By Stephen Zunes
The decision by President Barack Obama to first seek congressional approval of any US military action against Syria is good and important, not only on constitutional grounds but because it gives the American people an opportunity to stop it. It is critically important to convince members of Congress not to grant the president that authority.
Here are some of the top talking points that should be raised before members of Congress as to why authorizing US airstrikes on Syria would be a bad idea.
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September 2, 2013
For the discerning journalists, editors and citizens
• Any U.S. attack on Syria will be a gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter.
• al-Assad’s admission of UN inspectors obviously was seen by Washington as an obstacle for its war plans.
• An attack will come only as a consequence of deliberately ignored opportunities for professional, impartial mediation and peace-making, the lack of backing of Kofi Annan’s plan of April 2012 in particular.
• An attack can under no circumstances be seen in the light of a responsibility to protect since it will cause even more violence and human suffering throughout Syria.
• Again, we see how the vast majority of people in conflict zones who do not resort to violence are being abandoned.
• Any attack is likely to have grave consequences for the region as a whole.
• For these reasons any attack must be condemned as illegal and counterproductive.
• Governments and citizens everywhere must now use whatever time there is to persuade the U.S. to back down.
1. Immediately after President al-Assad accepted UN inspectors, Washington declared it was ”too little too late”. Read More »
By Jonathan Power
President Barack Obama let the chickens out of the cage when foolishly he pronounced that he had drawn a red line across which the Syrian government should not go. Now, after what he says is its second use of chemical weapons, the red line has been crossed and the chickens are coming home to roost. He has announced he plans to strike Syria, albeit it in a limited fashion.
He has made it clear that he won’t go to the UN about it, even to the General Assembly where a Russian veto doesn’t count but where there could be a slim majority in favour. It would give Obama some sort of political cover.
Neither is he prepared to wait for the results of the investigation by the UN team that has just visited the site of the atrocity. Read More »
By Farhang Jahanpour
September 1, 2013
In his most statesmanlike statement, a short while ago (31 August 2013) President Barack Obama announced that he would seek Congress’s approval before ordering military action against Syria. After all the hype about an imminent strike, this statement was a breath of fresh air, and it has renewed many people’s faith in President Obama. Not only would any other action have been against international law, it would have even been against the US Constitution that gives Congress the right to declare war, except in emergencies.
That right had been usurped by a number of recent presidents who exceeded their executive prerogative. The Congress will be back in session during the second week of September and this delay provides a breather and an opportunity for cooler heads to prevail, and hopefully the chance to find a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis.
However, it is important to give credit where it is due, namely to the British Parliament that led the way in imposing the views of the majority of the electorate on the government that was going to get engaged in a rash action.Read More »
By Richard Falk
September 1, 2013
President Obama’s August 31st remarks from the White House Rose Garden will long be remembered for their strangeness, but the final interpretation of their significance will have to await months if not years. There are three dimensions, at least, that are worth pondering:
1) seeking Congressional authorization for a punitive military attack against Syria in support of the treaty prohibition on recourse to chemical weapons in an armed conflict;
2) reconciling any endorsement of an attack by Congress with United States obligations under international law and with respect to the United Nations and its Charter;
3) assessing the degree to which American war making prerogatives continue to operate within an unacceptable domain of American exceptionalism.
In framing the issues at stake Obama set forth the fundamental policy choices in a rather incoherent manner:Read More »
By Richard Falk
August 31, 2013
The U.S. Government rains drone missiles on civilian human targets anywhere in the world, continues to operate Guantanamo in the face of universal condemnation, whitewashed Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the torture memos, committed aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan, and invests billions to sustain its unlawful global surveillance capabilities. Still, it has the audacity to lecture the world about ‘norm enforcement’ in the wake of the chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
Someone should remind President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that credibility with respect to international law begins at home and ends at the United Nations. Read More »
By Richard Falk
Informed opinion agrees that the response to the presumed Assad regime’s responsibility for the use on August 21st of chemical weapons in Ghuta, a neighborhood in the eastern surrounding suburbs of Damascus, is intended to be punitive. This is a way of signaling that it is a punishment for the use of chemical weapons that does not have the ambition of altering the course of the internal struggle for power in Syria or to decapitate Bashar el-Assad. Of course, if it achieved some larger goal unexpectedly this would likely be welcomed, although not necessarily, by such interested centers of influence on Syrian policy as Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv.
Why not necessarily? Because there is a growing belief in influential Western circles, highlighted in a cynical article by Edward Luttwak published a few days ago in the NY Times, [“In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins,” Aug. 24, 2013] that it is better for the United States and Israel if the civil war goes on and on, Read More »