Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pontius President

What a way for President Obama to display his contempt for both the American people and for Congress. Saturday's pullback from an immediate bomb-a-thon was one of the weirdest simultaneous acts of ass-covering and imperial power-grabbing in the entire history of his presidency.

 The performance: Do a quickie Pontius Pilate, wash that blurred red line of blood clean from your hands and punt the case for bombing Syria and its environs right over to Congress. Be sure to double-signal your absolute lack of concern over all  the thousands of victims of Assad's alleged chemical attacks by not calling Congress back to Washington for emergency session and an immediate vote. Pontius is not very Punctual, is he? Oh, and fail once again to order that our stockpiles of gas masks be sent to Syria post-haste. They may not protect the skin of Syrians from mustard gas and Napalm, but they might at the very least protect a couple thousand pairs of vulnerable lungs. Also fail, once again, to share your dubious intelligence on impending attacks with  actual potential victims of same. Safety and security must not get into the wrong hands, is the alleged concern of our rulers.

Cover all your bases along with your ass. Make sure that all the blame for either attacking Syria and thus unleashing a broad mid-East war will be ascribed to Congress, or conversely, that the failure to attack Syria which then sparks further mass poisonings will be ascribed to Congress. Meanwhile, outdo George W. with the repulsive chest-thumping routine, braying that as Temporary Emperor (Temp Emp) you are still The Decider. If Congress fails to act within your as-yet blurred bloody timeframe, you have still retained the right to unilaterally attack. You'll go it alone, if that's how it must be. You'll do it your way, because as Richard Nixon so famously told the newly-late David Frost, "If the president does it, it's not illegal."

But let's face it. Obama would almost have certainly have faced threats of sanction by (at least) the Tea Party Impeachment Brigade had he acted alone, as well as condemnation by the United Nations and the international community. After days of pushback and polling, he dipped his scolding finger into the water, held it up, and decided that the winds of public opinion were not blowing in his favor, after all. David Cameron is not to Barack Obama as Tony Blair was to George Bush. The Obamas may have just gotten a brand new puppy, but it's not a poodle. As a matter of fact, Obama is fast becoming a neutered alpha-dog in search of a pack.

The White House Draft Resolution for the use of military force, for its cynical part,  sounds nothing at all like the limited, surgical strike with which the Obama administration has been stroking the nation to gain its consent. It's pure Orwellian schizophrenic doubletalk, translatable as War For Peace:

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;
Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;
(Remember that all the "evidence" thus far is courtesy of the truthy National Security Agency. The jury is still out as to who exactly carried out the attacks.)
Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world's population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;
Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;
Whereas, the objective of the United States' use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
(It's illegal to start a war simply to deter the bad behavior of governments we don't happen to like. Please note all the wars we didn't start against horrendous governments which have tortured and killed their own citizens in the very recent past. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt all come to mind. But they're our "friends.")
Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and
Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.
(a) Authorization. -- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to --
(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. --
(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. -- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) Applicability of other requirements. -- Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
As noted above, the fact that Obama did not call Congress back for emergency session gives lie to the "urgency" rationale used in the document. The White House persists in couching military action in terms of "sending a message" while at the same time contradicting/absolving itself by insisting that the only solution to the strife is diplomatic and political. Obama might as well boast that he'll charge into the United Nations with guns blazing. Bullets, Bromides and Bathos --  it's all getting as blurred as his hackneyed red line.
And, as the excellent blog Moon of Alabama lays out, Obama is blithely assuming for himself unlimited war powers in the initial draft, nearly as sweeping as the Authorization for Use of Military Force in all its overreach. Obama gets to decide what is "necessary and appropriate". The sky is truly the limit. After all, Syria is just one chunk of real estate in the open-ended forever war on terror. And most likely, Syria is simply the proxy/excuse for attacking Iran, punishing Russia for supporting Iran (and for protecting Edward Snowden) and giving Israel pretty much everything it wants.
And speaking of Snowden.... notice that the corporate media are all but ignoring the surveillance state scandals and abuses now that War Fever has erupted? Obama can now meet with Putin on his own bellicose terms. He can tell the rest of the world to stop complainin' about being spied on, lest maybe he takes it into his head to bomb the hell out them someday for something he just "knows." By the time he's done, we'll be just begging to be surveilled because it feels so damned good to be kept safe from the real terror and blowback that Obama (and possibly a complicit Congress) will soon be unleashing upon us.
Meanwhile, I admit to taking a certain perverse pleasure in witnessing our 9% approval rating Congress being thrown the hot potato of Syrian intervention. The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance echoing under the Dome will be deafening. It should make for some pretty good C-Span TV, bringing into stark relief the differences between the actual debate conducted last week by the British Parliament, and the autistic posturing of individual American politicians torn between dialing for dollars, appeasing AIPAC, justifying austerity at home and profligacy abroad.
There is also a perverse sort of pleasure to be taken in watching the politicians actually groveling to thank President Obama for deciding not to commit a war crime right away, so graciously bestowing upon them the democratic opportunity to give him carte blanche to commit untold war crimes, as they have done so many times before. Pontius Pilate is transformed to Punctilious Pilate, and the liberal world swoons.  Glenn Greenwald:
It's a potent sign of how low the American political bar is set that gratitude is expressed because a US president says he will ask Congress to vote before he starts bombing another country that is not attacking or threatening the US. That the US will not become involved in foreign wars of choice without the consent of the American people through their representatives Congress is a central mandate of the US Constitution, not some enlightened, progressive innovation of the 21st century. George Bush, of course, sought Congressional approval for the war in Iraq (though he did so only once it was clear that Congress would grant it: I vividly remember watching then-Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden practically begging the Bush White House to "allow" Congress to vote on the attack while promising in advance that they would approve for it).
We should probably thank our lucky stars that at least we now have time to contact our local Congress Critters and force them to come out of their cash-glutted recess holes just long enough to hear our anti-war sentiments. Perhaps Obama will get his Coalition of the Willing after all -- a coalition of legislators who can demonstrate the political will to thwart what appears to be an increasingly unstable and power-drunk Commander in Chief. Let Obama be the start of something new -- the Temp Emp whose gorgeous egged face fails, for once, to launch a thousand Tomahawk Missiles.


