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Does anyone know Trump’s goal in Syria?

by Eric Ferguson on April 20, 2018 · 1 comment

Do the general dress Trump like this to make him feel more manly when sitting in front of the Big Board?

Do the generals dress Trump like this to make him feel more manly when sitting in front of the Big Board (that’s a Doctor Strangelove reference)?

When I ask if anyone knows Trump’s goal in Syria, that begs the question, does Trump know? Don’t think too hard. The fact Trump hasn’t laid out the goal strongly suggests he has no idea. We might also gather that as most likely because this is Trump. Remember Trump’s Razor: the stupidest explanation is most likely to be right. That causes me to conclude the fake field marshall hasn’t the first clue.


Sure, you can make guesses as to the goal in Syria. Feel free. Say whatever you infer the goal to be, but I have my response already: you’re inferring, so you don’t really know (though FWIW, this seems plausible, that #RPOTUS wants to make it look like his tweets mean something, and maybe keep Fox New viewers happy).


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The “R” Word

by Bill Prendergast on April 22, 2017 · 0 comments



Who Is It That Is Confused About ISIS?

by SJGulitti on April 30, 2015 · 0 comments

Those who are heavily invested in the notion that it is the religion of Islam that is driving much of the terror in Syria and Iraq and beyond will find these new revelations by the German magazine Der Spiegel tough to swallow. Der Spiegel’s man found out, through an analysis of captured documents exhibited in the article, that ISIS is the creation of a former Iraqi Air Force Officer. This officer, Haji Bakr, who along with the many Iraqi officers kicked to the curb after the fall of Iraq, went on to formulate, lead and propagate ISIS as more or less a criminal enterprise, cloak it in religious form for recruitment purposes and launch it on its way. To date most of the captured leadership of ISIS have been linked to the Baathist Iraqi military of the prior regime.

What’s most ironic in all of this is that it the seeds of this problem can be justifiably found in the failures which took place during the Bush/Cheney administration and not with the arrival of Barack Obama in the White House. So much for all the “appeasement” prattle and whether or not the current administration uses the terms “Islamic Terror” or “Radical Islam”, which as it turns out in this case would be structurally and conceptually inapplicable.


Haji Bakr, wasn’t widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at ISIS for years.


What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover. It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.


ISIS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.
(Der Spiegel)


Boehner’s Netanyahu triumph turns to gall

by Dan Burns on February 9, 2015 · 0 comments

boehnerWasn’t hard to see this coming. (Update: Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) is skipping the speech. It’s unclear how many Democrats will, but it looks like it could be plenty.)

This is all part of the mounting fury from Democrats in Congress and the White House over the speech, and it’s become increasingly clear that the whole thing is a major blunder for Netanyahu. But who to blame? The invitation came from Speaker of the House John Boehner, so why not blame him? (Friday) Netanyahu did exactly that, throwing him under the proverbial bus with barely a passing glance:

A senior Israeli official suggested on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress on Iran next month was fully supported by the Democrats.…“It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides,” Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio on Friday.

Poor John Boehner. You almost feel sorry for the guy sometimes. President Obama has been running rings around him for months now, infuriating the Republican caucus and causing Boehner endless headaches over Cuba, immigration, net neutrality, Homeland Security shutdowns, and dozens of other subjects. No matter how hard he tries, Boehner just hasn’t been able to get ahead of any of this. Instead he’s been forced over and over to respond to Obama’s agenda while desperately trying to keep the peace among the tea partiers who control his future.
(Mother Jones)

Meanwhile, on the subject of the Middle East, here’s something far more serious, about being a Palestinian refugee, past and/or present.

Most of us no longer live in tents, but we are reminded of our refugee status every single day, by the Israeli occupation, by the Gaza siege and the internally displaced Palestinians in Israel, by the Iraq war and the displacement of the already displaced Palestinians there, by the despicable living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East.
But for us, Syria has been our greatest waja’ in years. Aside from the fact that most of Syria’s half a million Palestinian refugees are on the run again, living the pain of displacement and loss for the second, third, or even fourth time. Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy, charting the early course of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948.
Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again.
(Asia Times)


isil-300x162‘There are roads which must not be followed,
armies which must not be attacked,
towns which must not be besieged,
positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.’
Sun Tzu ~ On the Art of War


‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
President Barack Obama


War hysteria is a fascinating and horrifying thing to watch. I’ve seen it several times now in my life and it is always beyond ugly, like watching scorpions mate.


Aside from the verminous lies that tumble over each other like a swarm of filthy rats to electrify public opinion with fear and frenzy, our national leaders — grown men and women whose strength of character and deliberative judgment we rely on — daily prove susceptible themselves to the most transparent mendacity and appear spineless in the face of true moral challenge.


