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US Court: Transcanada's Keystone XL Profits More Important than Environment

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline

The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012. 

Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?

In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."

Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.

U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House

Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen. 

Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014. 

NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval

After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12. 

This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.

The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.

President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House

"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes. 

Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."

"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."

Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club

Why, I asked Hayes? 

"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."

NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines. 

Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process. 

"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes. 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so. 

U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia

"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.

"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law." 

Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water. 

There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.

Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment. 

"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.

"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."

Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.

"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).

U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists 

Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."

While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects. 

"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman

"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."

Photo Credit: tankist276 | ShutterStock

President Pivot prepares to screw the old and infirm: Whatever Happened to ‘No negotiations’ with Debt Ceiling ‘Hostage Takers’

By Dave Lindorff


President Obama ran for president promising change. What his backers didn’t realize was that he wasn’t talking about changing America for the better. He was talking about changing his position whenever he found himself in a confrontation with Republicans. There’s a reason that beginning with Obama’s 2008 campaign, and on through the past five years of his presidency, we have gotten used to a presidential behavior called “pivoting.”  


On the Side of Terror

  “Congressman, you have a noon meeting with a group of peace activists who want to talk with you about your position on Syria.  And I should warn you that there are some TV vans down in the parking lot.”

 

Is the Federal Government a Drug-Induced Hallucination?

You laugh, but that could be a side-effect.  Consider:

The Capitol Police just murdered an unarmed mother fleeing her car on foot, declared her child "unharmed," and received the longest standing-ovation in Congress since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial.  Try holding your breath until Congress takes the standing ovation back, and you'll wish your were in the "Holy Land" having your house sprayed with "Skunk" artificial sewage by the Israeli military or in Old Town Alexandria tasting the air of the authentic raw sewage across the river until it's "treated" and spread on farms in the exurbs for the benefit of we the people.

Why? Because freedom.

Who would give all of this up in exchange for a reduced military costing less than $1 trillion per year?  Well, maybe the dude who just cremated himself alive on the National Mall, it's hard to know.  Or possibly me the next time a tourist asks me why they named it the National Mall knowing fully damn well that they'd confuse everyone who arrived expecting department stores and food courts.

This weekend, government programs aimed at slowing the starvation or other premature death of the least well off among us were closed, out of business, gone fishing.  But the fucking football game between the Navy and the Air Force was an essential government service proudly played for the honor of "everyone fighting for this country" as one brainwashed midshipman put it. Did you know the top paid people in the U.S. military are all football coaches, and essential public servants?

President after president of countries 8% of us could find on a map are going to the United Nations to compare U.S. "exceptionalism" to Nazi Ubermenschen.  Can you imagine the anti-American idiocy involved?  But the last living prosecutor at Nuremberg, an American, has been saying the same thing.  What'shis problem? And how could he dare if this weren't all hallucinatory?

President Obama was praised for his speech at the United Nations because he didn't threaten a first nuclear strike.  That's the standard.  Now he's getting credit for locking people up on ships outside of any system of law, because he can't have murdered them if he locked them up on ships.  That's progress!  If you squeeze down the passages of this psychedelic rabbit hole and peer out a window, you see a radically different world outside.

Switzerland is working on a maximum wage and a guaranteed basic income.  But how many wars are they going to be able to join in after that colossal waste of funding?  Their entire population is already suffering war deprivation.  The Swiss can't expect the U.S. to pick up the tab for their wars while they make chocolate and don't even have the decency to spray sewage on anyone.

I once heard a likely lunatic propose that instead of paying farmers not to farm (and dumping sludge on their land) the U.S. government could pay weapons makers not to make weapons, stop giving and selling weapons to everybody else's governments, and ban U.S. troops and mercenaries from any distance greater than 500 miles from the United States.  I say lunatic, because in this particular hallucination that we're all living through money multiplies itself if it's spent on killing people.  A half a billion dollars for Solyndra is an outrageous waste that kills nobody and is lost forever.  But a half billion dollars for two days -- give or take a speech by Congressman Cruz -- of blowing stuff up in Afghanistan is cost-free since the half billion dollars reproduces itself at the Federal Reserve which not only grows laboratory hamburgers but sells them to foreigners for national security resources misplaced beneath the wrong nations.

The winding down drawdown ending of the gradual scaling back of the wrapping up completed war on Afghanistan has eaten the wrong sort of size pill somehow.  There are now almost twice as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan as when Barack Obama became president.

