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Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no doubt that Saddam al-Assad has crossed the red line. … Sorry, did I just say ‘Saddam’?”
So what do we have as the United States refuses to rule out an attack on Syria and keeps five warships loaded with missiles in the eastern Mediterranean?
Though the world dodged a bullet with the British parliamentary vote Thursday against going to war, it also brought with it great dangers, notably that of complacency, today being registered in various places. Though the tactical victory in England over the parliamentary vote is important, it arguably makes the very short term dangers possibly greater, not less. The screaming front page massive headlines in the New York Times, "Obama Set for Limited Strike on Syria as British Vote No: Seeking Allies – Another Ship Moves In," the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Prepares for Solo Strikes on Syria After Britain Balks," andWashington Post, "Obama Can Go it Alone on Syria: Lawmakers Clamor for a vote," in today’s morning papers say it all. One hopes against hope that one is wrong on this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. US Secretary of State John Kerry invoked the catastrophe of World War I but seemed to understand none of its lessons about the dangers of using military force in a region already boiling over from ethnic and religious conflict, tension and violence, including by outside powers. The danger is that an already brutal internationalized Syrian civil war will become the flashpoint for even larger regional and global conflict. The stakes are enormous for as former US National Security Advisor and Dean of the American Foreign Policy Establishment Zbigniew Brzezinski states in a Wednesday, August 28, 2013 Financial Timesop-ed, "The Steps That Obama Must Now Take On Syria,"
Believe it or not -- after John McCain played video games on his phone during a hearing on bombing Syria, and Eleanor Holmes Norton said she'd only vote to bomb Syria out of loyalty to Obama -- there are decent people in the United States government who mean well and take their responsibilities seriously. One of them, who works on actual humanitarian aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs) spoke to me. He said that, beyond those who will inevitably be killed by U.S. missiles in Syria, and those who will die in the escalated violence that is very likely to follow, a great many additional people may suffer for reasons we aren't paying attention to.
As an interfaith community of religious and secular members who believe in the power of love to overcome hatred and the power of mercy to conquer vengeance, while affirming the world’s common humanity and the sacredness of human life, we urge President Obama and Congress to reject any military intervention in Syria, including any military attack, arming the rebels, or creating a no-fly zone, and instead to focus on increasing humanitarian assistance through the United Nations and building active multilateral diplomacy without preconditions with all involved parties for an immediate ceasefire, a full arms embargo, and negotiations to end Syria’s civil war.
Over the last year, a religious antipoverty organization has met with U.S. Treasury and White House officials to encourage them to declare the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad an illegitimate government. This action would impose restrictions on lending to Syria that supports its military or the needs of the Assad regime. When governments or financial institutions make this declaration it lets lenders know that if they lend to Syria they may not receive a return on their investment. Types of lending and financing that could be affected are arms contracts with Russia and oil investment from Iran.
The horrific use of chemical weapons in Syria is a crime against humanity and demands an international response. President Obama states that the United States must take appropriate action vs. doing nothing. This is absolutely true. The problem comes in defining appropriate action. There are at least two options, military vs. non-military, the latter with a host of options.
NEW YORK - September 3 - Today, in a case filed on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), attorneys argued that video recordings of CCR client Mohammed al Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay should be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. The government possesses tapes of al Qahtani made when he was in solitary confinement immediately prior to a period, detailed in a log published by Time Magazine in 2006, in which al Qahtani was systematically tortured. He is the only Guantanamo prisoner whom the U.S. government has explicitly acknowledged torturing. Al Qahtani’s attorneys at CCR have viewed the tapes, but are prohibited from discussing their contents, including confirming or denying whether they contain footage of abuse.
On August 31, with the nation eking out the final hours of summer, President Obama took to the podium and, shockingly, did not announce that he was going to continue in the trend of the Imperial Presidency, wherein the Executive branch, in the words of , “abrogates to itself the right to declare war, which is, of course, traditionally the role of Congress.” Rather, while maintaining that he believes he has the right to act without congressional approval, Obama announced that he would allow Congress to have a voice. His speech was also a direct pitch to the American people to win support for military intervention in Syria. While only 20% of the American people thought the US should take action in Syria when Obama spoke, that number was up from only 9% last week, indicating that while the march to war may have stumbled, it continues forward.
The two and one-half year conflict in Syria has resulted in millions of refugees/displaced persons and more than 110,000 deaths. Recently, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a poison gas attack attributed by some to the Al-Assad regime, and by others to rebel forces―and the world waits for dispositive proof. Given the differing views of the US, Russia and China (all permanent members of the UN Security Council with resolution veto powers), it is unlikely that the UNSC will authorize punitive military measures against the Al-Assad regime. However, members of the UNSC may well agree to employ the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a legal avenue for the impartial investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity by any party to the Syrian conflict, with the possibility of the ICC indicting those primarily responsible.
September 2 was Labor Day. And clearly, there is no better way to celebrate workers is to require them to endure long, stressful shifts while the rest of us take advantage of the amazing sales at Best Buy, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Macy's.
It is incredibly sad that some of the worst paid, most poorly treated workers in the U.S. are the ones who get no chance to celebrate Labor Day. A recent report by Forbes found that of the 10 lowest paying jobs, six were in food preparation and food service. Some 2.94 million people work in these fields, where they earn just $9 an hour. Fast food cooks and dishwashers earn $9.03 to $9.10 per hour. Three others in the top ten are in the personal care business, with the remaining one being farmworkers, who of course are laboring so we can enjoy our barbecues and beach parties.