Today’s L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:
A prominent member of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported “strong, concrete suspicions” that sarin may have been used by rebel forces. The member in question, Carla Del Ponte, is no dilettante in such matters, having served as a prosecutor with the International Criminal Court. And although conspiracy theories remain, is it too fanciful to suggest that, given the unsavory character of some elements of the rebel Syrian National Coalition, such egregious action may have taken place?
The only problem with “red lines” comes when one may have to cross them. In that regard, is it also too conspiratorial a thought that the red line might be deliberately crossed by the other side to bring us in?
This is not to suggest anything other than abhorrence at the use of weapons of mass destruction by any party in the conflict. It is merely to say that President Obama‘s cautious approach is the right one.
David C. Speedie
The writer is the director of the U.S. Global Engagement Program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
Majid Rafizadeh offers compelling reasons for the United States to avoid any military involvement in Syria. After years of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the installation of new governments, battles and deaths still occur in those countries; Syria risks a similar fate from U.S. intervention.
Surely our best course of action is to do as Rafizadeh suggests: to be one of the countries that “join together to address suffering” and to “address the urgent medical and basic needs of Syrians.” This is a role Americans can do well.
As Rafizadeh concludes, given the complexities and uncertainties about the future in Syria, “The way forward can only be shaped by Syrians.”
Rolling Stone is running Doug Brinkley’s interview with Vice President Joe Biden, and for those of us who barely have time to breathe, The Week has seven fascinating highlights: Vice President Biden talks Syria, gay marriage, and why he and Obama are “simpatico.”
One of those highlights goes a little something like this:
Now, I love John McCain — I just went out to do an event for him. We used to be close friends, and we’re trying to get that back a little bit. Campaigns have a way of causing those things to wane…. But here’s where we are with regard to Syria: With all the credibility we’ve gained in the world, we don’t want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying “weapons of mass destruction.”
Vice President Biden is a wise, wise man.
But apparently, the Obama administration still doesn’t want to look back, only forward, when it comes to considering prosecuting BushCo for war crimes. And that is not very wise.
Oy. Via TP.
You can find the entire transcript here. Here are a few excerpts. Please note, there were no questions about jobs, jobs, jobs. None, none, none.
And what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them; we don’t have chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened. And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts.
That’s what the American people would expect. And if we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do. There may be objections even among some people in the region who are sympathetic with the opposition if we take action. So, you know, it’s important for us to do this in a prudent way.
But the important point I want to make here is that we already are deeply engaged in trying to bring about a solution in Syria. It is a difficult problem. But even if chemical weapons were not being used in Syria, we’d still be thinking about tens of thousands of people, innocent civilians, women, children, who’ve been killed by a regime that’s more concerned about staying in power than it is about the well-being of its people. And so we are already deeply invested in trying to find a solution here.
Ed Henry: (Really, Ed, Benghazi? Seriously? Oh yeah, he’s from Fox)
And on the Benghazi question, I know pieces of the story have been litigated, and you’ve been asked about it. But there are people in your own State Department saying they’ve been blocked from coming forward, that they survived the terror attack and they want to tell their story. Will you help them come forward and just say it once and for all?
Ed, I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody’s been blocked from testifying. So what I’ll do is I will find out what exactly you’re referring to. What I’ve been very clear about from the start is that our job with respect to Benghazi has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies not just in the Middle East but around the world are safe and secure and to bring those who carried it out to justice.
But I’ll find out what exactly you’re referring to.
Mr. President, you are a hundred days into your second term. On the gun bill, you put, it seems, everything into it to try to get it passed. Obviously, it didn’t. Congress has ignored your efforts to try to get them to undo these sequester cuts. There was even a bill that you threatened to veto that got 92 Democrats in the House voting yes. So my question to you is do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?
Well, if you put it that way, Jonathan — (laughter) — maybe I should just pack up and go home. (Laughter.) Golly. You know, the — I think it’s — it’s a little — (chuckles) — as Mark Twain said, you know, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.
Mr. President, as you’re probably aware, there’s a growing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, among prisoners there. Is it any surprise, really, that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?
Well, it is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo, which is why, when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo.
I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo. I think — well, you know, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.
Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country.
I’m going to go back at this. I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.
And it’s not sustainable.
Then do something already (scroll).
Thankfully, someone out there is covering the recurring drumbeat, the one that seems to be the kneejerk reaction, especially of those on the right, and often of those we affectionately describe as “chickenhawks.”
It often seems like Chris Hayes speaks for me personally, because I shudder when I see Congress members urging President Obama to repeat mistakes made by GW Bush, egging him on to act before knowing all the facts, not hearing what he wants to hear.
Now he’s repeating that concern regarding Syria:
“Question mark.” You know, there is this thing we do in cable news. Sometimes magazines do it too. You want to grab someone’s attention but the thing you want to say is just too irresponsible to get away with or stand behind. So, for example, maybe I want to say, in discussing Lindsay Graham’s demagoguery in constitutional due process, “Lindsey Graham, comma, Constitution hater.” So no, instead what we would say is, “Lindsey Graham, Constitution hater?” Since you are asking a question, you don’t have to stand behind what you are asserting.
The real take away from the hearing should have been that Chechnya is a massively complicated place, a place of tremendous suffering and pain and violence on both the part of Russian security forces– We’re waging a brutal war on terror that involves kidnapping people from their homes and disappearing them– and jihadists who are blowing up innocent civilians left and right.
But it’s also a battle that has not of yet conclusively come to our shores. In fact, this is what the head of one of the most extremist groups of Chechnya said after the Boston Marathon bombings. “The Caucasian mujahedin are not fighting against the United States of America. We are at war with Russia…”
There is however another threat in another country that now has our attention. Chemical weapons and Syria. Even though our country’s intelligence community quite carefully described the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria with the qualifier had the qualifier that they had made the determination, quote, “with varying degrees of confidence.” That sounds sort of like “Chemical weapons?” Question mark?
It’s not an accident that that’s grabbing our attention in the wake of the Boston bombing. Our fear centers are primed in the wake of Boston. Understandably so. But that’s also when we tend to make our very worst decisions.
Here is the entire segment:
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Lt. Col Barry Wingard is the lawyer for Gitmo detainee Fayiz Al-Kandari. For their ongoing story + related topics, please click on the link below:
Kuwaiti Citizen Detained at Guantanamo since 2002
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