Pearl said...

Syria: Obama's surprising (and confusing)latest moves:

annenigma said...

I posted this in the last thread just before this one appeared, so here is my two cents worth:

Since when does contacting our Congressmen or even protesting have any effect? You mean the wealthy elite have suddenly stopped calling the shots? When did that happen?

And since when does the USA pass up an excuse to go to war, especially when there is a perfectly good excuse? Even when Congress refused to authorize military action in Libya, Obama went ahead anyway. There were no repercussions.

Obama now has more time to beef this up into something more muscular to make a bigger impression on the world about our seriousness and military might. You can Bank on the support he will get, despite our protestations. AIPAC has over a week or more to work their lobbying charms as does the entire MIC lobby. The final vote will be close, but you can bet there will be votes from just enough Democrats (who aren't in vulnerable districts) for it to pass. It's the game they play to fool us.

Obama will now also have more time to enlist the support of the corporate media in his pro-war propaganda campaign. He will also mobilize his personal propaganda army, the OFA. That was formed specifically to advance his agenda. Just call him Generalissimo Obama.

Public pressure might effect a non-authorization but it won't stop the war. Even if Congress somehow miraculously declined to authorize this military action, it would be with a wink and a nod. Obama has already made clear he doesn't need their authorization because of his usual unique interpretation of the Constitution. No one is going to seriously consider impeachment over something so noble, worthy, and all-American as war.

Obama's ego demands military action. His credibility(?) demands it. His war profiteering puppet masters demand it. Israel demands it. His favorite constituency, the Republicans, demand it. Patriotic Christians demand it. Loyalist Democrats will demand it too.

Come Hell or high water, Obama will take us into another war, but it may have a far different impact than he expects. Thanks largely to Edward Snowden, the world sees the USG through different eyes. Trust is gone.

Tara Crowley said...

Trust has been gone for a very long time. Sadly.

Let them eat cake (while wearing their gas masks that we aren't providing).

Jay - Ottawa said...

Obama may have pulled his horns in because he got wind of the following AP report on Saturday. To my knowledge this report has neither been confirmed nor dismissed by the big US media outlets. Could be Assad’s propaganda machine at work or a valid report left neglected because it undermines Kerry’s version of events. Here’s a rough translation of the first three paragraphs of the report carried by "La Jornada On Line."

“Damascus. Armed opposition groups admitted to being responsible for the chemical weapons deaths of civilians on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21 ….

“The media Saturday quoted a report by Dale Gavlak, a US correspondent for the Associated Press, which explains that the killing of civilians in the Eastern Ghouta province of Damascus was due to the poor handling of toxic agents that were in the hands of mercenary bands.

“After multiple interviews with residents as well as outsiders in that area, Gavlak also revealed that the lethal weapons were sent by the head of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Bandar Bin Sultan.”

You can read the entire article here: