The American War Brief Is Extremely Weak

The White House released a 4-page document setting forth its case for use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

But as shown below, the case is extremely weak (government’s claim in quotes, followed by rebuttal evidence).

“A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

But McClatchy notes:

Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”

Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published Sunday.

He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and “tens” of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.

“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”

An unclassified version of a French intelligence report on Syria that was released Monday hardly cleared things up; France confirmed only 281 fatalities, though it more broadly agreed with the United States that the regime had used chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack.

Next, the government says:

“In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.”

Reports on the ground are contradictory, with some claiming that the rebels used the chemical weapons. See this and this.  Indeed, government officials have admitted that they’re not sure who used chemical weapons.

More importantly the U.S. government claimed it had unimpeachable sources regarding Iraq’s WMDs … and that turned out to be wholly fabricated.

“We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin.”

Chemical weapons experts are still skeptical.  The chain of custody is suspect, given that the U.S. hasn’t revealed where the samples came from, and who delivered them to the U.S.  McClatchy reports:

Among chemical weapons experts and other analysts who’ve closely studied the Syrian battlefield, the main reservation about the U.S. claims is that there’s no understanding of the methodology behind the intelligence-gathering. They say that the evidence presented points to the use of some type of chemical agent, but say that there are still questions as to how the evidence was collected, the integrity of the chain of custody of such samples, and which laboratories were involved.

Eliot Higgins, a British chronicler of the Syrian civil war who writes the Brown Moses blog, a widely cited repository of information on the weapons observed on the Syrian battlefield, wrote a detailed post Monday listing photographs and videos that would seem to support U.S. claims that the Assad regime has possession of munitions that could be used to deliver chemical weapons. But he wouldn’t make the leap.

On the blog, Higgins asked: “How do we know these are chemical weapons? That’s the thing, we don’t. As I’ve said all along, these are munitions linked to alleged chemical attacks, not chemical munitions used in chemical attacks. It’s ultimately up to the U.N. to confirm if chemical weapons were used.”

Moreover, Dan Kaszeta – a former Chemical Officer in the United States Army, and one of the foremost experts in chemical and biological weapons – said in a recent interview that there can be false positives for Sarin, especially, when tests are done in the field (pesticides or other chemical agents can trigger a false positive for sarin.)

The bottom lines is that – even though the U.S. has done everything it can to derail a UN weapons inspection – we have to wait to see what the UN tests reveal.

“We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.”

The rebels absolutely had had access to chemical weapons. While the American government claims that the opposition has not used chemical weapons, many other sources – including the United Nations, Haaretz, and Turkish state newspaper Zaman - disagree.

“The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations.”

The types of munitions which were apparently used to deliver the chemical weapon attack are an odd, do-it-yourself type of rocket.   The rebels could have made these.

“We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.”

This is not evidence. This is a conclusory opinion without any support.   (To give an analogy, this would be like claiming Saddam was using weapons of mass destruction right before the Iraq war started because he didn’t like short people … without refuting the actual fact that Saddam didn’t have any WMDs.)

“We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.”

Gareth Porter notes:

Despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Yet, after the August 21 event, the same information was suddenly transformed into “evidence” that supports the official line.

Moreover, American intelligence sources have repeatedly been caught lying.  During the run-up to the Iraq war, the government entirely bypassed the normal intelligence-vetting process, so that bogus claims could be trumpeted without the normal checks and balances from conscientious intelligence analysts. Israeli intelligence – which appears to have played a part in the Syria war brief – has been equally bad.

Former top CIA intelligence officers confirm that the intelligence has been grossly politicized to justify war against Syria.

“On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.”

This is an oddly-worded – and carefully crafted – statement.  Assad has repeatedly warned that the rebels might steal chemical weapons and use them on civilians. The utilization of gas masks could have been a preventative measure because the Syrian government had received word that the rebels might carry out a chemical attack. More information is necessary.

“Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.”

The area in which attacks occurred was heavily contested by the both government and the rebels, and both sides were in and out of the area. 90 minutes before the first attack is an eternity when fighting a war on a heavily-contested battlefield … and could have been plenty of time for rebels to slip in and fire off chemical weapons.

As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting notes:

It’s unclear why this is supposed to be persuasive. Do rockets take 90 minutes to reach their targets? Does nerve gas escape from rockets 90 minutes after impact, or, once released, take 90 minutes to cause symptoms?

