NYT: Rebel Forces Composed Of Increasing Criminal and Extremist Forces

Rebels-thumbWide-v3A New York Times story is challenging the image advanced by the White House that the rebels forces are largely moderates who are worthy of yet another military intervention by the United States. The story recounts the latest massacre of captured Syrian soldiers as a commander reads a menacing prayer over their clearly beaten bodies before executing them in violation of international law.


The commander, known as “the Uncle,” reads the prayer that “We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.” The soldiers are then executed. Previous news accounts have shown a heavy influence of Al Qaeda in the rebel forces and savage acts of abuse by rebels leaders, including one who cut out and ate the heart of a prisoner. There appears no “red line” on human rights abuses by rebels for President Obama.

When not promising a free war to members, John Kerry has been assuring them that no more than 20 percent are murderous extremists — just one in five. However, the article details how rebel forces are increasingly populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers. For his part, Representative Michael McCaul (R., TX) virtually called Kerry a liar and said that in non-public briefings he was told that half of the opposition fighters were extremists.

With disputes like this, it is no wonder that Nancy Pelosi has adopted a bedtime story approach for selling the war, using language for a population of five-year-olds.

72 thoughts on “NYT: Rebel Forces Composed Of Increasing Criminal and Extremist Forces”

  1. ” we DO have a duty to act when they are violated.”

    I think we differ in two major areas.

    The first is how we evaluate the risk that our actions might promote chemical weapons falling into the hands of radical militias with links to those that want to use the weapons against the west. I think that is a significant risk in this situation. The leaders speaking for intervention do not seem to want to address that issue.

    The second area of disagreement has to do with the nature of our obligation.

    I don’t see how it is possible to get around the fact that the prohibition against these weapons is an international one that gives the US no special standing to act.

    That would seem to leave immanent threat to the US or our allies as the remaining possible justification.

    I am not claiming that it is impossible for the US to intervene to make matters better in Syria. But there do seem to be major obstacles both in the logic for justification and in the practical matter of what and how much to attack.

    The fact is that this situation is fraught with bad possibilities and real risk.

    I do not see why refugee camps would be attacked unless they posed a risk to the regime, for example they were used as bases to attack Syria. Wouldn’t there be some kind of discussion before that happened? Wouldn’t Syria demand that the host country control the camps? Sure, attacks could occur. But that seems a bit down the road right now. I just don’t see that possibility as a justification now.

    1. bfm Those camps are being used for rebel support which is why Syria has been shooting into Turkey. Those camps are where they park their families while they go off to fight. If you take those conventions against the use of chemical weapons seriously, it implies the right to act to enforce the obligations.

  2. “While I doubt that Assad will use poison gas on a massive scale, he will continue to use it when he thinks it will wok most effectively…..

    I am also a bit cynical about why Obama decided to do this current ploy. ”

    I wouldn’t argue against the likelihood of more attacks. But to me before we intervene we need to have some confidence that our actions do not promote CW falling into the hands of even more radical elements that have a commitment to use the weapons on the west. I don’t see much interest in that question among the big promoters for intervention.

    Sometimes the best chance for success mean biding your time for the right opportunity. I just do not seem any good solutions right now.

    I wish I had copied it but I saw a wonderful piece based on the idea that Obama’s actions were actually his ’12 dimensional chess’ approach to assure that the US took no action. Pretty devastating criticism.

    1. I think that you are right in how Obama is using this means to show the peaceniks the consequences of their inaction. If he does nothing after being stopped by acceding to Congress, he can legitimately blame them and the Tea Party for the resulting dead masses. I do think he does want to do the right thing, but he is not going to put his political rear end on the line for it. It will also enable him to ensure the defeat of some very troublesome rebels if he gives them more weapons to keep up a fight that there is now no way for them to ever win if the US does nothing. So by giving them weapons, he can get rid of Al Qeada types by using Assad to do kill them off.

  3. Robert Reich at his blog in the article “Obama’s Political Capital and the Slippery Slope of Syria” observers that:

    “It would be one thing if a strike on Syria was critical to America’s future, or even the future of the Middle East. But it is not. In fact, a strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism. Strikes are never surgical; civilians are inevitably killed. Moreover, the anti-Assad forces have shown themselves to be every bit as ruthless as Assad, with closer ties to terrorist networks.

