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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
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On Syria: The U.S. Is No Lone Ranger and Should Put That Six Shooter Away


On Syria: The U.S. Is No Lone Ranger and Should Put That Six Shooter Away
Posted on Sep 2, 2013
AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
By Juan Cole

The odd discourse in Washington around President Barack Obama’s determination to bomb Syria over the country’s use of chemical weapons assumes a moral superiority on the part of the United States and its allies on this issue that can only astonish anyone who knows the history. At the same time, the most propagandistic allegations are being made about Iran. The creation of a fetish around some sorts of weapons (i.e., chemical ones) takes the focus off others that are just as deadly to innocents. The U.S. has had a checkered history in the use of unconventional arms, and is still among the most dedicated to retaining the ability to make, stockpile and use weapons that indiscriminately kill innocent noncombatants.

The British government as recently as 2012 licensed its firms to sell chemical agents that can be used as poison gas precursors to the Baath government of Syria. Although critics of Prime Minister David Cameron used phrases such as “astonishingly lax” to describe British government policy in this regard, it seems clear that Western governments value profits over morality when it comes to providing such material to seedy dictatorships. Most of Syria’s chemical weapons production technology came from “large chemical brokerage houses in Holland, Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany,” according to security information provider GlobalSecurity.org. Russia may have played a later role, though I find Western charges of Iranian involvement unlikely for reasons I’ll get to later.

Nor are U.S. hands clean with regard to chemical weapons use by allies. In the Iraq-Iran War of 1980-1988, the Baath regime of Saddam Hussein deployed chemical weapons against Iranian troops at the front. Iran had a three-to-one manpower advantage over Iraq, and Hussein sought to level the playing field with gas. Notoriously, his regime also deployed poison gas against separatist Iraqi Kurds, whom he accused of allying with the enemy, Iran, during wartime. As I showed in the early days of Truthdig, the Reagan administration knew about the chemical weapons use. It nevertheless sought an alliance with the Iraqi government via Donald Rumsfeld, then-Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East. High administration officials deflected Iran’s complaint against Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. The United States did not just ignore Iraqi use of gas. It actively protected Baghdad from international sanctions for it. At the same time, the Reagan administration licensed U.S. firms to provide deadly agents such as anthrax to Saddam Hussein. At the very least, President Obama should acknowledge the Reagan administration’s actions and apologize for them to the people of Iran (where many veterans still suffer from burned lungs) before he strikes an outraged pose toward Syria and Russia. The U.S. has committed to destroying its own once-extensive arsenal of chemical weapons, but 10 percent remain and their final disposal keeps slipping into the next decade.

That Iran suffered so badly from U.S.-backed Iraqi chemical weapons use makes it especially weird that American pundits and politicians should be citing a need to deter Iran by bombing Syria. The Iranian political elite refused to deploy chemical weapons against Iraq, and its religious leader, Ali Khamenei, has condemned making, stockpiling and using weapons that kill innocent noncombatants, including nuclear arms. The U.S. and Israeli case that Iran has a militarized nuclear weapons program that seeks a warhead has never been backed by any convincing proof, and so far resembles their similar case against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which was groundless. That both countries have big nuclear weapons stockpiles of their own also makes their demand that Iran be sanctioned hypocritical at the least.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Sep 4, 2013, 07:12 AM (1 replies)

A US attack on Syria will Prolong the War


A US attack on Syria will Prolong the War
Posted on 09/04/2013 by Juan Cole

The struggle in Syria began peacefully in spring of 2011, but after about half a year it turned violent when the regime deployed tanks and other heavy munitions against the protesters. Some of the latter took up weapons and turned to violence in revenge. Thereafter the struggle spiraled into a civil war, in which the regime showed itself perfectly willing to attack civilian city quarters and kill indiscriminately. The struggle has killed over 100,000 persons. As the regime became ever more brutal, the rebel fighters were increasingly radicalized. Now, among the more important groups is Jabhat al-Nusra or the Succor Front, a radical al-Qaeda affiliate.

President Obama’s plan to bomb Syria with cruise missiles will do nothing to hasten the end of the conflict. Instead, it will likely prolong it.

It should be remembered that the US couldn’t end the Iraqi civil war despite having over 100,000 boots on the ground in that country. It is highly unlikely that Washington can end this one from 30,000 feet.


By striking Syria, Obama has all but guaranteed that a negotiated solution becomes impossible for years to come. In the absence of serious negotiations, the civil war will continue and likely get worse. The US should give serious thought to what the likely actual (as opposed to ideal) reaction in Syria will be to the landing of a few cruise missiles. The anti-regime elements will celebrate, convinced that it will all be over quickly if the US gets involved. The last thing they will want will be to negotiate with the regime.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Sep 4, 2013, 07:08 AM (0 replies)

The Lie of "Limited War" in Syria


The Lie of "Limited War" in Syria
Monday, 02 September 2013 14:36
By Shamus Cooke, The Workers Action | Op-Ed

The rats are jumping ship. Obama’s strongest allies can’t stomach the stench of lies that are the foundation of the war effort against Syria. Even England, whose entire foreign policy is reduced to asking “how high?” when the U.S. says “jump,” opted to stay grounded for Obama’s war drive.

