Questions for President Obama — Before He Pulls the Trigger on Syria

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A Syrian man mourns over a dead body after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists, in Douma town, Damascus, Syria, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City)

Let us posit that the Syrian government did, in fact, order last week’s chemical attack that killed hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women, children and others who had not taken up arms against the Assad regime.

In Washington, the eagerness to initiate military action in order to punish Assad is now palpable. Before ordering any such action, President Obama should answer several questions. He should share those answers with the American people, before not after pulling the trigger.

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?

Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?

Third, what is the legal basis for military action? Neither Russia nor China is likely to agree to an attack on Syria, so authorization by the U.N. Security Council won’t be forthcoming. Will Obama ask Congress for the authority to act? Or will he, as so many of his recent predecessors have done, employ some dodge to circumvent the Constitution? With what justification?

Bacevich last visited Moyers & Company to talk about the changing military mindset in March of this year. Watch video »

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. A graduate of the US Military Academy, he received his PhD in American diplomatic history from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University.
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  • amandab

    I also think President Obama owes all of this the answers to these questions. He is looking less and less like the person I thought he was.

  • Reuben Kishoyian

    Ok so what the good professor is saying here is that the US should watch helplessly from the side while innocent children, women and men are brutally murdered by the Syrian regime through gas poisoning??? What are the duties and morals of a superpower like US to the world?? Do we want to watch while Syrians are wiped through gas poisoning? Just like it happened in Rwanda or even close to Nazi style? C’mon now good old professor you don’t tell me US can’t do nothing. Offer some solution but doing nothing isn’t a solution to the world evils.

  • ThunkDubious

    Yeah, we get it, Professor – it’s a crappy situation. So what are you proposing, that no one does anything? The legal basis should be the first consideration. If we’re justified, legally, then how much it costs and how long it takes are secondary. We know why we’d act here and not elsewhere: chem weapons are supposed to be the line in the sand. The next dictator who feels threatened will use them without compunction if they understand that such action will have zero consequences on the world stage. It’s action (not solely military) or isolationism.

  • bgarcia

    well he certainly stood by while Israel used wmd on the Palestinians Operation Cast Lead. Why the double standard? And do you really think that dropping bombs in Syria will help the Syrian people? can you say Iraq? More wepons is not the answer. And how certain is the world that it was the Assad Government that used the chemical weapons.

  • Juanita H.

    No, I don’t think he is saying “Do nothing.” I think he is just saying, give your actions a great deal of thought before pulling that trigger. Because once Obama has done that, you can’t take it back, and things could get really ugly, really fast. And he’s also questioning the reasoning of why it’s so necessary for the US to get involved in Syria over this issue, having not done so when the Egyptian military opened fire and killed hundreds of protestors. If this number of civilian deaths at the hands of the government of a country requires US intervention, then should Obama not act against the Egyptian military, as well? Where’s the consistency?

  • TeeJay

    I don’t read Prof. Bacevich to be saying we do nothing. Rather, that whatever we do, that thing or things should be effective in achieving some legitimate and useful goal. True, he doesn’t have a laundry list of alternatives — but who does? The point is, IF we commit to doing something, it really ought to count for something, and not be a useless exercise with much to lose and nothing identifiable to gain.

  • Anonymous

    The only question the US cares about is

    1) do they have oil

  • Victor Wilburn

    He is asserting no such thing. He is asking questions. He is pointing out that our President needs to be able to justify military actions to the public, and is proposing some questions that the President needs to be able to answer in order to provide that justification. I think he would find your broader questions to be quite apropos as well: “What are the duties and morals of a superpower like US to the world?” In fact, I think it’s the very point of the article. Our President should be able to give his vision of this, and whatever it is, it should be something he is willing to apply consistently.

  • Reuben Kishoyian

    Still no solution here and that’s my problem doing nothing is not a solution. I get it we didn’t do anything in both Egypt and Israel but again was it ok to do nothing? While am not advocating a war either, maybe US should lead in uniting other Nations against Syria and convince China and Russia? If Syria realize that US or rather the world is hopeless and not doing anything to intervene, you will see replications of that gas poisoning happening more frequently by the Regime. Yes think before acting but not forever some situations demand quick action/intervention.

  • Michael Pinto

    Syria really doesn’t have that much oil.

  • Chuck

    Why the double standard?

    The US government, at the behest of the international banking cartel — “The Money Trust”, as Congressman Charles A, Lindbergh Sr. called it,” has always aligned itself with ruthless, right-wing fascist dictators.

    What is the political objective?

    To engage Syria’s closest ally, Iran (one of only three nations without a privately held central bank) in a drawn out military conflict that will place the final bolts on the shackles of debt that the banks have around America, at the very least. At the very worst, it will escalate to WWIII.

    What is the legal basis for military action? Since when has the Office of President felt an loyalty to the Constitution or respect for the power that congress, and Congress alone, has the war power?

    Of course, all of this completely ignores the likelihood that either:

    A ) The sarin event either never happened to begin with, much like The Gulf of Tonkin false flag, or

    B ) It was an actual actual attack originating with the CIA, who are notorious for instigating attacks on foreign soil as a pretext for war.

    Until we stop borrowing 97% of our money from banks, you can expect the continuation of these things:

    1) Trumped up wars
    2) Unaccountability and lack of transparency by elected officials
    3) More power consolidation by the domestic police state
    4) Higher taxes and less jobs
    5) More economic terrorism by the big banks

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • I love NUTS

    ARMCHAIR PRESIDENTS….there are way too many in America. I suggest these blowhards PROFESSORS take up the call of duty and run for public office. Let’s see them put their responsibility where their mouths are.

  • David Green

    There’s also the ugly fact that the US tacitly approved the use of chemical weapons by Iraq several years ago.

  • North10

    Talking of double standards, weren’t we responsible for bombing and napalming 3,000,000 Vietnamese to death…didn’t we back Suharto as he killed 1,000,000 of his own people, weren’t the Generals who slaughtered 250,000 mayan indians in Guatemala trained in our military academies and supplied with weapons by us…(also the Generals of Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Argentina having been trained in the School of the Americas were none too hot on human rights and democracy as they murdered hundreds of thousands of their own people up and down ‘our back yard’ …) ….wasn’t it our secret services that set up the para military death squads in El Salvador, responsible for 10,000s of civilian deaths, the same military personnel who later found to have set up, armed and financed the sectarian death squads in Iraq.

    We should be careful who we consider to have crossed red lines, which one of our presidents would be considered not to have been responsible for financing, arming and training governments and armies that have killed millions of their own people since world war 2.

  • Bev Mabry

    that was wrong – and in the past. We should not make current decisions by past mistakes, should we?

  • Bev Mabry

    Amen. How long have we been in Afghanistan?! (Vietnam) We wasted too much money, time and manpower there because we had no identifiable and realistic goal or mission. We do not need to do that again! If anyone ran a business that way, they’d be broke and out of business! We better get smart and fast!

  • Bev Mabry

    Are we really responsible for doing anything here?! This is a horrid thing – but I’m not sure I want the United States to keep acting like the big cop of the world, especially if we do it alone! These silly Middle Eastern countries keep fighting – and they do not stop because we interfere here and there. In fact, it can be argued that United States intervention has harmed more than we’ve helped in many cases.

  • mazdak

    thank u for your wise words ,it is so sad and so complicated ,the same people that draw the line and defend human right in Syria these days, also gave sad am Husain info of where to and the chemical weapon to use against they say history is written by so called winners.

  • Bev Mabry

    I want to see our government put massive effort into fixing our economy. We can use sanctions on other governments that are not threatening us – but nothing else. We waste too much of our own resources trying to control things in middle eastern countries – and to no avail. they keep fighting amongst themselves.

  • Marty Susman

    I agree, we need to stay the hell out of every Islamic religious civil war…..

  • Anonymous

    June 1, 2013

    ” … The latest development in Turkey suggests that the Western-backed Islamist militias were preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack, apparently against a Turkish civilian population, with the aim of producing mass casualties that would be blamed on the Syrian regime and create the conditions for a US-led intervention.

    The silence of the US media on the incident only demonstrates that it is prepared to play the same role that it did in Iraq, working to sell a war based upon lies to the American public. The experience of the past decade of unending war, however, has made this task more difficult … “

  • Anonymous

    This upcoming possible and illicit war has nothing to do with human rights, nor nerve gas. This is a grab for natural resources by Israel, a grab for the tax dollar by the defense contractors who always encourage war and by some in the military who always appreciate testing out military hardware on live targets. It is difficult to tell who is really driving the bus with any degree of certainty, but one thing is certain; our government is not in control, nor are the citizens. We wary about Syria while our government is being subverted and to that we turn a blind eye. Our Intelligence Services are being assaulted and dismantled. Our military is stretched to the point of being ineffectual. We are in the middle of an attempted coup and everyone is huffy puffy over alleged human rights violations in far away places while we in this country witness human rights violations in our streets on a daily basis. Syria is not our problem. Iran is not our problem, nor was Libya, nor Iraq, nor Afghanistan. So why did we spend trillions of dollars and bear the huge butchers bill? If Israel has a problem with these countries, let Israel handle it! We didn’t ask for Her assistance in Vietnam, nor anywhere else. I don’t have a problem with Israel attacking another nation for whatever reason she justifies it by, nor do I have a problem with the settlements and expansion, but it should not become our problem; not our blood.