    Using chemical weapons against one’s own innocent civilians is a crime against humanity, to be sure, but the United States cannot be the world’s only policeman. The UN Security Council won’t support us, we can’t muster NATO, Great Britain and Germany will not join us. Dictatorial regimes are doing horrendous things to their people in many places around the world. It would be folly for us to believe we could stop it all.

    Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are now arguing that a failure to act against Syria will embolden enemies of Israel like Iran and Hezbollah, and send a signal to Iran that the United States would tolerate the fielding of a nuclear device. This is almost the same sort of specious argument — America’s credibility at stake, and if we don’t act we embolden our enemies and the enemies of our allies — used by George W. Bush to justify toppling Saddam Hussein, and, decades before that, by Lyndon Johnson to justify a tragic war in Vietnam.
    It has proven to be a slippery slope: Once we take military action, any subsequent failure to follow up or prevent gains by the other side is seen as an even larger sign of our weakness, further emboldening our enemies.

    Hopefully, Congress will see the wisdom of averting this slope. ”

    What can we add except that Reich has made some important points that deserve serious consideration by anyone interested in this important issue?

  4. One of the strongest claims to support US intervention in Syria is that if the international community does not act to punish the use of chemical weapons then Syria and possibly others will take international inaction as a sign that they can continue to use chemical weapons with impunity. The claim suggest that without international actions the possession of chemical weapons will proliferate, and their use will become common.

    There is certainly that possibility. After all no one knows the future. But the proposition is not supported by evidence. And the evidence we do have suggest that the proposition is just plain wrong.

    It is widely known that in the eighties Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran in a regional war that lasted nearly a decade. In addition, toward the end of that time (circa 1988) Iraq used CW against its minority Kurd population.

    The attacks in the regional war were supported with intelligence reports by what was, arguably, the most powerful and influential nation at that time, the US.

    While there was wide spread acknowledgement of the attacks in the public press at the time, we know there was no official international action to punish these deeds.

    As a result of these events we have direct evidence of what may happen, in regard to the wider use of chemical weapons, when a regional power uses CW against a regional rival.

    After Iraq’s use of chemical weapons with the help of the US, there was no rush by other regional powers to acquire chemical weapons. There was no great effort by other nations to possess chemical weapons. And, perhaps most important of all, until now, 25 year after the fact, there has been no great increase in the use of chemical weapons.

    It could happen that there would be wider use of chemical weapons. But we have a clear example that shows there are many factors and issues that influence the decision to use chemical weapons.

    One factor influencing deployment of chemical weapons is that gas, in many circumstances, is just not very useful as a weapon. Gas weapons are hard disperse with precision and their effects vary widely depending wind and weather. Gas weapons pose as many problems to the troops deploying them as the troops defending against them. That fact explains why chemical weapons such as white phosphorous and napalm are used with regularity while the use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas and nerve agents are comparatively rare.

    Other factors that can influence the used of chemical weapons include the views and actions of allies and trade partners, sanctions, and even public opinion.

    We know that Iraq, after what must be the most extensive use of chemical weapons since the end WWI, seemed to have destroyed most of its stocks of chemical weapons.

    It is striking to note that there was no attack on Iraq by the international community to punish Iraq for its use of chemical weapons. Attacks on Iraq years after the use of chemical weapons had absolutely nothing to do with the earlier use of chemical weapons. The attacks on Iraq occurred because it was a bad regional actor that threatened and attacked its neighbors.

    That lack of international action to punish Iraq for the use of chemical weapons cannot be attributed to ignorance. On the contrary the most powerful and most influential member of the international community at that time, the US, had full understanding of Iraqi culpability in the gas attacks. And the use of chemical weapons by Iraq was widely acknowledge in the popular press at that time.

    So the evidence we have demonstrates that there is no necessity for the international community to punish the use of chemical weapons in order to assure that the use of chemical weapons does not spread. In contrast to the claims of the President, himself, Secretary Kerry, and others within the administration, we know with a certainty that failure by the international community to punish the use of chemical weapons does not necessarily lead to wider use.

    It has to be surprising that national leaders such a Obama, Kerry, Pelosi and others display such a misguided understanding of recent history.