In a conflict as conscious of the importance of communication as the Syrian Civil War, do citizen journalists wait an hour and a half before reporting an enormous development–the point at which, as Kerry put it, “all hell broke loose in the social media”? Unless there’s some reason to expect this kind of a delay, it’s very unclear why we should think there’s any connection at all between the allegedly observed rocket launches and the later reports of mass poisoning.

The government next turns to social media:

“Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.”

No one contests that some kind of chemical agent was used.  The question is exactly what type of chemical it was and – more importantly – who used it.

Moreover, the rebels were making propaganda videos for years … and they’ve gotten more sophisticated recently.   More information is needed.

“We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.”

Another conclusory opinion without evidence. More importantly, it is a red herring.  No one is saying that the tragic and horrific deaths were faked.

The question is when and where they occurred, and who caused them. For example, one of the world’s leading experts on chemical weapons points out that it is difficult to know where the videos were taken:

Zanders, the former EU chemical weapons expert, went even further, arguing that outsiders cannot conclude with confidence the extent or geographic location of the chemical weapons attack widely being blamed on the Assad regime.

He singled out the images of victims convulsing in agony that have circulated widely on the Web, including on YouTube.

“You do not know where they were taken,” he said. “You do not know when they were taken or even by whom they were taken. Or, whether they [are from] the same incident or from different incidents.”

Zanders added: “It doesn’t tell me who would be responsible for it. It doesn’t tell me where the films were taken. It just tells me that something has happened, somewhere, at some point.”

The government then expands on allegedly intercepted intelligence:

“We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations.”

The Washington Post points out that alleged intelligence intercepts are “the core of the Obama administration’s evidentiary case….”    America’s war intelligence has been spotty.  For example:

  • It is also now well-accepted that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which led to the Vietnam war was a fiction (confirmed here).

And the U.S. and Israel have admitted that they have carried out false flag deceptions (as have Muslim countries such as Indonesia; but to our knowledge, Syria has never been busted in a false flag.)

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writes:

Recall that Powell played tapes of Iraqi officials supposedly talking about concealing evidence of banned weapons from inspectors–which turned out to show nothing of the kind. But Powell at least played tapes of the intercepted communication, even as he spun and misrepresented their contents–allowing for the possibility of an independent interpretation of these messages. Perhaps “mindful of the Iraq experience,” Kerry allows for no such interpretation.

David Swanson notes that American officials mischaracterized the communications to justify the Iraq war:

Powell was writing fictional dialogue. He put those extra lines in there and pretended somebody had said them. Here’s what Bob Woodward said about this in his book “Plan of Attack.”

“[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light. Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of ‘forbidden ammo,’ Powell took the interpretation further: ‘Clean out all of the areas. . . . Make sure there is nothing there.’ None of this was in the intercept.”

[In addition] Powell … was presenting as facts numerous claims that his own staff had warned him were weak and indefensible.

The government then makes a throw-away argument:

“At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.”

This is another red herring. If the Syrian government believed that the rebels had used chemical weapons on civilians, they may have increased artillery fire to flush out the rebels to prevent further chemical attacks. Again, further information is needed.

“To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.”

This sounds impressive at first glance.  But Congress members who have seen the classified information – such as Tom Harkin – are not impressed.  Indeed, Congressman Justin Amash says:

What I heard in Obama admn briefing actually makes me more skeptical of certain significant aspects of Pres’s case for attacking

And see these further details refuting the government’s argument for war.

Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

29 Responses to “Point-By-Point Rebuttal of U.S. Case for War In Syria”

  1. S Brennan says:

    I don’t think it will do any good, these DC people want their damn war, but thanks Barry.

    To our fellow countryman’s credit, as of Monday afternoon, 91% of Americans oppose Obama’s plan to use air power to support US funded/supplied Al Qaeda forces in Syria…and less than half of Americans believe that Assad was behind the toxic release.

    Any blame for the fallout of this colossus idiocy should lie firmly upon the shoulders of the perps, US “leadership”.

  2. TLH says:

    The public is war weary. Politicians typically do not thwart public opinion. I have called all my representatives to say “no more wars.” Why is this happening? There must be big money behind this. Obama does not care about making statements he does not back up. After all, he said we could keep our doctors and health plan.

  3. ilsm says:

    There is no clear and present danger. Obama is setting precedent by asking permission for a drive by bombing.

    Root cause for this imminent military action: Sequestration is going to “cut” around $50B from inflated 2014 pentagon budget, it cannot take credit for cutting the VA.

