council!! Which will then duly proceed to huff and puff and blow Assad's house down.

Well, actually, no. The Russians will still veto any UN authorization for military action. And they are still publicly insisting the U.S. can't attack, under this agreement or international law.

Anyway, President Barack Obama issued a statement hailing the deal, which said in part: “We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. [He invokes children a lot, whenever he feels under pressure.] Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal.”

And after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the British Foreign Minister William Hague, Hague put out a statement calling the political gimmick agreement “a significant step forward.”

An important step, a significant step, a noteworthy step, a consequential step, a key step, a momentous step, a meaningful step, a substantial step, a weighty step, an awesome step, a groovy step, a neato step, an outtasight step, a fly step, a def step, a phat step, a whatever-positive-adjective-you-like step.

It's a pathetic, farcical, and tragic step, BACKWARDS. It means Assad got away scot-free with the sarin attack of August 21st. It strengthens Assad's position politically. It makes more problematic any U.S. moves to arm the rebels. It leaves intact Assad's air power.

The truth is, it would have been better to let Assad keep the chem weapons and take out his air force, which would weaken him in the civil war and likely deter his future use of chem weapons to boot. But probably the U.S. is more worried about some of the weapons ending up in jihadist hands in the future than about anything else. I think that is the hidden primary motive behind the U.S.' behavior.

But I hope I'm proven wrong about this deal's likely futility in removing all the chemical weapons. I'd rather be wrong this time than right. (Probably Assad will have to come partially clean, but it will be like pulling a stubborn mule along.)

Oh, by the way, before I forget to mention it, the Assad regime hasn't even actually officially agreed to any of this as of yet. But not to worry. Unnamed Obama regime “officials” whispered into the ears of New York Times reporters that “the American assumption is that much, if not all, of the accord has Mr. [sic] Assad's assent.” (Mr. Assad, indeed: the NY Times is always polite to a fault, even to mass murdering butchers.) [1]

So the U.S. assumes Assad is on board. (At least to “much” of the accord.) Well that sounds like something you can take to the bank! Just blithely assume what you want to believe is true. That's what responsible professionals do.

Well, what is the Assad regime actually saying? The Syrian state propaganda fake “news” agency, SANA, called the deal the U.S. and Russia made with each other “a starting point.” (This from the regime that is supposedly going to provide a complete and accurate list of its huge arsenal of poison gases by next week.) The Assad regime hasn't said it would abide by the deal. “A starting point” for what, exactly? The usual Assad regime evasions, dilatory tactics, prevarications and insulting lies, plus endless U.S. “negotiating” (haggling) with Russia, no doubt.

The Assad regime, remember- and its Russian backers too- is still insisting that the rebels themselves launched the sarin nerve agent attack on their own enclave in the Damascus suburbs on August 21st. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in an accurate accounting of their stockpile and its locations, much less allowing its destruction, or of Russian efforts to compel Assad to abide by the deal he hasn't even acceded to (yet).

The U.S. and Russia between them have agreed that the regime has 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin and mustard gas. That's two million pounds of deadly chemicals. The U.S. identifies a minimum of 45 chemical weapon locations, a number the Russians insist is too high. (Already they disagree. Let the haggling begin!) And never mind that the Assad regime has been shuffling the poisons around like some Three Card Monte hustler. (How many years of searching did it take to find Saddam Hussein's arsenals?) That's 45 sites and counting.

And Obama is still talking big, claiming military action is still possible. Yet the first paragraph of the NY Times article I cited above says that the agreement “indefinitely stalled the prospect of American airstrikes.”

It sure looks that way.

Now we can start the long process of trying to pull Assad's innumerable teeth, one at a time. Good luck with that.

Here's some more free advice for the U.S. on top of the suggestion I made yesterday: when (if) Assad turns over that lying list next week (or doesn't), take out his six remaining airfields. That will prove the U.S. means business, and have the additional salutary effect of giving the rebels a much-needed leg up in the civil war. Enforce every comma and period in the deal to the letter.

Fat chance of that happening.

From the rebels' perspective, it all looks like a Munich-style sell-out.

From the aforementioned NY Times article, we learn that “the sense of betrayal” (among the rebels towards the U.S.) “has grown intensely in recent days.” A rebel commander is cited as feeling the U.S. was abandoning the rebels and leaving them at the mercy of the regime and its allies, Russia and Iran.

Another rebel commander said in an interview with the Times that “I don't care about deals anymore. The Americans found a way out of the [air]strike.” (Just as the British and French found a way to abandon the Czechs to the Nazis in 1938, when they had no stomach for a possible fight. Of course that was even worse in the sense of there being a treaty alliance, not mere constant proclamations of support as in the case of the U.S. and the Syrian rebellion.) He continued: “The Russians did what they want. The Americans lied, and believed their own lie – the U.S. doesn't want democracy in Syria. [Well duh, buddy.] Now I have doubts about the U.S. capacities, their military and intelligence capacities. The Iranian capacity is much stronger, I guess.”


[1] “U.S. and Russia Reach A Deal on Dismantling Syria's Chemical Arms,” New York Times, Sunday, September 15th, 2013, pg. 1.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Russia and Its Syrian Client Regime Grab the Political Ball Out of Obama's Hands and Run With It

So let's review: Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama warned the Assad regime currently reducing Syria to rubble not to use chemical weapons. (Kill people any other way you like.) This spring, Assad tested Obama's “resolve” to enforce that so-called “red line” with a small chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas of Syria. (Scroll down and see my earlier essays on this site.) Obama reacted by talking as if he was Assad's defense lawyer.

Having tested the waters and found them to be fine, Assad escalated in August and launched a large chemical attack on a suburb of Damascus taken over by the rebels. The U.S. Government claims 1,429 civilians, including several hundred children, died in that attack. (The numbers are in dispute, but Doctors Without Borders, which supplies hospitals in the area of the attack, put the death toll in the hundreds. Either way, it was a larger attack than earlier ones. This time, too large for the Obama regime to sweep under the rug.)

Obama seemed compelled to do something this time. Assad and his Russian backers absurdly claimed (and continue to claim) that the rebels gassed their own territory, a ridiculous, obscenely cynical allegation. (Aside from the ludicrous claim that they'd kill their own people, they don't have poison gas, certainly not in the quantity involved, or the expertise and delivery systems. and probably not gas masks and decontamination equipment they'd need for themselves. The alleged motive was to provoke U.S. intervention, which given the rebels' disillusionment after two and a half years of the U.S. refusal to even provide them with small arms, is a risible conspiracy theory.)

It looked like this time Obama was actually going to exact a price from Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a morally indignant, podium-pounding (figuratively speaking) speech promising U.S. military retribution for this latest Assad atrocity committed in defiance of U.S. warnings. Everything Kerry said was valid, if unfortunately hypocritical given past U.S. actions in the world. No matter. That shouldn't stop the U.S. from doing the moral and humane thing when it can, if it so chooses. Doing wrong doesn't bar one from ever doing right.

And then Obama pulled the rug out from under his own Secretary of State.

Obama went for a walk on the White House lawn and decided to punt. He'd ask Congress to authorize a military strike before actually doing anything. (But, he later claimed, he still had the right to attack even if Congress said “You May Not” to him.)

Then a reporter asked Kerry a routine question: what would it take to stave off a U.S. attack on the Assad regime's military and other state assets?

He'd have to turn over all his chemical weapons in a week, Kerry answered. But he isn't going to do that, Kerry added, trailing off.

Assad's Russian protectors astutely spied an opportunity in Kerry's unrehearsed remarks, and leapt on it.

Hey, that's a great idea! they said. Assad will turn over his chemical weapons, and you won't bomb him!

Except that it will take more than a week. And we have to work out the details. And we're going to lie about how big his arsenal is. And Assad is going to start setting conditions. And And And.

[Newsflash: now in Geneva the U.S. and Russia have announced a “framework”- not yet agreed to by Assad- that goes as follows: Assad provide a list of his chemical arsenal- what could go wrong with that? He's trustworthy, right? He's the guy who just said the rebels gassed themselves, and the 80% of the population rebelling against him are all terrorists, so why wouldn't you believe him?- next week. In November he lets international inspectors in (he just loves those international inspectors, like the UN ones whose convoy his thugs sniped at while they tried to get to the site of his last chemical weapon attack- and by the middle of next year yields control of his chemical weapons. And he won't hide any, or make more, I'm sure. He's an honorable fellow, after all, not a murderous, sadistic thug. And- oh boy!- Obama just repeated that he still reserves the right to strike, so watch out, Assad! No monkey business now!] [1]

Meanwhile, step by step, Obama has been climbing down from his insistence that military strikes were on the way. Now moving those cruise-missile-toting warships into the eastern Mediterranean looks like just a big bluff.

As for that Congressional permission slip Obama wanted (which would show “we are united,” and soo democratic to boot, Obama told us), Congress seemed set to reject Obama's attempt to co-own with him a military strike on Syria by voting for a resolution backing military “action.” That would have left him with the choice of going ahead with an attack anyway (defeating the whole purpose of asking Congress to vote and begging the question of the relevance of Congress' approval if the President is going to do what he wants anyway) or not attacking and appearing even more toothless vis a vis the Assad regime than before, with the attendant hit to U.S. “credibility” (how afraid others' have to be of U.S. power and the trustworthiness of U.S. pledges, promises, and threats). So just in the nick of time, the Russians and the Assad regime rode to Obama's rescue, by offering to (protractively) negotiate a voluntary handover of Assad's apparently sizable chemical arsenal. (Estimated at hundreds of tons. By the way, the U.S. and Russia are already arguing over the size of the arsenal. Get out your pillows and prepare for a long nap while this “diplomacy” leisurely wends it way down an endless path to nowhere.) So no Congressional vote at all. (That gets Congress off the hook for its undermining of U.S. “credibility.”)

Why do I get the sense that Obama is breathing a big sigh of relief that he doesn't actually have to make good on his latest hollow threat to retaliate against the Assad regime for using chemical weapons?

