Kerry Suggests Assad Has One Week To Avoid Attack While Promising Obama Only Wants An “Unbelievably Small” Military Campaign

220px-John_Kerry_official_Secretary_of_State_portraitWe previously discussed the curious step of President Obama seeking approval for a new war while insisting that he does not need such authorization to attack Syria. Now, Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to a one week period for Syria to comply with U.S. demands or presumably face an attack. It so happens that the Senate is set to vote this week, but opposition in this country is extremely high to yet another military intervention by the Administration. Moreover, unsuccessful in his earlier pitch for a free war, Kerry is now trying to sell the world on an “unbelievably small” military campaign. The U.S. seems to be saying that President Obama just needs the world to let him attack briefly to show that he cannot be dismissed or mocked in his earlier red line announcement.  However, Kerry suggested a new red line in turning over control of the weapons and Russia has now announced that it will ask Syria to put chemical weapons under international control. That would undermine further the U.S. rationale for war if Russia says that it is moving to comply with Kerry’s demand. However, State Department handlers are trying to again walk back from the Secretary’s public statements.

Kerry was speaking on Monday alongside his British counterpart, William Hague, when he set a new red line for war. He said “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week – turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

As has become a common scene with Kerry, a team of State Department officials quickly rushed in to clean up after his latest slip. The Department insisted that the reference to a week was merely “rhetorical,” though the Administration continues to insist that Obama could simply ignore a negative vote in Congress.

I previously represented members of Congress in challenging Obama’s intervention in the Libyan civil war without a declaration from Congress. In the case, President Obama insisted that he alone determines what is a war and therefore when he needs a declaration. Since the court would not recognize standing to challenge the war, it left Obama free to engage in war operations in any country of his choosing.

While Kerry conveyed a week deadline and did not indicate any restriction on unilateral U.S. action, the State Department asked people to ignore his precise words and just take the statement as an attempt to show that Assad has “a history of playing fast and loose with the facts.” Of course, as opposed to those how play fast and loose with words.

I particularly liked the comment for Hague when asked about the decision of Parliament not to allow Britain to enter another American-led war. Hague responded that “[t]hese are the two greatest homes of democracy and we work in slightly different ways and we each have to respect how each other’s democracies work.” Yes, the difference appears that the British government respects the need for a legislative consent for war while the United States now has an unabashed Imperial Presidency.

Source: Guardian

152 thoughts on “Kerry Suggests Assad Has One Week To Avoid Attack While Promising Obama Only Wants An “Unbelievably Small” Military Campaign”

  1. By November of 2004, as the U.S. debacle in Iraq began to accelerate in earnest, Military historian Martin Van Creveld looked ahead to the inevitable defeat and withdrawal of U.S. forces which would occur seven years later. The previous U.S. debacle in Southeast Asia provided him with all the relevant factors necessary to reach the predictable conclusion. He explained Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did and this prescient prognostication bears repeating each and every time another U.S. president insists that he just has to start another war against some third-world country that never attacked the United States and couldn’t possibly defend itself against the mighty U.S. military machine.

    (In conclusion):

    The most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: “any comparison between the two armies… was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate.”

    That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old – even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife – will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces – whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on – things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

    In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.

    Actually, the U.S. military did learn one thing from its disastrous defeat in Vietnam: namely, do not let anyone take pictures of the retreat from the debacle. As it turned out in the end (December 2011), the last U.S. forces in Iraq waited until dark and then made a midnight run for the border with Kuwait. Unlike the celebrated rush into the sand-trap shooting gallery, no hordes of media personalities rode along to chronicle the exciting trip. So in all honesty, one cannot claim that the U.S. military never learns anything. It has certainly learned how to manage public relations back in the nation’s capital. And that virtual-war-imagining, General David Betray-Us has often said, counts every bit as much as actually winning real wars in the real world.

    The U.S. military needs to stick to making Hollywood propaganda war movies. The U.S. military always wins those ones, and no real people have do die or wind up homeless refugees.

  2. BFM: While we’re at it, we should include the chestful of fruit salad Ronald Reagan picked up from a grateful government for his valor in WWII.