    A drive by bombing sold by innuendo about the vicious acts of a heinous dictator rationalizing the use of; no danger to US assets, weapons of mass destruction (which kill and maim more “cleanly” and faster than gas) is needed to keep the pentagon trough filled.

    On the Chemical Weapons Protocol, US has not met the 2012 deadline to eliminate its banned chemical compounds. Syria is not a signatory. The legal justification goes back to the 1925 League of Nations’ ban effected when Syria was part of a post WWI mandate.

    In spring 2004, as the US and UK were raging shock and awe through Iraq, a news agency report came out that someone fired artillery shells dispensing (cluster) sub munitions, a way of taking out large numbers of troops while leaving (instant minefields) a bunch of unexploded ordnance to kill and maim civilians. Both the US and UK had the shells in their “limbers”. I do not remember who did the shooting but a lot of denial was going about.

    On cluster munitions and land mines: the US is not a party to the treaty banning land mines.

    A lot of WMD’s are okay if they are part of shock and awe, and drive by bombings for US national serenity.

  4. Robert M says:

    Thanks for a clear rebuttal to the “evidence” at hand, especially the false flags accounts. The launch of the anti missile missile supposedly as a test yesterday is a classic example given it is claimed it was a joint launch. When FOX can’t verify American involvement there is nothing joint about it.

    The real problem is defined as the failure of the Assad regime to “modernize”. Given that Basir was supposed to be the reasonable Western Educated one it makes one wonder what the failure is. Is it oil, a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Europe not controlled by the West or other factors. While I don’t doubt any of the possibilities if the goal is to remove Assad- to what?- a missile strike isn’t going to remove him unless you manage to kill him. And killing him is not likely to bring the Alawites, a Shi’a offshoot, that form the core off support to surrender. With the main military opposition to the regime remains Sunni Syrians and w/ the Islamic fanatics, whom absolutely despise Shi’a as an act of faith, the Alawites have no interest in a suicidal surrender. Nor are their coreligionists, Hezebellah, likely to go back across the border w/ no access to military arms or be surrounded on three sides by their enemies, Israel and Sunni fanatics.

    So the question remains if Assad is the problem what will a survivable missle strike accomplish? If you kill him what is the plan for that event?

  5. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    War is a financial necessity for the M/I complex. No one is fooled by all of the BS surrounding the “humanitarian” claims of the US government.

    Interesting to note that we will fight in deserts, but after Vietnam, we avoid the jungles.

  6. Robert M says:

    Bad Idea and getting worse by the minute. The missile strike even if it were to kill Assad what incentive is there for Alawite power structure to negotiate. If they are willing to negotiate with whom? Moderate Alawites? Does anyone believe the Islamic fanatics are going to leave? Does anyone believe that Hezeballah is going to let their coreligionists face the music quietly? Sometimes bullies get away w/ things when there is no comprehensive plan to deal w/ them. We are going to have to live w/ it.

  7. Mike in Nola says:

    Your legal analysis training has not deserted you. Too bad we do not have more critical minds. I suspect there are more but they are too corrupted by fear of losing insider status.

    It is ironic that some of the drum beating is about “sending a message” to Iran, a country which probably had over 100,000 casualties from Iraq’s use of chemical weapons which was assisted by US intelligence. This was in addition to the hundreds of thousands of other Iranians killed by conventional weapons.

    Interestingly, according to Wikipedia:
    “On 21 March 1986, the United Nations Security Council made a declaration stating that “members are profoundly concerned by the unanimous conclusion of the specialists that chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian troops, and the members of the Council strongly condemn this continued use of chemical weapons in clear violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibits the use in war of chemical weapons.” The United States was the only member who voted against the issuance of this statement.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War#Use_of_chemical_weapons_by_Iraq

    If you read this article, we are getting a repeat of the 1980′s, aiding a proxy war on the side of the Gulf States who eventually supplied the actors for 9/11. But, Americans have never been known for learning from history.
    http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/

  8. dvdpenn says:

    I don’t see the comparison to Iraq for a nanosecond, and feel as if I would be condescending to point out the obvious (and extreme) differences between the two that I’m fairly certain we would all agree upon.

    This isn’t a rebuttal of the case for “war” against Syria. It is a rebuttal of most of American foreign policy for the past 113 years (reads a little like Rachel Maddow’s Drift, which is not a slight). That makes it overly board to serve as much of a guide, for me, to the current deliberations (“the sinking of the Maine”?!)