  • shellphoenix

    It’s RAPPING the knuckles, not wrapping them. One hurts, the other happens on Christmas Eve. 😉

  • Beth Kuykendall Leary

    The world evils? Hmmm….I think we’re it.

  • Anonymous

    How does firing missiles and killing thousands more civilians on top of the gassed help exactly? Yeah answer those questions and more Obama.

  • Bill Owen

    You are right about everything Andrew.

    Bombing will start in 5 minutes anyway.

    Syria is a rebel state and a threat to Israel. That’s why.

  • Bill Owen

    Spell cheque can bee dangerous some thymes.

  • dorothee

    Sometimes auto correct just changes things. Don’t be so harsh – read what he is saying, not a typo.

  • Anonymous

    We do not need to get involved in Egypt nor in Syria. Neither the Egyptians nor the Syrians want us there. In fact the people do not want the US there to escalate the killing.

  • komeca

    Thanks for highlighting the pitfalls of firing off rockets before defining the mission. I think Obama has pledged never to get into a conflict without an exit plan. I was heartened to hear a US official explain on the radio that the nation does not have the funds or the troops to put boots on the ground in Syria — let alone, as you point out, legal justification.

  • Reuben Kishoyian

    Are we really responsible for doing anything here?! Are we responsible for doing nothing? Can we afford to watch helplessly while young innocent children and women are being poisoned? Are we morally responsible? Will history judge us as fence sitters who had the power and capability to do something but didn’t? Yes you are right we can chose to sit and watch. Its a choice. But is it the right one? I personally believe there are better choices. Shouldn’t the US leverage its resources and position in mobilizing a diplomatic approach that rally other nations towards a common punitive solutions against the Syrian regime? This is where leadership steps in. We will see what our leaders will do.

  • Bill Owen

    And what about the Russians and their much cherished warm water port Andrew?

    Will the Bear just sit idly by as their port is closed to them forever? I think not.

  • Anonymous

    There must be a better/sneakier way of handling this.

  • JonThomas

    Ore sum. 😛

  • Reuben Kishoyian

    Lol. We are not that bad yet.

  • JonThomas


  • Chris

    Its a given that China, and Russia, capitalist plutocracies, with no regard to democratic values, will oppose a military response at the UN. It will then fall yet again on Congress to approve a military intervention, rally a coalition of the willing, and enter a region which once again, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has the potential of bogging down the US in a long complex quagmire that will demand huge resources, from an almost bankrupt Treasury. Yes, we must help the victims but at what cost to American lives?

  • Anonymous

    take it up with we the people? what do you think…that he is accountable? how quaint! bet you still remember that velum rag…what was it…the … constatution. yah

  • Luis George

    Hey, We (the USA) could just look the other way pretend that nothing is happening and allow Mr. Assad to gas the rest of the opposing forces, after all who cares? Siria does not have any oil, gas to make it a worthwhile target. Let`s follow Mr. Bacevich`s advice and return to those days when there were no rules, next time an autocrat has a problem with his people let him gas them to death, after all who cares?

  • Mike Marion

    Dammit. No one is looking the other way and people do care. Your argument is specious.

  • Luis George

    Hey I mean what I said. My argument is pretty simple just let Assad has his way after all who cares? After all every cruce missile cost about 1 million US$ and it is too high of a price to pay for the life of a bunch of arabs

  • JonThomas

    And cruise missiles are supposed to save the lives of a different bunch of Arabs? Are you sure you understand what a cruise missile is?

    Sorry, but me thinks me smells a vested, curiously funded, maybe foreign, instigator. Think “Restless” of the Sundance channel. The fictional account of British operatives doing their best to use the media to sway U.S. public opinion to enter the war.

  • Kathy Dowdle

    What the Hell is a “cruce” missile?

  • dathinkster

    No strike on Syria. Stop US imperialism.We don’t do it well. Anybody remember Iraq and Afghanistan?! Stop supporting the military industrial complex!

  • 60ish

    He can’t fix everything- he does his very best to be informed and fair-minded. I don’t think there is really an answer in the Middle East, it is a total mess and our intervention won’t help. We have to stop thinking we are the only ones on the planet to solve everything. Takes a big ego to have such expectations and I think the US is finally realizing wars are not the answer and ultimatums don’t work.

  • Stephen Myers

    I think revisiting former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who served under Bush and Obama is in order here: (paraphrasing) “Any one who seeks to get involved in another mid-east war should have his head examined.”

  • Luis George

    There are two choices in this matter: take it or leave it. In the meantime Assad will keep doing his thing gasing his own people. I don`t have any vested (foreign) interest as you claim. You could try talk him (Assad) out of power after all who cares

  • Luis George

    Hey pardon my spelling error did not mean to hurt your intelligence-

  • Anonymous

    Don’t give in to the psychobabble with the starting assumption that Assad used chemical weapons. What would your questions be if you started with the assumption that the so-called “rebels” used chemical weapons? What if the whole thing was staged? I do get your point and it’s a good one, but I think it is time Americans started questioning all the underlying assumptions that are fueled by this administrations doublespeak, and now is a good a time as any to start before we find ourselves in the middle of WWIII.

  • Anonymous

    Your view is way too simplistic. We do not merely conduct landgrabs for oil. The world is a lot more complicated than you make it out to be. Just look at what happened in Iraq.

  • TeaTime4Frances

    The Syrian people have it 100% within their own power to stop killing each other. The involvement (and sacrifices of the young men and women) of no other nation is required for Syrians to choose peace. For the record, I oppose involvement in Egypt and Libya as well. These are people who are choosing to kill each other, and bombs, billions, and bodies from the U.S. cannot teach them that you cannot murder and maim your way into nation-building.
    I would also add that U.N. inspectors reported in the spring that the rebels were found to be using chemical weapons. Two wrongs do not make a right, certainly; but both sides have been using chemical weapons, even the supposed “good” side.

  • Anonymous

    This is the sneaky way, silly. The better way might have been to leave it alone in the first place, but we’ve been intervening in the region for quite some time now and have become junkies.

  • JonThomas

    There are always more than 2 choices in any matter!

    And here’s where this article we are commenting on comes into play: Why should I, or any American, care whether or not he is in power?

    You, and those who seem to agree with you, have not laid out any cogent reasons for taking him out of power. You also haven’t spelled out who, or what should replace him if he is taken out of power. The questions that the author of this article enumerated need to be answered.

    The catch is…even if they are answered, that does not give carte blanche for going to war!

    So far, all you have offered is an escalation of more killing! How is that better than what is already happened?

  • JonThomas

    Hope you don’t mind me adding…’ *ANY* administration’s doublespeak…’


    WAR is good for American (Republican) Business. Any LIE is good if we repeat it enough. Damn the truth. or the not corraburated. Interventioin for econ-military gains is fair play in the land of milk and honey.

  • wor

    Not that nerve gas isn’t horrible- and illegal for the most part- but isn’t it a weird place to draw a line? I mean Assad’s regime has killed what- 100, 000 people to hang onto power? When several hundred more are killed but in a different (worse?) way, suddenly something must be done? Sounds like the Pres was looking for an excuse to try and rally the troops.

  • Greg L

    No, those aren’t enough questions nor are they the right ones. We’ve been backing the rebels and the only reason for this intervention is that they’re losing. The central question that Obama needs to answer why we were supporting them to begin with. This “rebellion” is not an indigenous movement but one wholly aided and abetted by us and that means the Syrian “crisis” is wholly created by our own actions just as a similar one was created in Libya a few months ago. The truth must be told.

  • Jim

    Andrew Bacevich is one of my heroes, I’ve read one of his books “The Limits of Power” The End of American Exceptionalism and seen video interviews of him. A true patriot!
    The questions he poses are a good start.

  • Anonymous

    Administration & Congress — OWN UP:
    1- ANSWER the question: WHO supplies the chemicals? Who makes the money?
    2- FINISH a REAL investigation – w/ international agreement before even accusing!!!
    3- ANSWER: How can the U.S. accuse OTHERS when it cannot justify morally U.S. use of DRONES w/ collateral damage — and even WITHOUT it. WHY are there no accusations, trials , investigation, evidence?? Calling it “war” is NOT an excuse. Secrecy, for WHATEVER justification, does NOT make you right, nor excuses you from clear, open explanation of your actions to the American people who PAY for it all, and suffer the consequences of your judgements, right or wrong — not to mention the serious and severe consequences to the people who are directly affected.

  • Margot Booth

    It is terrible to feel helpless in the face of horrific acts like the gassing of innocent people. But I think sometimes our difficulty just tolerating that awful, sickening feeling prompts us to want to do something, anything, that makes us feel effective rather than devastated and sad and angry. It’s an understandable reaction, this wanting to clobber the bad guy (whoever that is in this case) but misguided….our taking action in the Middle East has so often led to more chaos, more deaths, more ill-will…..I, for one, believe that this is an instance of a time when less may be more – less reactivity, more of a chance that things will not spiral out of control in even more terrible ways.

  • Lucius Ballard

    This is all the continuing battle of Sunnis against Shiites…they have been killing each other for hundreds of years…the problem with Islam, like many other Abrahamic religions,
    is that it is a revengeful one ever got Mohammed’s message about love..

  • Bill Owen

    No they have not. Wrong.

  • Anonymous

    GET off it!
    The POINT is no one KNOWS for sure WHO is doing what. No valid investigation yet, but, hey, “who cares”?

    YOU are the one presuming you know that Assad is the perpetrator. Is THAT reason to start yet ANOTHER war? And your “who cares” irony … if it turns out to be the “Rebels” we have apparently been covertly backing who are guilty, are your questions still valid??
    BESIDES, there are a few other issues of a hypocritical (not to say deadly) nature: what’s your take on dropping robot-bombs on supposed “bad guys” (whatever the hell that means), hoping you got the “right ” target, and maiming or killing anyone who happens to be nearby? Yeah! “Who cares”? Do YOU??

    Don’t play Mr. Moral unless you can handle ALL the questions.

  • Bill Owen

    So what’s your life worth?

  • Ghost of the gipper

    Israel doesn’t attack for resources. They attack because they believe that God promised them certain land, and Syria isn’t part of it. Israel’s motive may be in taking out a threat to them in the region, but if anybody is attacking a foreign nation for resources its the good ol’ USA

  • Ghost of the gipper

    In the past? bwahahahahahaha! Yeah right.

  • Ghost of the gipper

    Like Elizabeth Warren did? What responsibility does the U.S. have in Syria, and why didn’t we have that responsibility in Egypt?

  • R. Shapiro

    Return the Nobel Peace prize or institute the Draft, Somebody has to wake up and smell the coffee! BTW I voted for you twice.

  • Ghost of the gipper

    Stop with the “everything goes back to banks” garbage. ITS RESOURCES DUMMY.

  • W Duane Waddell

    Bringing back the draft would at least get the attention of an age group that has been immune and sheltered from military service…..and their mommas

  • Eric

    No matter which side we support in Syria’s civil war, none of those involved will ever be our friends. Even though innocent civilians are dying and at risk, anything we do would probably only intensify the misery and slaughter going on. France and England created Syria with its attendant problems, let them try and fix it. If we get involved, almost certainly we will create more enimies and problems from both sides.

  • ben dunn

    Have you seen the vids of the rebel forces in action??? These are the people we would be supporting???? NO WAY!!!!

  • ben dunn, you are joking right?

  • ben dunn

    I want to see Obama (whom I rigorously supported 2 times!) come on TV and tell us that we need to go into Syria because it creates lots of jobs for middle class workers in the weapons industry.

  • Camilla Lieberman

    That used to be true. It certainly was a huge factor in our getting out of the depression during WW2, However, things have changed since then. At that time, all of our weapons were made at home by us. Today, most of our weapons are made abroad. We would only be contributing to China’s economy.China supplies a huge number of our munitions. Other nations provide the rest. I’ve often wondered what would happen if those nations decided to move against us? Even if they just disagreed with our military stance, all it would take is for them to say,”Sorry. Not going to provide weapons for that.”

  • joe from Lowell

    Chemical warfare is not a “similarly heinous act” as the Egyptian military crackdown. Chemical warfare is a unique horror, singled out in international law, that goes above and beyond mere violence. You’re a professor of history and international relations, and you have to ask why anyone would treat a chemical attack differently from another type of force?

    And this answers your second question: deterring the return of chemical weapons as an instrument of war. The next time some monster considers launching a chemical attack, he needs to look at Bashar al-Assad and think twice. Firing chemical-tipped missiles needs to come at a very heavy price, or it will happen all over.

    As for the legal basis, the War Powers Act authorizes Presidents to act for 90 days before seeking a Congressional force resolution. A series of punitive/deterrence strikes is unlikely to last even half that.

  • Robin

    War is not an answer but does anyone remember Nazi Germany? Can we afford to watch Assad continue to destroy what once was a peaceful movement for a more open government? Are we to sit on our hands while this dictator kills more innocent people? We have a military that is used all to frequently for the wrong reasons. Now is the right reason. Remember the Declaration of Human Rights. It can just after the Holocaust.

  • Get Our Own House In Order

    F*** Syria. Don’t we have problems of our own, domestically, that need attention? Why must we STILL be the policeman of the world. This nonsense has been going on in the Middle East forever, and will continue to go on forever. It is a shining example of all that is wrong with mixing religion and government. Hell, it’s an example of the hypocrisy of religion in, general, too.

  • Guest

    Qar is not the answer. There are two huge, existential threats to human existence right now that require unification of humanity to fight them. The triple meltdown at Fukushima is serious beyond belief. And we have little time left to transition away from a world economy which is putting millions of tons of carbon into the already overloaded atmosphere every day.

  • Sean D Ferris

    I enjoy when someone makes one stop and ponder their position


    First question. Enough is ENOUGH ! Second question. When,with air power, we have hurt them. what ever that takes. Third question. That action should “Only be a NATO action. !!!

  • katrin helgason

    Fourth question how many (more) innocent people will be killed if the US strikes in defense of those innocent people who were poisoned – twice as many – 10 times as many?

  • Beth Kuykendall Leary

    I disagree. I think we are that bad.

  • Anonymous

    The very presumption that the Syrian government ordered the attack on Jawbar is preposterous. Why would it do so, knowing it is on the verge of winning the civil war and a chemical attack would not only be unnecessary but counterproductive in allowing the United States to justify military action.

  • Joe Dokes

    We are “policeman” so that our rich people can continue their obscene wealth through government contracts – military, agricultural, transportation, etc. Also, so that we can keep the price of oil low, so that idiots can drive SUVs to the drive through at Dunkin’ Donuts without ever leaving their car, then get fat and need more pharmaceutical products.

  • Joe Dokes

    Then, you would support military action in Egypt, as they are killing their own people? How about Saudi Arabia? No, that Syria = Nazi Germany argument is silly. They are involved in a civil war. Second, that is not why Obama wants to attack them – it is to put Syria on the political chess board on our side, thwart Iranian power, and destabilize the Middle East so that we can have increased control over oil. Also, if Assad is defeated, the winners will be jihadists, not enlightened democracy advocates. They will be the same people who have been trying to defeat in Afganistan, and in this respect, much more the spiritual cousins of the Nazis, who believed in their right to control all “inferior” people.

  • Joe Dokes

    There is ZERO evidence that Syria used chemical weapons. What’s more, there is no rational reason he would use chemical weapons, especially as UN inspectors were in the area. That would be suicidal, which is not Assad’s style. Maybe you don’t mind being manipulated into another war by lies – such as Chalabi and his lies about Iraqi WMDs. But how did that turn out?

  • Joe Dokes

    As for the War Powers Act, Obama already threw that out the window when he attacked Libya. The average, ill-informed American doesn’t think much about it, but we were bombing Libya and killing innocent men, women, and children their, who were merely defending their country or just living their lives. But Obama showed that he can fight a war and flount the War Powers Act, and no one cares, as long as the corrupt Congress gets their perks. Oh, and Libya has oil.

  • Joe Dokes

    Exactly. But we don’t mind them killing Syrian troops (and themselves). We used jihadists in Afganistan. It defeated the Soviets, oh, but it also resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Americans, when the groups we helped spawn in Afganistan turned their sights from the Soviets to the US…

  • Joe Dokes

    What – you mean spend billions of dollars in THIS COUNTRY, solving problems here? But…that would snatch caviar out of the bloated hands of Saudi princes, just to put food on the plates of hungry children and seniors in this country! That’s just crazy talk!

  • Joe Dokes

    That’s why the won’t bring it back…the don’t want that attention. That’s why the media don’t cover the reality of war. How many reports of people being killed in Iraq did you see? Or deaths in Libya, when we were bombing them? We – the US citizens – are supposed to pay for the bombs, not think.

  • Joe Dokes

    Message of love? You must be thinking of someone else.

  • Joe Dokes

    Congress don’t do those things. They only care about payoffs and their next job, making big bucks with the people they are supposed to be monitoring.

  • Joe Dokes

    I don’t know if that’s true – about China supplying weapons. Maybe some components, but the US military industry is pretty local. Can you sort sources for this claim?

  • Chuck

    You are right, it IS resources. The most precious resource of all is the currency and there is no denying that banks have a monopoly on it. Therefore, they call the shots. They also own the energy companies and the land that that energy is mined from.

    So, have you found that resorting to name calling has the net result of endearing people to your cause, Ghost of the gipper?

