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First up: We were joined up by Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security to discuss the climate change connection to the civil war in Syria and other regions where national security dangers loom, thanks to the "threat multiplier" that is global warming. Femia is the founding Director of D.C.-based think tank with an advisory board of retired senior military officers and national security experts. Fascinating conversation!
Next up: New documents disclosed by Edward Snowden and reported today by The Guardian reveal the NSA's agreement with Israel to share SigInt (signals intelligence) such as phone and email content without removing private metadata and content of U.S. persons first.
Finally (or close to it): The disaster that is SB 360, the CA law passed last week and headed to the Governor for his signature...or veto. SB 360, as The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively earlier this week, will abolish all federal testing of CA's electronic voting systems and even allow the Sec. of State to approve new e-voting systems for use "in a legally binding election" without ever being tested for state certification at all. It's a terrible bill, and we call on Governor Jerry Brown to veto it. You can (and should) too, right here...
Then Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, as usual, though not before updating us on her latest Twitter fight with some jackass at CNBC. Enjoy!
Download MP3 or listen online below [appx 58 mins.]...
On the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous Feb. 5, 2003 U.N. presentation of inaccurate information concerning Iraqi WMD and alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, a group of high-ranking, former intelligence agency veterans and whistleblowers calling themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), published their very first "VIPS Memo" to George W. Bush.
In their February 5, 2003 memo [PDF], the former intelligence professionals warned of the politicization of intelligence used by the Administration in their case for war, and cautioned against rushing into military action. They were, of course, ignored by Bush at the time.
A full decade, trillions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of dead bodies later, here we are again, as a President of the United States continues his call for U.S. involvement in yet another military excursion in the Middle East based on a "just trust us" public assessment of purported classified evidence.
Repeating the course they took in hopes of warning Bush after Powell's UN presentation, last week VIPS published another warning in the form of a memo to President Barack Obama, warning that his advisers may not be keeping him fully informed and asserting, among other things, "the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21."
While the VIPS memo presents a disturbing alleged scenario detailing claims that U.S. allies and intelligence officials had advanced knowledge of the August 21 chemical attack, like the White House claims, the VIPS scenario offers little more than serious, if unproven allegations unless and until they are substantiated, or refuted, by hard evidence or, preferably, a Congressional investigation including full immunity for the sources cited by the former intelligence veterans...
We have been working on a number of articles in hopes of highlighting concerns about the Obama Administration's so-far, evidence-free case for war against Syria in light of the August 21, 2013 chemical weapons attack said to have been carried out in a Damascus suburb.
But the matter is a quickly moving target, so to speak. While we hope to get one or more pieces out on those matters in the near future, Talking Points Memo has obtained and just released a document which they say was created by the Syrian government, is being circulated to "most offices" in Congress, according to TPM's sources, and offers the Syrian's case to the U.S. that diplomacy, rather than military attacks, is how they recommend proceeding.
The arguments presented in the 5-page document (posted in full below) on letterhead from the Syrian People's Assembly and signed by the assembly's speaker, Mohammad Jihad al-Lahham, urges the U.S. to "not rush into any irresponsible reckless action."
"You have the power and the responsibility today to convert the United States of America from the war track to the diplomatic path," September 5 letter reads. "We hope to meet there, and to talk, as civilised peoples should. We adopt a diplomatic solution, as we realize that war would be a bloody destructive catastrophic track, which does not have any benefit for all nations."
The letter attempts to play on the sympathies of the U.S. government and public's enmity for al-Qaeda and other "hatred Wahhabi Jihadist Ideology". It also makes a familiar case against military strikes by citing the follies of the Iraq War disaster. But it is the letter's direct response to "Alleged Chemical Attacks" that is most interesting for the moment...
During last Tuesday's Green News Report, I snarked to my co-host Desi Doyen that Sec. of State John Kerry's recent comments at the Pacific Islands Forum about the serious threats posed by global warming have convinced me: We must bomb global warming!
She noted, in response, correctly, that actually there's a lot of analysis out there supporting the idea that "climate change, causing drought, is also part of the impetus behind the unrest in the Middle East."