    It’s beyond the purview of the rebuttal. But I would enjoy hearing the constructive alternative to a military strike.

    • ilsm says:

      @dvdpenn,

      What would bombing Syria have to do with providing the “common defense”?

      Make a moral or material (see Napoleon Bonaparte) case for expending US WMD’s to ‘shock and awe’ a third world dictator as punishment (coerce Assad) for using WMD’s.

      If UK lost WW II Bomber Harris would have been hanged.

      It is up to you who has no better argument than John Kerry, and the bombs are the only solution crowd, to make a case for the “precision, surgical, drive by, no collateral damage that means anything to US, safe bombings”.

      I do not see a clear and present danger, nor any good that would justify using force and killing anyone, innocent or guilty in this situation.

      See Milosevic in Kosovo in 1999 and put Assad in that place.

      The only thing obtained from 1999 is continuing presence of a NATO brigade in Kosovo, which is never mentioned in the media.

      Of course the Serbs displaced deserved it, they were a minority in the county…………….

      As Wally says shooting a bunch of WMDs ate Syria would only line the pockets of the war suppliers.

      You make no case, and then tell your opposite to make a case.

      • dvdpenn says:

        My “case” is simple and straightforward.

        I think the international sanction against the use of chemical weapons is worth defending. I think a military strike against Assad is a more reliable deterrent against further use of chemical weapons than, well, see “still waiting” above.

        The endgame in Syria is clear: the two sides will fight to a standstill and then a settlement, likely involving Assad stepping down, will eventually develop. The result, a best case scenario even, will be an ugly, messy, volatile and violent participatory republic.

        The difference is that I think my path gets us there sooner and with fewer overall casualties than your apparent “Let them eat Sarin” path.

      • ilsm says:

        @dvdpenn,

        What is clear: shock and awe replaces reason, diplomacy and strategy.

        Syria goes the way of Egypt, the Ba’athists put down the Muslim Brotherhood years ago.

        What is clear to me: many Camp Bondsteels would be needed for many decades, the US needs conscription and a (paygo) war surcharge.

        Assad is a Ba’athist far more than an Alawite. This is not minority Serbs in the Serbian province of Kosovo (Camp Bondsteel there to keep Serbs out of Serbia) to be tossed out into greater Serbia.

        What do you suggest about the US standing on violation of the protocol, retaining 3100 tons of banned schedule I substances? Those were supposed to be incinerated by 2012.

        100 countries ban land mines, I suppose that international sanction should be defended, except the US is the pariah on land mines and has all sorts of those horrid weapons which the Nazi used to the great harm maiming a large number of allied Infantry in WW II.

    • denim says:

      Seemingly you would believe anything that someone with a deceptive agenda tells you, so why not this as a constructive alternative?

      “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:
      fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way,
      because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass.

      Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
      fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

      For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

      For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
      yes, you shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.”

      Psalm 37:7-10. Attributed to the man who slayed Goliath.

      http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=37&t=KJV

  9. wally says:

    Even if every claim about gas use by Assad were true, it does not follow that there is any case for military action by the United States.

    The purpose of US action is quite plain: the Syrian battle has begun to swing a bit toward Assad and the US would like to re-balance the conflict so that a permanent state of internal violence exists just as in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Libya. That best suits US anti-terrorist aims and best suits Israels aims… but at the expense of civilian lives in all those countries.
    And incidentally, of course, the US gets to blow up a few weapons so that defense contractors can supply some more.

  10. A. Cy Lum says:

    Though it is not yet a given that the US and France (really, France?!) will slug Syria in a “proportioned” way, it seems to be a near certainty. The “evidence” seems nebulous when it should be as crystal clear as a Powell UN-substantiation. (After all, truth’s victimization aside, he was clear.) So here it stands…

    Thought must then turn to the myriad consequences, all unknown. Therefore broad parameters must be deployed in any attempt to calculate the next move. First cui bono. Are the US and France someone’s pawn. Many theories resound here, thickening the fog. Second, contingency plans for Syrian counter strikes, also including false flag strikes. Depending on the ferocity and regime destabilizing strike impact this could be anything from simple bleeding to taking out Saudi’s Ghawar oilfield . Finally, an exit strategy, 60 days with a 30 day option is a congressional framework, not a strategy.

    Ultimately most are not here as geo-poli strategists, but as market participants. The market ramifications have all been clearly detailed by all seeing pundits. Essentially spikes in oil, gold, to be played cautiously, then the normalcy of September and October… move along…

    Sadly, these last remarks are callous. But so is pre-September 2008 capitalism (now it’s cynical).