  • Betsy Appleton

    Right you are, Joe, sadly enough…

  • Betsy Appleton

    Amazing to me that Fukushima news isn’t really out there and/or folks aren’t noticing. As for carbon and climate change, the US has dropped the ball big time on being a leader there. Trying to stay positive…

  • Anonymous

    The question is rediculous and makes no sense: the individuals in Egypt were given sufficient warning and could have taken their butts out but the use of chemical weapons such as Siren Gas you have no warning. Beside the fact it is unconscienable and a violation of the Geneva Accords but immoral to let this monster out of the bottle without a response. This president is not a George Bush, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeldt or a fanatic NeoCon who initiated a war on lies but this president would not act without proof which Secretary of State Kerry stated would be presented to the international community. It is said that the United States turned it eyes and assisted Saddam Houssein in the use of chemical weapons but you will note it was done under Republican Administrations. If we do not respond and allow the use of chemical weapons the moral fiber and conscience of American will be damaged and the consequences catastrophic And finally to place our security in the hands of the UN or worry about Russia and China’s veto or wait for the UN to make a larthagic decision is nonsense and this president and future presidents do not have the option of waiting for the UN to move. If we do not respond to Assad or any use of chemical weapons then the door is open.

  • Fred Up

    George, please stay down there in Crawford and concentrate on clearing brush. Your pals at Halliburton have made enough money on the backs of our slaughtered and maimed children. We don’t need any more of your f***ing war.

  • John Finkas

    Why is it always the United States job to police the world? Our economy is in the worst shape since the Great Depression. Let someone else deal with it.

  • Harold
  • Anonymous

    You wrote: “If we do not respond and allow the use of chemical weapons the moral fiber and conscience of American will be damaged and the consequences catastrophic.” Did you react that way when the U.S. used depleted uranium, napalm, and whie phosphorous on Iraqi civilians? When the U.S. lied about Iraqi WMD’s to ‘justify’ an illegal war of aggression? When the U.S. tortured people in Iraq, and is still torturing people in Bagram prison and Guantanamo?
    If you call yourself “George 1776″, are you aware of President Washington’s warning against foreign entanglements?

  • JonThomas

    If he did use chemical weapons, and If deterrence was effective, why isn’t Assad looking at the example of his FORMER neighbor, Saddam, and ‘thinking twice?’ He paid, not just a ‘heavy price,’ but the ultimate price!

    Saddam was simply accused of having WMD’s, and using chemicals on the Kurdish population. Your example has already been set, and it fails. Why does it fail? Because of sovereignty. A leader is not going to worry about what other nations think, It’s THEIR country. The mental make up of the type of people who want power actually emboldens them against outside influence.

    When was the last time ANY leader said…’I’m sorry world, I shouldn’t have done that…”

    No one is saying that chemical weapons are good, but to what extent has sanctions been used on Syria thus far?

    For a change, stop beating your drums and listen.

  • Angry Old White Man

    Colonel/Professor Bacevich is right on target. Any US strike at Syria will create many civilian injuries and deaths. There is no legal framework within which it can be done. Any strike will get us stuck in another quagmire, as has happened with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The issue is whether we should engage in war, not whether Asad is a horrible criminal.

  • Anonymous

    Aided and abetted. People should be in jail for that.

  • Robin

    Joe, I appreciate your comments. It may be an exaggeration to call in Hitler images but I have seen (on the news) so many bodies of children in Syria that I cannot ignore them if I wanted to. Yes, there are deaths in Afghanistan and Egypt but Syria seems to have gone beyond just fighting and is now crossing into genocide. I respect your opinion. I am concerned that jihadists are everywhere in the Middle East, not just Syria. We have created a great many of them with out policies of supporting dictators. I only hope that whatever action is taken by Obama and company, it has ethical standards reinforcing it. I would hope also that the Europeans will support it. They have experience well beyond ours with genocide.

  • JonThomas

    I am curious. Why exactly is killing people with chemicals, different from killing people with guns (gunpowder is a chemical,) or bombs (another chemical.)

    I’m really not trying to belittle the difference between the substances we call ‘Chemical Weapons,’ and conventional weapons, but I am truly wondering what is the difference between killing in some manners, and killing in others.

  • Don E. Latham

    And what have these wars we are already engaged in accomplished?

  • Nik James

    He’s ordered the public release of the administrations case for war in a day or two. So, you know, try and be patient.

  • Nik James

    We’re not involved in Syria for oil. The US is involved in an effort to materially and diplomatically isolate Iran and RUssia, via their proxy state in Syria. The US’s goals are geo-political, not material

  • Anonymous

    An adult discussion requires that people know WTF they’re talking about. American, Western and international law has been far from consistent in their *promises*. For instance, when the US was backing Saddam in his war with Iran, our govt promised no bombing in response to his use of chemical weapons. Knowing full well that he had used chemical weapons previously, our intelligence agencies still provided him with satellite imagery that he used to again target iranian forces with more chemical weapons. Another example would be the one provided in the article- Egypt’s govt used chemicals on unarmed citizens and Washington didn’t threaten to start dropping bombs their either. “consistent” my skinny jewish behind

  • JG

    What does Israel want. That’s the only question.

  • theblamee

    Blah. Blah. Blah. It doesn’t matter. We are shown “bombed out” and “war torn” pictures of the Middle East that still look better than most U.S. cities (like Detroit) and this does not stop the U.S. government from seeing how closely foreign policy resembles domestic with its reliance upon the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the FBI, the CIA, militarized police forces, and the list goes on. The American people are shown pictures of poor Syrian children but where are the pictures of the tens of millions of homeless American, and the roughly 47-million Americans relying upon food stamps. The United States of American is in urgent need of some nation-building here at home, but her we go with another war. Blah. Blah. Blah.

  • Proud Primate

    “Let us posit that the Syrian government did, in fact, order last week’s chemical attack that killed hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women, children and
    others who had not taken up arms against the Assad regime.”

    How about let’s look at some facts

    Wikileaks published in March of 2012 hacked emails from Stratfor, thanks to the heroic sacrifice of hackers like Jeremy Hammond, now facing ten years, that clearly show the US has been ginning up the “Free” Syrian Army — about as Free as the “Free market” or as the Fed is Federal — since at the latest Dec. 2011. INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of force.

    Furthermore, an article posted at the Daily Mail, but quickly pulled down, was nevertheless captured for posterity by attentive netizens:

    Cached Copy of Scrubbed Article Confirming US and UK Backed Chemical Weapons in Syria

    Bill, dear friend, remember the video I call your masterpiece, The Secret Government: the Constitution in Crisis”, which everyone should watch over and over to the point of memorization — you began with Jackson Browne.

    “You might ask what it takes to remember
    When you know that you’ve seen it before
    How a government lies to a people
    And a country is drifting to war.”

    It’s not a question of policy.
    Where are the WMD’s of yesteryear?

    “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?”

  • Proud Primate

    It’s a big part, but I would remind you how deep the English crown has been in these matters since well before 1900.

    “After the war, Britain was granted a colonial “mandate” to rule Palestine by the League of Nations. Sir Ronald Storrs, the British governor of Jerusalem in the early 1920s, wrote that a Jewish homeland in Palestine would be “for England a ‘little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”-a reference to Britain’s creation of a separate Protestant majority Northern Ireland in order to maintain its dominance over the rest of Ireland. From the 1920s onwards, the British used the Jewish settlers permitted to immigrate to Palestine to help suppress mass Arab demonstrations against landlessness and unemployment, and for Palestinian independence, including a massive general strike in 1936.”

    Also remember the Heartland thesis of Halford Mackinder:
    The Geographical Pivot of History, presented in 1904 to the Geographical Society of London.

    Later, in 1919, Mackinder summarised his theory as:

    “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
    who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
    who rules the World-Island controls the world.”
    (Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 106)

  • Proud Primate

    That too

  • Proud Primate

    That’s in the news today, Been. I’ll link to it since you didn’t. (In Foreign Policy, no less:)

    Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

  • Proud Primate

    That’s one issue. The other issue is why the Mainstream Media refuses to look at the evidence that the CW was False Flag by the CIA-(and GCC-)backed FSA. And there’s plenty of such evidence. See my posts elsewhere in this thread.

  • Proud Primate
  • sjetrider

    Agreed, but everyone hear is saying either war or no action. There is IMO no reason for either of the above. With modern day capabilities we should have kept this on the DL and had the leaders of the regime and anyone suspected of being involved taken out one by one. Threaton the new / replacement leaders with harsher actions. The US and others have the capability to surgically remove the cancer and should nut up and shut up to get it done. Drawing attention and warning publically over and over reminds me of my wife having to tell my young children something 20 times when (because I act swiftly and definitavely) I had to only tell them ONCE. No warnings, swift definate action on the precise issue is what this would have demanded as soon as it accurred. Shut up and go in after the leaders and all involved parties. Kill or retreive. Then send your message to the newly led regime.
    John kerry and who ever autherized his BS speach are idiots worthy of leading NOTHING including their own children.

  • Proud Primate


    “To whom the crime is advancement, he did it.” Certainly not Assad, but certainly the “rebels” from Central Casting.

