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Aug 27 2013

The Syria attack debate

George Packer of The New Yorker covers both sides in dialogue form.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    colnago80

    Unfortunately, it appears that the do nothing option becomes less viable with each passing day. Apparently, there is now pressure coming from the Arab world for the West to do something. Let’s face it, all the options stink. It would seem that the lest bad option is to target the regime, wasting Assad and his minions, if we can locate them. Possibly, if Assad and his minions are terminated, a negotiated settlement might be possible.

    http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Arab-League-Syria-attack-perpetrators-must-face-justice-324422

  2. 2
    invivoMark

    Aside from protecting Obama’s precious reputation, why is it not viable to not become involved?

  3. 3
    colnago80

    Of course, Obama could always elect to not become involved. Unfortunately, he screwed u;p by drawing a line in the sand and it’s put up or shut up time. If he shuts up, he will lose all credibility. In particular, Bibi is watching and, if he decides that Obama will flinch from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, he will himself come under extreme pressure to “do something”.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    he will lose all credibility

    I defer to your expertise regarding credibility loss, but are you sure Obama has any left to lose?

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    What a debased society the US has become, that killing a bunch of people over the president’s “credibility” is taken seriously.

    The question that should be taken up is, “what to do about a country that is slaughtering its own civilians in a civil war?” That’s (obviously) covered under the international human rights convention, which is generally ignored. The problem is not our “credibility” as vicious war-bringers but whether we have any “credibility” as peace-makers. We don’t. That’s the credibility gap to be concerned with. When you’ve got John Kerry, who participated in anti-civilian search and destroy missions in Vietnam (before deciding it’d be better for his political career to become conveniently anti-war) waggling his finger at Assad about war crimes – ugh, ugh, ugh, fucking ugh! How can sane and decent people follow these horrible thugs??!! (I broadly include everyone from Obama to Assad in that category)

  6. 6
    machintelligence

    Don’t just do something! Stand there!

  7. 7
    Pris P

    I think people are forgetting we escalated this by arming the ‘rebels.’ That’s not to say Assad isn’t a piece of shit but what the hell did The Obama administration expect to happen? I also find it convenient that this latest supposed chemical attack took place a couple days after the U.N. inspectors arrived and only blocks from where they were. And why is the Obama administration in a rush to all of a sudden act on this? Why can’t they wait until the investigation is over and the truth of what happened in Damascus is revealed? We need to stay out of it and stop arming and training the rebels.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/27/216172145/is-it-possible-the-syrian-rebels-not-assad-used-chemical-weapons

  8. 8
    Nick Gotts

    It’s not even certain this was a chemical weapons attack, although it does seem certain a lot of people were poisoned by something. Here, via the BBC are three experts expressing scepticism.

    Experts have expressed several reservations about what exactly the video footage shows and which weapons could have been used.

    “At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people
    that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without
    any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish
    Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    “In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

    Dr Zanders had doubts about claims that a nerve agent was used.

    “I have not seen anybody applying nerve agent antidotes,” he wrote in a blog post. “Nor do medical staff and other people appear to suffer from secondary exposure while carrying or treating victims.”

    Meanwhile Prof Kekule said the symptoms did not fit with
    typical chemical weapons use as the victims did not appear to be
    suffering pain or irritation to their eyes, nose and mouth.

    “Some or perhaps all patients are briefly decontaminated with
    water or water and detergent in the video. The water is spilled over
    the chest, but (at least in the video) not over the face and eyes.”

    As in Iraq in 2003, we see the US and other western governments hurrying to launch an attack before UN investigators have finished their work. What’s the rush? The Assad regime will be no more ready to defend itself in a few weeks than it is now. As in Libya in 2011, we see assurances that the aim is not regime change. Is it surprising Russia and China don’t believe them?

  9. 9
    colnago80

    The link posted seems to indicated that the probabilities are quite low that the opposition had the capability and the access to chemical weapons to pull off this attack, at least according to the “experts” cited. Let’s not forget that the regime has thousands of chemical weapons while no evidence has been provided that the opposition has any. Meanwhile while the West awaits further evidence, there is a claim of another chemical attack by Assad forces.

    http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Activists-Assad-bombs-Damascus-in-renewed-chemical-attack-injuring-20-324508

    It should also be noted that, thus far, the opposition has not received any arms from the US as yet while the regime has received support from Iran and Hizbollah, including thousands of fighters from the latter.

  10. 10
    colnago80

    As for whether chemical weapons were used, a family in Nazareth claims that 21 of their relatives living in the Damascus suburb that is alleged to have been under attack were killed. The photograph in the attached link seems to indicate that there is some substance to the claim as the bodies do not app0ear to have any obvious wounds which would be the case if their were the victims of shelling.

    The family in Nazareth has requested that the bodies be sent to Nazareth for burial. I would be willing to be the ranch that if the Government of Israel agreed to the request, Assad would find an excuse to deny it as an autopsy would reveal whether they died as a result of chemicals. No way would he allow an external autopsy to be performed.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-arab-family-loses-18-in-damascus-attack/

  11. 11
    Nick Gotts

    Press release from MSF, and a follow-up comment from Zanders (scroll down to find it):

    http://www.the-trench.org/apparently-major-chemical-weapons-attack-near-damascus-reported/

    strengthening the evidence that an organophosphorus neurotoxin was involved.

  12. 12
    Pris P

    ‘The opposition has not received arms from the US…’ Except that Obama authorized arms shipments to be sent to Syrian rebels and assigned CIA agents to assist in training th how to use them. That was what the big stink in Ireland was about because they are suppose to remain neutral and there was evidence that weapons were being transported from the US through Dublin on commercial aircraft. Look I get Assad is a dictatorial asswipe but the real issue here is that Iran Syria’s most staunch supporter and that is a threat to US foreign relations, particularly with China. I know most people are aware of that so forgive the redundancy. I support sending medical supplies and food to Syria but sending arms is escalating the situation and the difference is Syria is not Iraq. Everyone hated Saddam, that’s not the case here.

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3438625

  13. 13
    invivoMark

    My thought exactly.

    But even if he did, why is a credibility loss on his part worth losing lives over and entangling ourselves in the affairs of another nation (again)?

    I mean, if I’m worried that my credibility is going to be lost, I don’t go murdering people over it.

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