Until a few short months ago, the American public had never heard of ISIL and didn’t know a thing about them, even though ISIL has been fighting an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime for years, and for years it has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people. The brutal murders of two American journalists notwithstanding, why now the sudden sense of urgency and demand for action in the public discourse and among our leadership?


The answer lies in war hysteria.


As the New York Times put it:


“… as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.”




Republicans going nuts over Syria

by Eric Ferguson on September 12, 2013 · 0 comments

UPDATE: Colbert’s Rand Paul bit is up.


Who knew Groucho was a Republican? Whatever it is Obama’s for, he’s against it. “Like Shakespeare said to Nathan Hale, I always get my man!” There, a knowledge of history to fit in well with today’s GOP!


This is about Syria of course. Republicans are upset that Obama is “appeasing”, even in the same column where fellow Republicans are criticized for having supported Obama’s plan to attack (h/t Brian Beutler at Salon) Yes, now that it looks like there’s a deal with Syria and Russia to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, Republicans are apoplectic. Give them some time to figure out what about. Something about giving in to Syria by taking its chemical weapons away, or being played by Putin who tricked Obama into accepting exactly what he wanted.

Not that it’s any great surprise that Republicans are now upset that there likely won’t be an attack, because there actually is a measure of consistency, which made me think of Groucho’s song. Whatever Obama is for, they’re against. Whatever he does must be criticized as completely wrong. Did I say “Not that it’s any great surprise…”? I meant utterly predictable, given how so many Republicans were insisting on some sort of intervention in Syria until Obama responded to the Aug. 21 attacks by saying some sort of response was required, and then, or at least once they would have to cast a politically perilous vote, attacking Syria was this horrible idea. And now they’re upset Obama apparently found a way to get rid of the weapons without having to actually fire missiles. Cripes, the way they keep changing their position, you half expect them to nominate Mitt Romney for president. Oh, right.




Syria: We live in strange times

by Joe Bodell on September 11, 2013 · 18 comments

syria-mapA Democratic President gets the Republican Party to turn dove-ish on military intervention in the Middle East, but holds back from military action thanks to his ex-KGB Russian counterpart’s diplomatic proposal, which tosses that Democratic President a lifeline in both foreign and domestic affairs. All this, after the two have been at loggerheads for months over issues ranging from trade to an NSA leaker who escaped the US and sought asylum in Moscow. The President’s base reflexively opposes his call for military strikes, the base of the party opposite will flip flop like a dying fish if it means opposing whatever he says is good, but in a single prime-time speech, he managed to (temporarily, at least) convince 61% of listeners of the value of what his stance.


And seriously, what is the deal with Miley Cyrus?


We live in strange times. News cycles move minute-by-minute, and sometimes it seems that everyone on the internet is convinced that if only the people in power would listen to them and their frequent status updates, things would work out. There’s this reflexive urge to assume that the individuals in power have no more information about what’s going on than they are revealing publicly when the truth is likely much closer to the opposite case. And yet we withdraw to our corners, some going so far as to accuse President Obama of continuing virtually every foreign policy pushed by his predecessor, others simply to do what they’ve been doing, call him playground-quality names, and try to reinforce their preconceived, blissfully ignorant, and ultimately incorrect notion of this President as a failure.


As for the proposal which Syria accepted, to put their chemical weapons under international control (after first, of course, admitting that yes, they have chemical weapons. Oops.), it’s definitely a weird case. But when it comes to diplomatic solutions superceding military action, I think the ends really do justify the means. If the end is

  • No cruise missile strikes
  • no boots on the ground
  • no multi-trillion-dollar quagmire
  • no state-building required
  • no 1990s-Afghanistan-part-deux
  • Israel doesn’t get an itchy trigger finger

and the means are

  • The U.S. has to backtrack on an ill-conceived commitment to strike
  • Russia gets to look like the good guy
  • The Syrian civil war continues apace

then, frankly, I think that’s a less awful deal than many of the alternatives. Especially the one President Obama was half-heartedly asking a Congress which can barely rename a post office let alone pass useful legislation, to endorse.


There are some consequences to this path, as with all paths: Russia gets to keep selling conventional military equipment to the Syrian regime. Oil pipeline paths might be moved. And of course, people on all sides of the Syrian civil war are going to keep dying, because war is hell and civil war is an especially hot, painful corner of that hell.


But from here, in front of our keyboards and smartphone screens, we’re not going to solve these issues by reflexively retreating to our corners, allowing ourselves to be angry and ignore the nuance and consequences of each course of action, and make huge assumptions about what and how much we do and don’t know about the situation.


More here.