  • Proud Primate

    All these questions, any one of which remove justification

  • Proud Primate

    Hey coach, what about the third half?

  • sjetrider

    LOL, if done correclty the US can be “involved” without supporting the “Military Industrial complex”.
    PS: I never once hit or spanked my kids and never once needed to.
    What we are doing now is letting thee Syrian and Assad oposition figure out how the US’s involvement will assit them. Wrong position to be in IMO.

  • Marie Rose Claire Hogue-Reid

    It’s the innocent children that are killed. Those who were killed in Egypt knew what they were doing and suffered the consequences
    . Children are innocent and unknowing of what is going on. They are true victims. Who will protect these children if we don’t?

  • Proud Primate

    Oh, very much. Since the days of Queen Victoria Britain (and now her child, America) has been pursuing “the Great Game” — as made famous in Kiplings charming novel, Kim serialized in McClure’s Magazine in 1900.

    The Great Game is the struggle over Central Asia, then with the Tsar, now with the Russian Republic and China. The idea is to wrest the Turkic lands, from Baku’s oil fields to Xinjiang, China’s westermost province, also called East Turkestan, from their neighboring powers, and put them in the sway of the Anglo-American hegemon.

    Four years after Kim Halford Mackinder delivered his thesis to the Geographical Society of London, how to conquer the whole world.

    Later, in 1919, Mackinder summarised his theory as:

    “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;who rules the World-Island controls the world.”(Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 106)

    His paper was called, The Geographical Pivot of History

    Today, they want Full Spectrum Dominance — air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. Their intention is to prevent any rival from operating to any great degree in any of these areas.

    If they succeed in putting a puppet in Damascus, Russia loses her last warm-water port, and Iran loses her only other Middle-eastern ally, unless we include Lebanon, which is also hotly contested.

    Once Syria and Iran fall, so the thinking goes, Turkey and the Turkic republics will be in control of the Islamic nations again.

  • Proud Primate

    pretty much. the cops are just working stiffs like us, but they are the guard dogs for the tyranny, when called upon. It could be any minute.

  • Proud Primate

    You haven’t spent much effort finding out the available facts concerning the evidence of who is to blame, but you’re quick to pull the trigger.

    Rather than repost all this, I will direct you to my post upstream that shows ample evidence of the gas being used by the “rebels” and their being organized by the CIA since Dec. 2011.

    But something tells me you are not interested in such evidence. I hope I’m wrong about you.

  • Proud Primate

    Rather than repost all this, I will direct you to my post upstream that shows ample evidence of the gas being used by the “rebels” and their being organized by the CIA since Dec. 2011.

  • Atticus Finch

    Anyone suprised BobSF has no reply to this cogent post?

  • Proud Primate

    To be fair, he could be busy with other business, and had not checked back. it was only two hours ago. Maybe he’s working! Happily, I have three days off!

  • Proud Primate

    Joe is not saying “zero evidence” of gas. He’s saying “ZERO evidence that Syria” did it. Your NYT article (did you read it?) has nothing to offer on this score beyond

    “Mr. Assad’s government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons,
    while blaming rebels for reported attacks. But Western nations say they
    have solid evidence that the Syrian government has used such weapons on
    at least two occasions before last Wednesday.”>

    Hiding behind the Gray Lady’s skirts doesn’t protect you much. Don’t you remember Judith Miller and Michael Gordon’s lies about “aluminum tubes”? Which Dick Cheney immediately the next morning parroted on Meet the Press, just as Miller & Gordon had parroted those same lies from the Pentagon press room, who parroted them from Curveball and convicted felon Ahmad Chalabi, the darling of the Neocons.

    A million dead Iraqis later, “Oh, Jeez! Sorry — we didn’t find any WMDs.”
    …try reading and viewing the links that I posted above. More than ample evidence to show that you don’t have a case.

  • Proud Primate


  • Proud Primate

    I direct your attention to a previous post I did upstream

    Presidents don’t make those decisions, unless they want to end up like Kennedy. They do what they’re told.

  • Robin

    I have looked at this site and I cannot say whether it is true or not. I can say that the bodies of the children sure look real to me. Would the Free Syrian Army be long in power with their supporters if they use chemicals on their own? I doubt it.

  • Ginger

    So, did he send this to the President? We can only sit by and watch this unfold. My questions are similar: What can we really do to end this conflict? And at what cost? I’m not talking only money here. It is not our civil war to fight. We know there are some very high benefits of war for the Military-Industrial Complex.

  • Prince Myshkin

    Why would Assad gas his own people at this particular time? The answer is possibly much darker than most of us are willing to suspect (funny how, on the other hand, so many are quick to assign spurious motives to our own government, though GW and Cheney are no longer pulling the strings. They did THEIR damage!) I think it is possible Assad is trying to ignite a world war. Obviously the man is not a responsible leader. And conditions are as primed for major conflagration as any forest in the American west. But our leadership, and that of all the other countries involved, will assume otherwise, and like World War I, a series of events will begin a rapid deterioration of an already desperate situation!

  • Prince Myshkin

    The world looked on as Jews were sent to concentration camps, and did nothing. Even the Catholic Church did nothing. Thanks to Bush and Cheney and others, many Americans assume the worst of our own leaders while defending monsters like Assad.

  • Prince Myshkin

    Because Assad wants to start a world war in the worst way.

  • Brock

    When the various Syrian groups and unaffiliated Syrian individuals began protesting a few years ago, they also knew what they were doing. When the Syrian government fired at protesters, the Syrians who armed and defended themselves also knew what they were doing. And when they decided to form organized insurgent units to overthrow Assad, they still knew what they were doing. And those units knew what they were doing when they continued to live and operate in residential areas. Even if the Syrian rebels (which is not a monolith but an array of different groups with different ideologies, ethnicities, and sects) were justified, which they may have been, they knew the risks of their actions, and when you engage in a civil war using urban warfare and insurgent approaches, it is not unexpected that your party will suffer fatalities. What is surprising is when you take to the streets to stage a legal, nonviolent protest in Egypt, where there had just been a massive protest with few deaths, and hundreds are killed in a matter of days. As far as protecting those children, again, they are in danger because of a situation that their adult relatives should have expected when they continually escalated the conflict. I am not blaming the opposition, but I am saying that pausing, regrouping, and restrategizing was an option. They didn’t have to start taking militant action and organizing into military units and announcing to the world that they would fight to the death to topple Assad. There were clear risks, but they did it anyways, and they needed to be prepared for what those risks entailed, to include relocating their child relatives, or they should not have taken Assad’s invitation to fight in a civil war. The U.S. cannot respond militarily to every atrocity it would literally always be at war. It would be at war in Egypt right now and other countries throughout the world; we’d go bankrupt. So it decides to pick and choose, but this can’t be done by rolling the dice, which is the only fair way. It picks and chooses based on its own security and economic interests, which means that it’s no longer about the humanitarian issue because it continues to support and mingle with autocratic regimes that are in its interest. Who will protect their children if we don’t? Their parents, and the other adults in their community who don’t need our paternalism and hegemony.

  • JonThomas

    My conspiracy radar is beginning to flash…

    A few weeks ago, Presidents Obama and Putin are shown to be ‘cold’ toward one another.

    A series of small events were played up to look like there is animosity.

    During the Snowden affair I wondered why President Obama was playing the ‘cold’ card, and the press was pushing that image of President Putin looking ‘put out’ during their meeting. It seemed, at the time, to be a little ‘over the top.’

    Now we see events heading towards apparent ‘real’ difficulty.

    So, was it the tail wagging the dog, or is Syria taking advantage of the situation?

    Was the animosity world-stage theater to prepare world-wide public opinion?

    Did Russia and the U.S. make a ‘behind the scenes trade?’ Maybe Snowden, who is basically off the radar, and his info (which, sans details, every intelligence agency already knew about anyway,) for the U.S. to act or posture against Syria?

    Is Syria a witting accompliss? And where is Iran and it’s saber rattling?

    Anyone have insight? Inquiring minds, and all that…

  • moderator

    Hi Proud Primate and Harold,

    I understand this is a highly charged situation, but please try and make your points without personal attacks.

  • moderator


    Please avoid personal attacks when making your points. If you cannot follow our comment policy, your posts will be removed and you will no longer be able to participate in our community.

    Thank You,
    Sean @ Moyers

  • JonThomas

    You guys (and gals) do a great job. M&C is one of the only sites to find intelligent, thoughtful, passionate, and yet fairly polite discourse. TY!

    I do find that I get upset easily when people flippantly suggest violence and war as a means of solving problems. So if I do press my luck, please feel free to delete my comment, but please don’t ban me lol. If your system doesn’t present that option, just send, or post me a note, and I’ll be glad to self-edit, or self-delete. :-)

    I really do try to tone myself down, but… sometimes…!!! lol

  • Anonymous

    So, this medical doctor and father who has been governing his peaceful nation for a decade all of a sudden wants to start a world war in which his nation, family and himself would all be killed? Get the tinfoil off your head, prince!