  3. “I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.” — Inspector Clouseau, A Shot in the Dark (1964)

    I just suspect everyone. Safer that way.

  4. “There is no possible way to establish that Assad ordered the attacks under your criterion.” — randy rooster

    “I did not state any criteria to determine Assad’s culpability.” — bigfatmike

    Yes, bfm, randy rooster somehow thinks that he can shift the burden of proof from the accuser — who properly must prove his own case — to the one accused, who bears no burden of proving anything. You know, that ancient “innocent until proven guilty” thing.

    Here again we see precisely the slimy dialectical gambit pursued so effectively by Five-Deferment-Dick Cheney and his tool Deputy Dubya Bush in their campaign of lies leading up to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. To wit:

    (1) We accuse Saddam Hussein of having Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    (2) We have no proof of this, but we defy the accused to show us the WMD he doesn’t have as “proof” that he doesn’t have them.

    (3) But Saddam hasn’t done what he cannot do so that means he must have the WMD that he doesn’t. THIS MEANS WAR!

    Bashar al-Assad doesn’t have to prove anything just because the United States accuses him of something. The United States must prove its own accusations. The United States hasn’t done that — again. The United States really ought to shut up about things it cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt. President Obama’s rank incompetence and overweening arrogance has gone beyond simple embarrassment for our country. It now approaches Cheney-Bush levels — i.e., the nadir — of farce and fallacy.

  5. Jill ” I’ll purchase a Mission Accomplished banner ”

    Heck yeah, I will even toss in for a studly, custom tailored, flight suit if anybody is taking up a collection.

  6. Peace wins. War loses.

    “Obama was still kind of hoisted on the self-created petard of his various pronouncements about Syria’s CW– not only the various ‘Red Lines’ statements he made earlier, but also all the recent statements claiming a surety of knowledge about what happened August 21st that has never yet been backed up by the public provision of any evidence. Here in the United States as around the world, there were loud calls for him to present his evidence. He never has. As this made-in-Moscow deal goes forward (which I expect it will), Obama will likely be relieved that he never has to show what, by many accounts, seems to have been a very weak evidentiary hand.” — Helena Cobban (a rather well-informed commenter on the Middle East)

    “The first man to raise a fist is the one who has run out of ideas.” H. G. Wells

    It begins to look like other people have better ideas than war and President Obama — who never had an idea in the first place — can see that he has to lower his raised fist. Good.

  7. “… there is no basis for rational discussion.” randy rooster

    With randy rooster still banging the war drums — safely remote from any of the actual fighting he wishes on others — rational discussion surely has no basis.

    Bottom line: The American people will not support any war on Syria, and launching a missile attack on Syria absolutely qualifies as an act of war. The vote for war in Congress started out in big trouble and has now passed beyond hope of resuscitation. The Russians and Syrians — for their own interests — have saved Obama’s face, if he wants to save it. Any further official talk of wanting a war — even calling it a cakewalk kinetic “action” instead of “war” — will fail. President Obama would do well to withdraw his empty threats and bluster. The American people have already taken those off the table for him. And he should thank the American people for that.

    Additionally, I really don’t get all this U.S. hostility towards Iran. I mean, I understand the Saudi interest in putting down seventy-five million Shia Muslim “heretics” and I know that the Apartheid Zionist Entity wants every Muslim country wrecked and writhing in civil war, but those are foreign interests that do not concern the United States. Iran does not threaten the United States Iran doesn’t even threaten its nearest neighbors. Iran hasn’t invaded another country for something like 250 years. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and as a signatory of that agreement has every right to a civilian nuclear power program. When the Apartheid Zionist Entity signs that same treaty and divests itself of its own two hundred nuclear weapons, then the United States — which sponsors the A.Z.E. in its flouting of “international norms” — then we might discuss the “problem” of Iran. Until then, I don’t see any problem with Iran that simply talking to them and exploring mutual interests cannot resolve.

    Oh, yes. One more thing. The United States should resurrect its former salutary practice of jailing war-profiteers. That alone would solve many, many real problems for the United States.