We're still spending over $10 million every hour (even during a government shutdown) for a war in Afghanistan that has now completed its 12th year and begins its 13th today.  This spending drains rather than fueling the U.S. economy.  Inflicting more war on Afghanistan has involved the killing of thousands of civilians. Experts in the U.S., British, and Afghan governments agree that this is making us less safe, not protecting us.

Why? Because Obama.

Captain Peace Prize is attempting what he failed at in Iraq: an agreement with a puppet to continue an "ended" war indefinitely.  President Obama is trying to negotiate a deal with corrupt lame-duck President Hamid Karzai to keep some U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with immunity from prosecution for crimes and the right to continue attacking Afghans including with raids on their homes at night. This could mean nine major U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan at a huge cost in dollars, lives, safety, and environmental destruction for decades to come.

Oh, and the good, smart, humanitarian, not-Iraq war on Afghanistan is as illegal as whatever we consumed to induce this bizarre hallucination.

There's a place to scream I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore right here.

Al Jolson wrote a note to President Harding some years back now:

"The weary world is waiting for
Peace forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war."

And still, 86 new Adolf Hitler misidentifications later, they do not listen.  Except that they listened on missiles into Syria.  The two parties wanted the missiles.  Raytheon's stock was through the roof.  And we said no, no, and hell no, and go Dick Cheney yourselves.  And the bipartisan agreement was stopped by our 90% opposition and 0.5% actively expressed outrage.  And within a couple of weeks the zombie of pretended partisanship was back in the form of a shutdown dispute that, through a perfectly harmonious bipartisan agreement, didn't shut down the military or the NSA or the Navy v. Air Force football game.

Everything useful is shut down.  Everything deadly is up and running.  And a gang of truckers is on its way to DC to shut down the government.  Make sense of any of this if you dare, and I'm willing to bet you've worn a Redskins shirt to the Holocaust museum.

Park rangers ‘punked’: Government Shuts Down But Perversions Persist

By Linn Washington, Jr.


On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.

Congress should stop blowing smoke: Weed to the Rescue in Budget Crisis?

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.

Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.

A Tale of Two Congress Members

In 2010 in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt.  I know many who did just that.

Here's what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:

"I have repeatedly stated ... that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances."

Meanwhile, former Congressman Perriello has advocated, with his colleagues at the Center for American Progress for the United States to "increase its assistance to the Syrian opposition with the goal of supporting an alternative opposition government that is better organized than at present."  According to Perriello the U.S. has a "national security interest" in "preparing the groundwork for a political and economic transition to a new regime in Syria in the foreseeable future." 

Perriello told The Atlantic: "Within that context, you have to look at a set of tactics. A lot of people seem to be dismissing the idea that there's any role for a surgical, strategic strike short of regime change. While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. ... And that I think you can do largely from the air without a lot of involvement on the ground. ... He knows if we intervene, his days are over, so part of what he’s doing, like a petulant child, is seeing how far he can push before we come in. Traditionally, the use of chemical and biological weapons, with very few exceptions, has been something you cannot do without invoking dramatic action. ... One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose."  In the same interview Perriello refused to support the Constitutional requirement to take the question of war to Congress for its authorization.

Would Perriello resist a war if the president were a Republican?  Would Hurt then support war?  We can't know.  But both have expressed their ideologies on war clearly and quite consistently thus far.  Perriello voted for every war dollar that came before him while he was in Congress, including a 2009 "emergency" supplemental that included a bailout for bankers and barely passed.  Perriello has written and spoken publicly hundreds of times of his support for war.  Hurt has spoken and written a number of times now of his opposition.

I was part of groups of residents that met with Perriello to discuss his funding of war in Afghanistan.  It was like talking to a brick wall.  I was part of a group of residents who met with Hurt to discuss authorization for missile strikes or wider war in Syria.  It was like talking to a human being.

Whoever the Democrats put up against Hurt in the next election might possibly be his superior on any number of issues.  But check his or her position on war with a magnifying glass.  Militarism swallows roughly half of federal discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense.  You can't be in favor of a trillion dollar military and in favor of schools or housing or anything else.  The military is the main thing our government does.  It matters whether we get it right, or whether we thoughtlessly get it backwards.

After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split

By Dave Lindorff

 
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.

A fight against the very essence of the Internet: Attacking Net Neutrality Once Again

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Last week, Verizon, the telephone giant, went to court to accuse the Federal Communications Commission of "overstepping its authority" and reverse the authority's over-step. It's a legal wrangle that, bottled and distributed, would be a safe substitute for sleeping pills.

Is Dithering Always Bad?: Trust and Verify and Vomit

By John Grant


The media didn’t waste time lining up US leaders to trash Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. There was the expected outrage that such a “dictator” and “tyrant” had the gall to lecture the United States of America. Bill O’Reilly referred to Putin as “a criminal monster.” Charles Krauthammer kept it real and called Putin "a KGB thug.”

New Video Short about the Cancerous Militarization of the US, produced by Class War Films

For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films

To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net

Senators could vote on Syria force next week if diplomacy fails

Reuters - Lawmakers said on Wednesday the Senate could start voting on a resolution to authorize the use of military force against Syria as soon as next week if efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis fall short.

A resolution authorizing strikes against Syria had been expected to come before the full Senate for a vote this week. But it was delayed after President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to wait for the outcome of a Russia-backed diplomatic initiative under which Syria would give up its chemical weapons.

Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack

By Dave Lindorff


In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.


Not one piece of evidence.

A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.


Senate's Bipartisan Top War-Mongers Drafting Unconstitutional Conditional War Declaration

They're drafting a bill that would declare war on Syria IF chemical weapons removal doesn't meet a deadline, and regardless of what else happens in the world in the meantime, presumably including a ceasefire or a peace settlement.  Are they insane? Of course. Can we stop them? Yes we can.

The Other Super Power Is Winning

It's not Russia.  It's not al Qaeda.  It's not Bashar al-Assad.  The other super power is the people of the world -- and the people of, but not by or for, the United States.

The world's people are protesting.  U.S. citizens abroad are protesting at U.S. embassies.  The British Parliament said no to war for the first time since Yorktown. 

The U.S. polls began with single-digit support for attacking Syria, climbed a little with the corporate media onslaught, and then started sinking again as the propaganda push shifted into self-defeating top gear.

Taking the stage after Colin Powell, the Obama-Kerry war marketing team was compelled by public pressure, foreign pressure, government-insider pressure, past public statements, and the inability of even the corporate media to keep a straight face, to take this war proposal to Congress -- and to do so while Congress members and senators were at home in their districts and states, where people were able to get in their faces.

Congress has been feeling the heat.  Sure, there is greater willingness by some Republican members to oppose a war if the president is a Democrat.  But there are also Democrats openly supporting the war because the president wants them to.  The decisive factor has been public pressure.  Senators and representatives have been turned around by their constituents, and that minority still supporting an attack on Syria openly says they're defying the people who elected them.  If there is no vote in Congress, it will be because the vote would fail.

Now is the time for Congress and the president to hear our voices more loudly than ever.

Secretary Kerry stressed on Monday that he hadn't been serious about a diplomatic solution.  It was just "rhetoric." He was just pointing out the "impossibility" of Assad handing weapons over.  He didn't want anyone to take it seriously.  Not when we have to get a war started. Not when the clock is ticking and he has already Colin-Powelled himself in front of his old committee with his wife behind him and protesters with bloody hands filling the room and everybody snickering when he claimed al Qaeda would install a secular democracy. Not after all THAT!

How can you ask a man to be the last one to lie for a dead idea?

But warmongering senators and presidents and presidential wannabes jumped at the chance of a way out of watching Congress vote down a war, and watching Congress vote down a war because we made them do it.  Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has a proposal for a diplomatic resolution.  Republican Congressman Chris Smith has proposed a United Nations war crimes tribunal.  (One might hope it will even look at the crimes of both sides in the Syrian war.)  The always obvious, but hidden, fact that there are alternatives to bombing people is bursting out all over.

Sure, some people dislike this war because it would cost money, or because the Iraqis are ungrateful for the destruction of their country, or because Obama was born in Africa, but mostly people oppose this war for very good reasons -- and the financial cost is not really a bad reason.  From right to left, people don't think the United States should be the world's vigilante.  From left to right, people don't believe the justifications presented without evidence.  From right to left, people understand that killing people with the right weapons to protest their being killed with the wrong weapons is little bit crazy.  From left to right, people don't believe tales of short and easy wars that will pay for themselves.  And, across the political spectrum, people have begun to be able to smell lies, even when those lies are wrapped in flags and uniforms.

We should give our government credit for listening -- if it listens.  By no means are we out of the woods yet.  If you want to be able to say you were part of the movement that prevented a U.S. war, now is the time to email and telephone and join in activities.  We should not, however, fantasize that our government secretly held our position against the war it was trying to roll out, before we compelled it to hold our position. 

