Daily Digest: Phyllis Bennis: As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track?

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———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=2f69846f9c&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Phyllis Bennis: As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track? http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/28/as_strikes_on_syria_loom_is ** As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track That Could Prevent More Violence? ———————————————————— 00:00 30:45 No related videos found Share this video Embed code Video link Post to Facebook Post to Twitter Donate (http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/28/as_strikes_on_syria_loom_is) Javascript is required to watch video inline on this page. You can choose another option on the listen/watch page if you prefer. download: Video (http://dncdn.dvlabs.com/ipod/dn2013-0828.mp4) Audio (http://traffic.libsyn.com/democracynow/dn2013-0828-1.mp3) Get CD/DVD (http://www.democracynow.org/gifts/dvds-cds/shows/2013/8/28#navigation) More Formats (http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/28/stream) “We need formal diplomatic talks. We don’t just need the release of a statement saying that the United Nations will request. That’s fine to tell the public that. That’s a good thing. But that’s not the same as the formal request being handed by Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament chief, to her counterpart in Damascus and say, “Here is the request of the United Nations.” She did that on Saturday, the request was answered positively on Sunday, and the inspectors went in on Monday. That’s hardly an extensive delay, as Secretary Kerry claimed. So, it’s really the collapse of one of the key components of Secretary Kerry’s claim of why it’s so obvious that the regime is responsible for these attacks.” Guest: Phyllis Bennis Democracy Now: August 28, 2013 NERMEEN SHAIKH: Britain is set to introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Syria as the U.S. and allies gear up for expected strikes on the Assad regime. The resolution condemns the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons, and authorizes, quote, “necessary measures for protecting civilians.” The resolution is being introduced as the Obama administration considers launching air strikes against Syria. The United States already has four Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea with capacity to hit Syria with cruise missiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said forces are “ready” to launch strikes. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that. And, again, we are prepared to exercise whatever option, if he decides to employ one of those options. AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to a veterans’ group in Houston, Vice President Joe Biden said there could be no doubt as to who was responsible for deploying chemical weapons. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is no doubt who was responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria—the Syrian regime—for we know that the Syrian regime are the only ones who have the weapons, have used chemical weapons multiple times in the past, have the means of delivering those weapons, have been determined to wipe out exactly the places that were attacked by chemical weapons. AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. and British push for military action against Syria is facing opposition. Russia and China are expected to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, quote, “attempts at a military solution will lead only to the further destabilization,” unquote, in Syria and the region. The Arab League has also declined to back a retaliatory military strike against Syria. Earlier today, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said any U.S. military action would need to be approved by the U.N. Security Council. Brahimi said, quote, “International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council.” NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a U.N. team investigating the alleged chemical attack must be given time to establish the facts about what happened last week when hundreds of civilians were killed on the outskirts of Damascus. Ban said, quote, “Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop acting and start talking.” On Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem categorically denied the regime used chemical weapons. FOREIGN MINISTER WALID MUALLEM: [translated] They said that the Syrian army used this weapon, although I have denied this to Kerry. I say there is no country in the world that will use weapons of mass destruction against its people. I dare those who accuse our army to show the evidence that we used this weapon. AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Syria, we’re joined now by Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She has written a number of books, including Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power. Her new piece (http://www.thenation.com/blog/175928/moral-obscenities-syria) in The Nation magazine blog is entitled “Moral Obscenities in Syria.” Phyllis, welcome back to Democracy Now! What evidence has the U.S. or Britain presented showing that the Syrian government definitively used chemical weapons in the attack in Ghouta? PHYLLIS BENNIS: So far, no evidence has been presented as to who carried out this attack. The reports that are coming—that will come from the U.N. inspectors will not include an investigation of who carried out the attack. Their mandate is quite narrow: just to find out what was used; was it indeed a chemical weapon, as is assumed but not certainly proven yet? But they will not be bringing in evidence of who carried it out. There was a report yesterday in Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli mass daily, claiming that it was Israeli officials who provided the Obama administration with what is considered by Obama’s people, apparently, to be definitive proof that it was the regime in Syria. We have yet to see any of that information. So far, it is simply the assertion by Vice President Biden, by—implied by Secretary Kerry and others, that there is evidence. It has not been seen. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Phyllis Bennis, what kind of legal justification then do you think that the Obama administration might use for this? And what kinds of options are available to him? PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, you know, the decision to go to the Security Council, that the British are doing today, is, as you mentioned earlier, guaranteed to get a veto, certainly by Russia, likely by China, as well, although it’s conceivable China could abstain, but they’re likely to veto. They may not even get nine sufficient votes. But what’s dangerous here is that the United Nations Charter, which is the fundamental component of international law governing issues of war and peace, is very, very clear on what constitutes the legal use of military force. There is no question that having used chemical weapons—whoever used it—is a huge war crime. It’s a specific violation of the chemical weapons treaty. It’s also a war crime or potentially even a crime against humanity. The problem is, we don’t know yet who is responsible. The U.S. is hinting that it may use the Kosovo precedent of 1999 as a way to get around the prohibition—the absolute prohibition—on using military force unless it is immediate self-defense, which no one in Washington is claiming that the use of these horrible weapons in Syria somehow threatens the United States—so that’s off the table—or that the Security Council agrees, which we know is not going to happen. The Kosovo precedent basically said in 1999, “We know we can’t get support from the Security Council, Russia will veto; therefore, we won’t ask the Security Council, we’ll ask the NATO high command.” So they went to NATO, and, what a surprise, the NATO high command said, “Yes, we approve the use of military force in Kosovo.” Now, the problem is twofold. One, NATO is a military structure. It’s like a hammer and a nail. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you’re NATO, everything looks like it requires a military response. The other problem is legal. There is simply no legal justification that says that the NATO high command or any other organization has the right to determine the legality of the use of force other than the U.N. Security Council. So if that is the justification, it will stand in complete violation of international law. AMY GOODMAN: Speaking Tuesday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney ruled out regime change as one of the goals of possible military intervention. PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: The options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. AMY GOODMAN: That is White House spokesperson Jay Carney, Phyllis Bennis. So what is the goal of this attack? I mean, it is clear from what they’re saying that they wouldn’t be attacking the chemical weapons stockpiles, but the Syrian military, but they’re saying they’re not trying to take out the military, and they’ve said that within the rebels are al-Qaeda forces, as well. So what is the goal here? PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, it seems that the goal is a political goal. It’s to make a statement: “Oh, my god, I used a red line. I said there was a red line, I have to do something.” And the only, quote, “something” that seems to be available is a military action. So, they say it’s not the goal of regime change, but if we recall, they said the same thing about Libya. The goal wasn’t regime change; the goal was to degrade the capacity to attack civilians. Well, it may, but most military analysts that we’re hearing from these days say it will not prevent future attacks. Crucially, this kind of a military strike, which military analysts today in The New York Times admitted, from the Pentagon, that it may well hit civilians, because they don’t have very good control over cruise missiles about where they hit. It may well hit civilians. They’re saying that even now, days before they use those missiles. The goal is one thing; the accomplishment is something else. And I think that the danger here is that there will be enormous numbers, potentially, maybe small numbers if people are lucky, but there will be civilian casualties. This is a political reality that can spin completely out of control and lead to massive escalations. We have to look at the what-ifs. What if there is some kind of military retaliation by the Syrian government, by the Syrian military, against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, U.S. targets elsewhere in the region, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia? What if there’s a retaliation against Israel? Do we really think that at that point the U.S. would say, “No, we’re not going any further, because we said this was not about regime change”? These military actions have a habit of spiraling out of control. It’s already an extraordinarily chaotic region, where there is a great deal of instability in a number of countries. Borders have become very porous. The attacks—the U.S.-NATO attacks on Libya led to the spreading of weapons throughout the region. The growing violence in Iraq is clearly linked to the attacks in Syria. So, the notion that we are going to somehow escalate these attacks in Syria, rather than saying this is a moment when we desperately need diplomacy—we heard today that the U.S. just announced that the scheduled meeting between the U.S. and Russia, scheduled for today, the U.S. now said, “We want to delay that. We don’t want to have it. We don’t think this is a good time.” This is exactly the time. We need to be talking to Russia, to Iran, to all of the U.S. allies that are supporting the other side, to force the various parties to peace talks. There is no military solution. This is what Congresswoman Barbara Lee said yesterday, and it’s absolutely true. There is no military solution. Extra assaults from the United States is going to make the situation worse, is going to put Syrian civilians at greater risk, not provide protection. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday the Syrian government took too long to grant U.N. inspectors access to areas allegedly subjected to chemical weapons attacks last Wednesday. The Syrian foreign minister claims access was requested only on Saturday. I want to play a clip from Tuesday’s U.N. press briefing, where reporter Matthew Lee questions the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Farhan Haq, on the precise timing of the U.N.’s request to the Syrian government. MATTHEW LEE: Can you say when, formally, legally, the request to go to al-Ghouta was made? FARHAN HAQ: Well, I just read you that request, which is— MATTHEW LEE: Right, which is the request. FARHAN HAQ: —which is a clear request that was issued on Thursday. Angela Kane was immediately dispatched, and then she arrived in Damascus on Saturday. MATTHEW LEE: Right. FARHAN HAQ: So she was also stepping forward with that request. But, as you see, we made that request on the 22nd of August. MATTHEW LEE: But is that the request? Press statement is the request? FARHAN HAQ: It’s not just a press statement, when we make these things. As the statement makes very clear, “a formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the Government of Syria in this regard.” MATTHEW LEE: And it arrived on Saturday in the form of Angela Kane? I just wanted you to respond to that. FARHAN HAQ: It’s a—that’s basically a question of semantics. You heard exactly what the formal request is. It went out far and wide on Thursday. Angela Kane was conveying this, and she did arrive on Saturday NERMEEN SHAIKH: Phyllis Bennis, that was Matthew Lee questioning the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Farhan Haq. Could you explain why the timing of the request to the Syrian government by the U.N. is significant? PHYLLIS BENNIS: It’s important, Nermeen, because Secretary Kerry made a very strong point that one of the big reasons for believing and for claiming that it’s indisputable that the Syrian regime is responsible for these horrific attacks is that they waited so long, they waited so that the evidence would be degraded, they waited so they could attack again. His focus was they waited, they waited, they waited—they waited too long. And, indeed, the U.S. claimed the U.N. inspector should actually be withdrawn, because they had waited too long and it was no longer a viable inspection operation. What we now know is that the formal request—and remember, we’re talking about diplomacy here. When a nation is at war, the idea that it’s somehow going to respond to a public call that is essentially a press release is nonsense. Secretary Kerry knows as well as anyone else, Farhan Haq knows as well as anyone else, that governments respond to formal requests, formal letters, formal phone calls. It’s not about semantics. It’s about diplomatic formality. We need formal diplomatic talks. We don’t just need the release of a statement saying that the United Nations will request. That’s fine to tell the public that. That’s a good thing. But that’s not the same as the formal request being handed by Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament chief, to her counterpart in Damascus and say, “Here is the request of the United Nations.” She did that on Saturday, the request was answered positively on Sunday, and the inspectors went in on Monday. That’s hardly an extensive delay, as Secretary Kerry claimed. So, it’s really the collapse of one of the key components of Secretary Kerry’s claim of why it’s so obvious that the regime is responsible for these attacks. AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, what is the peaceful alternative to respond? And is it possible that rebels used, had access to chemical weapons? PHYLLIS BENNIS: It’s certainly possible. Anything is possible. It’s certainly possible the regime used these weapons. It’s also possible that part of the rebels did. We know that some of the rebel armed forces came from defectors. We have no idea whether those defectors included some defectors that might have been involved in Syria’s long-standing chemical weapons program. We also know that some of the rebels are close to al-Qaeda organizations. The Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Nusra Front, has claimed its alliance with al-Qaeda. And the idea that al-Qaeda forces may have access to these weapons is certainly a frightening but very realistic possibility. The problem is, we don’t know. And that’s why the U.N. inspection initially is so important to determine what the weapons were, how they were used, where they were used. The next step then is to determine who used them. That remains a mystery right now. Whoever used them should be brought up on charges in the International Criminal Court and face the harshest punishments available to the international community. The question of what is the alternative to military strikes starts with diplomacy. It starts with talking. The talks that were scheduled between the U.S. and Russia, designed to try again to create the so-called Geneva II peace conference, is more important now than ever. There have been 100,000 Syrians killed, between military and civilians. Millions have been forced from their homes. And the supporters of the two sides—because this is now clearly a civil war, a devastating civil war, that has become part of really five wars in Syria. There’s a sectarian war. There’s a regional war for power. There’s a war between the U.S. and Russia. There’s a war between the U.S. and Israel and Iran. All of these wars are being fought to the last Syrian. So what’s needed is a set of peace talks. Call it Geneva II. Call it whatever you want. Call it broccoli. Just get those talks started so that you have not only the parties, but their backers. You have the U.S. and Russia, and you have Iran and Saudi Arabia, and you have Iraq and Kuwait. You have all the forces on the two sides coming together to talk about this, rather than fighting to the last Syrian child, to resolve these wars. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, earlier this month, prior to the alleged chemical weapons attack, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated the Obama administration opposed even limited U.S. military intervention in Syria because it believes rebels fighting the Assad regime wouldn’t support U.S. interests. In a letter to Congressman Eliot Engel dated August 19th, Dempsey wrote, quote, “Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.” Phyllis Bennis, can you talk about why military intervention is being considered so seriously now? And who possibly stands to benefit? PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think that, realistically, General Dempsey’s letter still stands. I think it’s very clear that there are multiple forces within the Syrian opposition. And even from the very pragmatic, nationalist—in my view, very unpleasant, if you will—position of the United States that we would only support those forces who represent our interests, rather than saying, “We want to stop the violence. We want to stop the killing of Syrian civilians,” even from that narrow nationalist vantage point, there is no good option in supporting the rebels in Syria that have a military capacity. Those that have the military capacity are those closest to al-Qaeda. The others have much less of a military capacity. I think the reason that General Dempsey references when he says that the administration is opposed to using military force to support the rebels, on a certain level, still stands. I don’t think they’ve changed that. What has changed has been the external and domestic political pressure. And while we know there have been divisions within the Obama administration, there are people in the administration who are known for their widespread support for so-called humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect as a basis for responding to any human rights violations that occur, that there are also people in the administration who have been dead set against the use of force in Syria. The difference now, it seems, is that President Obama’s own position seems to have shifted. He was most clear on opposing, resisting, being reluctant to consider military force; now he apparently seems much more open to it. And it seems that the pressure came with the escalation in the use of these horrific, what appear to be chemical weapons—we don’t even know that for sure. But the problem is that the use of chemical weapons, which is, as I said, a huge violation in its own right, doesn’t mean that the use of military force is going to help, is going to make that impossible. So, the problem we now face is there’s new pressures. Certainly there’s pressures coming from Congress, from people like Eliot Engel, from the Republican side, led by John McCain, Lindsey Graham—are all calling for an escalation of military force against Syria. You have new pressures now coming from Israel. Israel had been opposed, or at least was standing quiet, on the idea of using military force against the government in Syria, because the government in Syria has, frankly, been very helpful to Israel. It’s kept the occupied Golan Heights quiet, kept the border stable, kept the level of violence very much down, despite all the rhetoric. That government, we should note, has also been very supportive of the United States in the so-called global war on terror, being willing to accept detainees such as the Canadian, Maher Arar, to be interrogated and tortured in Syrian prisons at the request of the Bush administration. So, there’s been reluctance from Israel to call for the overthrow of that regime because of their very realistic fears of what might come next, what might replace it. Now it seems that they are more concerned about the impact on Iran of the political reality that the so-called red line that Obama established last year does not get a military answer. And in the Israeli view, if Iran doesn’t see an attack on Syria, they will believe that they have the right to disobey U.S. red lines, as well, and that’s unacceptable. So, all of this comes back to the question of Iran for the Israelis. For some in the United States— AMY GOODMAN: Twenty seconds. PHYLLIS BENNIS: For some in the United States, that’s the same position: It comes back to Iran. At the end of the day, there is no military solution. There have got to be negotiations. Striking Syria now will only make the situation worse for Syrians on the ground. It’s a very dangerous move. AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, we want to thank you for being with us, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Among her books, Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power. Her latest piece (http://www.thenation.com/blog/175928/moral-obscenities-syria) , we’ll link to, at The Nation magazine blog, “Moral Obscenities in Syria.” Stay with us. ============================================================ Copyright © 2013 Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove, All rights reserved. Ed’s Daily Digest News We have recreated the list in a program called MailChimp that promises to stop unsubscribing you. Please let us know if you experience problems with this new format by writing to deb@edpearl-ashgrove.org. 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Daily Digest: Syria Debate: Tariq Ali and Steven Clemons: US Justification for Military Action

