by Dennis Loo There are a few aspects to this developing situation that have either not been raised at all or that deserve greater attention. The first is that when governments such as the U.S. decide to go to war, by the time that they announce publicly that they are seriously considering whether or not to launch the missiles and send the ships, etc., they have already behind closed doors decided to commence hostilities. Modern warfare requires months of painstaking, protracted, and laborious military planning and placing equipment and personnel in place. These logistical matters dictate that no government planning to launch aggressive war as the U.S. is doing is doing so only now because all of a sudden they have “discovered” that chemical weapons have been used. They have been placing assets in place for weeks and months ahead of time and drawing up attack plans for similarly long periods of time.
The public show of debating, discussing, and rattling the sabers are a PR exercise designed specifically to win over the public to supporting what the rulers have behind closed doors already determined is in their best interests to do.
This is something that even tinhorn dictators need to do in contemporary times – to enflame their domestic population against the putative enemy. Still more so do so-called democracies need to demonize the “enemy” and justify the death and destruction that they are planning to unleash because those governments rest upon the fictive consent of the governed.
The cries of outrage about the Syrian government’s use of Sarin gas from the U.S. government, which unsparingly used napalm and Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, sold chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein to use against Iran, and is the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons, killing hundreds of thousands in Japan in World War II, even though Japan had already signaled that they were going to sue for peace, is a feat of deceit that only those unschooled in the actual history of American wars can be persuaded by.
But of course, this unfortunately describes millions of Americans. Siding with one’s own government and being credulous in the face of its official pronouncements and in the face of the full-court press of an all-too willing amnesiac media that can’t seem to remember the last time they were duped by cries of WMD, is to be expected.
What those who can see through this smokescreen have to do is disperse the smoke and call to people’s attention certain irrefutable facts and what is right and just, thus creating a different political dynamic. Public gullibility exists side-by-side with its converse, widespread skepticism. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 9% of Americans favor U.S. military intervention in Syria. This makes Obama's plan even less popular than Congress whose approval rating is 15%.
We have the spectacle of Secretary of State John Kerry, who once upon a time protested the Vietnam War but who subsequently made his peace with the Empire and decided it was better to join the war criminals than to fight them, dangling the so-called evidence that the Assad government used poison gas on its own people. Never mind that the stronger evidence points to the rebels using it in a desperate attempt to turn the tide which has been decidedly against them. In any case, whether either or both or neither side has used chemical weapons, it does not alter the fact that U.S. bombing raids to retaliate for alleged use of chemical weapons are going to kill and maim more civilians, not rescue anyone.
After failing to get the Brits to sign onto Obama’s plan to bomb Syria, and no doubt noting the single digit of Americans who support the idea of bombing Syria, Obama has temporarily regrouped and says that he wants Congress to vote to support his plans to bomb.
Note, here, however, the oh-so revealing qualifier in his and White House statements: even if Congress doesn’t vote in favor of bombing Syria, Obama will not regard any Congressional “no” vote as tying his hands to do what he regards as his executive prerogative to wage war – or whatever term the White House wants to use that pretends that he’s not actually launching a war.
“While I believe I have the authority to take military action without specific Congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective,” Obama said. “We should have this debate because the issues are too big for business as usual.”
Kerry reiterated this point explicitly when asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on September 1, 2013 on This Week at the 3:15 mark:
GS: What if the votes aren’t there, will the President act anyway?
JK: The President has the right, as you know George, to take this action, doesn’t have to go to Congress…
This was further elaborated upon by other White House spokespeople:
"The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokeswoman, said the United States would continue to consult with Britain but Obama would make decisions based on "the best interests of the United States."
So if Obama will not regard Congressional action as binding on his presidential actions as Commander-in-Chief, then why go through the Kabuki theatre of asking for it?
Obama’s admission that he doesn’t regard Congress as determining whether this country goes to war or not is an explicit, though unintended, transparent admission, that this is all for show. Those anti-war activists who invest everything in trying to get Congress to vote no should take note: Congress’ votes won’t decide what Obama does.
Having said that, two final points here are important to make.
First, even if Congress does vote to give Obama the go ahead to bomb Syria, that does not make Obama’s actions legal, just, or moral. No matter how many people in office or not who support the launching of military hostilities against a country that has not attacked us and does not threaten us, it is a crime against peace and a war crime of the highest order. It is, as American Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg put it, the "supreme international crime.”
Second, it is obvious that Obama is only doing this to try to make it look like he has the backing of the nation and going through Congress now to get the American people to give their blessing for this war of aggression. The action is not in Congress. The action for those of us trying to stop this new war by the Nobel Peace Prize Winner is in the streets rousing our fellow citizens to what is really afoot.
Obama’s latest actions reflect vulnerability, not in the sense that the openly right-wing pundits and office holders assert. Obama’s vulnerable and Congress is also vulnerable to an aroused segment, a vocal fractional minority of people who both reflect the larger mass sentiment of thousands and millions and most vitally, speak for and are based in the truth and who stand explicitly against the factually challenged, murderous, and hypocritical policies of imperialist empires. (9/1/13)