    How could any reasonable person trust their judgment and leadership in these serious matters?

  5. “If you’re not willing to do those things, you aren’t serious.”

    I can not say that I agree with you entirely.

    But I do agree that our great technological superiority has put us in a position that distorts the debate regarding war. We are now living through a golden age of superior military technology that will not last.

    I would argue that there is an asymmetry in the discussion of war.

    The expected number killed may demonstrate that the plan for war is irrational. Reasonable people can conclude that the plan for war is just too costly in human life and should not go forward.

    But expectations of low death toll cannot justify going to war. Life is too precious and war too dangerous to ever be justified by a calculation that this particular war is cheap in terms of our human life.

    Yet there are those in this debate, Kerry is one, who assure that the risk to US life is minimal and argue as though there can be no reasonable objection to the plan so long as US troops will be held out of harms way.

    Any justification for war has to involve far more than the simple counting up of US lives lost.

    There is also the false assertion that this is not really an act of war – only a limited strike that will last only days or hours.

    Clearly those who claim that the actions intended are not war and that we should not be so concerned because the risk to US life is low are not trying to illuminate this solemn subject.

    Elimination of chemical weapons is a worthy goal. The administration has yet to show that Syria is a reasonable place to wage that fight.

    There is some risk that the use of chemical weapons will continue if the international community does not act. The burden for the administration is show that our action will decrease the danger not increase it, spread it further and endanger even greater numbers.

    1. BFM I am sorry, but our lack of response has resulted in further use of them in SYRIA now. in fact, our lack of response in Iraq is now being used as an argument against acting now. So we are now going down the slippery slope with acceleration. While I doubt that Assad will use poison gas on a massive scale, he will continue to use it when he thinks it will wok most effectively.

      I am also a bit cynical about why Obama decided to do this current ploy. It seems like he is trying to fashion a case for him to avoid having to act against Assad for using such weapons. He knew it would be a hard sell, he knew most of the Tea Party types would be against any military action he takes, he knew the radical pacifists will be opposed, and it will let him off the hook if Assad goes whole hog after Congress shoots him down. Then when all the pacifists start screaming about all the dead, he can take cover in their refusal to do anything now. It is a win/win situation for him either way it goes.

      Since I am not motivated by such considerations, I am for using limited air strikes to make further use of such weapons too costly for Assad. I understand why China and Russia are opposed to any military action, since they have places and situations where they wish to use such weapons within their own borders. If Congress votes against retaliation for using poison gas, they can be assured that nothing at all will be done when they use them against their own people in Tibet, and Chechnya. So while I agree that not acting will ensure the further use of such weapons on a massive scale, even in Syria, not acting will ensure that Assad will win. That will bring peace of a sort to Syria, that of the grave.

  6. lottakatz:

    I agree with you on the Carter presidency. I believe he was one of the most decent men to ever hold high office in this country, and he was pilloried for his efforts. I have had a case of creeping cynicism ever since his reelection defeat.

  7. Mike A, If there is an overarching policy I don’t know what it is either. We should start a club.

    Protect the oil is all I can imagine. That makes the Saudi’s job one for us.

    1. “Protect the oil is all I can imagine. ”

      There is also the ‘don’t let the GOP make the administration look soft on national defense’ and the ‘Obama is a powerful leader’ part of the policy.

      These are all worthy goals.

      But one must wonder if it is possible to achieve them while spending less than 5,000 KIA and umpteen gazillion dollars.

  8. Michael Murry: “Regarding the AUMF — or any other law — Richard Nixon proved that the American people can run the President out of office over “a third-rate burglary” if they have a mind to do so. ….”
    ————-

    I recall Nixon and I recall saying “F**K! We won” when Johnson made his announcement. I recall saying “Ford will pardon him” when Nixon announced and being told I was way too cynical -he wouldn’t dare”. Then he did.

    Then we elected Carter and I recall what happened to him.

    I lost something after I watched the Carter presidency and haven’t regained it. I have been given no reason to.

    Changing the President doesn’t change the trajectory. Not anymore.

    I wish just removing the President would do the trick but I have no faith in that. I wouldn’t mind Biden as President though so if you get your wish, which isn’t unreasonable, I’m not going to shed any crocodile tears for effect. If there was a way to do that as well as round up all of the Bush administration war criminals and drop them into Spain’s hands it would make my day.