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=94a9e4a4f2&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Syria Debate: Tariq Ali and Steven Clemons: US Justification for Military Action http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/29/syria_debate_does_us_have_the Syria Debate: Does U.S. Have the Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad for Alleged Chemical Attack? Guests: Tariq Ali and Steven Clemons Democracy Now: August 29, 2013 JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Syria. On Wednesday, President Obama declared unequivocally that the United States has concluded that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians last week. President Obama spoke on PBS NewsHour. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons of that—or, chemical weapons of that sort. We do not believe that given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences. So, we are consulting with our allies. We’re consulting with the international community. And, you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During his interview on PBS NewsHour, Obama did not present any direct evidence to back up his assertion that the Syrian government was behind the attack. Privately, U.S. intelligence officials say there are still many questions about who carried out and who ordered last week’s deadly chemical attack. In interviews with the Associated Press, multiple U.S. officials said this is, quote, “not a slam dunk” — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a, quote, “slam dunk.” Unnamed U.S. officials told The New York Times there is, quote, “no smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement after Russia and China opposed any authorization of force in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack in Ghouta. The U.S. is also facing resistance from its closest ally, Britain. After domestic pressure, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he’ll seek parliamentary authorization for using force against Syria, and only after U.N. inspectors complete their current mission. For more, we’re joined by two guests. In London, Tariq Ali is with us, editor of the New Left Review. He recently wrote a piece (http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/08/28/tariq-ali/on-intervening-in-syria/) for the London Review of Books blog called “On Intervening in Syria.” He spoke yesterday in London at a rally opposing the bombing of Syria. And in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Steven Clemons, let’s begin with you. What is your assessment of the evidence that the United States has and what the U.S. should do in Syria? STEVEN CLEMONS: My current assessment is that we have signals intelligence, and we’ve had it from the very beginning, both our own and others’ supplied by allies, that shows that there was command staff authorization and instruction to launch the attacks that were had. And we didn’t have that evidence in the earlier designation of chemical weapons usage, in which the Obama administration declared that the regime had used that. There was confusion about whether the opposition had potentially used chemical weapons or the government. But in this particular case, it’s not all public, which is, I think, quite regrettable, but there’s significant signals intelligence that tells us who was responsible within the Syrian command staff for what happened in this deadly, horrible attack. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, assuming that that information is accurate, why then still would the Obama administration not wait until the weapons inspectors, who are already in Syria, conduct their own investigation? STEVEN CLEMONS: What I’m told—and this is a fair point for people to debate, but what I’m told is—and perhaps Tariq Ali and others know what’s significant about this, but that the Syrian regime actually went to the areas in Ghouta that were attacked and began pummeling them, then engaged in a second conventional attack on the area. When the U.N. weapons inspectors went in the first time, of course, the delay was because the convoy was fired upon. And it became a concern of the White House that this was all delaying tactics, and the Russian enthusiasm for weapons inspections in this particular case was that it would be inconclusive and that you would get into a process that would end up, you know, in—according to one source of mine in the White House, muddying up the waters and preventing international action. And I think the president, for a variety of reasons—and I think this issue of weapons of mass destruction use or potential proliferation is a defining concern for the Obama administration. In April 2010, Joe Biden and Barack Obama convened leaders from around the world here in Washington about these kinds of concerns, so this kind of issue is one that is not only important for the international community, I think the Obama administration sees it defining for itself. AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Tariq Ali in London. You spoke at a rally against an attack on Syria. Your response to what Steven Clemons is saying? TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the main evidence which has been supplied is from an ally, certainly, but the name of the ally is Israel. Israeli intelligence has supplied the signals intelligence to the United States. It should be made public so we can judge it for ourselves. But virtually no one who knows the region believes that these attacks were carried out by the Syrian government, or on its orders. It’s crazy, if you think about it. They let the inspectors in, and then in a location barely 10 miles from where the inspectors are staying, there’s a chemical attack. And what good does it do the Syrian government to actually open fire on these inspectors? They want them there. So, I think it’s slightly incredible. And given that citizens in the United States and Europe were lied to in the run-up to the Iraq War—simple, straightforward lies—it’s very difficult to take the West seriously when it cries wolf again. So, ’til the evidence is there, it’s impossible to take this at face value. Secondly, the country that has of course used chemical weapons is the United States, which used white phosphorus in Fallujah. No red lines were drawn them, except the red lines of Iraqi blood. Thirdly, why is the United States wanting to do this? And I think the reasons are to do with the situation on the battlefield in this awful, ugly, depressing civil war, which is that the opposition to the regime had been losing out, and, effectively, the West wants to improve the relationship of forces on the field. They’ve sent in more arms to the opposition—whoever it may be, and it’s dubious in many cases. And now they want to punish the regime, once again, to push it back. Meanwhile, the civil war continues. You know, no one is really pushing for talks. In Geneva, the opposition refused to come and participate in these talks. And what is required is a political solution; otherwise, you have endless war. And this policy of Obama, we’re not going in for regime change, I think he’s right about that. He’s not misleading us. But we are basically wanting to weaken the regime so the civil war continues. What other option is there? JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tariq, I’d like to ask you what the potential impact is of yet another U.S. military attack on another Arab country, especially in view of the fact that Syria has a mutual defense pact with Iran. And what would be the possible repercussions of such an attack? TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the Iranian regime has made a very strong statement—whether it’s pure bluff, we don’t know—saying that if Syria is attacked, they will retaliate as they see fit. And this is a regime which has been recently elected, the new government, which people said was going to be very different from Ahmadinejad, and yet is saying exactly the same things as the prior government was saying to this- that an attack on Syria will be taken as an attack on Iran because of their defense pact. And they have the possibility, of course, of escalating in Iraq, of escalating in Lebanon and escalating in Afghanistan—three battlefield areas where the United States are involved, which I think is one reason that there has been a lot more caution in the Pentagon and from British military officers, who’ve been on television screens—recently retired, you know, who were involved in Iraq—saying that there is no justification for this war. People are extremely worried about the consequences. I mean, in Britain, we have 70 Conservative members of Parliament, the ruling party, from the coalition, saying they will not vote for a war. Eighty percent of the population is opposed to it. So, of course, the United States can push it through, and probably the British government, which, you know, is a sort of vassal state-type outfit, will go along with it, but against the will of a huge majority of its people. AMY GOODMAN: Steven Clemons, your response? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, Tariq Ali is an outstanding intellectual, and I’m a fan of much of his work. I disagree with him on the question. I mean, I was one of the first to raise the issues of the opposition somehow getting access to chemical weapons when we saw the lower yield use. I’d respectfully disagree with him in this particular case. And the Syrian government has an opportunity. There was an attack, and there was a missile-launched version of these chemical weapons. If a rogue general or a rogue command staff element of the Syrian regime was responsible in trying to help the opposition screen-pass the red line, that’s an option the Syrian government can reveal to the world, but that doesn’t appear to be what happened. The only thing I would say, where I substantially disagree, is that in the run-up to the Iraq War, which I, as, Amy, you and I discussed this many times—which I also opposed on a variety of grounds, you had an administration at that time, under Bush and Cheney, that didn’t care about evidence whatsoever, because they just wanted to go to war. They just wanted to settle old scores with Saddam Hussein, and, to a certain degree, they opened up much of the nightmare that we’ve seen in the Middle East. This is an administration, under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama, his chief of staff Denis McDonough, who have been working hard not to get more deeply engaged, to try to not have the third major military intervention there. And that is what I find unusual and, frankly, more compelling about this, and I find many of my friends on the progressive side that are worried about another intervention, and I see the neoconservatives applauding an intervention because they hope that there is a slippery slope into a much fuller engagement that’s about regime change, about boots on the ground, and about a deeper engagement of the United States in this mess, which I oppose. So, I believe—and it could be a complete mess—that it is important for the international community in matters of weapons of mass destruction to respond, to try and secure those weapons, or hold those who use them accountable, and to use—and to make that effort one that’s distinct from other political skirmishes and realities. I believe—and it may be to fine a needle to thread—that there’s a way to get from the attack, that I think is impending and that I think will happen, towards some form of peace process that is inclusive of all parties. I think Tariq Ali is absolutely right that the opposition didn’t want to go and participate last time, but perhaps the effort now to strengthen the U.S. position but not overthrow Bashar al-Assad gives everybody an opportunity to pause and come back. Perhaps that’s a naive view, but this is an administration that, frankly, I find does not want to go to war, and that’s why I think that the evidence that they are trying to bring to bear and the actions they’re considering are quite different than what happened in Iraq. And I suppose I’m admitting that I’m supportive of this action. And it is awkward to support it, because I know that it could have profound unintended and unexpected consequences, but I do believe that the president is on the right track in this particular case. AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break for a minute, and then we’re going to come back. Stay with us. [break] AMY GOODMAN: Speaking on PBS on Wednesday, President Obama suggested Syria’s chemical weapons may pose a threat against the United States. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When you start talking about chemical weapons, in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where, over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they’re allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility, in which chemical weapons, that can have devastating effects, could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that that does not happen. AMY GOODMAN: That is President Obama speaking yesterday on PBS. Our guests are Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, and Steven Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic. Tariq Ali, your response to President Obama? And also comment on the switch in Britain with your prime minister, Cameron, as a result of public pressure. TARIQ ALI: Well, first, on what Obama said, he sounds more and more like Bush. In fact, Amy, this has been my view since the day he took power, that he does things and gets away with things which Bush couldn’t. Were Bush carrying out these measures and preparing to attack another country, there’d be mayhem in the United States. Because it’s Obama, people accept it. The notion that a country or a group of terrorists could use chemical weapons or nuclear weapons against the United States, given the degree of high surveillance which the NSA has over everything, is mind-boggling, really. I mean, this is frightening people at home. We are going to war because we might be under threat. This can’t be taken too seriously. If we are going to have a campaign to stop chemical weapons, it should apply to all countries, and then we should see how it’s going to be implemented, and we should stop companies from producing them and manufacturing them. Where are these companies? Quite a few of them are in the West, within the ranks of the so-called international community. So, that is the way of operating if you’re going to take this seriously. And, secondly, on this question, the only people who might even consider a maniacal act like using chemical weapons against civilians in the United States or elsewhere, some of them are the very people, at the moment, who are actually fighting against the regime in Syria. So, here, the United States, which has been backing the opposition, and its surrogates in the Middle East have been arming it, have a huge responsibility themselves. So it doesn’t quite make sense. As far as Britain is concerned, I have very little doubt that once the United States goes to war, the British will back it. I mean, it is completely tied into the United States on many levels, especially the strategic and defense levels, though there’s a great deal of unease within the British military and intelligence circles, as there is in the United States, about politicians taking us into yet another war with unforeseeable consequences. I think if the U.S. decides to go, Britain will back it. I think Cameron would probably get a majority in Parliament, though there will be a sizable opposition. The Labour leader, who formerly said he was giving a reluctant backing, I think will give supposedly reluctant backing to this war, even though the United Nations has not had time to carry through a full investigation, which was the fig leaf with which they were covering themselves. But there is no doubt in my mind that you will have a large opposition in the country, which will this time be reflected more in Parliament than it’s ever been before, but largely because of these dissident Conservatives who are not convinced by it at all. And hardly a day goes by on British television where you get military experts and others, all of them coming out and saying they’re not in favor of this war. So there is a strong antiwar mood, which covers both left and right of the spectrum, which doesn’t favor this. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tariq, I’d like to ask Steve about the comments of Robert Fisk, the well-known foreign correspondent from The Independent, who has been based for decades in the Middle East. He wrote (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/does-obama-know-hes-fighting-on-alqaidas-side-8786680.html) recently, “If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured—for the very first time in history—that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida. … “The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords. “This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House—nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida—though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates.” Steve Clemons, your response to this irony in this situation, if this attack goes forward? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, one should always take Robert Fisk seriously and read what he has to say. I see it differently, because I also hear from this administration a commitment I didn’t hear from the first time they talked about chemical weapons use in Syria. This time they’re very, very clearly saying this is not about regime change. Tariq Ali just said that that was appropriate, this was not about targeting Bashar al-Assad. And in my book, that is a signal to the Russians to keep open a Geneva process down the road, because I believe it was a huge mistake at one point for President Obama to say that Assad had to go. Whether he has to go or not, that simply limited dramatically the opportunities for a negotiated outcome with this. The United States, to some degree, kind of spoiled the water for that to happen. I think the broad issue, though, is one where you see the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, and others recently writing to Congress and saying the Syrian opposition is undependable, inchoate and too dominated at the moment by the al-Nusra Front and by a radical Islamist faction, that we’ve just learned has been responsible for kidnapping several Western journalists and torturing them. One of these journalists just escaped, while others remain in captivity and held by a component of the Syrian opposition that we and other allies have been supporting at some level. So it is a horrible knot, where, as I’ve written in the past, in this particular case, the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy, not our friend. And I think that, to some degree, this mess inside is more complex than Robert Fisk shares. I don’t believe that we will—and if we try to punish the system for the use and deployment of chemical weapons—and people just need to go back and remind themselves and look at the preponderance of material that was pushed out on social media of women, children, men dying in the streets in horrible, agonizing death, and to look at images that, of course, happened previously in the Iraq-Iran War and happened elsewhere, but that used to be the norm in World War I. And the world made a very big investment in trying to never go that direction again. Tariq Ali just said that we should be moving to shut down chemical weapons production around the world. I couldn’t agree with him more, that that should be something connected with any action. It shouldn’t just be an ad hoc military attack. If Obama and Biden feel as strongly to attack, they should—Tariq Ali is absolutely right that there ought to be other component pieces of this allergy that I think does matter in the world. AMY GOODMAN: Steven Clemons, you said that you became convinced by the signal information, in speaking to intelligence officials in the United States. What exactly is that? STEVEN CLEMONS: Signals intelligence—you know, one of the unfortunate realities is we do have in the United States today a many—much infrastructure that’s part of a security-obsessed national security state. And we’re listening— AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we’ve learned in all the NSA scandal stuff. But what— STEVEN CLEMONS: Yeah, we’re listening to—well, every—no, but everything that— AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what exactly is the information? STEVEN CLEMONS: I’m sorry, how did I get the information? AMY GOODMAN: No, what exactly is that information that has convinced you? STEVEN CLEMONS: What is—so, from the moment this began to unroll—one of the areas I report on and work on is in the intelligence sector. And when there were attacks, low-level attacks, reported previously, and they were popping up here and there in Syria, it seemed to me natural, given the many months we talked about red lines, that the opposition would be the biggest winner if those were crossed. And so, I went at the time to people that I knew had access to and that were close to what’s called signals intelligence, electronic and digital eavesdropping, if you will, of which there are enormous, not just Israeli interceptors, but lots of other states that are essentially picking up communications inside Syria and filtering that. The NSA’s raison d’être is this. And at that time, there was no evidence whatsoever that there was command staff authority or Assad. There was speculation, but it just didn’t exist. And I got a very clear read from intelligence sources that we just had no evidence at all at that time of this lower chemical weapons usage that it was there. This time I went in, and said, “Steve, it is—it is definitive, and it’s definitive that members of the command staff of the Syrian army are responsible.” There may be factions, and subsequent—you know, reported in the press by Foreign Policy magazine, have reported that there was dismay and shock in some part of the command staff and a panic call to other elements of that. That’s the tip of the iceberg of the communications material we have. But it seems that a portion of the Syrian army, this time, communicated strongly enough that these attacks were held. And so, that intelligence is held there. I agree it should be made public. I think it should be put out into the public. AMY GOODMAN: So you haven’t seen it, but they told you that this is what it said. STEVEN CLEMONS: Yes. And because I had a benchmark of the previous inquiries I made, because I suspected that the opposition was benefiting too much, that there had been too much discussion of red lines, the folks that I spoke to who said there was no evidence of command staff authorization the last time around had a very different story this time. And so I was one of the first to go out [inaudible] anyway— AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to President Obama on PBS NewsHour. STEVEN CLEMONS: Yeah, sure. AMY GOODMAN: This is host Judy Woodruff. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. President, with all due respect, what does it accomplish? I mean, you’re—the signals the American people are getting is that this would be a limited strike over a limited duration. If it’s not going to do that much harm to the Assad regime, what have you accomplished? How—what—what’s changed? PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, again, I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if in fact we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal that, in fact, it better not do it again. And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously, end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria. And we hope that, in fact, ultimately, a political transition can take place inside of Syria, and we’re prepared to work with anybody—the Russians and others—to try to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict. But we want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people—against women, against infants, against children—that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you’re also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop. AMY GOODMAN: So, President Obama says he’s not interested in regime change, but he wants to send a message. Tariq Ali of the New Left Review, your response? TARIQ ALI: Well, in other words, this is punishment that is going to be inflicted on a country, with targets being bombed and presumably lots of what we used to call collateral damage, i.e. casualties on the ground. For what? To save Obama’s face? That’s all it’s become, because he said and Biden has talked about red lines. That’s the only reason. Takes one back to—I am totally unconvinced that a regime, backed by the Russians, in close touch with Iran, is so out of touch that they would actually use these weapons. I mean, who benefits from the red line being crossed? It’s not the government. It could be rogue elements within it. Whose orders they’re acting on might also be quite interesting. The fact is, we don’t know. And before the United Nations team can discover anything, they have now been asked to leave, as they were asked to leave Iraq, because a bombing has been planned. And whatever Obama says now, he cannot foresee the effects of missile attacks on Syria in the region as a whole, because, effectively, Amy, what the Iraq War has produced in the Middle East is a huge divide. This has been America’s big success. Arab unity has been effectively destroyed by creating the Sunni-Shia divide, which was created in Iraq after the Americans occupied it and handed over power to Shia clerical parties. This, in effect, made Tehran a major player in the region and brought the Saudis and other Sunni governments into line behind the United States to try and blockade and keep Iran at length. And I think that in one sense this conflict in Syria is playing along similar lines. I mean, the Israeli aim is very clear. The people they loathe the most in the Middle East are Hezbollah in Lebanon, were the only organization which have fought the Israelis to a standstill and were responsible for driving them out of Lebanon. They want this organization crushed. They feel that if the Syrian regime is defeated, there will be no conduit for Iranian arms to Hezbollah. So, it’s a huge, complex picture that we’re facing. And Obama talking as if nuke—as if chemical weapons were threatening the United States is really childish and creating an atmosphere of fear in the country, to try and convince a reluctant citizenry to back yet another American strike on an Arab country. It’s totally unconvincing. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring Steven Clemons back in. Steve, an unlikely figure recently criticized the Obama administration’s failure to provide what he believes is an explanation of what the national interest is here. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday evening, said, quote, “There really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation.” This, of course, brings in the whole debate of humanitarian intervention versus national interest. Your response? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, I think Barack Obama is, in a way, making a distinction between humanitarian intervention, which many people have been calling for in Syria for a long time after 100,000 deaths—even the number of deaths that died out of this chemical weapons attack, less than 1 percent of the total, would say, “Where were we before?” What the president is saying is that there’s something unique and different and distinct about the use of a weapon of mass destruction. And if that regime is accountable and responsible for the deployment of that, then there should be a different kind of punishment. I think what Don Rumsfeld is referring to is great debate between realists, neoconservatives, liberal interventionists—have debates about when do you marshal and deploy forces and sacrifice blood and treasure beyond your shores. And it’s—when I worked with Chalmers Johnson, we were convinced at the time that America was engaged in many of these wars of empire, many of these manipulations of the international system, for parochial reasons. And the question is: Does that meet that test? I think this debate and discussion is a vital one for the nation to have, no matter what my views are. I certainly respect those that have a great skepticism about American engagement in these kinds of things. Don Rumsfeld, who basically led the charge, along with Paul Wolfowitz and others, into Iraq, because they were so focused on trying to unseat Saddam Hussein, and evidence to the side, is, I think, a remarkable man for saying, “OK, what’s the national interest here?” The national interest is, chemical weapons deployments fits in that list for realists of things that you don’t want to create an opportunity for expansion of. You don’t want to, by not acting, essentially promote the proliferation, the use, the further use of these weapons. And perhaps they’re wrong. I think we have to be humble in this. Perhaps they’re wrong, but that many analysts believe that the failure, the watch that we’ve been doing of seeing sarin gas pop up here and there around Syria, and the absence of a response, led someone in the Syrian command staff to think that this was a viable option. It’s kind of like—it’s hard to imagine this, but in the days of Curtis LeMay in the United States, when you had essentially a group around the president of the United States that wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on every problem we had in the world, that may be the situation that Bashar al-Assad is facing inside his regime, that he has Curtis LeMays that are—that have the authority and the ability to deploy those chemical weapons. And the question is: What does the world do about that? Does it matter beyond the borders of Syria or not? I believe, in this particular case, it does. But I have respect for those who argue that it’s not, and I want to hear them. But I would not spend a lot of time listening to Don Rumsfeld make a case one way or another on this particular question, given his history. AMY GOODMAN: And then, very quickly—we just have 30 seconds—Tariq Ali, newly disclosed CIA files show the United States provided critical intelligence to help Saddam Hussein launch chemical attacks on Iran. In the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. provided Saddam Hussein with satellite imagery showing Iran was poised to exploit a hole in Iraq’s military positioning, the U.S. giving Iraq the location of Iranian troops, despite knowing that Saddam would use nerve gas. TARIQ ALI: Yes. AMY GOODMAN: The attacks killed anywhere between hundreds to thousands of Iranians. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the U.S. had “firm evidence” of Iraqi chemical attacks on Iran as early as 1983. In Foreign Policy, they said the disclosures in internal CIA files that top U.S. officials were aware “are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.” Tariq, your final comment? TARIQ ALI: Well, we know this, Amy, and we know also the chemical attacks launched on Fallujah by the United States in 2004, which is why what is going on now, in my opinion, has very little to do with the use of chemical weapons, but a great deal to do with restoring the balance in Syria and not allowing the regime to take more and more of the country back, which they were doing over the last six months to a year. AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there, Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, Steven Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic, senior fellow at New America Foundation. When we come back, yesterday the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, major rally on the Mall. 