Of course, I dismissed the charge out of hand, mostly for comedic effect. But I really shouldn't have, as ClimateCrock.com's Peter Sinclair explained in a detailed post last week, detailing exactly how drought attributed to climate change --- which devastated Syria and elsewhere in the region from 2006 to 2011 --- helped spark the initial protests at the beginning of the "Arab Spring" in 2010 and 2011, how it helped to exacerbate the current mess in the war-torn Syria, and how it's exactly what the Dept. of Defense --- and even Senator John Kerry --- had long ago tried to warn us all about...
Aside from tons of callers (I'm tired of "experts" and "pundits", wanted to hear from actual people), and one of the most perfect "bloopers" ever (a brilliantly incorrect sound cue played, in the first part of the show, by the engineer who was in today instead of our usual one), we also spent a few minutes with anti-war activist and author (and occasional BRAD BLOG guest blogger) David Swanson on what he would recommend, in lieu of military strikes, for accountability for the use of chemical weapons. His main response to that question: Get thee to the Hague and file war crimes charges, if that's the case the U.S. is making against Syria!
Lots of interesting perspectives on today's show, almost all of which vary tremendously from the nonsense we're hearing from the Congress and the Administration and the establishment media this week. I'd welcome your feedback as well.
We also quickly hit on a few voting issues, such as our good news today on the TX GOP's most-likely-doomed Photo ID law and more...as well as a visit from Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report as usual! Enjoy!
Download MP3 or listen online below [appx 58 mins]...
[ED NOTE: Though David Swanson, in the following article, didn't give a reason as to why his source here is unnamed, I asked him why that is. His response: "He asked not to be named, which --- given the Insider Threat Program and the culture of McCarthyism afoot in Washington --- I found reasonable, and not just reasonable but also the only way I was going to get that story." --- BF]
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...
That headline shouldn't have to be ALL CAPS, since it's the rule of law and all, barring a "national emergency", which clearly this is not. But it's a reflection of how much Executive Power has changed over the past several decades, particularly over the last one.
It's also a reflection of how much many "experts" and pundits had expected an announcement that military action was about to happen, or had already had. That's not what the President's remarks today turned out to be about.
In a statement from the Rose Garden --- with the chanting of anti-war protesters heard in the distance --- President Obama announced that "after careful deliberation," he has "decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets," in the wake of their alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack against more than 1,400 citizens in a Damascus suburb.
Charging the attack "presents a serious danger to our national security," Obama said military action against the regime "would be designed to be limited in duration and scope," and meant to "hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out."
He explained that while the military is prepared "to strike whenever we choose...our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order."
And then, here was the most newsworthy portion (even if it shouldn't be so):
Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.
"All of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote," he explained, dropping the ball squarely back into Congress' court --- for now.
He also stated that while "the country will be stronger...and our actions will be even more effective" with a Congressional debate and vote to back action, he says he believes he has "the authority to carry out this military action without specific Congressional authorization." He did not state what that "authority" is, however, nor if he will exercise it should Congress vote against authorization, as the British Parliament surprisingly did earlier this week.
The President further offered his argument as to why the United States must take action in this case. [The complete text and video of Obama's remarks are posted at the bottom of this article.]
Congress is not currently scheduled to reconvene from their summer break until September 9. The President did not call them back into session earlier, and, as we pointed out several days ago, while many members have signaled they are willing to come back, if called upon by the President to do so, few if any have actually called on Congressional leaders to summon members back to Washington on their own.
That the President is appearing, for now, to follow the rule of law and the Constitution, and hand back some power to Congress that has, for so long, been usurped by the Executive Branch, left many on Twitter both pleased and agog today. Here's a sampling...
Late last night we flagged the New York Times report claiming that "momentum for Western military strikes against Syria appeared to slow," following the UK Parliament's stunning vote to reject military intervention there, after Prime Minister David Cameron's government released a fairly thin intelligence assessment and a less-than-persuasive legal theory for taking such action.
Today, the U.S. released its own unclassified intelligence community assessment of what they describe as "high confidence" that the Syrian regime --- at least someone within it --- launched a large chemical weapons attack on neighborhoods near Damascus on August 21.
The attack, the assessment says, resulted in the death of 1,429 people, "including at least 426 children". According to the document, the "high confidence" assessment is "the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation."
