The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The Saudis Aren’t Going Anywhere | LobeLog

It may be true that the rulers of Saudi Arabia are unhappy over some aspects of U.S. policy toward Syria, Iran and Egypt, but it does not follow that they will therefore seek to detach the kingdom from its longstanding security alliance with the United States. To understand why, it is useful to review the history of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and examine the reality of the security partnership today to evaluate whether Saudi Arabia would really consider recasting its international security ties. [more]

Cable News Far More Hawkish On Syria Than The Public

Sometimes we’re offered perfect examples of what some refer to as “Manufacturing Consent”:

A Pew study on Monday attracted attention for its assertion that Al Jazeera America, which promised a different take on the world than its cable news counterparts, mostly mirrored their approach when it came to the debate over Syria. But an equally interesting portion of the study found that all of the cable news channels were markedly more hawkish in their coverage than the public as a whole.

Poll after poll after poll has found that a large majority of Americans opposed a strike on Syria.

But Pew found that, “in the week studied, the overall percentage of cable stories conveying a message that America should get involved (47% ) solidly outnumbered stories with messages counseling against a strike (27%).”

The breakdowns are striking. For Al Jazeera, pro-strike messages outnumbered anti-strike ones by 43-24%. On CNN, it was 45-23. On Fox News, it was 45-20.

MSNBC, Pew found, had by far the most pro-strike sentiment, with a whopping 64%. But the network also had far more messages of opposition (39%) than its counterparts.

Even so, Americans tuning in to their news networks saw a debate that was far more skewed in favor of the pro-strike view than the debate happening off-screen.

CIA Begins Delivering Arms to Syrian Rebels | Jason Ditz

Having lost the battle for a Congressional authorization for war and now facing a Russian offer of Syrian disarmament as an alternative, all the public signs are that diplomacy is threatening to break out with Syria, and there will be no international intervention.

Behind the scenes, US meddling continues apace in Syria’s civil war, and the CIA has now begun delivering lethal weapons and combat vehicles to rebel factions in hope of turning the tide of the conflict in favor of more nominally pro-US factions.

The US has been threatening the move for months, and has been engaged in intensive training of rebel fighters in neighboring Jordan. The fighters have reportedly begun to cross into Syria, with an eye on attacking the capital city of Damascus.

American Dirty Hands and Chain of Command | emptywheel

… [T]here is a fundamental problem with America launching a war against Assad for the August CW attack based on chain of command arguments (or “common sense,” as its most recent incarnation has it). That’s because, with all the legal problems surrounding any intervention on our part (especially without UN sanction, which may change under the Russian deal), there are such clear and ongoing instances where, even with clear evidence of human rights violations done under nothing but Presidential authorization, the US doesn’t hold its own responsible.

There was a time when US violations of human rights norms weren’t so clearly documented (though they definitely existed). But now that they are, to claim we have the moral authority to hold Bashar al-Assad responsible based on a chain of command argument when we won’t even hold our own responsible for partnering with him in human rights crimes is particularly problematic.

As human rights hypocrites ourselves, that makes us not even global policemen, but rather simple enforcers when it serves our geopolitical interests. [++]

The Security Council resolution would have to establish a process for inspections to verify Syrian compliance. The inspectors would need unfettered access to every chemical weapons site and total freedom of movement around Syria. Assad would need to take immediate steps to start transferring his weapons of mass destruction to international custody. The resolution would also need to lay out clear triggers for action, and clear timetables. … If the administration cannot certify that those conditions have been met, then the Russian plan would be considered a failure and Obama would be authorized to strike.

Senators recasting – not scrapping – Syria legislation

Iraq in the nineties, for example.

Manufacturing Consent on Syria

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky gained much notoriety from their seminal book, Manufacturing Consent, more than two decades ago. The central thesis of that book – that political and media elites construct propaganda narratives in order to build support for U.S. foreign policy – remains as relevant today as ever. Obama’s proposed intervention in Syria is a case in point. Public support for military action remains quite low – ranging from between one-quarter to one-third of Americans according to recent polls. That’s likely to change in coming weeks to months as the administration ramps up its pro-intervention rhetoric, and as political elites, reporters, and media pundits uncritically repeat and embrace his messages.

The 2011 intervention in Libya provides a template for the administration’s plan: defend an intervention via humanitarian rhetoric that lambastes a dictator for serious human rights abuses; deliver a number of public speeches in an effort to build support for war; and once troops begin to enter harm’s way, sit back and enjoy increased support as Americans “rally around the flag” in support of the conflict. This formula was enough to gain support for intervention from between 50 to 60 percent of Americans in the case of Libya, and is likely to do the same in Syria once Congress goes along.