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Daily Digest: Tariq Ali, Stehpen Clemons: Does U.S. Have Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=3af984cf7b&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Tariq Ali, Stehpen Clemons: Does U.S. Have Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/29/syria_debate_does_us_have_the Does U.S. Have the Evidence and Authority to Hit Assad for Alleged Chemical Attack? Debate: Tariq Ali and Stephen Clemons JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Syria. On Wednesday, President Obama declared unequivocally that the United States has concluded that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians last week. President Obama spoke on PBS NewsHour. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons of that—or, chemical weapons of that sort. We do not believe that given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences. So, we are consulting with our allies. We’re consulting with the international community. And, you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: During his interview on PBS NewsHour, Obama did not present any direct evidence to back up his assertion that the Syrian government was behind the attack. Privately, U.S. intelligence officials say there are still many questions about who carried out and who ordered last week’s deadly chemical attack. In interviews with the Associated Press, multiple U.S. officials said this is, quote, “not a slam dunk” — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a, quote, “slam dunk.” Unnamed U.S. officials told The New York Times there is, quote, “no smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement after Russia and China opposed any authorization of force in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack in Ghouta. The U.S. is also facing resistance from its closest ally, Britain. After domestic pressure, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he’ll seek parliamentary authorization for using force against Syria, and only after U.N. inspectors complete their current mission. For more, we’re joined by two guests. In London, Tariq Ali is with us, editor of the New Left Review. He recently wrote a piece (http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/08/28/tariq-ali/on-intervening-in-syria/) for the London Review of Books blog called “On Intervening in Syria.” He spoke yesterday in London at a rally opposing the bombing of Syria. And in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Steven Clemons, let’s begin with you. What is your assessment of the evidence that the United States has and what the U.S. should do in Syria? STEVEN CLEMONS: My current assessment is that we have signals intelligence, and we’ve had it from the very beginning, both our own and others’ supplied by allies, that shows that there was command staff authorization and instruction to launch the attacks that were had. And we didn’t have that evidence in the earlier designation of chemical weapons usage, in which the Obama administration declared that the regime had used that. There was confusion about whether the opposition had potentially used chemical weapons or the government. But in this particular case, it’s not all public, which is, I think, quite regrettable, but there’s significant signals intelligence that tells us who was responsible within the Syrian command staff for what happened in this deadly, horrible attack. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, assuming that that information is accurate, why then still would the Obama administration not wait until the weapons inspectors, who are already in Syria, conduct their own investigation? STEVEN CLEMONS: What I’m told—and this is a fair point for people to debate, but what I’m told is—and perhaps Tariq Ali and others know what’s significant about this, but that the Syrian regime actually went to the areas in Ghouta that were attacked and began pummeling them and trying—and engaged in sort of a second conventional attack on the area. When the U.N. weapons inspectors went in the first time, of course, the delay was because the convoy was fired upon. And it became a concern of the White House that this was all delaying tactics, and the Russian enthusiasm for weapons inspections in this particular case was that it would be inconclusive and that you would find—get into a process that would end up, you know, in—according to one source of mine in the White House, muddying up the waters and preventing international action. And I think the president, for a variety of reasons—and I think this issue of weapons of mass destruction use or potential proliferation is a defining concern for the Obama administration. In April 2010, Joe Biden and Barack Obama convened leaders from around the world here in Washington about these kinds of concerns, so this kind of issue is one that is not only important for the international community, I think the Obama administration sees it defining for itself. AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Tariq Ali in London. You spoke at a rally against an attack on Syria. Your response to what Steven Clemons is saying? TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the main evidence which has been supplied is from an ally, certainly, but the name of the ally is Israel. Israeli intelligence has supplied the signals intelligence to the United States. It should be made public so we can judge it for ourselves. But virtually no one who knows the region believes that these attacks were carried out by the Syrian government, or on its orders. It’s crazy, if you think about it. They let the inspectors in, and then in a hotel barely 10 miles from—in a location barely 10 miles from where the inspectors are staying, there’s a chemical attack. And what good does it do the Syrian government to actually open fire on these inspectors? They want them there. So, I think it’s slightly incredible. And given that citizens in the United States and Europe were lied to in the run-up to the Iraq War—simple, straightforward lies—it’s very difficult to take the West seriously when it cries wolf again. So, ’til the evidence is there, it’s impossible to take this at face value. Secondly, the country that has of course used chemical weapons is the United States, which used white phosphorus in Fallujah. No red lines were drawn them, except the red lines of Iraqi blood. Thirdly, why is the United States wanting to do this? And I think the reasons are to do with the situation on the battlefield in this awful, ugly, depressing civil war, which is that the opposition to the regime had been losing out, and, effectively, the West wants to improve the relationship of forces on the field. They’ve sent in more arms to the opposition—whoever it may be, and it’s dubious in many cases. And now they want to punish the regime, once again, to push it back. Meanwhile, the civil war continues. You know, no one is really pushing for talks. In Geneva, the opposition refused to come and participate in these talks. And what is required is a political solution; otherwise, you have endless war. And this policy of Obama, we’re not going in for regime change, I think he’s right about that. He’s not—he’s not misleading us. But we are basically wanting to weaken the regime so the civil war continues. What other option is there? JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Tariq, I’d like to ask you—Tariq, I’d like to ask you about the—what the potential impact is of yet another U.S. military attack on another Arab country, especially in view of the fact that Syria has a mutual defense pact with Iran. And what would be the possible repercussions of such an attack? TARIQ ALI: Well, I think the Iranian regime has made a very strong statement—whether it’s pure bluff, we don’t know—saying that if Syria is attacked, they will retaliate as they see fit. And this is a regime which has been recently elected, the new government, which people said was going to be very different from Ahmadinejad, and yet is saying exactly the same things as the prior government was saying to this, that an attack on Syria will be taken as an attack on Iran because of their defense pact. And they have the possibility, of course, of escalating in Iraq, of escalating in Lebanon and escalating in Afghanistan—three battlefield areas where the United States are involved, which I think is one reason that there has been a lot more caution in the Pentagon and from British military officers, who’ve been on television screens—you know, recently retired, who were involved in Iraq—saying that there is no justification for this war. People are extremely worried about the consequences. I mean, in Britain, we have 70 Conservative members of Parliament, the ruling party, from the coalition, saying they will not vote for a war. Eighty percent of the population is opposed to it. So, of course, the United States can push it through, and probably the British government, which, you know, is a sort of vassal state-type outfit, will go along with it, but against the will of a huge majority of its people. AMY GOODMAN: Steven Clemons, your response? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, Tariq Ali is an outstanding intellectual, and I’m a fan of much of his work. I disagree with him on the question. I mean, I was one of the first to raise the issues of the opposition somehow getting access to chemical weapons when we saw the lower yield use. I’d respectfully disagree with him in this particular case. And the Syrian government has an opportunity. There was an attack, and there was a missile-launched version of these chemical weapons. If a rogue general or a rogue command staff element of the Syrian regime was responsible in trying to help the opposition screen-pass the red line, that’s an option the Syrian government can reveal to the world, but that doesn’t appear to be what happened. The only thing I would say, where I substantially disagree, is that in the run-up to the Iraq War, which I, as, Amy, you and I discussed this many times—which I also opposed on a variety of grounds, you had an administration at that time, under Bush and Cheney, that didn’t care about evidence whatsoever, because they just wanted to go to war. They just wanted to settle old scores with Saddam Hussein, and, to a certain degree, they opened up much of the nightmare that we’ve seen in the Middle East. This is an administration, under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama, his chief of staff Denis McDonough, who have been working hard not to get more deeply engaged, to try to not have the third major military intervention there. And that is what I find unusual and, frankly, more compelling about this, and I find many of my friends on the progressive side that are worried about another intervention, and I see the neoconservatives applauding an intervention because they hope that there is a slippery slope into a much fuller engagement that’s about regime change, about boots on the ground, and about a deeper engagement of the United States in this mess, which I oppose. So, I believe—and it could be a complete mess—that it is important for the international community in matters of weapons of mass destruction to respond, to try and secure those weapons, or hold those who use them accountable, and to use—and to make that effort one that’s distinct from other political skirmishes and realities. I believe—and it may be to fine a needle to thread—that there’s a way to get from the attack, that I think is impending and that I think will happen, towards some form of peace process that is inclusive of all parties. I think Tariq Ali is absolutely right that the opposition didn’t want to go and participate last time, but perhaps the effort now to strengthen the U.S. position but not overthrow Bashar al-Assad gives everybody an opportunity to pause and come back. Perhaps that’s a naive view, but this is an administration that, frankly, I find does not want to go to war, and that’s why I think that the evidence that they are trying to bring to bear and the actions they’re considering are quite different than what happened in Iraq. And I suppose I’m admitting that I’m supportive of this action. And it is awkward to support it, because I know that it could have profound unintended and unexpected consequences, but I do believe that the president is on the right track in this particular case. AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break for a minute, and then we’re going to come back. Steven Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic, senior fellow, New America Foundation. Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, he’s speaking to us from London. Stay with us. [break] AMY GOODMAN: Speaking on PBS on Wednesday, President Obama suggested Syria’s chemical weapons may pose a threat against the United States. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When you start talking about chemical weapons, in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where, over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they’re allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility, in which chemical weapons, that can have devastating effects, could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that that does not happen. AMY GOODMAN: That is President Obama speaking yesterday on PBS. Our guests are Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, and Steven Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic. Tariq Ali, your response to President Obama? And also comment on the switch in Britain with your prime minister, Cameron, as a result of public pressure. TARIQ ALI: Well, first, on what Obama said, he sounds more and more like Bush. In fact, Amy, this has been my view since the day he took power, that he does things and gets away with things which Bush couldn’t. Were Bush carrying out these measures and preparing to attack another country, there’d be mayhem in the United States. Because it’s Obama, people accept it. The notion that a country or a group of terrorists could use chemical weapons or nuclear weapons against the United States, given the degree of high surveillance which the NSA has over everything, is mind-boggling, really. I mean, this is frightening people at home. We are going to war because we might be under threat. This can’t be taken too seriously. If we are going to have a campaign to stop chemical weapons, it should apply to all countries, and then we should see how it’s going to be implemented, and we should stop companies from producing them and manufacturing them. Where are these companies? Quite a few of them are in the West, within the ranks of the so-called international community. So, that is the way of operating if you’re going to take this seriously. And, secondly, on this question, the only people who might even consider a maniacal act like using chemical weapons against civilians in the United States or elsewhere, some of them are the very people, at the moment, who are actually fighting against the regime in Syria. So, here, the United States, which has been backing the opposition, and its surrogates in the Middle East have been arming it, have a huge responsibility themselves. So it doesn’t quite make sense. As far as Britain is concerned, I think—I have very little doubt that once the United States goes to war, the British will back it. I mean, it is completely tied into the United States on many levels, especially the strategic and defense levels, though there’s a great deal of unease within the British military and intelligence circles, as there is in the United States, about politicians taking us into yet another war with unforeseeable consequences. I think if the U.S. decides to go, Britain will back it. I think Cameron would probably get a majority in Parliament, though there will be a sizable opposition. The Labour leader, who formerly said he was giving a reluctant backing, I think will give supposedly reluctant backing to this war, even though the United Nations has not had time to carry through a full investigation, which was the fig leaf with which they were covering themselves. But there is no doubt in my mind that you will have a large opposition in the country, which will this time be reflected more in Parliament than it’s ever been before, but largely because of these dissident Conservatives who are not convinced by it at all. And hardly a day goes by on British television where you get military experts and others, all of them coming out and saying they’re not in favor of this war. So there is a strong antiwar mood, which covers both left and right of the spectrum, which doesn’t favor this. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Steve—Tariq, I’d like to switch to Steve Clemons for a second and ask Steve about the comments of Robert Fisk, the well-known foreign correspondent from The Independent, who has been based for decades in the Middle East. He wrote (http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/does-obama-know-hes-fighting-on-alqaidas-side-8786680.html) recently, “If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured—for the very first time in history—that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida. … “The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords. “This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House—nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida—though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates.” Steve Clemons, your response to this irony in this situation, if this attack goes forward? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, one should always take Robert Fisk seriously and read what he has to say. I see it differently, because I also hear from this administration a commitment I didn’t hear from the first time they talked about chemical weapons use in Syria. This time they’re very, very clearly saying this is not about regime change. Tariq Ali just said that that was appropriate, this was not about targeting Bashar al-Assad. And in my book, that is a signal to the Russians to keep open a Geneva process down the road, because I believe it was a huge mistake at one point for President Obama to say that Assad had to go. Whether he has to go or not, that simply limited dramatically the opportunities for a negotiated outcome with this. The United States, to some degree, kind of spoiled the water for that to happen. I think the broad issue, though, is one where you see the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, and others recently writing to Congress and saying the Syrian opposition is undependable, inchoate and too dominated at the moment by the al-Nusra Front and by a radical Islamist faction, that we’ve just learned has been responsible for kidnapping several Western journalists and torturing them. One of these journalists just escaped, while others remain in captivity and held by a component of the Syrian opposition that we and other allies have been supporting at some level. So it is a horrible knot, where, as I’ve written in the past, in this particular case, the enemy of our enemy is still our enemy, not our friend. And I think that, to some degree, this mess inside is more complex than Robert Fisk shares. I don’t believe that we will—and if we try to punish the system for the use and deployment of chemical weapons—and people just need to go back and remind themselves and look at the preponderance of material that was pushed out on social media of women, children, men dying in the streets in horrible, agonizing death, and to look at images that, of course, happened previously in the Iraq-Iran War and happened elsewhere, but that used to be the norm in World War I. And the world made a very big investment in trying to never go that direction again. Tariq Ali just said that we should be moving to shut down chemical weapons production around the world. I couldn’t agree with him more, that that should be something connected with any action. It shouldn’t just be an ad hoc military attack. If Obama and Biden feel as strongly to attack, they should—Tariq Ali is absolutely right that there ought to be other component pieces of this allergy that I think does matter in the world. AMY GOODMAN: Steven Clemons, you said that you became convinced by the signal information, in speaking to intelligence officials in the United States. What exactly is that? STEVEN CLEMONS: Signals intelligence—you know, one of the unfortunate realities is we do have in the United States today a many—much infrastructure that’s part of a security-obsessed national security state. And we’re listening— AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we’ve learned in all the NSA scandal stuff. But what— STEVEN CLEMONS: Yeah, we’re listening to—well, every—no, but everything that— AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what exactly is the information? STEVEN CLEMONS: I’m sorry, how did I get the information? AMY GOODMAN: No, what exactly is that information that has convinced you? STEVEN CLEMONS: What is—so, from the moment this began to unroll—one of the areas I report on and work on is in the intelligence sector. And when there were attacks, low-level attacks, reported previously, and they were popping up here and there in Syria, it seemed to me natural, given the many months we talked about red lines, that the opposition would be the biggest winner if those were crossed. And so, I went at the time to people that I knew had access to and that were close to what’s called signals intelligence, electronic and digital eavesdropping, if you will, of which there are enormous, not just Israeli interceptors, but lots of other states that are essentially picking up communications inside Syria and filtering that. The NSA’s raison d’être is this. And at that time, there was no evidence whatsoever that there was command staff authority or Assad. There was speculation, but it just didn’t exist. And I got a very clear read from intelligence sources that we just had no evidence at all at that time of this lower chemical weapons usage that it was there. This time I went in, and said, “Steve, it is—it is definitive, and it’s definitive that members of the command staff of the Syrian army are responsible.” There may be factions, and subsequent—you know, reported in the press by Foreign Policy magazine, have reported that there was dismay and shock in some part of the command staff and a panic call to other elements of that. That’s the tip of the iceberg of the communications material we have. But it seems that a portion of the Syrian army, this time, communicated strongly enough that these attacks were held. And so, that intelligence is held there. I agree it should be made public. I think it should be put out into the public. AMY GOODMAN: So you haven’t seen it, but they told you that this is what it said. STEVEN CLEMONS: Yes. And because I had a benchmark of the previous inquiries I made, because I suspected that the opposition was benefiting too much, that there had been too much discussion of red lines, the folks that I spoke to who said there was no evidence of command staff authorization the last time around had a very different story this time. AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to President Obama on PBS NewsHour. STEVEN CLEMONS: Yeah, sure. AMY GOODMAN: This is host Judy Woodruff. JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. President, with all due respect, what does it accomplish? I mean, you’re—the signals the American people are getting is that this would be a limited strike over a limited duration. If it’s not going to do that much harm to the Assad regime, what have you accomplished? How—what’s changed? PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, again, I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if in fact we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal that, in fact, it better not do it again. And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously, end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria. And we hope that, in fact, ultimately, a political transition can take place inside of Syria, and we’re prepared to work with anybody—the Russians and others—to try to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict. But we want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people—against women, against infants, against children—that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you’re also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop. AMY GOODMAN: So, President Obama says he’s not interested in regime change, but he wants to send a message. Tariq Ali of the New Left Review, your response? TARIQ ALI: Well, in other words, this is punishment that is going to be inflicted on a country, with targets being bombed and presumably lots of what we used to call collateral damage, i.e. casualties on the ground. For what? To save Obama’s face? That’s all it’s become, because he said and Biden has talked about red lines. That’s the only reason. Takes one back to—I am totally unconvinced that a regime, backed by the Russians, in close touch with Iran, is so out of touch that they would actually use these weapons. I mean, who benefits from the red line being crossed? It’s not the government. It could be rogue elements within it. Whose orders they’re acting on might also be quite interesting. The fact is, we don’t know. And before the United Nations team can discover anything, they have now been asked to leave, as they were asked to leave Iraq, because a bombing has been planned. And whatever Obama says now, he cannot foresee the effects of missile attacks on Syria in the region as a whole, because, effectively, Amy, what the Iraq War has produced in the Middle East is a huge divide. This has been America’s big success. Arab unity has been effectively destroyed by creating the Sunni-Shia divide, which was created in Iraq after the Americans occupied it and handed over power to Shia clerical parties. This, in effect, made Tehran a major player in the region and brought the Saudis and other Sunni governments into line behind the United States to try and blockade and keep Iran at length. And I think that in one sense this conflict in Syria is playing along similar lines. I mean, the Israeli aim is very clear. The people they loathe the most in the Middle East are Hezbollah in Lebanon, were the only organization which have fought the Israelis to a standstill and were responsible for driving them out of Lebanon. They want this organization crushed. They feel that if the Syrian regime is defeated, there will be no conduit for Iranian arms to Hezbollah. So, it’s a huge, complex picture that we’re facing. And Obama talking as if nuke—as if chemical weapons were threatening the United States is really childish and creating an atmosphere of fear in the country, to try and convince a reluctant citizenry to back yet another American strike on an Arab country. It’s totally unconvincing. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to bring Steven Clemons back in and ask him—Steve, an unlikely figure recently criticized the Obama administration’s failure to provide what he believes is an explanation of what the national interest is here. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday evening, said, quote, “There really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation.” This, of course, brings in the whole debate of humanitarian intervention versus national interest. Your response? STEVEN CLEMONS: Well, I think Barack Obama is, in a way, making a distinction between humanitarian intervention, which many people have been calling for in Syria for a long time after 100,000 deaths—even the number of deaths that died out of this chemical weapons attack, less than 1 percent of the total, would say, “Where were we before?” What the president is saying is that there’s something unique and different and distinct about the use of a weapon of mass destruction. And if that regime is accountable and responsible for the deployment of that, then there should be a different kind of punishment. I think what Don Rumsfeld is referring to is great debate between realists, neoconservatives, liberal interventionists—have debates about when do you marshal and deploy forces and sacrifice blood and treasure beyond your shores. And it’s—when I worked with Chalmers Johnson, we were convinced at the time that America was engaged in many of these wars of empire, many of these manipulations of the international system, for parochial reasons. And the question is: Does that meet that test? I think this debate and discussion is a vital one for the nation to have, no matter what my views are. I certainly respect those that have a great skepticism about American engagement in these kinds of things. Don Rumsfeld, who basically led the charge, along with Paul Wolfowitz and others, into Iraq, because they were so focused on trying to unseat Saddam Hussein, and evidence to the side, is, I think, a remarkable man for saying, “OK, what’s the national interest here?” The national interest is, chemical weapons deployments fits in that list for realists of things that you don’t want to create an opportunity for expansion of. You don’t want to, by not acting, essentially promote the proliferation, the use, the further use of these weapons. And perhaps they’re wrong. I think we have to be humble in this. Perhaps they’re wrong, but that many analysts believe that the failure, the watch that we’ve been doing of seeing sarin gas pop up here and there around Syria, and the absence of a response, led someone in the Syrian command staff to think that this was a viable option. It’s kind of like—it’s hard to imagine this, but in the days of Curtis LeMay in the United States, when you had essentially a group around the president of the United States that wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on every problem we had in the world, that may be the situation that Bashar al-Assad is facing inside his regime, that he has Curtis LeMays that are—that have the authority and the ability to deploy those chemical weapons. And the question is: What does the world do about that? Does it matter beyond the borders of Syria or not? I believe, in this particular case, it does. But I have respect for those who argue that it’s not, and I want to hear them. But I would not spend a lot of time listening to Don Rumsfeld make a case one way or another on this particular question, given his history. AMY GOODMAN: And then, very quickly—we just have 30 seconds—Tariq Ali, newly disclosed CIA files show the United States provided critical intelligence to help Saddam Hussein launch chemical attacks on Iran. In the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. provided Saddam Hussein with satellite imagery showing Iran was poised to exploit a hole in Iraq’s military positioning, the U.S. giving Iraq the location of Iranian troops, despite knowing that Saddam would use nerve gas. TARIQ ALI: Yes. AMY GOODMAN: The attacks killed anywhere between hundreds to thousands of Iranians. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the U.S. had “firm evidence” of Iraqi chemical attacks on Iran as early as 1983. In Foreign Policy, they said the disclosures in internal CIA files that top U.S. officials were aware “are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.” Tariq, your final comment? TARIQ ALI: Well, we know this, Amy, and we know also the chemical attacks launched on Fallujah by the United States in 2004, which is why what is going on now, in my opinion, has very little to do with the use of chemical weapons, but a great deal to do with restoring the balance in Syria and not allowing the regime to take more and more of the country back, which they were doing over the last six months to a year. AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there, Tariq Ali, editor of the New Left Review, Steven Clemons, editor-at-large for The Atlantic, senior fellow at New America Foundation. When we come back, yesterday the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, major rally on the Mall. 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Daily Digest: Phyllis Bennis: As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track?