  8. Darren: Your proposal ranks with the Marshall Plan as an example of statesmanship. It also reminds me of an episode of South Park, which I mean as higher praise. Does anyone remember the name of that episode? It involved Jimbo & Ned going to Mexico to score for fireworks…

  9. “BFM Sorry but there are no such things as “rogue” military units unless they are carrying out a coup. ”

    What ever you call ‘rogue’ units, the fact is that the administration has brought up, discussed, and dismissed the possibility that Syrian military units launched the attacks without authorization. It remains to be seen if that dismissal is reasonable.

    We just do not know what the evidence is regarding this possibility. Some of the administrations remarks (the panicked phone call to verify information) support belief that action was taken by ‘rogue’ military units as much as belief that units were acting under orders. We just do not know.

    “There is no possible way to establish that Assad ordered the attacks under your criterion,”

    I did not state any criteria to determine Assad’s culpability.

    I stated clearly that the administration has not offered proof and that sources close to the administration have stated that the administration has only circumstantial evidence.

    I think you would be much more persuasive if you argued against what I actually said rather than what you make up that I said.

    “In short, you declare Assad innocent of any crimes committed by his forces under virtually all circumstances.”

    I have not declared Assad innocent of any thing under any circumstance what so ever.

    I have stated that the administration has not offered proof, and they have not.

    Again, I think this would be much less time consuming if you would confine your remarks to what I actually said and not what you make up that I said.

    ” He can claim that he never ordered any such thing and you absolve him of all guilt. ”

    I have never absolved Assad of guilt of anything. I have never quoted Assad or referred to his remarks.

    I did remark that Assad and his administration have the reputation of being ‘stone cold psychopathic killers’. Now if you press me on this point I have to confess that I have no personal knowledge of whether Assad and members of his administration are, in fact, psychopathic killers. But I have heard that asserted and did repeat it.

    “You also dodge the main point which is that Assad’s forces said that they did not even have such weapons until today, when Assad admitted that they did.”

    I wish you would announce the main points before you accuse me of dodging them. I had no idea that the time of acquisition of CW for Syria was even a minor point let alone a major point.

    If I had realized that the time that Syria acquired chemical weapons interested you then I would have responded that to the best of my knowledge Syria has had chemical weapons for decades but that I will have to Google and Wiki to find a more definitive answer.

    “Then you state that Obama has told multiple lies about this situation…
    you decline to state anything specific.”

    I did emphatically state that Obama and the highest officials in his administration have, beyond the possibility of doubt or debate, lied numerous times, on camera, to the American people.

    However, I did not state that the administration lied about Syria. My point about Syria was that the administration has not presented proof and the spokespersons have introduced irrelevant tangents in the conversation to avoid discussion of important points.

    However, we do know Obama is a bald faced liar. We are not talking about a difference of opinion, accidental misstatement of fact, or a technical detail here.

    For example, Obama on national TV stated that NSA spying against the American public was limited and related to ongoing investigations of terrorism.

    On the contrary, We now know that NSA is well on its way to capturing and storing virtually every packet transmitted over the internet regardless of any investigation what so ever.

    Unless you believe that essentially every one in the entire US who uses the internet is involved in a plot against the US then the assertion by the President that NSA surveillance is limited and related to on going investigations is ludicrous, and a lie.

    It is hard to imagine that the Presidents lies could be any more significant or damaging to liberty. The lies relate to the protection the open democratic society from the terrors and abuses of the police state. This is the measure of the man we have entrusted with our safety and liberty.

    And others in Obama’s administration are also documented liars. There is the case of Susan Rice and her reading of CIA talking points regarding Benghazi. This case is bizarre. I, personally, do not believe that the administration did such bad job in the difficult situation in Benghazi. Nevertheless, the administration decided to tell lies rather than the truth.

    And there is the case of Clapper, himself. James Clapper has not even tried to deny that he lied. His response what that his statement was the ‘least untrue statement’ he could make. Unless my logic fails me a ‘least untrue statement’ is still an untrue statement. And by definition and common convention, knowingly making an untrue statement is a lie.