Let them thump their chests a bit about how their threats won something out of Assad, if that allows their war fever to pass.  But don't for a minute lose the significance of what the U.S. public has done to the otherwise broken U.S. government.  Out of whatever combination of factors, it just may turn out that we've stopped a war.  Which means that we can stop another war.  Which means that we can begin to work our way out of the war machine that has eaten our economy, our civil liberties, our natural environment, and our soul.

Assad may be lying.  Or Obama may lie that Assad is lying.  Or this whole thing may otherwise fall apart and the push for this war be back with a full-court press on Congress.  But we can stop it if we choose to do so.  We can push as hard for peaceful solutions in Syria as we've pushed to prevent the bombs from falling.  In fact, we can push 10 times harder.

And the warmakers will be back with another war.  Have no fear of that.  Seriously, have no fear of it: We are a super-power.  They are a vestige of a barbaric practice that has become an anachronism even while remaining our largest public investment.  They are dinosaurs.  They'll come back with a "defensive war".  That was their biggest failure this time; they didn't make Syria a threat.  Senator Harry Reid on Monday painted Syria as Nazi Germany, but he sounded like Elmer Fudd warning of a killer rabbit.

Laughter is our most potent tool.  We must mock their fear-mongering.  We must laugh at their claims of power and benevolent intent.  We must ask to see the list of nations that are grateful for past bombs.  We must inquire whether senators who play video poker while debating war plans, or secretaries of state who promise wars that will be both tiny and significant with no impact and a decisive result, are perhaps in need of better medication.

But let's not count our doves before they hatch.  Get in on this successful movement now.  It's going to be one to tell your grandchildren about.

Kerry Couldn't Sell a Used Car

After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that President Bashar al-Assad avoid a war by handing over any chemical weapons his government possesses, Russia quickly seconded the motion, and Assad agreed to it.  Just as quickly, aparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, Kerry's staff put out this statement:

"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.  His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."

Could Assad be lying?  Could he hope to stash away a hidden weapons stockpile? Yes, and then at least a U.S. attack would have been delayed and more time gained to work on preventing it.  But that's not likely.  Inspectors are very good.  That's why Prsident George W. Bush wanted them pulled out of Iraq, where they had done a stellar job and the weaponry been eliminated.  That could conceivably also be why President Barack Obama wanted them kept away from the site of the August 21st attack and wanted to send missiles into Syria before the inspectors reached any results.

So, to all appearances, Assad has immediately done what Kerry just declared impossible.  How reliable, then, are other assertions of which Kerry professes to be certain?

Is it really an important international norm that one nation should bomb another in support of fanatical terrorists and on the stated basis that people had been killed with the wrong variety of weapon?

Is it really true that this war will be both unbelievably small and a significant blow to the Syrian government?

Kerry is trying to sell the same used car to people who want an ambulance and other people who want a tank.

Nobody's buying.

It's not entirely Kerry's fault that he had to come on stage after Colin Powell's performance, but it is his fault that he's flubbed all of his lines.

If Obama withdraws his demand for Congressional authorization of war, it will not be because he and John Kerry played 12-dimensional chess and secretly hope to bring peace to the earth.  It will be because they played duck-duck-goose with such incompetence that they managed to knock each other unconscious in the process.

If a war is prevented here -- and it's way too early to say that -- it will be the result of public opinion in the United States and the world, the courage of Parliament in Britain, and the glimmerings of actual representation beginning to sparkle through the muck and slime on Capitol Hill.

If celebrating Obama and Kerry's super brave and strong heroism in stumbling into a Russian barrier to their madness gives them the "credibility" to put their guns back in their pants, then by all means celebrate that fiction.

But if we get this crisis behind us, we should understand that Parliament acted against war for the first time in centuries, and the public stopped Congress for the first time ever.  If President Obama doesn't ask for an authorization, it will be because it is not going to pass.  Even if he didn't expect to use it right away, he would want it passed if possible. 

Congress' apparent willingness to say no is the result of many factors, including the perversity of partisanship.  But the primary factor is public pressure.  That public pressure needs to intensify now that victory is in sight, not diminish.

And if it succeeds, Syria will still be in desperate need of a cease-fire, disarmament, a peace settlement, and actual aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs).  Let's not allow those needs to be forgotten if they depart from our television screens.  Those same television screens have tried to move us into support for war and failed dramatically.  We're in charge now.  We run this country. They fill fluff that no one listens to into the spaces between advertisements for crap no one buys.  Fill the government in on the new arrangement.