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=31b70df269&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Phyllis Bennis: As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track? http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/28/as_strikes_on_syria_loom_is As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track That Could Prevent More Violence? Guest: Phyllis Bennis Democracy Now: August 28, 2013 NERMEEN SHAIKH: Britain is set to introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Syria as the U.S. and allies gear up for expected strikes on the Assad regime. The resolution condemns the Syrian government for allegedly using chemical weapons, and authorizes, quote, “necessary measures for protecting civilians.” The resolution is being introduced as the Obama administration considers launching air strikes against Syria. The United States already has four Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea with capacity to hit Syria with cruise missiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said forces are “ready” to launch strikes. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that. And, again, we are prepared to exercise whatever option, if he decides to employ one of those options. AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to a veterans’ group in Houston, Vice President Joe Biden said there could be no doubt as to who was responsible for deploying chemical weapons. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is no doubt who was responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria—the Syrian regime—for we know that the Syrian regime are the only ones who have the weapons, have used chemical weapons multiple times in the past, have the means of delivering those weapons, have been determined to wipe out exactly the places that were attacked by chemical weapons. AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. and British push for military action against Syria is facing opposition. Russia and China are expected to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, quote, “attempts at a military solution will lead only to the further destabilization,” unquote, in Syria and the region. The Arab League has also declined to back a retaliatory military strike against Syria. Earlier today, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said any U.S. military action would need to be approved by the U.N. Security Council. Brahimi said, quote, “International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council.” NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a U.N. team investigating the alleged chemical attack must be given time to establish the facts about what happened last week when hundreds of civilians were killed on the outskirts of Damascus. Ban said, quote, “Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop acting and start talking.” On Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem categorically denied the regime used chemical weapons. FOREIGN MINISTER WALID MUALLEM: [translated] They said that the Syrian army used this weapon, although I have denied this to Kerry. I say there is no country in the world that will use weapons of mass destruction against its people. I dare those who accuse our army to show the evidence that we used this weapon. AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Syria, we’re joined now by Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She has written a number of books, including Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power. Her new piece (http://www.thenation.com/blog/175928/moral-obscenities-syria) in The Nation magazine blog is entitled “Moral Obscenities in Syria.” Phyllis, welcome back to Democracy Now! What evidence has the U.S. or Britain presented showing that the Syrian government definitively used chemical weapons in the attack in Ghouta? PHYLLIS BENNIS: So far, no evidence has been presented as to who carried out this attack. The reports that are coming—that will come from the U.N. inspectors will not include an investigation of who carried out the attack. Their mandate is quite narrow: just to find out what was used; was it indeed a chemical weapon, as is assumed but not certainly proven yet? But they will not be bringing in evidence of who carried it out. There was a report yesterday in Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli mass daily, claiming that it was Israeli officials who provided the Obama administration with what is considered by Obama’s people, apparently, to be definitive proof that it was the regime in Syria. We have yet to see any of that information. So far, it is simply the assertion by Vice President Biden, by—implied by Secretary Kerry and others, that there is evidence. It has not been seen. NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Phyllis Bennis, what kind of legal justification then do you think that the Obama administration might use for this? And what kinds of options are available to him? PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, you know, the decision to go to the Security Council, that the British are doing today, is, as you mentioned earlier, guaranteed to get a veto, certainly by Russia, likely by China, as well, although it’s conceivable China could abstain, but they’re likely to veto. They may not even get nine sufficient votes. But what’s dangerous here is that the United Nations Charter, which is the fundamental component of international law governing issues of war and peace, is very, very clear on what constitutes the legal use of military force. There is no question that having used chemical weapons—whoever used it—is a huge war crime. It’s a specific violation of the chemical weapons treaty. It’s also a war crime or potentially even a crime against humanity. The problem is, we don’t know yet who is responsible. The U.S. is hinting that it may use the Kosovo precedent of 1999 as a way to get around the prohibition—the absolute prohibition—on using military force unless it is immediate self-defense, which no one in Washington is claiming that the use of these horrible weapons in Syria somehow threatens the United States—so that’s off the table—or that the Security Council agrees, which we know is not going to happen. The Kosovo precedent basically said in 1999, “We know we can’t get support from the Security Council, Russia will veto; therefore, we won’t ask the Security Council, we’ll ask the NATO high command.” So they went to NATO, and, what a surprise, the NATO high command said, “Yes, we approve the use of military force in Kosovo.” Now, the problem is twofold. One, NATO is a military structure. It’s like a hammer and a nail. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you’re NATO, everything looks like it requires a military response. The other problem is legal. There is simply no legal justification that says that the NATO high command or any other organization has the right to determine the legality of the use of force other than the U.N. Security Council. So if that is the justification, it will stand in complete violation of international law. AMY GOODMAN: Speaking Tuesday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney ruled out regime change as one of the goals of possible military intervention. PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: The options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. AMY GOODMAN: That is White House spokesperson Jay Carney, Phyllis Bennis. So what is the goal of this attack? I mean, it is clear from what they’re saying that they wouldn’t be attacking the chemical weapons stockpiles, but the Syrian military, but they’re saying they’re not trying to take out the military, and they’ve said that within the rebels are al-Qaeda forces, as well. So what is the goal here? PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, it seems that the goal is a political goal. It’s to make a statement: “Oh, my god, I used a red line. I said there was a red line, I have to do something.” And the only, quote, “something” that seems to be available is a military action. So, they say it’s not the goal of regime change, but if we recall, they said the same thing about Libya. The goal wasn’t regime change; the goal was to degrade the capacity to attack civilians. Well, it may, but most military analysts that we’re hearing from these days say it will not prevent future attacks. Crucially, this kind of a military strike, which military analysts today in The New York Times admitted, from the Pentagon, that it may well hit civilians, because they don’t have very good control over cruise missiles about where they hit. It may well hit civilians. They’re saying that even now, days before they use those missiles. The goal is one thing; the accomplishment is something else. And I think that the danger here is that there will be enormous numbers, potentially, maybe small numbers if people are lucky, but there will be civilian casualties. This is a political reality that can spin completely out of control and lead to massive escalations. We have to look at the what-ifs. What if there is some kind of military retaliation by the Syrian government, by the Syrian military, against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, U.S. targets elsewhere in the region, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia? What if there’s a retaliation against Israel? Do we really think that at that point the U.S. would say, “No, we’re not going any further, because we said this was not about regime change”? These military actions have a habit of spiraling out of control. It’s already an extraordinarily chaotic region, where there is a great deal of instability in a number of countries. Borders have become very porous. The attacks—the U.S.-NATO attacks on Libya led to the spreading of weapons throughout the region. The growing violence in Iraq is clearly linked to the attacks in Syria. So, the notion that we are going to somehow escalate these attacks in Syria, rather than saying this is a moment when we desperately need diplomacy—we heard today that the U.S. just announced that the scheduled meeting between the U.S. and Russia, scheduled for today, the U.S. now said, “We want to delay that. We don’t want to have it. We don’t think this is a good time.” This is exactly the time. We need to be talking to Russia, to Iran, to all of the U.S. allies that are supporting the other side, to force the various parties to peace talks. There is no military solution. This is what Congresswoman Barbara Lee said yesterday, and it’s absolutely true. There is no military solution. Extra assaults from the United States is going to make the situation worse, is going to put Syrian civilians at greater risk, not provide protection. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday the Syrian government took too long to grant U.N. inspectors access to areas allegedly subjected to chemical weapons attacks last Wednesday. The Syrian foreign minister claims access was requested only on Saturday. I want to play a clip from Tuesday’s U.N. press briefing, where reporter Matthew Lee questions the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Farhan Haq, on the precise timing of the U.N.’s request to the Syrian government. MATTHEW LEE: Can you say when, formally, legally, the request to go to al-Ghouta was made? FARHAN HAQ: Well, I just read you that request, which is— a clear request that was issued on Thursday. Angela Kane was immediately dispatched, and then she arrived in Damascus on Saturday. MATTHEW LEE: Right. FARHAN HAQ: So she was also stepping forward with that request. But, as you see, we made that request on the 22nd of August. MATTHEW LEE: But is that the request? Press statement is the request? FARHAN HAQ: It’s not just a press statement, when we make these things. As the statement makes very clear, “a formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the Government of Syria in this regard.” MATTHEW LEE: And it arrived on Saturday in the form of Angela Kane? I just wanted you to respond to that. FARHAN HAQ: That’s basically a question of semantics. You heard exactly what the formal request is. It went out far and wide on Thursday. Angela Kane (The U.N. disarmament chief) was conveying this, and she did arrive on Saturday. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Phyllis Bennis, that was Matthew Lee questioning the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Farhan Haq. Could you explain why the timing of the request to the Syrian government by the U.N. is significant? PHYLLIS BENNIS: It’s important, Nermeen, because Secretary Kerry made a very strong point that one of the big reasons for believing and for claiming that it’s indisputable that the Syrian regime is responsible for these horrific attacks is that they waited so long, they waited so that the evidence would be degraded, they waited so they could attack again. His focus was they waited, they waited, they waited—they waited too long. And, indeed, the U.S. claimed the U.N. inspector should actually be withdrawn, because they had waited too long and it was no longer a viable inspection operation. What we now know is that the formal request—and remember, we’re talking about diplomacy here. When a nation is at war, the idea that it’s somehow going to respond to a public call that is essentially a press release is nonsense. Secretary Kerry knows as well as anyone else, Farhan Haq knows as well as anyone else, that governments respond to formal requests, formal letters, formal phone calls. It’s not about semantics. It’s about diplomatic formality. We need formal diplomatic talks. We don’t just need the release of a statement saying that the United Nations will request. That’s fine to tell the public that. That’s a good thing. But that’s not the same as the formal request being handed by Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament chief, to her counterpart in Damascus and say, “Here is the request of the United Nations.” She did that on Saturday, the request was answered positively on Sunday, and the inspectors went in on Monday. That’s hardly an extensive delay, as Secretary Kerry claimed. So, it’s really the collapse of one of the key components of Secretary Kerry’s claim of why it’s so obvious that the regime is responsible for these attacks. AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, what is the peaceful alternative to respond? And is it possible that rebels used, had access to chemical weapons? PHYLLIS BENNIS: It’s certainly possible. Anything is possible. It’s certainly possible the regime used these weapons. It’s also possible that part of the rebels did. We know that some of the rebel armed forces came from defectors. We have no idea whether those defectors included some defectors that might have been involved in Syria’s long-standing chemical weapons program. We also know that some of the rebels are close to al-Qaeda organizations. The Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Nusra Front, has claimed its alliance with al-Qaeda. And the idea that al-Qaeda forces may have access to these weapons is certainly a frightening but very realistic possibility. The problem is, we don’t know. And that’s why the U.N. inspection initially is so important to determine what the weapons were, how they were used, where they were used. The next step then is to determine who used them. That remains a mystery right now. Whoever used them should be brought up on charges in the International Criminal Court and face the harshest punishments available to the international community. The question of what is the alternative to military strikes starts with diplomacy. It starts with talking. The talks that were scheduled between the U.S. and Russia, designed to try again to create the so-called Geneva II peace conference, is more important now than ever. There have been 100,000 Syrians killed, between military and civilians. Millions have been forced from their homes. And the supporters of the two sides—because this is now clearly a civil war, a devastating civil war, that has become part of really five wars in Syria. There’s a sectarian war. There’s a regional war for power. There’s a war between the U.S. and Russia. There’s a war between the U.S. and Israel and Iran. All of these wars are being fought to the last Syrian. So what’s needed is a set of peace talks. Call it Geneva II. Call it whatever you want. Call it broccoli. Just get those talks started so that you have not only the parties, but their backers. You have the U.S. and Russia, and you have Iran and Saudi Arabia, and you have Iraq and Kuwait. You have all the forces on the two sides coming together to talk about this, rather than fighting to the last Syrian child, to resolve these wars. NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, earlier this month, prior to the alleged chemical weapons attack, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated the Obama administration opposed even limited U.S. military intervention in Syria because it believes rebels fighting the Assad regime wouldn’t support U.S. interests. In a letter to Congressman Eliot Engel dated August 19th, Dempsey wrote, quote, “Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides. It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.” Phyllis Bennis, can you talk about why military intervention is being considered so seriously now? And who possibly stands to benefit? PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think that, realistically, General Dempsey’s letter still stands. I think it’s very clear that there are multiple forces within the Syrian opposition. And even from the very pragmatic, nationalist—in my view, very unpleasant, if you will—position of the United States that we would only support those forces who represent our interests, rather than saying, “We want to stop the violence. We want to stop the killing of Syrian civilians,” even from that narrow nationalist vantage point, there is no good option in supporting the rebels in Syria that have a military capacity. Those that have the military capacity are those closest to al-Qaeda. The others have much less of a military capacity. I think the reason that General Dempsey references when he says that the administration is opposed to using military force to support the rebels, on a certain level, still stands. I don’t think they’ve changed that. What has changed has been the external and domestic political pressure. And while we know there have been divisions within the Obama administration, there are people in the administration who are known for their widespread support for so-called humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect as a basis for responding to any human rights violations that occur, that there are also people in the administration who have been dead set against the use of force in Syria. The difference now, it seems, is that President Obama’s own position seems to have shifted. He was most clear on opposing, resisting, being reluctant to consider military force; now he apparently seems much more open to it. And it seems that the pressure came with the escalation in the use of these horrific, what appear to be chemical weapons—we don’t even know that for sure. But the problem is that the use of chemical weapons, which is, as I said, a huge violation in its own right, doesn’t mean that the use of military force is going to help, is going to make that impossible. So, the problem we now face is there’s new pressures. Certainly there’s pressures coming from Congress, from people like Eliot Engel, from the Republican side, led by John McCain, Lindsey Graham—are all calling for an escalation of military force against Syria. You have new pressures now coming from Israel. Israel had been opposed, or at least was standing quiet, on the idea of using military force against the government in Syria, because the government in Syria has, frankly, been very helpful to Israel. It’s kept the occupied Golan Heights quiet, kept the border stable, kept the level of violence very much down, despite all the rhetoric. That government, we should note, has also been very supportive of the United States in the so-called global war on terror, being willing to accept detainees such as the Canadian, Maher Arar, to be interrogated and tortured in Syrian prisons at the request of the Bush administration. So, there’s been reluctance from Israel to call for the overthrow of that regime because of their very realistic fears of what might come next, what might replace it. Now it seems that they are more concerned about the impact on Iran of the political reality that the so-called red line that Obama established last year does not get a military answer. And in the Israeli view, if Iran doesn’t see an attack on Syria, they will believe that they have the right to disobey U.S. red lines, as well, and that’s unacceptable. So, all of this comes back to the question of Iran for the Israelis. For some in the United States— AMY GOODMAN: Twenty seconds. PHYLLIS BENNIS: For some in the United States, that’s the same position: It comes back to Iran. At the end of the day, there is no military solution. There have got to be negotiations. Striking Syria now will only make the situation worse for Syrians on the ground. It’s a very dangerous move. AMY GOODMAN: Phyllis Bennis, we want to thank you for being with us, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Among her books, Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power. We’ll link to latest piece (http://www.thenation.com/blog/175928/moral-obscenities-syria) , at The Nation magazine blog, “Moral Obscenities in Syria.” Stay with us. ============================================================ Copyright © 2013 Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove, All rights reserved. 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Daily Digest: Jeff Cohen: My Surprisingly Inspiring Trip to the West Bank