    Even the implication by Clapper that he had to tell the ‘least untrue statement’ is lie. In similar situations, others have simply stated the data is classified and offered further discussion in closed session.

    Clapper lied by making a false statement and Clapper lied by implying that he had no choice in making the false statement.

    President Obama, Susan Rice James Clapper and others have lied to the American public.

    Why would anyone trust a liar? Obama and his administration officials are documented liars. Why should we trust them?

    “So to say that Obama wants a war is an outright lie on the part of his opponents.”

    If any of Obama’s opponents asserted that Obama wanted a war it possibly could be a lie. Or it could possibly be a misunderstanding of what Obama actually means when he speaks. After all he is a documented liar. Surely there is some room for confusions about the true meaning of the words when President Obama speaks?

    In any case I have never claimed that Obama wants a war. My concern is that Obama’s actions might lead to war through unintended consequence. I would argue that unintended consequence leading to war is a reasonable way to characterize much of the US experience since Viet Nam.

    “You also missed the point that by letting Congress vote on any attack, he avoids the fallout when Assad uses more gas and kills hundreds of thousands of innocents”

    You are correct, I have not addressed the interesting question of why Obama bounced this to the congress.

    And you are right that I have not tried to allocate blame for Assad’s future actions.

    I think both these questions are secondary to the immediate question related to the rush to war with Syria.

    “The other problem is that it could only be Assad since the rebels do not have access to such a massive stockpile of those weapons.”

    That could certainly be true. However, there are reports, presumable from administration leaks, that US intelligence lost tracks of, literally, truck loads of CW munitions when they were transferred. These truck loads of CW munitions could be in the possession of anyone. We just do not know.

    BTW, it does not take “a massive stockpile of those weapons” to kill approximately 1,400 or even 5,000 people with nerve agents which are among the most deadly substances known.

    If you want to take the word of a demonstrated, documented liar with out
    supporting evidence, that is you privilege.

    Some of us, however, will reserve judgment till more evidence is available.

    1. BFM “In any case I have never claimed that Obama wants a war”
      Then later on in the same post
      “I think both these questions are secondary to the immediate question related to the rush to war with Syria.” Thanks for the laugh.

      More seriously,you offer NO means at all to hold Assad responsible for the gas attacks. You give him a pass or the benefit of the doubt on this and blame Obama for lies on OTHER subjects. Thus he MUST be lying on this. That is more than a little imbalanced. Whether or not Assad directly and immediately ordered the attacks is irrelevant, unless he puts the officers responsible on trial in open court and they admit to doing it. Like Poindexter did when he fell on his sword to save Reagan from impeachment for the Iran Contra scandal. He got prison sentence by the way. Assad as the head of Syria is responsible for all the acts of his officers and Army.

      As you well know I have spoken out against Obama on a number of subjects and only an epigone would take everything he said as the absolute truth on any and all things. We have to look at the present facts as we know them, using common sense and the facts as we can get them.

      The fact is that after facing the probability of an ATTACK, not a war as you and virtually ALL of the opponents state, Assad has finally decided to tell the truth that he does indeed have poison gas and will get rid of them. If he is held to that, then it is even better than an actual attack., but according to all on this site Obama will be outraged that he has missed the chance for a war.

      Then nobody has tried to explain how using planes and missiles equals sending 100,000+ troops as Bush did in Iraq. Then there is NO explanation of how we avoided sending in US troops in Libya if such attacks lead inevitably to an all out war. Then nobody can explain why Israel is not now engaged in an all out war with Syria since they just finished a massive number of air strikes themselves last week in Syria. I guess that Israel gets a pass from Assad, and the US will suffer mass warfare from afar! In short, I do not see a whole lot of rational thinking on the antistrike folks part.

  10. BFM, I agree! It’s a fabulous idea. I’ll purchase a Mission Accomplished banner for Obama and photoshop it behind the aircraft carrier of his choice.