Along with the release of that assessment, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered a very straightforward statement (worth reading in full). Please note, however, that the intel assessment, as well as Kerry's statement, did not include the actual first-hand evidence from which the intelligence community is making their assessment, only their evaluation and summary of that evidence. The Administration says they are sharing more of the actual, still-classified assessment and/or evidence with members of Congress.
Kerry noted during his remarks that the intelligence community has been "more than mindful of the Iraq experience," and promised, "We will not repeat that moment." He also added: "the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility."
For his part, the President, in a statement made just before a White House meeting this afternoon, announced that he has made no final decision on action in Syria, but is currently considering a "limited narrow act" which, he says, "in no way involves boots on the ground" or a "long term campaign."
While both Kerry's remarks and Obama's brief comments referenced "consultation" with Congress, neither noted either the legal or Constitutional requirement to receive authorization from them, as we called for earlier, before launching a military intervention, "limited", "narrow" or otherwise, other than in a case of "national emergency".
Both men did, however, offer the case that we must demonstrate the world means what it says about the use of chemical weapons, as banned by the Geneva Convention after WWI and again in various treaties in the nearly 100 years since then.
With all of that in mind --- and, for now, taking the U.S. intelligence assessment at face value for the purposes of this article --- the central point here seems to be that, while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people with conventional weapons is, apparently, tolerable, using chemical weapons to kill some of them is a war crime. And war crimes, we are told, are a bridge too far.
In a fairly remarkable defeat to the UK Conservative Party's Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Parliament voted against intervention in Syria in a preliminary vote today. That could change in a subsequent vote, but, hey, at least they met, debated and voted! And that was after Cameron's government actually, publicly offered their legal basis for such intervention and an intelligence assessment [PDF] they claim supports it.
Meanwhile, back in these United States, John Nichols details the several bi-partisan --- and surprisingly robust --- Congressional letters calling on President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking military action against Syria. So far, over 150 members of Congress have signed on to those efforts.
In all, the New York Times concluded this morning (even before the vote in Parliament): "momentum for Western military strikes against Syria appeared to slow."
While a healthy portion of the U.S. Congress members speaking up are progressive Democrats, interestingly (though, perhaps, not surprisingly?), there are far more Republicans, this time around, joining the effort to call on the President to wait for an Article 1, Section 8 declaration of war from Congress --- or, at least, some form of authorization from the Legislative branch --- as clearly envisioned (an actual conservative would say "required") by the U.S. Constitution.
It's nice to see Congress, this time around --- at least more than 150 of its members --- calling on the President to do the right thing. On the other hand, Congress has its own responsibility here...
Today on the KPFK/Pacifica BradCast:
My take on what happened in the 100% unverifiable Mark Sanford "victory" over Elizabeth Colbert Busch in South Carolina's Special Election for the U.S. House on Tuesday; How the media are pulling "an Iraq" all over again on the supposed use of chemical weapons in Syria; a bunch of great callers (including one who completely disagrees with me on Internet Voting); Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report; and all of the Jodi Arias and Benghazi news you will ever need!...
Download MP3 or listen online below...
[This article now cross-published by Salon...]
So, wait. It wasn't the Syrian regime, but rather the Syrian rebels who used sarin nerve gas recently? That's the story being reported tonight by Reuters, from actually named sources among U.N. investigators. But will anybody notice? Or, with Israeli airstrikes already under way, and the neo-cons already demanding another new war, is the news too little, too late...again?
The week before last, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, reading from a letter sent by the White House to Congress, announced that the Administration believes that the Syrian government recently used chemical weapons against its own people. If true, it would be a move which President Obama had previously described as a "red line" and a "game changer" in the Administration's policy on the two-year old civil war still raging in that country.
Hagel's statement was somewhat measured [emphasis added]: "Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin."
A few days later, during a Presidential press conference, Obama himself was also measured, even back-tracking somewhat on the claim that it was "the Syrian regime" which used the chemical weapon, as Hagel had initially announced, setting off "Breaking News!" tweets around the globe.
"What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened," the President said, seemingly responsibly. "And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I've got to make sure I've got the facts."
He went on to decry "rushing to judgement without hard, effective evidence," that he planned to work with "neighboring countries to...establish a clear baseline of facts", and that he had "called on the United Nations to investigate."
But the war genie was already out of the bottle. At least for many in both the corporate media and the neo-con Right...
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