  9. I have yet to hear a single coherent justification for taking any military action against Syria. In fact, I readily confess that I have no earthly idea what our foreign policy objectives in the Middle East are anymore. However, we must be the only nation in the world prepared to wage a proxy war on behalf of Israel and Saudi Arabia simultaneously.

  10. I agree with bob krauten in the comment above. Some little bombings here and there will not affect these pirates of Syria. Maybe a couple of huge nuclear bombs.

  11. OK, tough guys,
    Assad, and Syria, need to be blown to hell? Cruise missiles are for sissies.
    Declare war.
    Re-institute the draft. Join the infantry.
    Invade Syria, and place it under U.S. martial law.
    I mean, if you’re really serious about this.

    If you’re not willing to do those things, you aren’t serious.
    If you’re not serious, you’re dilettantes.
    Shut the hell up.
    I cleaned that last admonition up, a bit. You’re welcome.

  12. 1. all qaaeda translated means the toilet appropriate name far as i can see.

    2. this 3rd phony ww3 has nothing to do with syria gassing iits own people we already know thats a lie.. this war is about the syrian pipeline.

    every war we fought nato condoned as that is its purpose and all wars are/were about showwing a country they are owned by israel and will do what they’re told to do. those who objected were destroyed and suicided/killed

    a few months back i posted that crap will hit the scandal for obama is coming real soon. and when it does the people will need to try to focus on behind the scenes and not on obama.

    he is a rockefeller so the scandal involving him will not harm him in anyway. much as it hasnt harmed wall street ,israel,, nor the big banks..

    Pls forgive my grammar im trying to fight thru the side effecccts of chemo

  13. lottakatz,

    Regarding the AUMF — or any other law — Richard Nixon proved that the American people can run the President out of office over “a third-rate burglary” if they have a mind to do so. Nixon’s attempted enunciation of an “above the law” principle for the Imperial President went down in flames along with him. And justifiably so. One of the U.S. Congress’s finest moments, rivaled only by cutting off funds for the American War on Southeast Asia in 1975.

    President Obama, on the other hand, has left the legacy of president-as-murderer of a 16-year-old American boy and his American father, as well as countless others condemned to death every Tuesday without indictment, trial, or verdict at a secret White House Star Chamber seance. So, the Legacy of Lawlessness does not belong to Richard Nixon — who left a foul stain on the Presidency for a lot of reasons — but to Barack Obama.

    I don’t know if the House of Representatives can rise to the occasion as it did forty years ago, but it needs to do so for the good of our country now and in the future. Of course, partisan politics will play its part in the coming crisis, but the opposition to another needless foreign war stretches across many political fault lines, and that encourages even a pessimistic misfortune teller like me to hope for a long-time-in-coming non-partisan refutation of the amok Imperial Presidency.

    I voted for Barack Obama once, in 2008, because I wanted to punish two war-whores — You-Know-Her and Mad Dog John McCain — for stupidly allowing Deputy Dubya Bush to lie our country into two predictable disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. I kept wondering how these two malignant morons, who supposedly lived through the Vietnam disaster as I did, could possibly have supported such idiocy. But they did, and I saw voting for Barack Obama as the only way i could see to punish them. When he won, I felt certain that he would sensibly liquidate both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan within a year, as he easily could have, and then devote the rest of his presidency to worthwhile domestic legislation. But the elixir of absolute power overwhelmed him and he turned into little more than a copy of George W. Bush on an average day. So I didn’t vote for him again in 2012. I didn’t vote for anyone. I had no choice to vote for.

    I want to see President Obama removed from office for violating the War Powers Act in Libya (no statute of limitations on war crimes) and for ordering the deaths of American citizens without a trace of due process. In my judgment, the House already has sufficient grounds for voting articles of impeachment, and if he insists on personally starting a war with Syria, arrogantly flouting the will of the people, then Congress should tell him to go piss up a rope. Then they should hang him with it if he won’t listen. He brought on this needless crisis himself. No one forced him into it. So he and his stupid, vainglorious war in Syria need to go down in ignominious defeat. Then things can start getting better again.

    I Hate War, in case I haven’t made that clear by now.

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