The Arab League, too, having long been considered a puppet show by U.S. foreign policy, has cut its strings. The UN Security Council — after having learned not to trust Obama in Libya — also refuses to give permission for an attack. Which leaves France — the former colonial master of Syria — to fill England’s shoes as the token “important” European nation to give the attack a thin coat of “international” support. But England’s insolence will surely make an impression on the French public, who voted in a “socialist” president, presumably not to act as a warmonger.

Obama has offered zero evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for the most recent chemical weapons attack. UN investigator Carla Del Ponte blamed the U.S.-backed rebels for a previous chemical weapons attack, so if one were to presume guilt, it would flow towards the rebels.

While foreign nations instantly recognized Obama’s war song as a plagiarism of President Bush’s lyrics used to start a war on Iraq, sections of the American public have been fooled by Obama’s mellowing tone. The soft, reassuring sound of “limited strikes” that will last “hours, not days” has a calming effect on the nerves of the American public, who are essentially being told that Syria needs a light slap on the wrist for being “bad,” after which everything will return to normal; no U.S. troops need die. No big deal, really.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Sep 3, 2013, 08:37 AM (1 replies)

INFLUENCE GAME: Train safety move delayed decades


INFLUENCE GAME: Train safety move delayed decades
By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
Sep. 3, 2013 3:14 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a rash of deadly train crashes, the railroad industry's allies in Congress are trying to push back the deadline for installing technology to prevent the most catastrophic types of collisions until at least 2020, half a century after accident investigators first called for such safety measures.

Under a law enacted in 2008, the systems called positive train control or PTC are supposed to be up and running by Dec. 31, 2015. A handful of railroads are expected to meet that deadline. But the rest of the industry says despite spending billions of dollars on the systems, they face logistical and technical hurdles and need more time. Four senators with industry ties recently introduced a bill to extend the deadline another five to seven years.

The delays show how a powerful industry can stall regulations it doesn't like, even after they're enacted into law. The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 27 train crashes that took 63 lives, injured nearly 1,200 and caused millions of dollars in damage over the past decade that officials say could have been prevented had the safety system been in place. The NTSB first recommended advanced train control systems in 1970.


But safety, labor and passenger advocates are skeptical that most railroads will ever implement the system without more government pressure.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Sep 3, 2013, 07:16 AM (1 replies)

Pentagon buying official forecasts much tougher 2014 for defense contractors


Pentagon buying official forecasts much tougher 2014 for defense contractors
By Marjorie Censer, Published: September 1

The Pentagon’s acquisition staff is preparing to delay and potentially cancel programs in the coming weeks as it readies for another year of significant budget cuts, the military’s top procurement official said in an interview last week.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said he’s already holding off on some spending.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, and I don’t want to make major commitments to contracts that we may terminate once we get into fiscal 2014,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some hard choices, I think, in the next few weeks about what we do with some of our programs.”

Kendall said that he expects the defense industry to bear a disproportionate impact from the automatic spending reductions, known as sequestration, in the coming year.

unhappycamper comment: "Kendall said that he expects the defense industry to bear a disproportionate impact from the automatic spending reductions".....

Say what? You're still bitching about a five fucking percent reduction?
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Sep 2, 2013, 07:32 AM (1 replies)

Military’s handling of sex assault cases on trial at Naval Academy rape hearing


Military’s handling of sex assault cases on trial at Naval Academy rape hearing
By Melinda Henneberger and Annys Shin, Published: August 31

She was too drained to go on, she said.

After four days and more than 20 hours of relentless questions about her medical history and motivations, her dance moves and underwear, the 21-year-old midshipman who has accused three former Naval Academy football players of raping her pleaded on Saturday for a day off from testimony. It was granted by the hearing’s presiding officer but not before the request triggered more skepticism from defense attorneys, who said the young woman was faking her exhaustion.

“What was she going to be doing anyway?” asked Ronald “Chip” Herrington, one of the defense attorneys for Eric Graham, a 21-year-old senior from Eight Mile, Ala. “Something more strenuous than sitting in a chair? We don’t concede there’s been any stress involved.”

At a time when the military is under attack for how it handles sexual violence in its ranks, the proceedings underway at the Washington Navy Yard offer a case study on why women in uniform are so reluctant to report sexual assaults. The hearing highlights significant disparities between the way the military and civilian world treat accusers and the accused.

unhappycamper comment: Brigadier General Jeffery Sinclair's trial should be starting in NC within the next two weeks. Here's a link to the local newspaper: http://www.fayobserver.com/military
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Sep 1, 2013, 08:36 AM (0 replies)

Who wins in Syria? Why, the world's arms makers, of course


The $5+ billion dollar Zumwalt-class destroyer being built in Bath, ME. Pssst - Nimitz-class aircraft carriers usta cost 'only' $4.5 billion dollars.

Who wins in Syria? Why, the world's arms makers, of course
By Paul Whitefield
August 29, 2013, 1:06 p.m.

So you say the Syrians have it coming for gassing their own citizens?

OK, let’s skip that debate, then, and get down to the nuts and bolts: How much is this “measured response” gonna cost?

Call it “Bang for Our Bucks.”

Now, it’s hard to predict what a war will cost. Just ask the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld boys; remember their estimates that the Iraq war would, in essence, pay for itself through increased oil revenue and recovered assets?
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Sep 1, 2013, 07:59 AM (2 replies)
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