I don't think I'm the only one who intuits that. Bashar al-Assad, the sadistic and murderous tyrant of Syria, has apparently taken Obama's measure and senses how badly Obama does NOT want to strike his regime.

In mere days, Assad has gone from anxiously awaiting that often-threatened (if only by implication most of the time) U.S. military strike and frantically shuffling military assets around, to positively exuding confidence, even smugness, as he lays out his conditions for turning over the sarin and whatnot. For example, according to the New York Times, Assad is demanding that the U.S. cease arming the rebels (which it has barely done anyway) AND ceases and desists from threats of attacks on his regime AND refrain from any preparations for attacks. In short, completely remove “the military option” from “the table,” in U.S.-speak.

Furthermore, the Times reported: “Mr. Assad, sounding relaxed and confident, hinted in his interview [on Russian television] that the Russian proposal - which requires Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention – could become a lever for endless negotiations and delays...” Gee, how could anyone have seen THAT coming? Just so there's no misunderstanding, Assad the Awful helpfully pointed out that “It doesn't mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations, and that's it.” (Hint hint: Endless Runaround Up Ahead.) [2]

After all, he's doing the U.S. a BIG FAVOR by letting them off the hook with a way they can avoid having to bomb his military assets. I mean, come on, U.S., you can't expect to get something for nothing!

One of Assad's propaganda rags, the Syrian state-owned “news”paper Al Watan actually gloated in a headline on September 12th: “Moscow and Damascus pull the rug out from under the feet of Obama.” [3]

That's it pal, rub it in. You're lucky I'm not the President; I'd bomb you just for that.

One of the conditions Assad set in return for the Big Favor he's doing the U.S. by allowing Obama to not bomb his means of mass murder is that Israel first has to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. (After that, expect him to demand that Israel give up its nuclear arsenal. And then maybe that the Jewish state dissolve itself. And then we'll see about those chemical weapons you Americans keep nattering on about- maybe.)

Obviously Assad is going to milk all the concessions he can from the U.S., using Obama's desperation to avoid making good on his threat to launch an attack (which Obama spoke of as if it was a certainty just weeks ago, until he stopped) as a lever to extort little surrenders, one after another.

Yet the rebels Obama has once again left in the lurch did a Kerry and loyally hailed the latest Obama “pivot:”

“We had hopes, it was a dream, and now it's gone and we feel disappointed. We should completely cut off our relationship with him – Obama has completely lost his credibility,” said a bitter rebel brigade commander, Moaz al-Yousef. [4]

Oh wait, he wasn't hailing Obama. But hold on a second, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has long urged military action to rein in Assad, thought Obama's latest cop-out was a wise move, as it would allow Assad to buy time for “new massacres,” he said. [5]

Hmmm, guess Erdogan didn't think Obama punking out yet again was a good idea. Well, there must be someone who thinks starting out on an endless path chasing a mirage of Assad disarming himself is a
good idea.

Yeah, Assad and his allies think so.

Funny thing though, all the Americans who opposed the U.S. taking out some of Assad's means of mass murder, including establishment politicians, media yakkers, and lefties allergic to American power (and ONLY to American power) aren't hailing what many of them habitually claim is the “solution,” namely diplomacy, now in the form of what is sure to be an endless “process” of arguing about the size of Assad's nerve gas arsenal, who should control custody, how to dispose of it, and what the U.S. (and Israel) have to give Assad in return (the price tag, subject to constant upward revision) – in short, with Assad all the while making new demands and setting new conditions. Guess the “give peace (and talking) a chance” crowd know this isn't going to remove the chemical weapons. The fact that they aren't backing this charade with any enthusiasm exposes their bad faith.

So here we go, heading down the chimerical road of Assad giving up his chemical weapons without a fight, chasing a mirage, trying to catch that rainbow on the horizon. Will this be remembered as Obama's Folly?

Here's some advice: set some strict deadlines, and enforce them with punitive military strikes. No excuses, no haggling. In short, act like the “world's only superpower” you love proclaiming yourselves to be. Either that, or you better pipe down and don't draw any “red lines” in the future.

Oh why am I bothering!

1] Notice the “creative diplomacy” here. U.S. and Russia disagree about the size and composition of the Assad chemical weapons arsenal? Assad will tell us what he has, with his very own list! Problem solved! And now the U.S. will be in the position of pressuring the Russians to pressure their ally and client Assad to abide by the deal, a far cry from directly threatening military force on him. It'll be a lot of wheedling and urging and goading and whining to get the Russians to get the Syrian regime to stop the foot-dragging and stalling and lying and concealing and dilatory tactics and cough up the poisons. What an ordeal the Obama regime is signing up for, trading this for weakening Assad by degrading his military. Instead of the U.S. punishing Assad, Assad will be punishing the U.S. It's masochistic. Why would you put yourself in such a position?

And in case you were wondering, a “framework” is an outline of an agreement, not an actual signed deal. And the Syrian regime hasn't agreed to anything. We'll see if Russia tells him he's on his own if he doesn't go along.

2] “Listing Demands, Assad Uses Crisis To His Advantage,” New York Times, September 13th, 2013, p. A1.
3] Ibid.
4] Op cit.
5] Op cit.