  11. “I will drive up to Tulalip’s Boom City and buy the most poweful reservation issue fireworks available. (The ones that you can get by flashing a $100 bill and meeting the guy in the pickup truck behind the stand)”

    I am shocked and awe inspired by your proposal.

  12. Gene: “None of which addresses the long term problem though of the Saudis being theocrats, shit disturbers and as trustworthy as a wolverine on PCP, but it does play into what seems to be the overall strategy of Western influenced/Saudi control of the region.

    That being said, that anyone in Washington thinks the Saudis can be or should be trusted is hallucinating. They are just as bad as Iran but without the nuclear ambitions ….”

    Amen brother.

    1. The only reason Assad agreed to even admit he had chemical weapons is that Obama was going to use military force and destroy a lot of weapons he needs rather badly. He did not do this out of concern for peace and justice. That is why Congress should authorize Obama to use a military strike using our air power should Assad renege. This is not like Bush getting authorization to put hundreds of thousands of US troops on the ground when he wanted to invade Iraq no matter what Hussein did. Unless of course, people think that airplanes and missiles are the same as people. In that case, there is no basis for rational discussion.

  13. Barbara Lee weighs in:

    Obama’s best option on Syria is to listen to Congress

    I credit the president for heeding calls for Congress to debate Syria. Now, I hope he hears our alternatives to military action

    by Barbara Lee
    Tuesday 10 September 2013 07.45 EDT

    As Congress reconvenes this week, one issue is at the forefront of our minds: Syria.

    The world community has compelling evidence that the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people. This is deplorable and unacceptable, and he and others responsible must be held accountable under the law; we must respond. But I reject the view that a military response will be effective or appropriate.

    Last week, 60 House members joined me in a letter calling for the president to submit this matter for congressional debate. Congress has the constitutional authority to take the nation to war, and I commend President Obama for heading that and other calls to abide by the US constitution’s separation of powers. We will have a robust and serious debate about any response; and we will weigh the probable and dangerous consequences of a military strike.

    Military action, including targeted bombing, risks losing more lives and increasing the bloodshed. It could undermine our national security, and that of close allies, by triggering broad retaliation and escalation of the conflict in the region. The danger of the violence escalating in Syria and in the region is high; we cannot put out a fire by adding gasoline to the flames.

    Strikes against Syrian military targets not only have the risk of direct civilian casualties – sometimes, in war, callously called “collateral damage” – but will not deter the Assad regime from its continued assault against his own people. Many experts agree that these strikes would do more harm than good, and could lead the US deeper and deeper into the complex Syrian civil war, which 60% of Americans oppose. The path forward is clear: we must support forceful diplomacy, not military force.

    We have alternatives. While these alternatives may not offer an easy solution or a “silver bullet”, they ultimately may prove more effective in addressing this issue and, importantly, in sending a clear signal that leaders may not act against international law with impunity.

    We’ve got to engage in forceful diplomacy to mobilize the community of nations to demand legal action against Syrian leaders for their horrific violation of international law. We must mobilize the international community to work to advance a negotiated settlement of the political conflict within Syria, which has led to these international crimes and threatens the peace and stability of the region.

    While we work towards a negotiated settlement, I agree with the European Union that we should wait for the United Nations weapons inspectors to release their report. There are several other options that we should be pursing, such as: working with the United Nations and the international community to seek multilateral sanctions; investigate and prosecute for crimes against humanity; and engage the International Criminal Court.

    All the signers of the Chemical Weapons Convention could be called for their input on how to move forward. We could pursue an international agreement that can compel Syria to allow humanitarian aid to make its way to the hundreds of thousands civilians, maybe millions, who need it.

    Furthermore, we could work with the international community to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal. And we should pressure all internal and external parties to engage in the Geneva process of negotiation, along with the Arab League of States and the Organization for Islamic Co-operation.

    These options, and others, will be laid out in a resolution that I will introduce as the debate in Congress begins. The perceived difficulties of non-military options should not mean that the United States and the international community should abandon hope of bringing perpetrators to justice or pressuring the Assad regime and all actors to accept a negotiated political solution.

    Not only is this the right thing to do, but the American people are demanding it.

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