The process has already begun. A senate committee already voted 10-7 to grant authorization for force, and a floor resolution is likely to follow in this Democratic controlled chamber. The Obama administration has largely controlled the narrative on Syria over the last year and a half, stressing that the United States is seriously concerned with Assad’s abuses and use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians. A September survey from the Pew Research Center finds that by a factor of more than two-to-one, Americans conclude that, from what they have “read and heard,” that “there is clear evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.” The beleaguered peoples of Syria, Obama contends, need a helping hand from the United States, which is said to be unconditionally concerned with protecting the safety and security of those targeted by Weapons of Mass Destruction. The claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its people has been largely accepted in political and media discourse, despite the fact that the administration has yet to present any concrete evidence. The failure to present evidence presents a particular problem considering claims appearing in news reports that rebel groups may be guilty of using chemical weapons. The Syrian government may very well have used these weapons, and this would probably surprise few people, but the key point here is that the administration has done nothing to present that case before announcing its campaign for war. [++]

Humanitarian Intervention: The Gift That Keeps on Giving to U.S. Imperialism | Ajamu Baraka

With the announcement by the Obama administration that it intends to launch an attack on Syria in response to the chemical attack alleged to have been carried out by the Syrian government, the U.S. Administration has again assumed for itself the role of global “gendarme,” policing, punishing, and as its drone warfare program demonstrates, even executing the natives of the global village at will. In its single-minded dedication to this global role, the Obama administration has also freed itself from the constraints of international law as the President shamelessly declared that he was “comfortable” operating outside of the global legal frameworks that the U.S. itself helped craft.

How is it that the administration can announce to the world its intentions to circumvent, and by doing so, subvert international prohibitions on war? By wrapping itself in the false flag of humanitarian concerns for the suffering masses in Syria. President Obama, the corporate and financial elite’s most effective propaganda weapon since Ronald Reagan, explains to the world that it is only the plight of people in Syria that drives the U.S. decision to attack the country.

No one asks the President to explain to the innocent human beings who are walking around today alive, but who will be the dead and maimed “collateral damage” of this pending attack, why their sacrifice is for the greater good of humanity.

This justification for this latest breech of international law is yet another example of the sham that is “humanitarian intervention.” [++]

Obama Denies That He Came Up With ‘Red Line’ on Syria | Jason Ditz

President Obama’s memory of his mid-August 2012 news conference isn’t great, as he sought today to “reframe” the whole red line on Syria conceit by insisting he’d never come up with it, and that it was actually “the world” who said that.

The world, for what it’s worth, never issued any such statement, but President Obama definitely did, terming chemical weapons use “a red line for us” in the conference, which was just one of many speeches in which he threatened Assad over last summer.

The point of all of this, from President Obama’s perspective, is selling the attack on Syria as something that the whole planet collectively obliged themselves into, as opposed to the truth of it being something President Obama manufactured on his own, and is now claiming was crossed on the basis of dubious, circumstantial evidence.

Ultimately it’s just one part of a multi-faceted effort to con the American public into a war that polls have repeatedly shown they just don’t want. This includes hostile rhetoric, phony claims of “proof,” and repeated references to the Holocaust.

The Kremlin won’t be sending in troops to rescue an ally this time, of course, but if American-Saudi efforts to bring down the Syrian government are successful, the result will likely be a good deal like what we saw in Afghanistan [from the late 70’s to today]: the ultimate triumph of violent extremism, after years of vicious sectarian conflict and warlordism. But our own gilded warlords and their scurrying sycophants won’t care about that; it will just be yet another boiling pot of danger and instability to keep the money and power flowing to their system of fear-based rule. There Will Be Blood

Neglecting the Warfare State and Permanent War Economy | Jonathan Feldman

[…] A basic term used by the Left used to be ideology, where rhetoric or discourse becomes linked to material forces. What are the material forces, the interests, the power blocks that are served by human rights ideology? We have the new breed of defense intellectuals like Samantha Power whose career advanced by pointing out atrocities among worthy victims. Obama was drawn to this analysis, advancing Power to be his U.S. Ambassador. This despite Power’s description of Hillary Clinton as a “monster” during Obama’s first presidential campaign. Ali asks “Cui prodest? as the Romans used to inquire. Who profits?” The other groups who profit include those in the United States who benefit from having a pretext for war or the use of military weapons systems. These include: defense corporations, the Pentagon and national security agencies, politicians in military dependent districts, engineers and academics on the military’s payroll, universities and others investing in defense stocks, even industrial and service sector workers involved in making bombs or feeding troops.

A comprehensive account of why we have war can’t be reduced to geopolitical rivalries alone. If the country of Lichtenstein were to find Assad offensive, they would not bomb Syria. The U.S. is clearly not Lichtenstein and not merely because of its size, after all Indonesia has a population of about 240 million or more and it will not be bombing Syria either. The difference of course is that the U.S. has a history of interests in the region, tied to the control and use of oil and the location of Israel in the Middle East, with Israel being a key U.S. ally and having political influence in the U.S. Size, interests, allies, and the role of the Israeli lobby can’t be sufficient or even adequate explanations, however. One big difference between the U.S. on the one hand and Indonesia and Lichtenstein on the other, is the scale of military power projection that that U.S. has. This allows the U.S. to be the global policeman, albeit one not accountable to global judiciaries.