    A. Cy Lum

  11. doug says:

    Thanks, Barry. I have same question as TLH. Why is this happening when so many of the citizens are against it? What the hell happened to ‘for the people, by the people’?
    I plan to study carefully the votes of my reps…

  12. Singmaster says:

    My Congressman Sam Farr has announced that he is voting against. I sent him a link to this post anyway. I expect considerable pressure will be applied on Rep Farr to change his vote and he’ll need support.
    Been listening to NPR today and boy, oh boy, the reasons, the wording, everthing about this intervention, this hand slap, is spotty.
    Kipling wrote: Certain things are not known to those who eat with forks.
    We need to be careful here.

  13. panskeptic says:

    George Bush did this country no favors. He was determined to invade Iraq and told a reporter he was going to in an interview before he was even inaugurated. [BR: Link? or urban myth?]

    After the contemptuous, murderous dishonesty of Cheney, Rumsfeld and others, we are now in a condition that if there is any doubt or grey area, we automatically conclude the administration, ANY administration, is lying.

    And virtually any question of war has doubt, and grey areas galore. So what threshold do we have in place, beyond which we’re ready to take something at face value? What has to happen so we get past Bush-era disdain for the truth into something real?

    Just make sure you’ve updated your bumper stickers. The old ones may have expired and are no longer supported. When they serve to stop thought instead of provoking it, then skepticism turns into laziness.

  14. clipb says:

    Imho, it has more to do with reminding Iran and North Korea of probable repercussions if they step over their red lines.

  15. LiberTea says:

    Statements from the White House Yesterday

    “What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad’s capabilities,” Obama said. “At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.”

    The president said strikes aimed at punishing the use of chemical weapons would hurt Assad’s forces while other U.S. action would bolster his opponents – though the White House has insisted it is not seeking “regime change” that might end Syria’s civil war.”

    These conflictive statements make as much sense as a pinwheel spinning in a tornado.

    We mere mortals look at things from the facts spoonfed us by the media, but the Heads of significant states aren’t really dealing with numbers of casualties or who fired what weapon. Their “game of thrones” is geopolitics.

    What is going on in all of this is a grand strategy to set Russia up to veto any military intervention at the Security Council level, in order to embarrass THEM as inhumane.

    The ongoing Cold War is the bigger perennial game.
    We are amiss to believe that there was a real thaw at Perestroika.

    All of the blustering and posturing within our branches government is necessary tactics to accomplish the greater geopolitical goal–whether it is worthy or not.

  16. howardoark says:

    If I understand your argument, there isn’t enough evidence that it was actually the Syrian government behind the gas attacks to justify a military response, which is fair enough. From the comments though, I get the impression that it wouldn’t matter to most of the writers if Assad were to go on TV and brag about ordering the gas attacks personally. The Syrian regime are the same people that killed tens of thousands of civilians in Hama in 1982 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre#Fatality_estimates , so there’s not much doubt they’re capable of gas attacks on children. So, it begs the question, “would there ever be any justification for bombing the Syrian government?” Of course, the North Korean government is worse.

    And it’s hilarious that the same people who thought W. was a tool of the military industrial complex have now turned on Obama.

    • ilsm says:

      Put the Turks or French back in.

      Legacy of the decline of the Ottoman empire and meddling by the winners. In 1982 same as today, it was the is the Ba’athists.

      What will the price of US empire be?

  17. panskeptic says:

    We may already be at war. We’re just not looking in the right place.

    http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/white-house-cyberattack-syria-SCADA

  18. Low Budget Dave says:

    I am opposed to involvement, but not for the reasons listed.

    I feel that the military action is being pushed by weapons manufacturers and war profiteers, even though there is little opportunity for permanent change.

    Temporary results, sure. But what, exactly, is the long term value of “Sending a message”?

  19. [...] From Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture: [...]

  20. wally says:

    ” So, it begs the question, “would there ever be any justification for bombing the Syrian government?”

    Yes: if they attacked us and we were at war with them. Otherwise, absolutely not.

    It would also be highly immoral of us to bomb a bunch of poor bastards on the ground who got inducted into the Syrian army and leave the leadership untouched.

    • howardoark says:

      This probably violates Godwin’s law, but screw it:

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

  21. victor says:

    This isn’t about slapping Bashar al-Assad on the wrist; it’s about Hezbollah, Iran and Israel and yes, USA.