Progressive Caucus Sends 67 Questions to Obama on Syria

The questions include some excellent and some awful ones.  Here they are:

CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS

September 6, 2013

President Barack Obama The White House

Liberal Luminaries in Senate Are Swing Votes on Bombing Syria

By Norman Solomon

Many senators began this week still uncommitted on whether they’ll vote for attacking Syria. Among the fence-sitters are enough “progressives” to swing the Senate’s decision one way or the other.

That decision is coming soon -- maybe as early as Wednesday -- and the Obama White House is now pulling out all the stops to counter public opinion, which remains overwhelmingly against a war resolution. The administration hopes to win big in the Senate and carry momentum into the House, where the bomb-Syria agenda faces a steeper climb.

Some Democratic senators who’ve cultivated progressive reputations nationwide -- Barbara Boxer of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota -- haven’t hesitated to dive into Obama’s war tank. Boxer, Durbin and Franken quickly signed on as carnage bottom-feeders, pledging their adamant support for the U.S. government to attack yet another country.

Other Democrats, like Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tom Udall of New Mexico, have made clear their intention to vote “no” when the war-on-Syria measure reaches the Senate floor.

But more than a dozen other senators widely viewed as liberal or progressive have held back from committing themselves on how they’ll vote. Here’s a partial list of those equivocators:

     *  Both Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey

     *  Both Oregon senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

     *  Both Colorado senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet

     *  Both Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell

     *  Ohio senator Sherrod Brown

     *  Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin

     *  Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse

     *  Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono

     *  Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar

If you live in one of those states, or anywhere else in the USA for that matter, you can send a quick email to your senators and representative to tell them “No Attack on Syria” by clicking here.

Perhaps no “undecided” stance from senators is more egregious than the one from Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who won a hard-fought race that elevated her from the House of Representatives last year on the strength of major progressive support.

Speaking at the annual Fighting Bob Fest in Madison last weekend, Baldwin sparked an angry response to her doubletalk about Syria. A video of the encounter shows a wooden politician who badly needs reminding of her progressive roots. In a suitably confrontational mode, activists serenaded Wisconsin’s junior senator with a stirring rendition of “Which side are you on Tammy?”

The symbolism could hardly have been more apt. Senator Baldwin was behind the podium at an event named after “Fighting Bob” La Follette, the senator from Wisconsin who led opposition to U.S. entry into World War One. In a Senate speech, La Follette denounced those who “inflame the mind of our people into the frenzy of war.”

Which side are you on Tammy… and Elizabeth, Ed, Ron, Jeff, Mark, Michael, Patty, Maria, Sherrod, Sheldon, Mazie, Amy?

Senators who portray themselves as progressive are at crossroads as they decide how to vote on attacking Syria. At this historic moment, with enormous consequences, will they cave in to the presidential juggernaut?

Later this week, senators will vote about launching a war on Syria. We’ve got to let them know -- right away -- that we are watching very closely. And will not forgive or forget any vote for war on the Senate floor.

 

 

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

Lee Syria Resolution to Hold Assad Regime Accountable and Resolve the Crisis through a Negotiated Political Settlement

Support Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force

Dear Colleague:

I write to urge your support for my proposal which lays out non-military options the United States can pursue, in partnership with the international community, that is consistent with law and would hold perpetrators accountable for heinous crimes against humanity.

While I believe the Assad regime must be held accountable, I reject that it has to mean a military response to be effective. There is no military solution to this complex civil war, and while a negotiated settlement is necessary, I do not believe military action will further that goal.

Instead of pursuing military force, United States policy should focus on working with the United Nations and the international community on an enhanced diplomatic strategy to facilitate a negotiated political settlement and hold the Assad regime, and all responsible parties, accountable for human rights violations. My Resolution lays out options such as:

1) requiring the Government of Syria to allow unfettered access to humanitarian organizations;

2) pressuring all internal and external parties to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process and other negotiations and regional arrangements with the League of Arab States and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation;

3) seeking to strengthen and coordinate multilateral sanctions targeted against the assets of Assad;

4) investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law, including appropriately-timed International Criminal Court referral;

5) working with member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention;

6) working with the international community to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal; and

7) enabling United States courts to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law committed in Syria.

We must recognize that we do have alternatives to the use of force and we should be vigorously pursuing them. I urge you in joining me to support non-military means to hold the perpetrators accountable and bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Please direct requests to cosponsor or questions to _________________.