The U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars on “defense” (which is mostly offense), tied to a permanent war economy including budgets for nuclear weapons, security operations, and payments for debt and health costs associated with war. This economy favors a militarized foreign policy. The vast concentration of military economic power/capital translates into concentrated political and media capital, providing space for defense intellectuals and policy wonks favoring bombing as the security cure all. This enduring concentration of military, economic, political and media power constitutes both the warfare state and the permanent war economy. It’s allied with the oil, auto, financial and associated industrial complexes of the power elite. These are the leaders in corporations, government and leading academic circles who dominate decision-making. They are tied to firms, regions, and occupations dependent on military spending.

If we look to the past, we see the U.S. government has often bombed countries to get its way, often with disastrous results as Robin Wright explained in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. Bombing of cities causes reprisals as Jacques Maritain noted back in the 1930s. If we look to the future, the U.S. will be bombing yet another country and any geopolitical explanations will seem trivial. The reason for this triviality is the larger context of this game, defined by the enabling conditions created by the warfare state and the permanent war economy. The rhetorical and geopolitical reasons may differ, but the enabling conditions will be the same. So we have the rhetorical context at the first level, the geopolitical game at the second level, and the warfare state and permanent war economy at the third, highest level, of explanation. Without the third level, the second level becomes impossible. The first level enables the second and third levels, as ideology becomes a useful discourse, a material force that sustains economic, political and military interests. Yet, most critical social scientists understand that the winning ideologies have had more powerbehind them. The power comes from money, support from political leaders and media moguls, and paradigmatic victories in the academy. The latter refers to how most universities today have no courses on disarmament, demilitarization of the defense industry, civilian industrial policy, or even the role of militarism in the cycle of violence.

This naturally leads us to ask why don’t the oppositional ideologies have sufficient power? Why is the U.S. peace movement so weak? One reason is that bad design of the peace movement. Yet, there are structural issues to consider as well. In the United Kingdom, the peace movement and failure of the Iraq policy, including the huge costs of war, undoubtedly changed the equation and have encouraged Obama to seek Congressional approval for an attack on Syria. Yet, in the U.S. a Republican Party and allied interests benefit more from these very costs of war (or they become more affordable to the U.S. with its use of the dollar as international currency and Chinese purchases of U.S. debt).

In the U.S. militaristic solutions are partially tied to party competition based on rivals’ attempts to exploit foreign policy crises tied to war, democracy and human rights. During the coup against Honduras, Republicans pressured the Obama Administration to advance “democracy” in Honduras by supporting the coup, i.e. an Orwellian version of democracy defined by militarist thugs. There were U.S. economic interests in Honduras which together with a militarist strain in the State Department sustained the coup as well. Nevertheless, Republicans together with a journalistic corps that is largely superficial and war hungry, usually put pressure on any politician seeking a diplomatic solution, particularly when the human rights of “worthy victims” becomes an issue. Here we see how geopolitics at the second level helps shape the human rights discourse at the first level, i.e. the media can help trigger a need to intervene for “human rights” concerns when these are consistent with geopolitical calculations. Otherwise, we would have a kind of civil war within elites, with the state going after the media. The media can go after the state by directing militaristic discourse against any political leader who seeks a more diplomatic solution when such solutions can be subsumed by “concerns” for “worthy victims.” If you throw Israeli interests into the picture, you have another ally for certain media-policy decisions, but the destruction of a stable Syria is hardly in Israel’s real interests, i.e. the needs of its citizens versus its own military industrial complex. The Israeli warfare state might like to get rid of Hezbollah of course, but Israeli calculations, the human rights discourse and even geopolitics are secondary. The correlation of U.S. and Israeli warfare state interests don’t necessarily define causation.

The warfare state and permanent war economy necessitate and make possible enemies and wars. These interests and the weakness of oppositional peace forces are necessary conditions for any war or military action. Obama has inherited these forces and made alliances with defense intellectuals and Wall Street to get elected, stay in power and reproduce notions he assimilated for which he has been politically rewarded. Yet, he also understands that being a war president and wasting huge amounts of money on a future conflict will weaken his legacy, political party and the United States. A moderate bombing campaign is a way to compromise, but often triggers an escalation of forces that undermines the ability to restrain militarism, military spending and the domestic power of militarists. [more]

This draft is nearly as wide as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that Congress passed on September 14 2001 and which has been (ab-)used by the Bush and Obama administrations as an undiscriminating, unlimited license to incarcerate, torture or kill anyone at the free discretion of the executive. … It is all or nothing, peace or unlimited war. Anyone with peace on her mind should hope and work to prevent any war resolution from passing Congress. The abuse of any war resolution by this and the next executive is practically guaranteed. M of A - Obama’s Carte Blanche War Resolution

The US ratified the Chemical Weapons Treaty. But Syria did not. In the same way that Israel didn’t sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why do we expect Syria to abide by the former when we don’t require Israel to abide by the latter? Marcy Wheeler