  • Anonymous

    I’ll add a few more:
    1. What proof do you have that the Assad regime is responsible?
    2. Have you forgotten that the US supported Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran? Why was it OK to support such a heinous act back in the 1980s?

  • Bev Mabry

    oh, my, there are so many suffering innocent children all over the world. Wish that we could help each one of them. Not possible. We simply can not feed all of Africa’s starving children, protect all the throw-aways and children in poverty in India, or protect all these children in war torn countries. We don’t even do such a great job with our own children, do we? We have to make choices.

  • Bev Mabry

    and it seems our leaders forget that it is basic logic and duty to get your own house in order before trying to take care of your neighbor, much less the neighbors who are far away and of totally different religions and cultures. But I’m guessing that the oil interests might be the leading concern here … and everything else is only excuses and rationales.

  • Bev Mabry

    do you have a better explanation? After what I’ve seen in the past 10 years in our own country, I can no longer assume that any leaders are intelligent, responsible, or honest and all explanations are on the table.

  • williambanzai7

    Yes we can…

  • MarxMarvelous
  • tacoeatingzebra

    I think it’s more likely that our leaders are continuing to act like Bush & Cheney.

  • Poe Lou Chan

    Does ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ work when it comes to Jabhat al-Nusra?

  • Spitefuel

    The Egyptian military coup was following a mass protest against an unrepresentative minority government that won a flawed election. The massacre was horrific but don’t rewrite recent history to emphasise your point.

  • Danny McVey

    And…why does the US continue to fund the rebels while Al Nusra Front (the same radical Islamists the NSA claims they need to spy on us to protect us from) is fighting alongside them? How does enabling the terrorists in their holy war when the Syrian people are fighting a completely separate battle help us (or the Syrian people???) in the long run?

  • Anonymous

    Yea that made sense when they said it about Qaddafi, Saddam, and Ahmadinejad, now it just sounds like a broken record. If you look at the last half century, it seems the US is the country hellbent on causing world war.

  • Anonymous

    Try this one out. Plans for regime change in up to seven nations of the Middle East opposing American hegemony in the that region–view on YouTube the account of American General Wesley Clark. The United States and its allies tried to defeat Syria from within by turning its armed forces and failed and from outside by recruiting 50,000 jihadist death squad members from 40 nations, which also failed. Now, the only way to get rid of Dr. Assad and his government is with direct American involvement. Our Syrian rebel friends know the only way to force Obama’s hand is by exploding a lot of of sarin gas (which was supplied by Saudi Arabia) and blaming it on Assad. Stay tuned for another Mideast war!

  • Owen

    This article is good, but misses a much more important question. Here’s what I wrote about it two days ago on Facebook and my blog:

    As the US government amps up the media blitz for war with Syria, it seems appropriate to stop and consider the credibility of the justification for war (something we Americans always seem to forget to do until it’s far too late). Here’s what we know: about a year ago, President Obama said that the US would only intervene in Syria if the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own citizens, which he described as a “red line” that Assad’s regime should not cross. In the past year he’s reiterated that statement a few times in different forms. Since then, there have been allegations of several chemical weapons attacks within Syria. So the UN demanded access to the country to determine if chemical weapons had indeed been used. The day the UN inspectors arrived in Syria, chemical weapons were used against a civilian population a few miles from where the inspectors were staying, killing somewhere between 100 and 355 people. The whole incident was even filmed and put on YouTube. Immediately, Western media and governments blamed the Syrian government and began eagerly asking Obama daily when he was going to invade. In the past few days, US warships and other military assets have been moved into place to facilitate an attack on Syria. The UK and France have pledged to join the US invasion. And Obama’s rhetoric has gotten progressively less characteristically coy and cryptic and more blatantly belligerent day by day.

    There’s just one problem though. There is absolutely no evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for this attack, and given the context it seems extraordinarily unlikely that it is. Here’s the government’s supposedly irrefutable evidence that the Syrian government is behind the attack according to CBS News:

    “The senior administration official said the U.S. intelligence community based its assessment given to the White House claiming the Assad regime was responsible for the attack on “the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured,” and witness accounts. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.”

    Those three pieces of evidence make a pretty convincing case that there was indeed a chemical weapons attack in Syria on a civilian population, but I don’t see how any of that proves or even suggests that the government was behind it. At this point it’s just the government’s word against the opposition’s. The very fact that the US government is telling us there is “‘very little doubt’ that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians,” despite the complete lack of evidence to prove this either way, is highly suspect. It suggests that regardless of who actually carried out the attack, the US wants to blame Assad so it can justify an invasion.

    Since there’s no real evidence to prove who is behind this attack, we should ask the old question cui bono (who benefits from this?). The Syrian government certainly does not benefit from this chemical attack at all. The Syrian government was fully aware of Obama’s threat to invade if chemical weapons were used. If they really wanted those few hundred civilians dead, they could have easily killed them with other weapons. Why then would they do the one thing that they know is guaranteed to get them removed from power and hanged?

    In order to have ordered this attack, President Assad and his advisors would have to be not just evil, and not just stupid–THEY WOULD HAVE TO BE SUICIDAL. If you seriously believe that President Assad and his advisors ordered a massive chemical weapons attack on women and children the day that UN weapons inspectors arrived a few miles from where they were staying, you must also believe that Assad and his advisors have a death wish. I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to imagine that Assad saw Sadam Hussein and Kadafi being dragged from their hidey holes and hanged by the marines and said “Hey, we should really give the US an excuse to invade us and topple my regime. In fact, let’s do the ONE THING THAT OBAMA HAS REPEATEDLY SAID FOR A YEAR WILL CAUSE HIM TO INVADE.”

    The opposition, on the other hand, has a great deal to benefit from this chemical weapons massacre. They’ve wanted the US to intervene pretty much since the civil war began, or at least since they realized they could never topple the regime without foreign military intervention. And before you object that the opposition would never do such a heinous thing to their own people, please remember that many of the remaining active opposition fighters aren’t even Syrian, but members of Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other fundamentalist militant groups from outside the country. The opposition is my primary suspect for now.

    The other suspect is the Obama administration and intelligence community. The US government had motive and opportunity, and let’s face it, a long history of committing such crimes. Syria is sitting on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, and the US government has demonstrated time and time again that it will gladly fabricate evidence to justify invading countries in the Middle East to gain control of their energy resources. If you think that’s far fetched, consider that the CIA recently admitted to overthrowing the democratic government of Iran in the ’50′s to gain control of their oil, and there’s ample evidence to prove that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were planned long before 9/11 and were conducted in order to steal those country’s oil reserves.

    In addition, Syria has strategic value for containing and eventually invading Iran. And out of all the countries that pose a serious threat to the hegemony of the US government (China, Russia, Iran, and Syria), Syria is currently the easiest prey.

    Lying to the American people and manipulating us into demanding war in order to serve US foreign policy interests is standard government practice, and it has been since at least the Spanish-American War, so it’s certainly plausible that the US government staged the attack in Syria. But is there any evidence to suggest the US government’s culpability? There is actually. In January, a British defense contractor named Britam was hacked. Thousands of their internal documents were released. Among them was this email:


    We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.
    We’ll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.
    They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.
    Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?

    Kind regards


    Is the email genuine? It’s impossible to tell for sure. But if it is, it’s evidence that the chemical weapons attack in Syria was a false flag operation by the US government. Keep in mind that this allegedly leaked email was released in January, and the attack happened in August. Could it really be a coincidence? Probably not. The Assad regime must have known about this email. Which means that if the Assad regime is responsible, they must have carried out the attack and filmed it hoping that this long forgotten leaked email would somehow magically convince the international community that the US was behind the attack, which would be the single most obviously doomed to failure strategy I’ve ever heard of, especially since even if it worked it wouldn’t help the Syrian government in any significant way.

    Britam has stated that the hack was real and all the documents leaked were genuine except this particular email, which they claim was planted. Since then, the British newspaper that originally published the story about this email has removed the article from their site and published an apology, stating “We now accept that email was fabricated and acknowledge there is no truth in any suggestion that Britam or its directors were willing to consider taking part in such a plot, which may have led to an atrocity.
    We apologise to each of them and have agreed to pay substantial damages.”

    I’m not saying I know who ordered the tragic chemical weapons attack last week. I really don’t know. What I do know is that despite what the Obama administration and the mainstream media propaganda machine would have us believe, there is currently no evidence that proves who was truly responsible for this heinous crime. In fact, common sense and the scant evidence that is currently available suggest that either the Syrian opposition or the US government are behind this attack, not the Syrian government.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves and accept that there is nothing we the American people can do to prevent our government from invading Syria. But please, learn from every single other time our government has lied to us and manipulated us into clamoring for war under false pretenses and at the very least demand to see the evidence that Obama claims to have of Assad’s guilt. In the immortal words of our last president who tricked us into going to war, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice–you can’t get fooled again.” Let’s hope so Mr. President.

  • Ho Hum

    These are not very compelling questions.

    The first and most important question that must be asked is what proof does Obama have that Assad is behind the attacks and not the free Syria rebels? The writer just accepts as gospel the claim that Assad is behind the attacks.