Sincerely,

BARBARA LEE

White House lies to launch the next illegal war: There is no Justification for Obama’s War on Syria

By Dave Lindorff 


The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.


The Bill Congress Should Pass Instead of War

By David Swanson

Here's a preliminary draft of what the United States Congress could pass this week if it were sincerely interested in human rights, international norms, the rule of law, and peace in Syria.  You are welcome to suggest it to your Congress members, who are more than welcome to tinker with it.  You might also share it with any friends or uncles or neighbors who demand to know: "If you're against missile strikes then what are you in favor of?" Send me any suggested changes.

 

Non-Lethal Aid to Syria

Joint Resolution

 

No Military Solution

Sec. 1

a) The Congress does not authorize military action or support of military action in Syria, and such action by the Central Intelligence Agency and any other agencies of the United States must cease immediately.

b) The United States respects the position of the United Nations Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, as parts of the Supreme Law of the Land.  The United States will not violate these treaties by military action or threat of military action against Syria.

Chemical Weapons

Sec. 2

a) The United States will encourage Syria, as well as Egypt, Israel, Angola, North Korea, and South Sudan to ratify and abide by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

b) The United States will eliminate in the swiftest manner that safety allows the entirety of its own chemical weapons stockpiles, and urge other nations, including Russia, to do the same.

c) The United States will forthwith cease to maintain or make use of as weapons: white phosphorous, depleted uranium, or any form of napalm, and will assist Iraq in its recovery from their use.

d) The Congress urges the president to sign the United States on as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

e) The United States will forward to the UN Security Council and to the prosecutor of the ICC all evidence of violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

f) The United States will urge the United Nations to send human rights monitors to Syria.

Humanitarian Aid

Sec. 3

a) The United States will transfer 1% of the current year's Department of Defense budget to non-military aid programs for Syrian refugees and those suffering as a result of war in Syria and around the world.

De-Escalation

Sec. 4

a) The United States will diplomatically urge Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and all other nations to cease providing arms and ammunition, or funding for arms and ammunition, to fighters in Syria on both sides of the war.

b) The United States will diplomatically urge Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and others involved to urge the Syrian opposition and the Syrian government to establish a cease-fire. The United States will use all available pressure, including ceasing to itself provide arms to nations involved.

c) The United States will work with the international community to bring both sides in the Syrian civil war to a neutral negotiating table, with no pre-conditions.

Serrano: “I Cannot Vote For War”

The Bronx, NY – September 5, 2013 – Congressman José E. Serrano released the following statement today on the potential resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria, which the Obama Administration has asked Congress to consider.

"I have grave doubts about the wisdom of involving our nation in another war in the Middle East. I cannot vote in favor of this authorization because I believe that the outcome of strikes on Syria is unpredictable, and unlikely to be in our nation’s interests. I fear setting off a chain of events which leads to American soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East yet again, for reasons that are not clear and persuasive.

“I commend President Obama for correctly bringing this issue of war before the Congress. Whether we agree or disagree with him on this issue, it is a welcome change to have a President with a deep belief in our constitutional system.

“The use of chemical weapons is morally reprehensible, as is the targeting of civilians with any sort of weapons. I believe the best reaction would be a broad multilateral response from the international community—not just an American enforcement action. The world must show its outrage, not just America.

“I have thought long and hard about this decision and have come to the firm conclusion that I cannot vote in favor of war. I will continue to work to find alternatives that deter the use of chemical weapons on civilians. I believe such alternatives exist and should be used.”

Talk Nation Radio: Rep. Alan Grayson on Syria: House Will Vote No, Obama Will Heed

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rep-alan

Congressman Alan Grayson is leading efforts within Congress to prevent an attack on Syria. He explains why, points to huge popular agreement, says the votes are lining up, and that President Obama will not attack Syria if the House votes against it.  Congressman Grayson has a petition set up at http://DontAttackSyria.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war

By Garth Kant and Chelsea Schilling
http://www.wnd.com/2013/09/calls-to-congress-244-to-1-against-syria-war/

Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria by a margin of as much as 499 to 1.

A national debate is raging on Twitter. Tweets and statements from members of Congress both Democrat and Republican show tremendously strong opposition to President Obama’s call for an air strike on Syria:

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., tweeted, “Calls and emails from my constituents is 100 to 1 AGAINST getting involved in Syria. The American people are speaking.”

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