Syria: To Challenge an Ascendant Evil

by Invenium Viam on September 9, 2013 · 18 comments

Respectfully, I have to disagree with those progressives who are opposed to any action in Syria. Only a week ago, I felt differently. I agreed with that position — that we don’t need to become involved in another mid-east war. But it was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction.
I think we need to look at the long-term consequences of doing nothing.
In war, people die in lots of different ways. Sometimes by bullets, sometimes by bombs; but mostly by disease, malnutrition and exposure. In the Syrian civil war, innocents have died by chemical weapons. It may sound crass, but to die is to die — casualties are casualties — and it really doesn’t matter a whole lot how they got that way. It is all tragic. A hundred-thousand people have died in Syria and a third of the population made refugees. How many of those do you think were children? Thousands and thousands of children have died in ugly, brutal ways …
The mid-east is rife with sectarian violence and it’s been that way for millennia. We tend to think of the mid-east only in terms of the Arab-Jewish conflict. But there are a host of other religious and ethnic groups including Druze and Alawites, Sunni’s and Shiites, Armenians and Kurds, Christians and Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahai, Buddhists and Hindu’s. And within those groups there are a multitude of sub-groups and sects and political divisions.
Even the forces in rebellion against Assad comprise a loose confederacy of sub-groups with modulating alliances.


Syrian war crimes trials or missiles

by Eric Ferguson on September 8, 2013 · 0 comments

map of Syria showing approximate area held by each side

map of Syria showing approximate area held by each side

I’m skeptical of suggestions of ad hoc war crimes trials as a way to respond the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, partly because they’re so far just congressmen tossing off suggestions at a time when Congress is working on the specific wording of resolutions already, but let’s suppose the idea was developed and serious. There are other problems. When there’s already a permanent International Criminal Court which most nations have signed on to, but not the US, the only interest in an ad hoc court might come from us. Are we willing to do that alone? Would such a court have any legitimacy? If some future Syrian government would support such a court, it won’t actually need or even want our help. Even if such a court can get up and running, it would have the legitimacy problem of being perceived as victor’s justice. Even that assumes that the prospective defendants can be brought to trial. If they attain or retain power, trying them isn’t going to happen. Besides, maybe knowing there’s an indictment hanging over their heads, maybe they have an incentive to fight to the bitter end, well past any realistic hope of victory.


Back to the ICC, it’s already there, and already legitimate to just about everybody except us. What if instead of trying to create some ad hoc court just for Syria, Bashar Assad and everyone accused of using chemical weapons, or committing any other war crimes, could be indicted before the ICC? What if the president dropped the idea of firing missiles, and went for signing on to the ICC instead?




Bomb Syria or BP for Chemical Attacks?

by Grace Kelly on August 30, 2013 · 13 comments

Since we have elevated corporations to personhood, maybe we can elevate corporations to the level where we can wage physical war on them? British Petroleum (BP) has annual revenues exceeding 370 billion USD. It is the fifth largest corporation in the world. In contrast, Syria has a GDP of 64 billion USD. If Syria deserves to be bombed for chemicals used in a civil war, then BP certainly deserves to be bombed for the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.


The number of deaths from the Syrian incident is assessed by Doctors Without Boarders at 355, with some long term effects. The number of deaths from the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill is 11 deaths plus many long term indirect health effects to people. Mr Reid’s blog picture demonstrates how big this oil spill if it was dumped on Britain.


The 4.9 million barrel spill has and continues to have huge devastating effects on plant and animal life. The deliberate cost cutting measures against safety were the cause. The economic impact does not seem to stop those decisions, maybe military action would. The long list of “chemical” and physical attacks by corporations made for a mere excess of profit would see to be the greater terrorist danger than Syria.
A drone strike against BP CEO, Tony Hayward might have brought the consequences home when he took time off from overseeing BP efforts to stem the undersea gusher in Gulf of Mexico so he could watch his boat “Bob” participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, a prestigious yacht race.


A drone strike taking him out with collateral damage to his family would have been the same as the way we treat terrorists who have done far less damage. For every drone strike, the US kills about 36 innocent people.


The Tony Hayward story get worse. He has been hired by Glencore, a company doing Minnesota mining, as the executive expert in charge of environment and safety. The toxic waste effects are so bad that the corporations consider being held financially responsible for those effects as a deal breaker. Instead of changing and learning, Tony Hayward has become a worse corporate threat to our health and safety. Why are the effects of his choices any better than any other terrorist?


President Obama pledged that Syria would face “consequences” for its use of chemical weapons. So when is President Obama going to pledge the same “consequences”, holding corporations and their leaders to same level of accountability for their destructive actions? And if we going to give all these corporations and corporate leaders a free pass, then why can’t we give Syria, a free pass? Certainly all the innocents who would have been involved in the collateral damage of bombing would appreciate that.