    As Assad said – why would he use chemical weapons after the President of the USA promised to go to war if he crossed that line? Not only would it be suicidal it was not necessary because Assad was winning with conventional weapons.

    There is a ton of evidence that not only were the rebels behind the attacks – they also had the support of Obama. It is looking more and more like Barack Obama deliberately gassed to death 100’s of children as part of a false flag operation.

    As for the “double standard” between Syria and Egypt – there isn’t any. In both countries Obama supports the Jihadists. Also the Egyptian military did not use chemical weapons on the Muslim brotherhood. They used conventional weapons in response to attacks by the MB on its own soldiers.

    Stunning evidence of a false-flag chemical attack:

  • Anonymous

    As a child, how many times did you put your hand on a hot stove before you decided it wasn’t in your best interests?

    Learning by past mistakes is called learning.

  • Erwin
  • Vip

    Creepy that Dubai has that “World Island” in the Gulf….

  • Ceci Pipe

    Yes, but as always only so long as there’s a common enemy both sides hate more than each other. See Sunni-Shia-USA violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Ceci Pipe

    It’s the idea of “fair” and “ethical” violence. It’s why bullets have to be a certain size and make, why certain weapons are banned, etc. The idea is to kill people as quickly and painlessly as possible.

    ‘Course countries could just avoid killing off their volunteers altogether, but that’s boring so we have conventions. Can’t kill people slowly, or painfully, unless it’s as a byproduct of an otherwise “humane” weapon. Like a grenade blowing your legs off and letting you bleed out.

  • Poe Lou Chan

    I really don’t think the US administration hates Assad. They believe they hate sarin. They have discounted Jabhat al-Nusra, which might be a mistake. And the funny thing about Jabhat al-Nusra is that some of their members were caught with sarin just inside Turkey in May. If that report were true, and we know what kind of dedicated fanatics they are (these are the fly jets into building types) then why is it so hard to accept that we really don’t know who used the gas.

  • Ceci Pipe

    Depends how you define hate really, if the USA helps someone then they expect this “someone” to be thankful for it when they get into power. ‘Cause that’s worked out for them before, obviously. Fiftieth time lucky? So they don’t explicitly hate Assad, but they feel that having someone in control of Syria and working for them is a good thing to have. Call it an early Christmas present. They don’t hate sarin either, they know that politically it’s considered coarse to use chemical weapons so they gain international political points for stopping chemical attacks in line with the UN resolutions on warfare.

    It’s hard to accept politically because if al-Nusra is likely to have done it that means a) we’ve been backing the wrong party and b) we can’t do anything about it with precision bombing as the rebels are a disparate group working off the “enemy of my enemy” principle who have no permanent base. Which means any involvement is long term “boots on the ground” as politicians love to put it. And when I say disparate, I really mean disparate. There’s documentaries showing Muslims from Britain going over to fight simply because they’re Muslims, international backing likely started happening a long time ago, tensions are flaring in Lebanon as the entire area turns into a big, confusing nightmare.

    It’s hard to accept in the media and general populace because we love ourselves a good underdog story and the idea of evil being fought by insanely evil is abhorrent. Ask someone why the Kosovo campaign necessitated involvement and you’ll get everything from “NATO likes interfering” to “The USA likes interfering” to “political jockeying for power”, etc. Hearing “Children nine years and younger were raped and murdered which resulted in Islamic holy warriors trained by the CIA to fight Russians instead going from Afghanistan to Bosnia and the entire area devolving into genocide” isn’t something nice. We like nice, and if we do the emu head-in-the-sand and focus on good vs evil, David vs Goliath, then “We can help!”.

    Even assuming we ignored our biases and prejudices, and instead went with what we know, then turns out we still know nothing. If al-Nusra were caught with sarin just inside Turkey and we knew about it, and Assad knew about it, then Assad could have ordered chemical strikes knowing we knew al-Nusra would, could, and feel they should do it. Or al-Nusra did it which is why they’re so eager to show inspectors the areas, and of course Assad would deny it. We can find evidence that chemical weapons were used but we can’t find out who used them.

    There’s a quote from Dune I like, “The eyes of common perception do not see far. Too often we make the most important decisions based only on superficial information”. Problem is: Complete information is currently impossible and time factors in to rush our decision. Then given how political parties campaign based on their responses to international efforts, they feel the need to do _something_. Since it’s a political point now, “nothing” is now “something” and they will be judged on that.

    Combine all of that and the end result is as inevitable as it is undesirable. It’s easier to ignore that we don’t know, can’t know, probably won’t know, because we can accept no other conclusion if we want control of the chaos. No guesses as to how it turns out.

  • Ceci Pipe


    I agree with you, but tend work on the safe side and decide it’s not a rhetorical question but an actual why, so there’s a “short” response. Sarcasm is hard too on the internet, for a technical language English is woefully imprecise. ;_;

  • GWK

    As Prof. Bacevich’s questions imply, military action would appear to be unwise at best. A better solution, consistent with the President’s “red line” declaration and with what I assume was a Geneva Convention outlawing of the use of chemical weapons after WWI, is to go to the UN’s General Assembly and call for a war crimes investigation so as to bring to justice those who ordered the use of chemical weapons in Syria. A satisfying solution? No. And it wouldn’t happen, if at all, until after the current civil war is concluded. But absent a Security Council move (impossible) or an Arab League invitation (unlikley), it may be the only course of action that preserves our policy position without resorting to yet another unconstitutional “police action” that tears at the foundations of the Republic, further impoverishes us, and diverts us from solving our own problems. We don’t have a strategic interest at stake in Syria and it’s not at all clear that if the Assad regime falls we would be better off with whoever takes over there. It’s long past time when we should be knee-jerking to feel that we need solve every problem on the planet.

  • Poe Lou Chan

    Well, I doubt Mr. Bacevich’s questions will be answered. It seems like we are going in even though the lasted report I read says that the inspectors want 4 more days. That would be 4 more days after Kerry and Biden have already concluded ‘no doubts’ and ‘undeniable’. And who knows, we might get lucky and it could be short and sweet — the encons might get it right this time. Polls show 9% support, but there seems to be little noise in opposition. In fact I detect the scent of a que sera sera because, not to blame, but it’s a done deal and it didn’t really matter what the public thought. I don’t I guess McCain is happy. And I suppose Obama is winning the swinging dick contest with Putin.

  • Anonymous

    There are so many things wrong with your posts that one doesn’t even know where to begin.

    1) Assad isn’t winning.
    2) Obama doesn’t support the Jihadists in Egypt.
    3) Obama doesn’t support the Jihadists in Syria.
    4) Obama didn’t gas the Syrians. Yeah, I have no proof that he didn’t, but then again, neither do I have proof that you didn’t.

    It seems to me that you’re a nutter who is unable to think coherently and is blinded by your prejudice. Still, thanks for the laugh!

  • Proud Primate

    What does it mean to say “their own”? Are not the children Syrians? Then the same term applies to the government of that country. The conflict is between al Nusri, a branch of al Qaeda, who are Sunnis, and extreme versions thereof, essentially Wahabists, whose support base is Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and the CIA. The Assad family and government are Alowites, which is a branch of Shiism. Do you know the difference, and the history behind it?

    “Shia” is the short form of the historic phrase Shīʻatu ʻAlī (شيعة علي), meaning “followers”, “faction”, or “party” of Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin Ali, whom the Shia believe to be Muhammad’s successor in the Caliphate.”(wikipedia)

    The Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, who became the first Caliph after the death of Mohammed is the rightful heir. All the bloodshed has been over this rather obscure issue. Iran and much of Lebanon are Shiites also, as is the majority of Iraq.

    However, this is only the crack into which the Western powers seek to drive their chisel. The real casus belli here is the ongoing Cold War, and the purposes of the US military in their quest for Full Spectrum Dominance by 2020. Click the link — it’s a Pentagon webpage!

    In your post above, you appeal to the logic of motive. Why would they? Well, let’s look at it from the other direction.

    Who stands to gain from this? The Assad government was winning handily in all their areas of conflict, entirely using conventional weapons. They were assured complete victory. Their only chance of defeat is if the rebels can bring in the US, UK, and France. Their only weakness. So, on the very day that the UN inspectors arrive, they are going to launch this unnecessary CW strike, the one thing that can lose the country for them?

    To use your phrase, “I doubt it.”

  • Proud Primate

    To the moderator:

    I am somewhat surprised to see this called a personal attack. However, every forum has a different ambiance and style, and certain Bill Moyers is a perfect gentleman. I will endeavor to trim my comments more closely to reflect this deference. Thank you for allowing me to remain.

  • pete b

    You might consult a dictionary on the meaning of the verb “posit” before you conclude that the author “accepts as gospel” the proposition of Assad’s responsibility for chemical weapons attacks.