From: Jeff Cohen [mailto:jeffco@hvc.rr.com] Subject: I just returned from West Bank & Israel. (http://www.commondreams.org/jeff-cohen) http://www.commondreams.org/sites/commondreams.org/files/imce-images/west_bank.jpg Protesters in Nabi Saleh march toward the water spring now used by Israeli settlers. (Photo courtesy of the author via Nabi Saleh Solidarity) As I prepared for a grueling fact-finding trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank (occupied for 46 years), Secretary of State Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to resume peace talks without preconditions.

On the day my delegation (http://ifpb.org/del47/default.html) flew to the region, Israel announced that it had approved still more housing for Israeli settlers: “Israel has issued tenders for the construction of nearly 1,200 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” reported (http://mondoweiss.net/2013/08/nyt-calls-new-jerusalem-settlements-housing-bids.html) London’s Financial Times, “defying U.S. and Palestinian opposition to expansion of Jewish settlements three days before the scheduled start of peace talks.” It’s the same old depressing story, with Israel showing little interest in making peace. So before I turn to what’s surprising and inspiring in the West Bank, let’s acknowledge the bad news: Palestinians are slowly being squeezed out of their homes, deprived of their water and centuries-old olive groves, humiliated on a daily basis by Israeli settlers and the Israeli state in a relentless violation of their human rights that gets worse as much of the world looks away. But here’s the good news: Across the West Bank, Israel’s occupation has given rise in recent years to a nonviolent “popular resistance” movement that should be an inspiration to people across the globe. This unarmed resistance has persisted in the face of Israeli state violence (aided by U.S.-supplied weapons and tear gas), lengthy jail sentences for nonviolent protesters and widespread detention and abuse of children (http://www.dci-palestine.org/) .