  • buttneckid

    is it Military/Industry complex or Industry/Military complex

  • buttneckid

    I say…notmybizniss…they won’t like anything we do…bomb ’em or leave them alone…same thing almost…
    hang on I gotta answer my “bamaphone…

  • Anonymous

    The Iraq complicity was secret and, in my opinion, when revealed, should have resulted in impeachment and imprisonment of the president and staff.

    And where in the article is there any mention — when in reality was there any mention — of Egyptian use of chemical weapons?

  • Anonymous

    Ask your grandparents. It was their idea.

  • Anonymous

    Obama’s foreign policy (if it can be said that he actually has one) is in a shambles. He can’t answer any of Bacevich’s questions because he has no overall plan in which to contextualize it. Stephen Walt said it quite well yesterday:

    “… what we get are a series of ad hoc responses and a grab bag of justifications. First we are going to stay out of Libya, and then we get involved, and then we write it off (more or less). Then we help usher Mubarak out (because we think that’s the way history is running), but then we refuse to call a military coup by its right name and acquiesce in the reimposition of Mubarak-lite. We ratchet up the rhetoric on Syria but limit our direct involvement to humanitarian aid and covert assistance, while turning a blind eye to continued oppression in places like Bahrain. And so on.”

    Add to that the drawing of red lines.

  • JonThomas

    Well, ty for responding, but as you can read, Ceci Pipe was kind enough to explain.

    I was hoping to start a discussion though. It’s funny how people’s morality can be very judgmental when it comes to personal morality (like sexuality, work ethic, etc…) but very liberal when it comes to taking lives in war.

    It’s like, you can’t dress a certain way, but you sure can send young people to kill someone you haven’t met, in a place you’ve never been, and who follow customs you don’t understand!

    Then, perhaps we can start talking about selling weapons, arming insurgents, and who created the chemicals. Most people seem to blank those things out.

  • Anonymous

    So it doesn’t matter whether a government purposely kills many innocent civilians, it only matters HOW they’re killed?

  • Streaky

    “the same people that draw the line and defend human right in Syria these days”

    This is the mistake. They and we are not the same people – the idea that any country’s past crimes or not can be used to mitigate what is done today in a different climate is pretty absurd.

  • Anonymous

    Wait, you think the person who is pointing out that there has been an international agreement banning the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and that at least acknowledging that long-standing, serious commitment should precede any decision to ignore it is “liberal” about taking lives?

    The ban was put in place after the horrors of WWI. You want to see the “liberal” taking of lives, let this precedent of a national leader gassing his own people with no consequence stand.

  • A nonny moose

    I suppose it is obvious to anyone who reads here, that the current situation is a carbon copy of 10 years ago with Iraq instead of Syria. Here is an easy, if primitive way to spread the message outside the blogging world. (a simplistic chain letter / guerilla advertising campaign that’s easy to use!)

    Thanks for the great article!

  • Bev Mabry

    I’d have done better to say – would be better to give examples of our “double standards” and failed involvements in recent years in the middle east. and I don’t think the hot stove example is especially relevant here either! very simplistic.

  • Anonymous

    Very simplistic was all that was required. And, really, your original post suggested keeping it simple might be best.

    And after all that, I’m still not really sure what you’re trying to say.

  • Robin

    Thanks, You have a good point. Stay in the discussion.

  • Ceci Pipe

    The USA will go in, because it’s politically convenient to do so. It won’t work out, and as soon as Assad is out of power then the USA will no longer be wanted in the region. Even now some groups don’t want the USA in the region, so it’s going to become a mess very quickly same as Iraq and Afghanistan with no clear “Good Guys” and “Bad Guys”. Or they’ll just bomb Assad’s military buildings till they’re rubble and al-Nusra will get themselves a country. Assuming of course none of the Arab states are stirring things up, always a possibility.

    There will be token opposition from the other parties, but nothing big because if they advocated doing nothing and the death toll went into the millions with pictures of sarin attacks on CNN then they’d lose the next election. So token acceptence, token appeal, then play whichever one seems the best at next election banking on no-one remembering they went for both sides.

    It works most of the time, more often than intervention does. 😛

  • Bagadonuts

    No mainstream pics or it didn’t happen.

  • Bev Mabry

    the hot stove example is not relevant (too simplistic. international politics is way more complicated.)

    more current examples of American screw-ups are most relevant: Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan.

  • Ronna Wilson

    Any excuse will do to use our military how else can you justify cutting domestic programs medicare,head start, schools, etc. It is horrible to think a government would intentionally gas its people because they didn’t agree with them on policy. It is easier to starve them slowly, let them die because they have no medical care,and show them how futile it is to fight against government policy. It may take longer to get rid of your opposition but it is a lot quieter and you don’t stir up a global outcry.

  • Barb

    It is maddening to see how soon the major media including supposedly left leaning MSNBC (With some exception, thank you Chris Hayes) reinforce the drumbeat to war.

    Even if the chemical weapons attack was done by the Syrian Regime, what good is sending cruise missiles going to do: Does it make sense to have the consequence for killing people to be killing more people. I agree there do need to be consequences, but since when did “consequences” and military action become synonymous.

  • JonThomas

    “I agree there do need to be consequences, but since when did “consequences” and military action become synonymous.”


  • Anonymous

    We all know what this is about: in the late 1800’s, the iron-fisted Lincoln regime waged a bloody and destructive campaign, slaughtering his own people by the thousands and heartlessly instilling terror into his countrymen for daring to oppose him. When he finally succeeded in crushing the resistance, his powerful propaganda machines churned through the devastation that he wrought as though it was a brilliant humanitarian victory. Now, years later, Obama is showing his gritty determination to make sure that the same fate doesn’t befall another country.

  • RobTinVA

    Why should we posit that the Syrian regime is responsible? I’m far from convinced.

  • Anonymous

    The Mail withdrew the story, apologised and paid damages to the people named in the email.
    There is a story still out there that the videos of the aftermath of the attacks were posted online the day before the attack is reported to have taken place. YouTube claims this is due to the videos being date stamped in CA regardless of where they were uploaded.
    However the real problem is the double standards (i.e. hypocrisy) on display from the US and UK and their real goals in promoting the military action and why the French and German governments want to take part in the hit.

  • Anonymous

    Two wrongs DO NOT make one right!!

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Maybe a new box of crayons with some different colors…on the table, not just the box of red crayons.

  • Jim

    Between 1991 & 1996 the US killed half a million children in Iraq by
    destroying the water supply. This was a war crime. US govt. documents
    were declassified that showed how we planned this & even predicted
    in advance what diseases would occur in epidemic proportions. The
    documents made clear that children & the elderly were not collateral
    damage, they were intended targets. Since no one bombed us for this,
    we apparently didn’t cross any red lines. To read about this look up
    “secret behind the sanctions nagy”

    In 1996, when asked if killing a half million children was worth it,
    Secretary of State Albright said, “I think this is a very hard choice,
    but the price–we think the price is worth it.” To read about that,
    search for: fair I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we
    think the price is worth it.

    It is heartening to see that the US is so concerned about the claimed improprieties of other countries.

  • Neal Camp

    What a bunch of intellectual crap. Enough talk. Let’s have action of some kind. Nobody of his ilk give a damn about the sufferings of the ordinary Syrian people.

  • Anonymous

    The imaginary “red line” postulated by Obama has been crossed by Syria and mentioned over and over again in the media. How does that justify our bombing Syria? Isn’t that returning what they did in kind? Where are the statesmen we used to have in this country? I sure haven’t heard many today, except for the former UN Rep. Blix and one other. Most, especially Kerry, sounded like it was Iraq all over again. When will we ever learn? Is the answer still blowing in the wind?

  • Anonymous

    Hey Neal – you are right. Immediate action is needed. So when are you enlisting???

  • Neal Camp

    There are no parallels with Iraq. Simplistic thinking.

  • Neal Camp

    I’ve done my thing. I am 84 years old. A little past my prime. Besides who said anything about military action? That is box thinking.
    What do you propose ffor stopping the sufferings of ordinary Syrians?

  • Anonymous

    “What a bunch of intellectual crap!” Let us hope, Mr 84 Year Old, that your doctor does not take care of you in such an action-first, ask-questions-later approach. What the military does is lethal. It should be used carefully.

  • Neal Camp

    Bad analogy. Of course the military is lethal but so is inaction. Just ask thousands of displaced, maimed, gassed ordinary citizens.

  • Neal Camp

    NO answer?

  • Tupak Huehuecoyotl

    ECONOGENICS: The Wars of Petropolis
    – Economics of the hydrocarbon industry “Pipeline Wars” in Syria. The
    pipeline route to feed this project through Syria is NOW highlighted by the
    recent CHEMICAL WEAPONS attacks attributed to the Assad regime, in the PROXY WARS being waged over the control and
    profits to be made by CHALLENGING the monopoly of the Soviet Union over
    delivery of these resources, namely middle east petroleum and natural gas
    deposits, to the European markets.

    Proxy wars, proxy countries, PROXIDENT OBAMA.

    Question for the US Public and Congress: How and
    what does the $10 billion deal between Exxon Mobile and Qatar Petroleum
    International have to do with the call for military intervention in Syria by