It was fitting to return to the U.S. on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington because Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of militant nonviolence were invoked by Palestinian activists in virtually every village and town I visited as part of the fact-finding delegation. Like King, leaders of the Palestinian popular resistance – from intellectuals to grassroots villagers who’d been repeatedly jailed – spoke to us about universal human rights, about a human family in which all deserve equal rights regardless of religion or nationality.

“We are against the occupation, not against the Jews,” was the refrain among Palestinian activists. “We have many Jews and Israelis who support us.” It was indeed inspiring to meet several of the brave Israelis (http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/) who’ve supported the nonviolent resistance, often putting themselves in the frontline of marches (their jail sentences are tiny compared to what’s dished out to Palestinians). They are admittedly a small minority, thoroughly ostracized within Israel – a society that seems as paranoid and militaristic today as our country during the McCarthyite Fifties. * * *

NABI SALEH: In this village near Ramallah that’s being squeezed by settlers, a leader of the local popular resistance (http://nabisalehsolidarity.wordpress.com/) waxed poetic about Israelis who’ve supported their struggle: “After we started the popular resistance in 2009, we saw a different kind of Israeli, our partner. We see them as our cousin – a different view than the Israeli as soldier shooting at us, or the settler stealing, or the jailer shutting the cell on us.” The story of Nabi Saleh was compellingly told in an atypical New York Times Magazine article by Ben Ehrenreich, “Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start? (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/magazine/is-this-where-the-third-intifada-will-start.html?pagewanted=all) ” “It’s not easy to be nonviolent, but no soldier has been killed by a stone,” said activist leader Manal Tamimi. “We want to show the world we are not terrorists. On CNN, Fox News, we’re just terrorists, suicide bombers. I was in the states; you never hear of settlers attacking Palestinians.” As we were leaving her house, Manal added: “You need to be our messengers because your tax money is killing us. You are our brothers in humanity, but you are part of the killing.”

Like our 1964 civil rights martyrs in Mississippi – Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman – Nabi Saleh reveres its martyrs: Mustafa Tamimi (http://972mag.com/mustafa-tamimi-a-murder-captured-on-camera/29459/) and Rushdi Tamimi (http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Palestinian-dies-after-being-shot-during-protest) . * * * BIL’IN: If you saw the Oscar-nominated documentary “5 Broken Cameras (http://www.kinolorber.com/5brokencameras/) ,” then you know of the seven-year-long, partly-successful battle by the villagers of Bil’in to drive back Israel’s “separation wall” (aka the Apartheid Wall) – which was positioned to confiscate nearly 60 percent of their land, separating farmers from their fields and olive trees. It’s an inspiring story (http://www.bilin-village.org/english/) of courageous nonviolence, with international activists (and Israelis) flocking to Bil’in to support the villagers’ resistance. “Internationals” who live in the West Bank and put their bodies on the line in support of nonviolent Palestinian struggles remind me of the U.S. students and others who “headed south” in the 1960s to support the civil rights movement. We stayed overnight in the homes of Bil’in residents. Iyad Burnat, the brother of “5 Broken Cameras” director Emad Burnat, talked with us past midnight about the importance of media coverage, international support, and creative, surprise tactics in a successful nonviolent movement (like using their bodies to close an Israeli “settlers-only” road). “In Bil’in we don’t use stones. The Israeli soldiers use that – kids throwing stones – to attack our people.”

Iyad was one of a dozen Palestinians we met who bristled at their lack of mobility now that their communities are ringed by the wall, settlements, checkpoints and Israeli-only highways. “It’s easier for me to get to the U.S. or the U.K. than to Jerusalem, 25 kilometers away.” Like our Selma martyrs – Jimmy Lee Jackson, Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo – Bil’in has its nonviolent martyrs: Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmah (http://mondoweiss.net/2009/04/30yearold-palestinian-resident-of-bilin-killed-in-weekly-nonviolent-protest-against-the-wall.html) and Jawaher Abu Rahmah (http://electronicintifada.net/content/bilin-tel-aviv-outrage-killing-jawaher-abu-rahmah/9164) . * * *

EAST JERUSALEM: One of the most powerful and educational movies on Israel/Palestine is the 25-minute documentary, “My Neighborhood (http://www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/watch) ” – which exposes the Judaization of East Jerusalem (http://www.icahd.org/tours/east-jerusalem) by focusing on a Palestinian family facing eviction from their home of 47 years in the middle-class neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. We sat down with the “stars” of the movie, the al-Kurd family, outside the part of the house they still can live in. Absurdly, zealous and aggressive Jewish settlers occupy the front part of the house. As we approached, I caught a glimpse of the settlers behind their Israeli flag. (Watch the movie here (http://www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/watch) .) Middle-aged mom Maysa al-Kurd and her 94-year-old mother told us they’ve lived in their East Jerusalem house since 1956, having been forced to flee Haifa during the 1948 “War of Independence.” Settlers are now using intimidation in hope of forcing them to flee again. With half a home, the al-Kurd family is luckier than dozens of others in Sheikh Jarrah who’ve been driven out of the neighborhood completely. (Many Palestinians are refugees two or three times over.) With the help of Israeli and international activists, the al-Kurd family has fought for years to live in peace and dignity in what’s left of their house. If you watch “My Neighborhood,” you’ll see grandson Mohammed, then in the 7th-grade, announcing that he wants to be a lawyer or journalist battling for human rights when he grows up. Two years later, he holds to that dream. Maysa al-Kurd asked us to tell her family’s story to President Obama – and, if we can’t reach him, to tell their story in social media. She wants to ask Obama “if it would be acceptable to him if his own kids were harassed in their home; if not acceptable for his kids, then he shouldn’t be silent” when Palestinian children are suffering.

HEBRON HILLS: Near the end of our tour of the West Bank, we visited the beleaguered but unbowed village of Al Tuwani in the South Hebron hills, where expansion-minded (“God gave us this land”) Israelis in nearby settlements have terrorized the village and sabotaged their fields and water. For “lack of a building permit,” Israeli soldiers demolished their village school and mosque. It struck me that being Palestinian in some of these remote locations was akin to being black in rural Mississippi in the 1950s, facing continuous intimidation from lawless Klansmen (like these armed and sometimes-masked settlers) backed up by state power. But Al Tuwani has resisted – with women taking new roles in the economic sustenance of the village, with young Italian solidarity activists (Operation Dove (http://www.operationdove.org/) ) accompanying the men into the field as a “ protective presence” and videotaping any confrontations, and with Israeli human rights lawyers defending their right to rebuild their community. A woman leader in the village, like so many Palestinians, begged us to return home to contest media portrayals of Palestinians as terrorists: “You’ve seen the true Palestine, not what you see in news media . . . Tell the world the truth.”

* * * While it was inspiring to see nonviolent “popular resistance” groups persisting across the West Bank, I felt ashamed and angry as a Jew to hear Palestinians document the relentless drive by the “Jewish State” to Judaize East Jerusalem and intimidate and humiliate West Bankers into leaving their cities, towns and villages. Everywhere we went, we heard complaints about day-to-day hardship — checkpoints, Jewish-only highways, blocked Palestinian roads and how drives to work or school or neighbors that once took 15 minutes now take several hours. Seeing these “facts on the ground,” I kept asking myself NOT “Why have many Palestinians turned to violence and terrorism?” – but rather, “Why so few?”

I’m not the first or only one to think that thought. In a moment of candor in 1998, hawkish Israeli politician Ehud Barak admitted to Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy: “If I were a young Palestinian of the right age, I’d eventually join one of the terrorist organizations.” (Barak wasn’t punished for his candor – Israelis elected him prime minister a year later.) As hard as we tried, it was difficult to find a single Palestinian (or Israeli peace and justice activist) with much hope for the Kerry-led peace process; they fear that talks will again be a pretext for continued Israeli expansion into Palestinian land. We were repeatedly reminded that at the beginning of the Oslo “peace process” in 1993, there were about 260,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and that number increased to 365,000 by the time Oslo fell apart seven years later.

Today, there are well over 525,000 settlers (http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/settlement-info-and-tables/stats-data/comprehensive-settlement-population-1972-2006) . Everywhere you travel in the West Bank, you can see Palestinian villages on hillsides or in valleys – and newer, gleaming Israeli settlements on the hilltops above, startlingly green thanks to abundant, diverted water. During the Oslo talks, then-Israeli foreign minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as telling a rightwing party to “run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements.” Many in the nonviolent Palestinian resistance also have little faith in the Palestinian Authority – seen variously as weak, corrupt, “an Authority with no authority,” and a junior partner in administering the occupation.

“We want a third Intifada, the Palestinian Authority wants to prevent it,” an activist told us. Their faith is in spreading the grassroots resistance within Palestine, and gaining international support. We were told over and over: Without outside pressure on Israel, there will be no end to the occupation and no justice. Which is why every Palestinian nonviolent activist urged us to support the boycott of Israel aimed at ending the occupation (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) – and they emphasized that boycotting is a supremely nonviolent tactic. All drew parallels to the successful, international boycott that forced South Africa’s apartheid regime to the bargaining table. And some mentioned another success – the boycott of Montgomery buses led by Martin Luther King. Jeff Cohen (http://jeffcohen.org/) is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR (http://www.fair.org/index.php) . . . He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media (http://www.amazon.com/dp/097606216X?tag=commondreams-20/ref=nosim) – and a cofounder of the online action group, www.RootsAction.org (http://www.rootsaction.org/) . =

Sunday’s event and ‘The Musical Legacy of the Great March’ This Saturday

Sunday’s event and The Musical Legacy of the Great March’ This Saturday

Hi. As the holiday weekend and war approach and occupy the mind, I take a time out to report that Shakespeare’s “All’s well that ends well” applies to the Ash Grove Picnic of last Sunday, and should, to tomorrow’s musical event in Pasadena.

First, the picnic: Great music from one person after another in a large circle of diverse folks, often from surprising sources. Everyone participated, became friends, drifted off to eat, greet and talk; then returned. Newcomers arrived, even towards the 6pm closing. The sentiments of the letter just below were expressed by everyone I spoke to, heard from on the phone, etc. I found out the next day that people actually continued until midnight, inside the house. Our hosts, Jan Goodman and Jerry Manpearl loved it and have asked that we make it an annual event. I promise to have it together and send you far fewer emails, next year. I won’t have to.

Ross Altman, the featured performer of tomorrow’s event was there, shared and I’m sure will draw many folks still in town to Pasadena. Me, too.

Ed

Daily Digest: How Syria action risks unsettling fragile Middle East balance of power

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=d48f2dd5a8&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest ** Cockburn: How Syria action risks unsettling fragile Middle East balance of power ———————————————————— ** ———————————————————— The violence has already affected neighbouring states and strengthened the hand of jihadists http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/how-syria-action-risks-unsettling-fragile-middle-east-balance-of-power-8788589.html ** How Syria action risks unsettling fragile Middle East balance of power ———————————————————— The violence has already affected neighbouring states and strengthened the hand of jihadists Patrick Cockburn Independent/UK: Wednesday 28 August 2013 Whatever else missile strikes on Syria do they will raise the political temperature in the whole region. What is unclear is whether or not the increased temperature will be temporary or permanent. Whatever the justification for the action by the US and its allies, it will be seen across the world as another American-led military intervention in the wider Middle East in the tradition of Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Lebanon over the last 35 years. British and French military actions are being justified by David Cameron and François Hollande on purely moral grounds as an act of retribution for the use of poison gas against civilians in Damascus and to prevent it happening again. This may go down well with domestic audiences but it will find few believers in the Middle East. The former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was reported as saying in an interview: “I am struck by how eager Great Britain and France appear to be in favour of military action. And I am also mindful of the fact that both of these two powers are former imperialist, colonialist powers in the region.” The air strikes will only confirm suspicions of British and French motives. Will air strikes help spread the Syrian conflict to other countries in the region? The important point here is to take on board how far it has already spread and the degree to which it already destabilising Syria’s neighbours. The al-Qa’ida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which fights in both Iraq and Syria, has already become stronger thanks to Syria, and is responsible for bombings in Iraq more intense than anything seen since 2008. The same organisation is responsible for ethnically cleansing Syrian Kurds in north-east Syria, 40,000 of whom have already fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. If the Assad government becomes weaker then the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and other jihadists, the most effective rebel fighting forces, will be strengthened. Turkey is likely to support US actions, its importance depending on whether or not the US air base at Incirlik in south-east Turkey is used. Turkey has a 560-mile long frontier with Syria but it is vulnerable to Syria and Iran acting through Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Turkish government support for the rebels in Syria is also strongly opposed by the Turkish opposition who have been reinvigorated by mass street protests this summer. Lebanon is already shuddering under the impact of the Syrian crisis with big bombs against a Shia district in south Beirut and two Sunni mosques in Tripoli. As many as a million Syrians have fled to Lebanon. Lebanon is not breaking apart yet but the air strikes will raise tensions further. But, despite occasional threats, it is scarcely in the interests of Iran or Hezbollah to stoke the Syrian conflict, which endangers both of them, by action against Israel or Western interests. Jordan is as usual trying to balance contending forces, with a spokesman saying: “Jordan will not be a launching pad for any action against Syria.” But there are well-sourced reports that Jordan is indeed a base for CIA training of Syrian rebels with support from Saudi Arabia. Israel is in an ambivalent position: on the one hand it would be glad to get rid of President Assad and see the destruction of Syria which has been at heart of state opposition to Israel for 40 years. On the other hand, the forces most likely to replace Assad could be more anarchic and more dangerous. What also if the civil war ended with a weakened Assad still in power but even more dependent on Iran and Hezbollah? President Obama faces a problem in his effort to decide on military action vigorous enough to show US military strength but not so strong that it radically changes the balance of power on the ground in Syria. He wants a broad-ranging coalition but some members of this such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey want to go much further than him in a campaign to overthrow the government in Damascus. And whatever happens the balance of forces will be disturbed, affecting not only the struggle within Syria but regional confrontation between Sunni and Shia and between Saudi Arabia and Iran. ============================================================ Copyright © 2013 Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove, All rights reserved. Ed’s Daily Digest News We have recreated the list in a program called MailChimp that promises to stop unsubscribing you. Please let us know if you experience problems with this new format by writing to deb@edpearl-ashgrove.org. Our mailing address is: Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove 882 Cleveland St. #21 Oakland, Ca 94606 Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp http://www.mailchimp.com/monkey-rewards/?utm_source=freemium_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monkey_rewards&aid=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&afl=1 ** follow on Twitter (Twitter Account not yet Authorized ) ** friend on Facebook (# ) ** forward to a friend (http://us7.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=d48f2dd5a8&e=4f9ed2a7d1) ** unsubscribe from this list (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage1.com/unsubscribe?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1&c=d48f2dd5a8) ** update subscription preferences (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage1.com/profile?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1)

Daily Digest: Stratfor: Obama’s Bluff

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=de79b04ab4&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Stratfor: Obama’s Bluff From: sid-l@googlegroups.com http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/obamas-bluff Stratfor: August 27, 2013 Geopolitical Weekly ** Obama’s Bluff ———————————————————— By George Friedman Images of multiple dead bodies emerged from Syria last week. It was asserted that poison gas killed the victims, who according to some numbered in the hundreds. Others claimed the photos were faked while others said the rebels were at fault. The dominant view, however, maintains that the al Assad regime carried out the attack. The United States has so far avoided involvement in Syria’s civil war. This is not to say Washington has any love for the al Assad regime. Damascus’ close ties to Iran and Russia give the United States reason to be hostile toward Syria, and Washington participated in the campaign to force Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Still, the United States has learned to be concerned not just with unfriendly regimes, but also with what could follow such regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have driven home the principle that deposing one regime means living with an imperfect successor. In those cases, changing the regime wound up rapidly entangling the United States in civil wars, the outcomes of which have not been worth the price. In the case of Syria, the insurgents are Sunni Muslims whose best-organized factions have ties to al Qaeda. Still, as frequently happens, many in the United States and Europe are appalled at the horrors of the civil war, some of whom have called on the United States to do something. The United States has been reluctant to heed these calls. As mentioned, Washington does not have a direct interest in the outcome, since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective. Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the United States when its starts killing people to stop the killings. People would die in any such intervention, since there are simply no clean ways to end a civil war. ** Obama’s Red Lines ———————————————————— U.S. President Barack Obama therefore adopted an extremely cautious strategy. He said that the United States would not get directly involved in Syria unless the al Assad regime used chemical weapons, stating with a high degree of confidence that he would not have to intervene. After all, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has now survived two years of civil war, and he is far from defeated. The one thing that could defeat him is foreign intervention, particularly by the United States. It was therefore assumed he wouldn’t do the one thing Obama said would trigger U.S. action. Al Assad is a ruthless man: He would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he had to. He is also a very rational man: He would use chemical weapons only if that were his sole option. At the moment, it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused him to use chemical weapons and risk the worst. His opponents are equally ruthless, and we can imagine them using chemical weapons to force the United States to intervene and depose al Assad. But their ability to access chemical weapons is unclear, and if found out, the maneuver could cost them all Western support. It is possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad’s military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. It is possible that the casualties were far less than claimed. And it is possible that some of the pictures were faked. All of these things are possible, but we simply don’t know which is true. More important is that major governments, including the British and French, are claiming knowledge that al Assad carried out the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a speech Aug. 26 clearly building the case for a military response, and referring to the regime attack as “undeniable” and the U.S. assessment so far as “grounded in facts.” Al Assad meanwhile has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors to examine the evidence onsite. In the end, those who oppose al Assad will claim his supporters concealed his guilt, and the insurgents will say the same thing if they are blamed or if the inspectors determine there is no conclusive evidence of attacks. The truth here has been politicized, and whoever claims to have found the truth, whatever it actually is, will be charged with lying. Nevertheless, the dominant emerging story is that al Assad carried out the attack, killing hundreds of men, women and children and crossing the red line Obama set with impunity. The U.S. president is backed into a corner. The United States has chosen to take the matter to the United Nations. Obama will make an effort to show he is acting with U.N. support. But he knows he won’t get U.N. support. The Russians, allies of al Assad and opponents of U.N.-based military interventions, will veto any proposed intervention. The Chinese — who are not close to al Assad, but also oppose the U.N.-sanctioned interventions — will probably join them. Regardless of whether the charges against al Assad are true, the Russians will dispute them and veto any action. Going to the United Nations therefore only buys time. Interestingly, the United States declared on Sunday that it is too late for Syria to authorize inspections. Dismissing that possibility makes the United States look tough, and actually creates a situation where it has to be tough. ** Consequences in Syria and Beyond ———————————————————— This is no longer simply about Syria. The United States has stated a condition that commits it to an intervention (http://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/us-prepares-intervention-syria) . If it does not act when there is a clear violation of the condition, Obama increases the chance of war with other countries like North Korea and Iran. One of the tools the United States can use to shape the behavior of countries like these without going to war is stating conditions that will cause intervention, allowing the other side to avoid crossing the line. If these countries come to believe that the United States is actually bluffing, then the possibility of miscalculation soars. Washington could issue a red line whose violation it could not tolerate, like a North Korean nuclear-armed missile, but the other side could decide this was just another Syria and cross that line. Washington would have to attack, an attack that might not have been necessary had it not had its Syria bluff called. There are also the Russian and Iranian questions. Both have invested a great deal in supporting al Assad. They might both retaliate were someone to attack the Syrian regime. There are already rumors in Beirut that Iran has told Hezbollah to begin taking Americans hostage if the United States attacks Syria. Russia meanwhile has shown in the Snowden affair (http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/keeping-nsa-perspective) what Obama clearly regards as a hostile intent. If he strikes, he thus must prepare for Russian counters. If he doesn’t strike, he must assume the Russians and Iranians will read this as weakness. Syria was not an issue that affected the U.S. national interest until Obama declared a red line (http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/redlines-and-problems-intervention-syria) . It escalated in importance at that point not because Syria is critical to the United States, but because the credibility of its stated limits are of vital importance. Obama’s problem is that the majority of the American people oppose military intervention, Congress is not fully behind an intervention and those now rooting the United States on are not bearing the bulk of the military burden — nor will they bear the criticism that will follow the inevitable civilian casualties, accidents and misdeeds that are part of war regardless of the purity of the intent. The question therefore becomes what the United States and the new coalition of the willing will do if the red line has been crossed. The fantasy is that a series of airstrikes, destroying only chemical weapons, will be so perfectly executed that no one will be killed except those who deserve to die. But it is hard to distinguish a man’s soul from 10,000 feet. There will be deaths, and the United States will be blamed for them. The military dimension is hard to define because the mission is unclear. Logically, the goal should be the destruction of the chemical weapons (http://www.stratfor.com/image/syrias-chemical-weapons-program) and their deployment systems. This is reasonable, but the problem is determining the locations where all of the chemicals are stored. I would assume that most are underground, which poses a huge intelligence problem. If we assume that perfect intelligence is available and that decision-makers trust this intelligence, hitting buried targets is quite difficult. There is talk of a clean cruise missile strike. But it is not clear whether these carry enough explosives to penetrate even minimally hardened targets. Aircraft carry more substantial munitions, and it is possible for strategic bombers to stand off and strike the targets. Even so, battle damage assessments are hard. How do you know that you have destroyed the chemicals — that they were actually there and you destroyed the facility containing them? Moreover, there are lots of facilities and many will be close to civilian targets and many munitions will go astray. The attacks could prove deadlier than the chemicals did. And finally, attacking means al Assad loses all incentive to hold back on using chemical weapons. If he is paying the price of using them, he may as well use them. The gloves will come off on both sides as al Assad seeks to use his chemical weapons before they are destroyed. A war on chemical weapons has a built-in insanity to it. The problem is not chemical weapons, which probably can’t be eradicated from the air. The problem under the definition of this war would be the existence of a regime that uses chemical weapons. It is hard to imagine how an attack on chemical weapons can avoid an attack on the regime — and regimes are not destroyed from the air. Doing so requires troops. Moreover, regimes that are destroyed must be replaced, and one cannot assume that the regime that succeeds al Assad will be grateful to those who deposed him. One must only recall the Shia in Iraq who celebrated Saddam’s fall and then armed to fight the Americans. Arming the insurgents would keep an air campaign off the table, and so appears to be lower risk. The problem is that Obama has already said he would arm the rebels, so announcing this as his response would still allow al Assad to avoid the consequences of crossing the red line. Arming the rebels also increases the chances of empowering the jihadists in Syria. When Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. He made a gesture to those in his administration who believe that the United States has a moral obligation to put an end to brutality. He also made a gesture to those who don’t want to go to war again. It was one of those smart moves that can blow up in a president’s face when it turns out his assumption was wrong. Whether al Assad did launch the attacks, whether the insurgents did, or whether someone faked them doesn’t matter. Unless Obama can get overwhelming, indisputable proof that al Assad did not — and that isn’t going to happen — Obama will either have to act on the red line principle or be shown to be one who bluffs. The incredible complexity of intervening in a civil war without becoming bogged down makes the process even more baffling. Obama now faces the second time in his presidency when war was an option. The first was Libya. The tyrant is now dead, and what followed is not pretty (http://www.stratfor.com/topics/terrorism-and-security/war-in-libya) . And Libya was easy compared to Syria. Now, the president must intervene to maintain his credibility. But there is no political support in the United States for intervention. He must take military action, but not one that would cause the United States to appear brutish. He must depose al Assad, but not replace him with his opponents. He never thought al Assad would be so reckless. Despite whether al Assad actually was, the consensus is that he was. That’s the hand the president has to play, so it’s hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, which it usually does. . ============================================================ Copyright © 2013 Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove, All rights reserved. Ed’s Daily Digest News We have recreated the list in a program called MailChimp that promises to stop unsubscribing you. Please let us know if you experience problems with this new format by writing to deb@edpearl-ashgrove.org. Our mailing address is: Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove 882 Cleveland St. #21 Oakland, Ca 94606 Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp http://www.mailchimp.com/monkey-rewards/?utm_source=freemium_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monkey_rewards&aid=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&afl=1 ** follow on Twitter (Twitter Account not yet Authorized ) ** friend on Facebook (# ) ** forward to a friend (http://us7.forward-to-friend2.com/forward?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=de79b04ab4&e=4f9ed2a7d1) ** unsubscribe from this list (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage1.com/unsubscribe?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1&c=de79b04ab4) ** update subscription preferences (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage.com/profile?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1)

Daily Digest: Eisenhower and Suez: Red Lines Run in All Directions

———————————————————— http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=eedf441d5d&e=4f9ed2a7d1 Ed’s Daily Digest Eisenhower and Suez: Red Lines Run in All Directions From: David McReynolds [mailto:davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com] Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 1:00 PM Subject: Eisenhower and Suez: Red Lines Run in All Directions As we wait for military action from Washington. I have no further comments here on the issue of the moral failures of Washington (or of the Syrian government). Only to observe that Obama is about to lead the US into a zone of considerable peril and if people are going to write or call their members of Congress, now would be a good time to do it. Much has been made of Assad having crossed a red line (rather foolishly set by Obama). We do not know, at this time, whether or not poison gas was used (or by whom). If it was, regardless of which side used it, that is shocking. Certainly it would seem to me wise to at least wait for a report from the team of UN inspectors before taking action. Red lines run in all directions. I think back (ah, old age and its mild advantages) to the Suez Crisis of 1956 when Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt to try to keep Nasser from taking control of the Suez Canal. It seems the US had not been a party to the action, nor informed about it in advance. (Though one wonders if the CIA could really have been that asleep at the switch). In any case, the Soviet Union not only strongly deplored the action, but took note that it had nuclear missiles that could reach London. (I’ll bet most of you didn’t know about that not-so-subtle Soviet threat). Eisenhower brought powerful pressure to bear on Israel, Britain and France. And in London there was the largest and almost spontaneous mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square that had been seen since the end of World War II – demanding the British stop their part in this invasion. The invasion was halted. Many are saying “what will the world think if Obama doesn’t do something”. Not considered by the commentators I’ve listened to is “what will Russia and Iran do if the US takes serious military action?”. What Obama seems about to do is open a Pandora’s box. Some things, once begun, take on a life of their own. Can Russia and China and Iran permit actions which would overthrow their ally? If Syria is directly threatened by heavy air strikes, can we count on it to act with a measured response? We have just accused it of acting recklessly in the use of poison gas (not yet proven) – why would we assume that a regime that felt its survival at risk would not take even more reckless actions? The old balance of power ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union – that “balance” placed limits on the possible actions of either major power. But does the US State Department really feel confident that it can bomb Syria with impunity? I entirely discount France and Britain – they will do what the US tells them to do. They will not act except in concert with the US. We come back again, as I have tried to argue in earlier posts, to a basic question, not about good and evil, but about US national interests – what threat do Syrian actions pose to the US? I note that there is some Congressional opposition to action by Obama – thus far that is coming largely from the Republicans. But they have raised the basis question – what US interests justify so risky an action. David McReynolds ============================================================ Copyright © 2013 Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove, All rights reserved. Ed’s Daily Digest News We have recreated the list in a program called MailChimp that promises to stop unsubscribing you. Please let us know if you experience problems with this new format by writing to deb@edpearl-ashgrove.org. Our mailing address is: Ed Pearl- The Ash Grove 882 Cleveland St. #21 Oakland, Ca 94606 Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp http://www.mailchimp.com/monkey-rewards/?utm_source=freemium_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=monkey_rewards&aid=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&afl=1 ** follow on Twitter (Twitter Account not yet Authorized ) ** friend on Facebook (# ) ** forward to a friend (http://us7.forward-to-friend.com/forward?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=eedf441d5d&e=4f9ed2a7d1) ** unsubscribe from this list (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1&c=eedf441d5d) ** update subscription preferences (http://edpearl-ashgrove.us7.list-manage1.com/profile?u=6e49d094cce3022a65cbe3028&id=1afea39a67&e=4f9ed2a7d1)

Alice Walker matters here

glad and grateful to have received this from Mitchel Cohen
______________________________________________
From: AlanTo the Recon Havarah/ Congregation, and other Jews and friends i know whom i think/hope are interested.
From  Alan Haber, Eliyahu

Since Spring I have been in France with Odile, learning and doing “permaculture,”  cleaning an old house, and having some distance from the immediate urgencies of the moment and movement.  Here now already at full moon into Elul’s time to search my heart and draw as close as i can to the breath of life,  i am anticipating being back in Ann Arbor in time again for Yom Kippur.

In this month of reflection and preparation, i have been compelled to examine again, and now to share again, my anguish and lament concerning myself as a Jew,  and as a human being, 77 years old,  not dead yet, and still an activist for justice and peace. And strange as it sometimes seems, i feel  i have obligations as a Levite son of a father, ha-Levi, and a mother, the daughter of a Kohen, agnostic and atheist though they respectively were.

Last year at Yom Kippur, in our Havarah afternoon discussion period, i posted and hosted a conversation on Israel, titled, “Israel,  the ecstasy and the agony: Is Israel a Jewish state?”  It seemed to me, on that holy day, probing the deepest questions, a spirited engagement would ensue.  Yet, everyone, but one, of the entire congregation and assembly exercised their free choice to go elsewhere.

The questions i raised involved how can our communal service be so silent, and our congregation so inactive,  relatively speaking, about the transgressions of Jewish law, ethics and morality that are tragically commonplace in the State of Israel, which proclaims itself a “Jewish State,”  representing the Jewish people, of which we each are, with varying degrees of identification.

I speak of such imperatives as:  Do not injure the fruit trees even in times of war; Do not covet your neighbor’s house nor anything that is your neighbor’s; Do not steal; Do not kill;  Do not move your neighbor’s boundary post, it is a great sin; Be good to the stranger, remembering we were strangers in a strange land;  One law for ourselves and those with whom we live; Do not bear false witness; Make restitution for that which you injure; Do not oppress, etc.  These laws have been transgressed since the beginning of Israel, and are today.  The impending dispossession of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the expropriation law uprooting 40 Bedouin villages, involuntarily relocating 30,000+ individuals  and confiscating 270 square miles of settled land, and the new development plans over the ruins of historic Lifta can serve as current reminders, as well as the tens of thousands of trees destroyed and homes demolished. This is not all right with me.

What i could call a rabbinic sophist might say, for instance, as i was once told, “Yes, but!   There might be a terrorist hiding behind that olive tree, so compelled by a higher law, to protect life, we must destroy the tree.”  i am not a scholar, but this is not the Torah i read, and have through its cycles, on and off,  for the last 40 years.   There is no excuse to make that right.

As a Jewish carpenter, I make arks for the Torah, to give Torah love and honor,  I helped make the reading table for our congregation, so Torah can be opened and read, and unrolled and rerolled without being torn or warped.  Warped readings and readings which are rote, empty letters, without comprehension, and without application, offend the soul. They do mine.

The Torah words cry out to me, do they not to you?   Are they not “close before our eyes,” as Avram Burg said when he was in Ann Arbor last year and shared his book  of a title like that,  giving contemporary reflections on each parsha?

My friend Yusif, a Palestinian brother and soul mate, has sometimes said, as i like to quote, “De Nile is not only a River in Egypt”.

“Denial,”  like the Shadow,  can cloud people’s minds so they cannot see.  (For those who remember the old weekly radio detective serial called “The Shadow,” who had the strange ability “to cloud men’s minds so they could not see him.”)

Why is it so many seem not to see? And why are those who seem to see, so ineffective, and, dare i say, timid,  in action? Even me?

Of course, there are many other things to look at and do, and other urgencies and agonies of the world.  There is family to tend, service here at home, children’s needs and daily life, climate change, poverty and the homeless, sickness to nurse and our own communities to maintain.  And Israel is so far away, and what can we do anyhow?  And there is also the fear and disquiet of what might  be seen, if the eyes opened and really looked.  And as i discovered, once one sees, one cannot then, “un-see.”

Still, all that said (and true), I like to point to that pesky, not so little, Fifth Commandment:  “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long on the land”  Elsewhere it says, “Do not uncover their nakedness.”   Basically, we are enjoined:  Do not make trouble in the family.

But what if there is trouble already?  What if our fathers and our mothers, speaking now of the fathers and mothers of Israel, were not all so honorable?  What if, metaphorically, the nakedness of their deeds needs to be uncovered?  What if they and their deeds have become as graven images to which we are called to bow down?  What if, indeed, our jealous God is, even now, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,”  which, of course are the generations of us, and will be of the children of now.

Is it not the higher honor to uncover the deeds of the past,  to look, indeed with love, and to summon the goodness of a thousand generations, and seek to know and understand.  And most centrally, do we not need to correct?  for the thief to give back? for the injurer to compensate? for true witness to be told? for the imprisoned to be released?

Do i know?  Hardly.  Such is my lament.  In the mission of my namesake, Eliyahu, i would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the elders, lest there come the great and terrible day of the Lord.”   Without a turning of hearts there seems no hope.  The fathers of our Israel are mostly long dead, the children of now seem to live  mostly in the shadows of denial.   i have been part of many high efforts of “tikkum olam” for years now, with the most wonderful people, and yet, the sickness has gotten worse, not healed, and the breakage more broken, not repaired.  I do not know what to do, but i think we have to go back to basics, recalibrate, as they say, our moral compass and measures of reality.  We need, as a community, to get out of the river and look around.

In this view, i suggest, and recommend, and even plead, as an opening of the eyes, in this month of Elul and over the High Holy Days, to read, and reflect and discuss the Story of Zionism.  Zionism is the political movement responsible for the creation of Israel and guides ,to this day, its policies.  The Z word has been mostly exempt from critical conversation in polite Jewish society, and elsewhere too.  I have been called (and treated by some) “persona non-grata” for venturing on these waters.  Recently I was sent a very researched historical paper on   “The History of US-Israeli Relations,” which i . . . read . . . and i found it most illuminating.  I  consider it a proper action to share this writing.

I hope you each read it, and will each forward it as widely as you can to your friends to encourage their reading, and to promote discussion also.  It has a rare depth and breadth, and shows the situation in Israel as  intimately connected with the situation in America.  We are all involved, not far away.  It is from “If Americans Knew,” written by Alison Weir.  It is fairly long, requiring attention.  It  will, i believe,  be eye opening for many:  13 pages, nearly 400 paragraphs, 16,000+ words, with 277 documenting footnotes and references adding 16 more pages, 15,000 more words and 600 more paragraphs.  This is serious, worthy of Elul and Yom Kippur.

This story is not the whole story.  No one rendering can be.  This is a story embedded in a collective trauma and post traumatic stress disorder.  i am now in a little village near the city of Chalon sur Saone in France.  There is a  memorial plaque in the Chalon railway station, witnessing the more than 11,000 individual Jewish people from this small Burgundy area of France who were deported from that station between August and October 1942, in 17 separate “shipments” to Nazi concentration and death camps, one small part of the collective trauma.  i was 11 and 12 years old in Germany in 1948, when my father was Advisor on Jewish Affairs to the Supreme Allied Command, responsible for the survivors and displaced persons and their camps, when the State of Israel was being founded.  From my father’s, and later my own experience, i can testify to accuracy of the accounts about the DPs in this narrative.  I have followed elements of this story through my years as “peace activist.”  There are parts i did not know.  History cannot be undone, but without being understood, it repeats itself.  There is a reservoir of inconvenient truths that feeds the River of Denial . . .

The answer seems not  so much any particular political “peace” formula negotiated among contending powers:  2 states, 1 democratic secular state guaranteeing minority rights, 2 sectarian states and 1 civil state, confederations and cantons, this border or that, this land swap or that.  More, it seems to me, and very appropriate to this season for we Jews,  what we need actually is a “turning and returning” to the basic laws and morality and ethics of the Torah.  If israel, we, and our elders and our communities had properly practiced basic Jewish law, (such as referenced above) we would not have the troubles of now.   When we pray, “Return to the One,” consider what that might really mean.  To return to the one:  To become law abiding?  Are we not called upon:   to commit ourselves in the year ahead, and likewise, for Israel, the state of our people, to become law-abiding?

In the global village, there is  no necessary contradiction between the basic lines of Jewish Law and international law and its conventions.
“Living together” requires human recognition of the others around us.   We would do well to add a big dose of generosity, for a change, and sharing, especially water, and imagining a coming Jubilee to set things more right.  Needed as well is enough humility to allow apologies.  “I don’t care” is not a Jewish option.

Notable is the recent film, “Gatekeepers,” featuring the last many heads of Israeli Secret Service, confessing their lawless pursuit of “terrorism” and the enemy, admitting it was a wrong policy for all these years.  Even the doers of the deeds call for change.

Long ingrained and unexamined patterns require a social reconstruction, in Israel, and in America too.  Freedom requires justice and equality for everyone.  Trauma recovery is part of the peacemaking, in which all question, and everyone has to have their place at the peace table …  and also on the doctor’s couch, in the music halls and artists studios.  Whatever the “political agreement,” there is no quick fix.  Without doubt “truth and reconciliation” needs to be in the mix, also  “unlearning racism” for more than a few on every side, and a better teaching of history recognizing the multiple narratives, so everyone’s story is told.

I hope this  “If Americans Knew” writing might, also, add perspective to the recent  (in our own local Ann Arbor community) “Dis-Invitation” to Alice Walker, a world-esteemed writer and citizen.  Alice Walker had been previously invited and had accepted to “Keynote” the Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of a major local institution, The University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women.  Then she was Dis-invited.   Why? because (before it was denied), a major money donor threatened withdrawal of funds, if this celebrity woman was allowed to speak:  Why? — because of her critical views on Israeli politics and advocacy for Palestine.  Perhaps it was all a bad misunderstanding and sloppy protocol, having nothing to do with middle east opinions, which was not at all her topic.  But after reading this article, one might come to believe otherwise, denials notwithstanding.

Our Shabbat and Holiday services regularly repeat in the Prayer for Healing:  “…Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing….”  Courage is required.  Israel now, for all its wonders,  beauties, and achievements, sadly, is not a blessing to the Palestinians, nor to its own poor, or to its neighbors or to the United States, it is far from a “Nation of Priests.”  Jewish Community officialdom, from the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, on down, would keep us in the shadows of denial.  It is an act of courage to open the eyes; and  more so, to say what you see.  Help is needed.

The article ends with a quote from George Orwell:  ” ‘Who controls the past, controls the future.  Who controls the present controls the past.’ [277]   Perhaps by rediscovering the past, we’ll gain control of the present, and save the future.”

i would be gratified, and challenged, to hear comments and replies.  i would welcome another Yom Kippur discussion on “Israel:  the ecstasy and the agony, Is Israel a Jewish State?” Perhaps a different title would better express what needs to be discussed.  I hope, this year,  more than one person would desire to participate.

L’Shanah Tova.

alan haber, eliyahu

http://ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/history.html

The History of US-Israel Relations
Against Our Better Judgment 

The hidden history of how the United States was used to create Israel

[ photo omitted of Louis Brandeis, Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, founding secretary of the American Federation of Zionists, and Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy’s ]

by Alison Weir
April 18, 2013
Alison Weir is Executive Director If Americans Knew and President of the Council for the National Interest. She is available to give presentations on this topic and can be reached at contact@ ifamericansknew.org.

Th[e above link is to] an uncorrected proof of an upcoming book; in addition to finalizing footnotes, additional information is still being added.  We feel the information is so important that we are distributing this version ahead of time.

 

 

Dear Ed,

I am full of admiration for all you accomplish and want
to thank you for taking time for a personal note
but also wonder if you read far enough to see the (what I — an agnostic, but raised in
association with a a series of Christian denominations– would call) Talmudic adroitness
with which Alan Haber argues his case for Alice Walker?
also:  isn’t it BECAUSE he himself is devout, that — again, as I would have thought —
his request to religious Jews (according to him, for a Jew to say “who cares” is
impermissible), to read the advance distribution of a book by Alison Weir (!) would
have all the more meaning and impact ?
warm good wishes
barbara

http://ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/history.html

The History of US-Israel Relations

Against Our Better Judgment 

The hidden history of how the United States was used to create Israel


his appeal to Center for Education of Women at his university, to reconsider its denial of Alice Walker:

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